TODO in Desktop Linux: monitor configuration

This is the first post in a series. I use Linux daily as my workhorse but I also use Windows (currently XP). There are differences between Linux and Windows. And though I can do most of things I want in Linux there are still specific issues with running Linux as a desktop. In this series I highlight a specific issue per post. For your information I use Ubuntu Edgy 6.10 as a reference platform.

In this first post I start with one of the major problems I encounter during business use of Linux. The situation is as follows. I have a laptop. The laptop is mostly used in three configurations:

  1. Standalone
  2. Connected to a desktop LCD monitor
  3. Connected to a projector

The issue is that X does not recognize any monitor which was not connected during startup. So when I resume my laptop from standalone use and I hook it up to an external monitor, the monitor is not recognized or used by X. When I start up the laptop with the external monitor in depends on my X configuration what happens. In some cases the external monitor is used exclusively and in other cases the external monitor and the laptop LCD are showing the same picture (“cloning”). And can you imagine how this looks when you have an widescreen laptop LCD screen and a 4:3 LCD external monitor?
The expected behaviour is that whenever you connect an external monitor a popup is shown asking what I would like to do. Much in the same way as the desktop handles the insertion of a DVD or CDROM. Moreover I need to be able to change these settings during runtime. Although not perfect Windows is at least capable of doing this. It does not recognize the monitor on connecting but at least it enables you to configure when it is available.

The development of X.org even introduced a regression issue with regard to my Thinkpad Fn+F7 button. With this button I could change the graphics card output selection. But since X.org the radeon driver is not able to this anymore.

In some internet post I read that dynamic configuration of monitors is part of the feature roadmap of X.org R7.3. So there is hope that this issue is finally resolved sometime in the next years. I truely hope so!