oh great lazyweb- of video cards and portrait monitors, again

I think my question last time I asked about video cards was poorly phrased, because almost all the comments I got did not actually answer the question. And I was using two monitors at work1, and it is great, so I’m going to look at the problem again soon.

So let me restate the question:

Is there a video card which, with Free drivers, will drive OOo, evince, and firefox to two vertical (portrait) LCDs? If there are specific LCD features I need to look for, what are they?

Care about:

  • free drivers
  • two vertical monitors
  • text-y apps- primarily OOo, evince, and ffox
  • potential requirements for monitors (see below)

Don’t care at all about:

  • 3d shiny things
  • movies
  • games

Actively don’t want to hear about:

  • non-free drivers

I did get two almost coherent answers last time about the relationship between rotated (portrait) monitors and software drivers, implying that the rotation would make any free driver intolerably slow unless certain specific hardware conditions were met. Unfortunately, it was unclear to me (probably because modern X is like ancient Greek to me) what those specific conditions were, and whether or not I could satisfy them. If picking specific monitor hardware is important, details would be appreciated. :)

BTW, best useful feedback from the previous post was that the built-in stands on these Dells rotate. They look very appealing, though unfortunately the price has not dropped since I started following them in February.

  1. one personal laptop + one work laptop + x2x- nothing sexy []

13 thoughts on “oh great lazyweb- of video cards and portrait monitors, again”

  1. the browser on my shiny new free operating system. Yet I kept procrastinating on asking about it on the various forums because of the anticipated pain of troubleshooting it. After off-topically mentioning the problem this morning in a comment on Luis Villa’s post about free drivers for monitors in portrait mode, I got to thinking about it. It occurred to me that I mainly see this problem on my own blog. Since I look at my own blog so much while writing posts, maybe it just seemed like a general problem. (Especially when it hadn

  2. ATI cards with the free/open source drivers will do screen rotating and will also do dual-screen setups. They handle MergedFB and XrandR screen rotating rather well after you’ve attacked it with a monkey wrench enough times.

    Mind you, I last did that on a Radeon Mobility 9000 – quite an old card by now. I have no idea how the more current ATI cards and the free drivers perform.

    Ofcourse, no decent 3d acceleration, but hardly something you’re concerned about.

    However, the same will not work for an NVIDIA card and the free/open source ‘nv’ driver.

  3. I have users with ATI RV350 AQ [Radeon 9600] cards that have dual monitor setups running SUSE 10.1 with the open source drivers. On these systems I believe it is possible to do rotation by changing xorg.conf settings but not on the fly (i.e. no xrandr). It also currently appears to be impossible to do rotation of only one head while leaving the other portrait (not what you asked, I apologise). For the record the ATI binary driver 8.28.8 does not have xrandr support (again not what you asked so more apologies but maybe this will help someone else).

    Upon searching for more information I found a git message indicating the tentative beginnings of an xrandr 1.2 rotation support in the open source ATI drivers a few months ago.

    This link http://armthehostiles.net/node/251 seems to mention a user who got dynamic xrandr going on his ATI with in development git driver.

    This link http://gitweb.freedesktop.org/?p=xorg/driver/xf86-video-ati.git;a=commit;h=bbb769c4107bfcae682e46d026e54cbfb67d62cd talks about the rotation change I mentioned earlier.

    This link http://gitweb.freedesktop.org/?p=xorg/driver/xf86-video-ati.git;a=shortlog;h=randr-1.2 talks about the history of the open source ATI driver (this is extremely useful I cannot state how useful it is to see this).

  4. My Radeon Mobility 7500 with the free driver supported dual-head just fine, but I never got rotation working. I didn’t try that hard, though.

    My Intel X3100 supports rotation with xrandr 1.2 out of the box (after some pain getting it to work at all with latest Ubuntu Gutsy), but is horrifically slow.

    I can’t stop thinking that Compiz Fusion could handle rotation on any card that had OpenGL, with a little work. Well, maybe not so little, given things like hardware mouse cursors or input coordinate transformations.

  5. This borders on an answer you didn’t ask for, but well …
    I have this Dell LCD in the lab (non-wide) and while it photometrically has a good wide color gamut I get tearing when scrolling web pages or moving windows in single portrait mode (under WinXP and the Nvidia driver, hehe). Perhaps rotation to portrait in principle is slower? And subpixel font rendering is less useful with vertical RGB.

  6. Nothing helpful to offer here, but your requirements sound a lot like mine, Luis. I have two Dell 19″ flat panels that I had used in portrait mode in Windows and really liked that configuration.

    In Ubuntu, I’m cheating for now and using the proprietary nvidia drivers to drive them both with Xinerama, but haven’t gotten around to seeing if they can handle portrait mode. (I don’t see an obvious way to do it.)

    Still have problems: Occasionally have had Xorg go to 100% when opening OOo, locking the display up for minutes or hours.

    Also have this problem on three different machines running Ubuntu or Fedora, free or proprietary drivers: Images get chopped up in Firefox. That is, an image displayed on a web page may be split and the top half appears above the bottom half. Haven’t been able to find anything in Google on this. The things I can think of to search for turn up a random assortment of results. Doesn’t happen all the time, and if it does happen, refreshing the page will usually fix it. Very disconcerting.

  7. Intel integrated graphics can do this nicely, assuming you have enough outputs (you can add an SDVO card for ~$15 to get an additional port). In particular, the more recent integrated graphics chipsets, such as the 3000, X3000, and newer, should continue supporting accelerated operation after you rotate. And, of course, they support randr 1.2, so you can rotate on the fly; if the monitors provide some kind of feedback when they rotate, you could have that happen automatically.

  8. I have two Samsung 710Ts which also rotate on their bases. I’m quite happy with them, but have never tried them in portrait mode. They don’t make that model any more, but a number of their newer ones have a pivot base.

    On the other hand if $400 is too much, They may not be an option. This seems to be the modern edition of the same thing, which is listed locally for $300.

    My only other advice would be to remember that monitors last longer than computers do, so it makes sense to spend two generations worth of money on them.

  9. Clearly not Nvidia. The nv free driver does not even do 1600×1200 over DVI (need to switch to VGA). Yes, even resolution switching seems to be Nvidia secret.

    Anyway I only have one of those Dell…

  10. The latest intel drivers support fully accelerated rotation. The ati/radeon driver has never supported rotation; I added some code to do so in the randr-1.2 branch, but it doesn’t work yet.

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