My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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Yesterday, I finally took the time to install Linux on my machine, and since I'd been hearing a lot about Ubuntu, I went with that distribution. So far, I am fairly pleased. The last time I used Linux was probably 6 or 7 years ago, and I remember it was terribly hard to get set up and working. Not so this time: I was up and running in shorter time than it took me to get SVN working a few days ago.

But, I am noticing some things. One is that apparently the Firefox engine differs in that it is not displaying text as defined in the style of many sites. My own is one of them, along with Raymond Camden's blog, and others. So the web looks different in that respect. I was also surprised by the number of updates I needed to install. I know I let the .iso file sit on my Windows desktop for some time before I installed Ubuntu, but 139 updates seemed large for the amount of time I had it sitting.

But I only have two real complaints so far:
  1. It was a complete PITA to get the dual monitors working, though at least it was doable.
  2. My screen makes me feel like I've got a nice HDTV with no HDTV signal. Apparently, the driver I got and had to install for dual monitors doesn't support the resolution I'd like. It seems like it's just stretching everything across the screen - so everything looks funny.
I'd like to continue using this, but I've got to get back to working instead of playing/tweeking, so for the time being I'm going back to Windows. It's just too hard to work in this Gumby-like environment. So, can you help with problem 2? If so, please let me know!

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In regards to the updates - they are actively patching and updating things so expect updates - I've been going for 8 months now on Ubuntu and usually see 3-4 updates a week...

Fonts are a bit of an issue but you can install the Microsoft core fonts... Take a look at Automatix or EasyUbuntu...

What kind of video card do you have??

Posted by Jim Priest on Mar 08, 2007 at 10:24 AM UTC - 5 hrs

Thanks for the quick response Jim (in fact, I had read your blog post about the 8 months with Ubuntu soon after I had installed it yesterday -- today I got the dual monitors working). I'll take a look at the fonts - I didn't even think about that, and it is certainly the first place to look.

As for the video card, I'm using an nvidia geforce fx 5200. Any ideas? Don't waste too much time or anything, I haven't yet searched for any information on this. I just needed to get some work done so I thought I'd post the entry and see if anyone happened to know anything off the top of his/her head.

Posted by Sam on Mar 08, 2007 at 10:54 AM UTC - 5 hrs

As far as other sites looking different have you tried to install the MS fonts?
$sudo apt-get install msttcorefonts

Posted by Dan on Mar 08, 2007 at 11:09 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I have a Nvidia card as well. I'm lazy and used Automatix to install a bunch of stuff. Be aware there are issues with doing this when it's time to upgrade (Feisty)...

It did install an Nvidia driver and I have a control panel option for that though I haven't really looked at the options it provides... I can look tonight and see if there is anything in there about multiple screens.

For resolution - I have a widescreen monitor @ 1680x1050 which isn't one of the default resolution choices. Doing a quick search on the Ubuntu forums turned up a quick fix which was to edit the xorg.conf file.

I don't have dual screens at home unfortunately but it sounds like your desktop is spanning the two monitors vs. actually having two independent desktops on each screen.

Posted by Jim Priest on Mar 08, 2007 at 11:25 AM UTC - 5 hrs

Dan - thanks I'll check it out.

Jim - That is correct, I used the instructions for TwinView at that page:

"TwinView is a mode of operation where two display devices (digital flat panels, CRTs, and TVs) can display the contents of a single X screen in any arbitrary configuration." -TwinView Appendix G.

* Pros: Twinview merges two screens into one, "tricking" X to think that there is only one screen. This always provide better OpenGL direct-rendering.
* Cons: TwinView requires the binary nVidia Driver, which means only nVidia cards are supported.

But, it's not actually stretched THAT far (across the two screens). For example, if I open window1, then window2, it will automatically put window 2 in screen 2. Also, if I maximize a window, it only maxes out to one screen. So, it's not completely horrible, but it's not something I could work in all day without getting a headache either. =)

On another note, I tried several times to use Xinerama for the dual screens, and followed instructions from two sources on how to get it working, but I never got it to work.

Anyway, let me know what changes you think to make in the resolution department on the xorg.conf file. I'm starting to become really familiar with it already =). The funny thing is though, when I went to change my resolution after getting the two monitors working, a lot of my options had disappeared.

Posted by
Sam on Mar 08, 2007 at 11:38 AM UTC - 5 hrs

"a lot of my options disappeard" - I would expect them two, given how it says it's doing the "tricking" of X. But, I would also have expected a lot more than two options - perhaps like all the previous options with double width and same height, but that was not the case.

Posted by Sam on Mar 08, 2007 at 11:41 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I checked last night - there were some monitor options under my Nvidia settings - but there really wasn't anything regarding resolution...

I may steal my daughters monitor over the weekend and see if I can make it work. :)

Posted by Jim Priest on Mar 09, 2007 at 08:43 AM UTC - 5 hrs

Jim, that sounds cool. If you wouldn't mind posting them, I'd like to see your monitor options anyway. Can never get enough information (even if it won't help immediately), you know? =)

Posted by Sam on Mar 09, 2007 at 09:59 AM UTC - 5 hrs

No problem - when I get home I'll post my xorg.conf to my wiki... It wouldn't hurt to have a backup of it anyway :)

Posted by Jim Priest on Mar 09, 2007 at 10:29 AM UTC - 5 hrs

For future reference, when I tried to install the msttcorefonts package that Dan recommended, I got back an error saying some dependency wasn't available (cabextract). I went to to find that package and install it, then getting msttcorefonts worked fine (even if it is taking a while =))...

Still haven't tried anything about the resolution, though I will let you know when I do.

Posted by Sam on Mar 14, 2007 at 07:11 AM UTC - 5 hrs

after a couple of minutes ...

twinview is ok, but i preferred separate desktops, then i could maximise a window on each screen; this way it maximises the window across both.

each to their own, i'll try this awhile before playing with alternatives

damn i'm loving feisty so far though!

Posted by xurizaemon on May 05, 2007 at 02:24 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I'll check that out next time to make things quicker. I like separate desktops too, and when I max out a window it doesn't take up the entire 2 screens - just the one it was in. I'm using TwinView as well, so I don't know what's different...

Posted by Sam on May 05, 2007 at 11:15 AM UTC - 5 hrs

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