Dual Monitor setup for Dell 5150, Ubuntu 9.04 with ATI X600

September 9th, 2009

We need to see a lot these days now the Golden Age of Television meets the Platinum Age of Internet; hundreds of television channels and billions of webpages. Sure I have a remote control and started tabbed browsing since ages (Opera in 2000), but we’re absolute in the need of dual screens now: better, easier and they will raise productivity!

My old 17 inch CRT died. I took the step and bought a 22 inch 1920×1080 TFT to replace it . My first 19 inch 1280×1024 became second. A hefty 3200×1080 desktop in sight. Wow!

But could I get it working on my ordinary Dell with ATI X600 and Ubuntu?

A quick look on the ATI website said, that 1920×1080 was only supported under Windows (XP/Vista). I didn’t take that serious.

Never knew why all hardware vendors are promoting Windows, but it’s a fact, they probably get paid for it. Of course they lie: 3200×1080 is supported out of the box by Ubuntu 9.04 with default drivers, no extra proprietary ATI drivers needed.

Setting up was quite easy but not 100% trivial, here is how I did it:

  • delete all settings in /etc/X11/xorg.conf. It’s a textfile and can be understood by humans, there isn’t much in it these days, just some virtual desktop settings, you can’t get wrong.
  • enable both screens in `system -> preferences -> display` and drag them to right position.
  • uncheck `mirror screens`

Somehow my second monitor was still black. I could mirror the screens but a virtual desktop did not work. If the same happens to you, a few extra steps.:

  • edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf
    [sourcecode language=’shell’]
    sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf
  • Make your file look like:
    [sourcecode language=’shell’]
    Section “Screen”
    Identifier “Configured Screen Device”
    Device “Configured Video Device”
    SubSection “Display”
    Virtual 3200 1080
  • Open a terminal and run: [sourcecode language=’bash’] xrandr [/sourcecode]
  • Note the ID of your monitors (in my case DVI-0 and second VGA-0). Run
    [sourcecode language=’shell’]
    xrandr –output VGA-0 –mode 1280×1024 –right-of DVI-0

The second monitor got active and did after rebooting. That was all. Only desktop eye candy by Compiz is not supported because 3D rendering is hardware limited by ATI to max 2054px. I can live with it; no shades or transparency makes my computer faster.


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