Monday, December 18, 2006

Sloppy SuSE

Have you seen Novell's "improvement" on the KDE menu? Have you seen the quotes around the word "improvement"? I have no idea what they were thinking. Reading the openSUSE site they claim the menu was the brainchild of hundreds of hours of usability study and research, examining every minute detail of user interaction. And yet they came up with a menu that takes 50 clicks to launch an application. Riiiiiight.

I just spent the past three days trying to get dual monitors working with the very insipid ATI card in my Latitude D600. Bear in mind, this isn't the first time I've tried to get a Xinerama-like "bigdesktop" setup working with this machine. Nope. I've had one since I've owned this machine, which is going on two and a half years. And yet, with every OS install on this machine, I've had to wrestle with getting the ATI drivers to obey. It's absolutely ridiculous.

The crazy thing is that we're not even talking about different driver versions. From XFree86 to XOrg, things have behaved weird or wacky in different ways. The only version of the driver I can run is 8.28.8, and even that would be unavailable if it wasn't for K's cluttered loft. 8.29.6 causes the LCD on my laptop to slowly - and I'm not kidding here - burn and bleed pixels. 8.32.5 won't even detect a screen. It's a pretty sorry state of affairs, especially considering 8.28.8 won't even work with XOrg 7.2, which is what SuSE 10.2 ships with. I have to backport to XOrg 7.1, install the 8.28.8 driver, then hack the config file.

Don't even get me started about the xorg.conf file. Even though my version of the driver stays the same, with each SuSE release the file has to change. Release before last I had to tell it my "DesktopSetup" was "0x00000000". Last release I had to ForceMonitors to be "auto,auto" for some unexplained reason (actually specifying the monitors wouldn't work). And in this release I had to specify ForceMonitors to be "lvds,tdms" and explicity specify the HSync2 and VRefresh2 of the monitor in the "Device" section. If I didn't, it would either never turn the monitor on, choose an incorrect frequency or choose a lower resolution.

If the above sounds like absolute rubbish, you're absolutely correct. And SuSE isn't the cause of the problem... it's ATI. Ubuntu, Fedora... they'd have the same problem. It's just that ATI doesn't feel like they need to adhere to "standards" of configuration at all, and their driver is simply unstable and, at times, unusable. The lesson: never, in your life, buy ATI hardware.

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