Venting about Linux

Time for a “Linux is not ready for the desktop” rant.

Some time ago, I picked up a Slackware 10.1 4-disc set. I’ve been trying to use it on a Dell Precision 610 MT workstation, Xeon Pentium III. (That’s what you can read on the label.) Through some struggling through the initial start up screens, I was able to determine the box has two SCSI internal drives. I also have a Dell 2007FP monitor (pretty nice).

Getting X to come up in something other than 1024×768 was an ordeal. Perhaps I should have realized that no amount of so-called “handholding” was going to help me, and gone to the xorg.conf man page directly. Silly me, I thought this would be like a normal desktop environment, where I would open something called something like a “control panel” and find a sub-thingy labelled “Display” (KDE buries this under Peripheral) and select the 1600×1200 resolution my display claims to support. No. Only 1024×768 or worse.

So I go to slackware.com; the FAQ is skeletally brief. It talks about xorgsetup (must run as root, not just using “su” but “su -“), which dumps a uselessly generic xorg.conf file in /etc/X11. xorgconfig asks me to answer vague questions about my mouse and keyboard EVERY time, and scroll through long lists of video cards, none of which is a close match to what the Dell startup screeen says: “Diamond Viper V770D 32MB” It asks me for refresh rates, but doesn’t allow me to specify that “at 1600×1200, this monitor only allows 60 Hz vertical refresh”. The slackware page config/x.php says something vague about “run X -probeonly” but “startx” seems only to feed its arguments to xterm, then puke when xterm does not accept it. I cycle through various efforts, copying the result to /etc/X11/xorg.conf, and get a blank screen with the monitor complaining “frequency out of range: use 1600×1200@60Hz.”

A search through the the Video HOWTO for Diamond Viper 770 shows me RIVATNT2 XF86_SVGA and nv.

Finally, I break down and edit xorg.conf by hand. It takes a while but I start to realize that various identifiers (described just as “free form” by xorgconf, actually are used to refer to various entities in later descriptions. I hand edit my xorg.conf to indicate my “Monitor” can HorizSync at 30-82, only VertRefresh at 60 Hz, my “Device” has driver “nv”, and my “Screen” is that Mointor, Device, with Modes “1600×1200” “1280×1024”, etc.

Finally. It seems to work.

Next up, try to get USB flash memory key to be recognized, without following directions which tell me to use the SCSI /dev/sda files that are, ahem, being used for my SCSI hard disks.

[UPDATE: Fixed the link to the Linux Hardware-HOWTO video section.]

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2 Responses to “Venting about Linux”

  1. Binford Says:

    Well, first off using Slackware may have been part of the problem. I use Fedora Core for a home and business desktop, with dual DVI Viewsonic monitors (and I just added a Dell 2007FP).

    My USB flash drives mount and load automatically, all configurations can be configured with ‘system-config-SOMETHING’ usually.

    I did have to tweak the xorg.conf settings a bit for the Viewsonics and add a custom driver, but I am loving life here at work with this config. Just my $0.02 9and a thanks for the xorg.conf for the Dell)

    Linux has a ways to go but its definitely getting there.

  2. josephoswald Says:

    I suppose Binford is right; Slackware does aspire to be a distribution for UNIX purists, and not necessarily the ready-for-the-desktop distribution. Perhaps I need to get around to downloading an Ubuntu ISO and installing that instead. Or, follow your example of Fedora Core.

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