Friday, May 16, 2008

X.Org 7.3: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1)

Like many other posts on this blog, this story begins with me upgrading something...

This time it's X - the windowing system for Linux and other Unix-like operating systems. I didn't know it at the time, but I was in for a rough ride. I decided to split this post into three parts, corresponding to the mental phases I went through.

Well, let's start off with the Good part.

In my live-HDD article, I described how to install Debian/testing on a USB hard drive. It turned out to be rather easy, with some rough edges that I needed to smooth. One of the problems was to get X to auto detect and configure the display adapter and the attached monitor. X, prior to version 7.3, can pull it off rather nicely, but you must invoke hardware detection manually.

The way I did it was to add the following command to /etc/init.d/
dpkg-reconfigure -fnoninteractive xserver-xorg

This is no longer required with X.Org 7.3. You can get X to auto detect hardware when it starts by running the above command once, so that any reference to specific hardware is removed from the resulting X configuration file /etc/X11/xorg.conf. This is a one-shot deal - there's no need to do it again, and the changes to /etc/init.d/ can be safely reverted.

I tried my live HDD on several machines, with different combinations of displays and display adapters, and I'm happy to report that it seems to work well.

Gone are the days of manual futzing with the X configuration file. After moving from Window$ to Linux, this was probably one of the most striking mis-features of X that I encountered. Good riddance.

And now for the Bad part - stay tuned.

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