Tag Archives: hardware

Solved: NVIDIA/Nouveau picture extending beyond screen

I upgraded my desktop Linux system to Fedora 21 recently, and decided instead of trying to get the proprietary NVIDIA driver working, I’d just switch back to the open-source Nouveau driver. I uninstalled every RPM that had “nvidia” in the name (I use rpmfusion to keep the installation clean), restarted, and was dismayed to see that the system decided I could only run at 800×600. I didn’t have time to fix it immediately, so I shut down and went on with my day. That evening, I started it up again ready to fix it…and was surprised to see that the resolution had been detected correctly this time.

Almost.

It wasn’t obvious at the login screen, but the picture extended just a little past the edge of the monitor. I could tell because the mouse cursor would actually move off the screen in all directions. Once I logged in, and I could look at things near the edge, it was more obvious. And if I looked closely, I could tell that a lot of things that should have been sharp pixel lines were actually antialiased.

TL;DR: It was actually a monitor setting, and apparently the proprietary driver had been overriding it. Continue reading

Gone Widescreen

Last month I finally got around to a major rebuild of my computer, something I’d been meaning to do since May when I traced some display problems to the motherboard*. I finally bit the bullet when I started seeing signs of disk errors, and dragged the machine into the present day. (64-bit, dual-core, 2 GB RAM, SATA drive, faster everything.)

Then I discovered that some of the display problems actually were the fault of the monitor.

So I went out and bought a new monitor while Fedora was installing, and I took the opportunity to go widescreen.

My criteria were simple: The resolution and physical size both had to be as big or bigger than the old one (17″, 1280×1024), and it had to be under $300. That meant at minimum a 22″ display at 1680×1050, and I found a Hannspree 229HBP for about $190.

There was a Dell right next to it, same size & resolution and comparable specs, and the Best Buy employee had been talking both of them up. The Dell was on sale for $290. I asked what the difference was. He thought about it for a few seconds. “Well, this one [the Hannspree] does run a little bit hotter. But mostly it’s just the name.” Thank you, Best Buy employee whose name I’ve forgotten, for helping me save $100.

The biggest difference, aside from actually having room to show both the toolbox and document windows on GIMP, is that I don’t maximize windows anymore. Not that I maximized apps that often before, not counting the stuck-in-low-res period. I’ll occasionally run a video or slideshow fullscreen, but the only program I regularly maximize is my email client, and that’s because I can put it in three-column mode (Folder tree on the left, mailbox listing in the middle, message content on the right).

Something to watch out for: At first I left the monitor off-center, because there wasn’t enough room on my desk for it. I figured as long as I worked mostly on the right part of the screen I’d be fine. But I ended up having neck problems shortly afterward, and Katie suggested I check the placement of the monitor. I shifted things around so I could center it, then set it on top of an Amazon box to raise it a couple of inches, and the sore neck cleared up.

I’ve only run into two problems (not counting the placement): There’s one dead pixel, but it’s off in a corner so that it’s not really an issue. I almost didn’t notice it at first when I was still setting things up, because the default GNOME layout has a Mac-style ever-present menu bar, and it falls right on the edge. Usually it ends up either on the edge of a window border or lost in the wallpaper noise.

The other problem: the built-in speakers pretty much suck, but I had external speakers already, so again: no big deal.

* It stopped displaying any resolution past 1024×768. I could tell it wasn’t the monitor because it was perfectly happy to show another computer at 1280×1024. And not the drivers or OS because I had the same problem booting from a LiveCD. And not the video card because plugging in another one didn’t solve it. This was particularly frustrating since it was an LCD monitor, so running at less than native resolution made everything blurry. Still, I put off replacing the mobo for months since it’s such a pain to do.

Upgrade Priorities

TigerDirect keeps sending me ads for widescreen LCD monitors. I’d love to pick up a 22″ widescreen (right now I’ve got a 17″ LCD that runs 1280×1024), but my computer is in much more need of a mobo+processor upgrade. Especially since something on the system — and not the video card or the monitor — went bad recently and is preventing it from running at any resolution higher than 1024×768, leaving me stuck with a blurry screen on the monitor I’ve got. So I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of a new monitor anyway.

I’m putting that off mainly because I need to do make the time to research what I’m going to get. I’ve narrowed it down to a dual-core AMD, but then I have to balance which processor, motherboard, and memory to get.

Also, at this point, I may as well go 64-bit, which is going to mean reinstalling Fedora. Though in theory I should be able to run the 32-bit OS to start with, which means I could do the hardware upgrade one weekend, and the OS reinstall the next.

The other tech upgrade I’m desperate to get is a new phone. While my ideal phone doesn’t quite exist yet, I’d really like something with better mobile internet access than my RAZR V3T — particularly with Comic-Con coming up next month. They’re usually good at keeping you informed of scheduling changes (unlike Wizard World), but now that I’ve got SpeedForce.org, I’d like to be able to do at least minimal blogging from the convention floor rather than waiting until I get back to the hotel. Posting by email doesn’t cut it, and even with the WPhone Plugin providing a stripped-down admin interface, half the time the built-in browser tells me it can’t display the page. I may bite the bullet and pay T-Mobile the extra $20/month for a data plan so that I can run Opera Mini.

On the plus side, I’ve at least found a way to post photos directly using Flickr.

Promise SX6000, FreeBSD, and Linux

If you want to build a Linux or FreeBSD system around a RAID array, don’t use the Promise SuperTrak SX6000 controller. At least not for now.

The card used to work under Linux using the standard I2O drivers (i2o_block, etc.), but sometime last year Promise changed the firmware so that it no longer uses I2O. Now you’re stuck with Promise’s own driver, so if you want to use an old enough distribution* (say, Red Hat 7.3) that you can find a driver disk, or make your own driver disk, go ahead…but don’t expect to be able to upgrade it unless you can create a driver disk for the newer distro. This assumes the source code for the driver will work with recent 2.4 kernels—it won’t compile with 2.6. There has been talk of merging the pti_st driver into the kernel (fortunately it’s GPLed), but I can’t find anything more recent than August. Someday it might work again, but not today.

Now, FreeBSD is another matter. It has built-in drivers (pst), the installer will detect it automatically, and even let you install your entire system to it—without warning you that FreeBSD can’t boot from the SX6000. You can boot from another drive and interact with it once the system’s running, but you can’t put your entire system on the RAID array. (This information is not in the installer, not in the hardware notes, not in the driver man page. I only found the one 1½-year-old mailing list post by the driver’s author, and a bunch of “I don’t think it works” comments in other lists and forums.)

I hope this post will save someone a lot of frustration.

*Of the distributions for which Promise has provided driver disks, only one—SuSE 9.0—hasn’t already been retired.