Linux & ATI: Making your second monitor the main display!

Hi all!

If you’ve followed my “Linux on my laptop” page you probably know of this problem. The ATI Catalyst Control Center won’t allow me to set my second monitor as my main display and let it extend onto the laptop screen which is positioned left of my 26″ monitor. After wiping my drive and making Ubuntu 10.10 : MAVERICK! my main operating system and getting the “good luck” from the Ubuntu IRC channel I started my quest to solve the problem. Turns out you can do it! The poster on the ubuntu forums had a nifty little script that after modifying solved my problem! The solution involves using xrandr to turn off the displays and then re-enable them with the proper settings.

xrandr –output LVDS –off;
xrandr –output DFP1 –off;
xrandr –output DFP1 –auto –primary;
xrandr –output LVDS –auto –left-of DFP1;

The two first commands there turns off LVDS (Laptop Display) and my 26″ monitor (DFP1). The last two sets DFP1 as the primary screen, and will auto extend the LVDS left of DFP1. This works like a charm except there’s one little bug I’m experiencing. I’ve got a 1 pixel wide line that runs right at the left edge of my 26″ monitor pushing the desktop 1 pixel to the right. It’s a little annoying at first but I hardly notice it now, although it still appears when running full screen video so I guess that can be a little annoying but it’s something I will work on getting rid of 🙂 There’s also one thing worth mentioning: I have to run the script every time I boot Ubuntu if I’m in a dual-monitor setup. For me that’s no problem, as either I’m at school with only my laptop display or I’m home running the system without rebooting until I have to shutdown for school.

At least it’s a step in the right direction! Hopefully one day it can be as simple to do as the new Screen preferences in Windows 7 🙂

The new Windows Live Messenger 2011

Logo for Windows LiveSo, I’ve been using this new Windows Live Messenger for two days now and I’ve got to say; it’s not that bad or good really. I’ve got some mixed feelings about it:

Pros

  • The new interface in compact view is crispier
  • Video chat now serves the video part much better (Bigger focus on the video/audio part)
  • The social part is interesting, presents a good way on keeping me up2date with what’s happening while being able to see who’s online. This works very well with a multi-monitor setup!
  • The new emoticons
  • The tabbed interface

Cons

  • Way too much advertising and advertising space!
  • The new emoticons (I kinda like the new ones but I also miss some of the old ones)
  • Focus on so much; social, msn, ads.
  • Unstable and/or buggy sometimes

This is not a review so don’t take my pros/cons list that serious, it’s just some of the things I like and dislike with the new edition. I have mixed feelings about the interface; I like my IM clients to be smooth, simple and present a nice interface but for a maximized application the social part of the new Live Messenger can be a nice addition to all you multi-monitor geeks!

Interface for WLM 2011

Getting Linux right on a laptop with switchable graphics (almost)

The reason why I haven’t used Linux for a while, especially on the laptop that I use is the way my laptop is built. It has a switchable graphics solution that lets me choose from the integrated Intel HD card and the ‘external’ ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 card. I must say, it’s a real good solution when it works properly; which it kinda does when I use Windows 7. The amount of battery life you get when going into the power saving mode with the Intel HD card is astonishing. I get everything from 7 to 9 hours out of the thing before I have to plug in the AC adapter. Anyways, this particular feature isn’t working too well in Linux at the moment. You can’t install the ATI drivers for the Radeon card, because it won’t work properly. I would gladly use it the way the system is set up after a clean install of say Ubuntu 10.10 or Linux Mint but without the ability to set up dual monitors or use accelerated 3D graphics there’s really no point for me.

BIOS Switchable Graphics

A while back I stumbled upon some notes while searching for a solution for this very problem and while I can’t recall where this was posted or who posted it but the solution to getting your laptop running smoothly with Linux is to change a setting in BIOS. I bet there’s an option for turning the switchable graphics from Enabled to Discrete/Disabled or maybe you’re lucky and get to choose what card to use. Disabling the switchable

graphics results in it only using the external ATI card which then allowed me to install the proprietary ATI drivers properly and getting it to work! My life was getting back on the right track..

.. until I started fiddling about with the dual-monitor settings. I haven’t done enough research or asked the right persons about this issue yet but from what I can gather from the Catalyst Control Center there’s no way to set my second monitor as my main display. I have a 26″ 1080p display that I use as my main display and then extend the desktop onto the laptop’s screen. My temporary solution was to just disable the laptop’s display from the Control Center, but turns out that might cause some problems with the accelerated graphics and compositing.

Why do I keep pursuing this Linux business? Well, those couple of hours I spent using Linux Mint was incredible. I’ve missed the sheer elegance of the GNOME desktop environment and how snappy the interface can be. Everything seemed to be going on overdrive in contrast to Windows 7 which I just did a fresh install of.

If anyone out there have a simple solution for this problem please let me know!

Installing Windows 7 Professional x64 on Acer Aspire 5943G: Thank you Linux!

After waiting a couple of weeks now and watching my lovely laptop deteriorate everytime I turned it off and on again I finally burned Windows 7 Professional x64 edition on to a DVD download legally from MSDNAA (Thank you school!). A short visit to acer.com showed me I didn’t have to download any drivers so I went ahead with the install. Everything seemed right! Or so I thought…

Minutes later a fresh Windows 7 desktop was staring at me, but something was off. There was no network connection, a low resolution and generally things were missing. A quick look in the device manager revealed that I was missing all of the drivers I was told were going to be in Windows 7 by default. I panicked a little bit, because how on God’s earth would I be able to get my system up and running in time for the evening? And why was Acer lying to me about the driver?

My first attempt was to use my Samsung Galaxy S phone to download the necessary LAN driver but with no luck. Turns out the browser won’t allow me to download files that aren’t supported/associated by Android and the Acer support site doesn’t work properly on the Android device. I realized later that I’m a Linux fanboy/enthusiast and that I always keep a couple of distros laying around. My savior? Linux Mint. Booting up the Live CD allowed me to browse the net and download the LAN driver for Windows. That’s what I love about Linux distributions, they’ve got almost every driver in place for use. Of course there’s some devices that aren’t supported or need to download restricted drivers but yeah.. My savior was Linux Mint.

Turns out that Acer wasn’t lying to me. I just didn’t see the drop-down box showing me what version of Windows 7 I wanted at first, so it defaults to one of the  32-bit Home versions. So if you’re going to reinstall your operating system on an Acer laptop, be sure to check that you have the necessary drivers or have a Live CD with a Linux distribution at hand.

Creating a bootable Windows 7 USB Drive

Since I bought my laptop (Acer Aspire 5943G) I haven’t reinstalled Windows or anything on it, but I should have because it came loaded with bloatware and what not. Whenever I’m going to format my harddrive and do a reinstall I always go to my brother’s blog for his excellent guide on how to create a bootable usb drive with Windows 7 so I can easily install it from USB 🙂

So head on over to http://tommynation.com/installing-windows-7-or-vista-from-usb-stick/ for a quick and easy guide!