Akom's Tech Ruminations

Various tech outbursts - code and solutions to practical problems

Using dual widescreen monitors on old hardware with Ubuntu

Posted by Admin • Tuesday, February 21. 2012 • Category: Linux

My primary development machine is probably 10 years old - it's a Thinkpad T42 in a docking station (Dock II). This is fine - it's fast enough for most purposes, it runs dual monitors, and it uses very little power so I can leave it on at all times.

Not so fine once I got a 24" monitor to go with the standard 20".

First, the DVI hardware in the docking station can't handle high resolutions - it worked fine at 1280x1024, but not so great at 1920x1080. That's OK, I can drive the widescreen with VGA, I can't tell the difference. But now everything on the screen repaints very, very slowly - I mean really slowly - 1/2 a frame per second. This is bad. OK so the video chip in the laptop wasn't intended to drive a combined 3200 x 1080 resolution - but what can I do about it?

The answer turned out to be simple - reduce the color depth. I don't need 32bit color on this machine, I can live with 16.

Modern distributions don't use an xorg.conf file anymore, but to do this you do need to create a minimal version: /etc/X11/xorg.conf
Section "Screen" Identifier "Default Screen" DefaultDepth 16 EndSection

And restart. And guess what? Everything is fast now.

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