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Old 12-24-2010, 10:02 AM   #1
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Registered: Dec 2010
Location: Chattanooga, TN
Distribution: Ubuntu 10.10
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Changing Screen Resolution

I have battled with Ubuntu/Linux several times and have finally thrown my hands up in absolute disgust when it comes to getting the operating system to actually USE the hardware available - specifically a "modern" monitor. I cannot understand why it is necessary to sacrifice a perfectly good virgin to change the screen resolution. I am a Windows bigot and have listened to all of the Windows bashing without comment, but at the end of the day...a simple right click on the desktop and you can change screen resolutions with a Windows machine.

The default screen resolution in Ubuntu is a choice of 640x480 or 800x600, resolutions on the low end of every monitor built in the last five years. It appears to change that requires all sorts of magic incantation which no one seems to really least I have yet to see a clearly written explanation of what to do and why it needs doing. I don't mind getting into the coding, in fact, that is what keeps attracting me back to Ubuntu, but getting started is extremely frustrating when the Ubuntu desktop looks like a postage stamp on my monitor.

Can someone please point me to a good, simple, clear explanation of the process required to 1)install any video drivers needed and to edit whatever configuration files as required? Is there not a GUI somewhere in the system that makes this a tad simpler...remember I am having to use a freaking magnifying glass to read the desktop!

I really do want to learn more about all of this and I sincerely appreciate any and all help. Once I get the desktop where I can actually read it, the first thing I intend to do is write something that will solve this problem once and for all so that others like me do not quit before really getting started out of simple lack of information.

My monitor is a HP running at 60Hz with a max resolution of 1920x1080. My video card is a NVIDIA GeForce GT420. I am running Ubuntu 10.10 and I really want to solve this snafu.

Old 12-24-2010, 11:08 AM   #2
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The kernel driver for nvidia hardware will give you most, but not all, the functionality of your graphics card. It should give you better resolutions than you are getting. You can cycle through the available resolutions using the keyboard key combination ctrl + (the + key on the number keypad) and ctrl - to change screen resolutions.

To get the best performance from your nvidia card, you need to download and install the proprietary driver from nvidia, which you can get here.

The file has a .run extension. To install, you must make the file executable.
In a terminal, cd into the directory which contains the driver you downloaded. Run this command:
sudo chmod +x (substitute the name of the driver you download).
Then install the driver with this command: ./

When installation is complete, one of the files the nvidia package installs is /usr/bin/nvidia-xconfig. Do some research. I don't remember is the config app can be run from graphics mode, or if you have to switch to runlevel 1 or runlevel 3 (text mode) to run the config, then switch back to runlevel 5 (graphics mode).

PS. is your friend. To search for answers to your Linux problems, use that google engine.

Last edited by bigrigdriver; 12-24-2010 at 11:10 AM.
Old 12-24-2010, 04:35 PM   #3
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Registered: Dec 2010
Location: Chattanooga, TN
Distribution: Ubuntu 10.10
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Thank you very much for your information. I really appreciate the fact that you took the time to answer the question.

Do you also think it is a tad on the weird side that we are still struggling with this problem in Ubuntu? I installed an SCO Xenix network in 1987, before Unix had a GUI and jumped square into the middle of the very first releases of Linux, so perhaps I am not a complete noob, but I find it amazing that the problem of recognizing, configuring and setting up screen resolution continues to be such a pain in the sit down literally decade from the time it first reared its ugly snout. Unfortunately this seems to be the sort of thing that prevents the average computer user from also using Ubuntu/Linux/Unix which is a really catastrophe and the reason for the limited acceptance on the part of the general computing population.

Until and unless we can solve this and the other barriers to acceptance, we will be constantly in danger of losing a terrific operating system simply because demand for it will taper off.
Old 12-24-2010, 07:39 PM   #4
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You too can read the README...

Starting to read from the beginning is the most enjoyable, but you can jump to Chapter 6 that has basic information on configuration. If you think you need to, you can generate a new "xorg.conf" file with "nvidia-xconfig"

The packager "nvidia-xconfig" should already be installed with the Nvidia driver. Note the options and what they do. "--mode" will add a resolution and "--no-mode" will remove one or more.

Last edited by thorkelljarl; 12-24-2010 at 07:51 PM.


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