Linux Widescreen LCD Love At Last

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My office is an oven in the summer. I’ve got two servers, a desktop, a laptop, and two 19″ CRT monitors. By the afternoon, temperatures are over 84 degrees in my office.

I’ve contemplated doing all sorts of expensive solutions. Window AC unit was one, but it would be ugly, loud and my neighbors wouldn’t like it as my office faces the street. I’ve contemplated re-routing my upstairs AC into my office. The upstairs naturally runs more than the downstairs and that’d help.

I decided that the two 19″ CRTs were a major culprit however and I could replace them. I’ve been watching LCD monitor prices on Dealnews.com and prices were pretty stable for 20″ widescreen monitors, hovering right around $200. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

I decided to hop over to Walmart.com and see what they had to offer. They had an ACER 20″ widescreen AL2016WB monitor for $184. It was capable of 1680×1050 with a nice refresh rate and nice contrast ratio. I watched the price for a couple of days and it was stable (not dropping) so I ordered two of them. For $0.87 delivery to the door for each ($1.94 total), that’s pretty good. Dang if UPS wasn’t ringing my doorbell in just a couple of days. I was really shocked at how fast they arrived. I was expecting 10 business days. Good deal.

Well, the big test was to try it out on my MEPIS Linux based Toshiba laptop. I fully expected to plug the thing in, reboot and have a lovely display. Wasn’t to be. The monitor would blank out with a small window stating “Input Not Supported”. Of course my Toshiba Satellite laptop isn’t the best of laptops so when the external monitor is receiving the signal, the LCD on the laptop is disabled. Not a fun way to debug things. In my laptop I’ve got the Intel Mobile 945GM/GMS/940GML video card. I know it’s fairly capable as it was able to run my 1600×1200 CRT display. I’m hoping it’s able to run at 1680×1050 for the LCD monitor.

ALT+F6 gets me a text login prompt and I log in as root. I’ve tried a ton of things including 915resolution and running Xorg -configure followed by a Xorg -config /root/xorg.conf.new to try out what was autodetected by Xorg. No love.

I finally got in and started really playing with the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. I removed all of the references to the 1600×1200 resolutions in the Display sections. I added in lots of “1680×1050” references in its place.

shutdown now -r got the laptop to reboot and … damn, it worked! Joy.

The only way I can explain it is that the laptop and LCD monitor aren’t really “talking” the way they should be so the laptop is guessing what video signal to send over. Because they weren’t talking, the laptop was sending over a 1600×1200 signal which the LCD monitor was rejecting but the laptop wasn’t listening, so we were at an impasse. I finally got the Intel Mobile card to send over the right signal and monitor was happy. I spent a couple of hours spanning a couple of weekend days on this. I searched all over the web. I hope this helps some other poor soul out.

Linux rocks but in this case, it’s got some ways to go. I’m about to try out the second monitor on my Winblows computer. We’ll see how that goes. Let me know if this helps you out any.

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