Why did you castrate xserver-xorg?!

Though it’s Monday morning and I have lots of work on my desk, I’m looking back at a very frustrating weekend. 

I decided to do reinstall  my desktop machine, moving it from Debian Etch to Ubuntu Hardy. My laptop is running Ubuntu, and administering one system is hassle enough for me.

The initial install went without a hitch. After the obligatory reboot, the login screen came up, and I saw that the resolution was too low – 800×600 instead of the 1280×1024.

Well, that’s a familiar issue – X has a hard job to do, and isn’t particularly good at autodetecting everything. Still surprising, since both graphics card and monitor are fairly garden-variety stuff: An Nvidia GeForce 6100, and a Samsung SyncMaster 710n.

So what does one do in this case? Right:

$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

That used to be the height of technical complexity for me, short of editing /etc/xorg.conf, where the syntax is slightly less user-friendly than that of procmail (quite a feat, if you ask me).

But on my new hardy system, this command only let me configure the keyboard, which was working fine, thank you very much. The options for configuring video had disappeared.

Hours of web search, driver installation, configuration etc. followed. I wouldn’t have minded spending  a sunny Sunday with my family instead.

So I found this thread on launchpad, which was already running from here to Beijing with people complaining about the newly powerless xserver-xorg.

Turns out that at Canonical, they’ve taken away the most common text-based way of making your video card run, and replaced it with a half-baked GTK application called displayconfig-gtk. This app reminds me of the people who deal with complaints at the German railways company: it looks friendly, but does absolutely nothing useful.

There’s also a small problem here for people who are even less lucky than me. If you can’t start your graphical environment, a GTK application is not much use.

Another tool is xrandr,  which I can’t find any information about other than that it’s fairly beta. This seems to be the program that is supposed to do the autoconfiguration, but doesn’t do it right.

The Ubuntu Xorg maintainer responded quickly:

displayconfig-gtk is a user interactive method for configuring
xorg.conf. Like dpkg-reconfigure it also often produces invalid
configurations. We recommend using the autoconfiguration approach, and
if that does not work for some reason, please report it as a bug. This
way we can roll out a true fix for everyone.


Dear Ubuntu folks, so far you’ve done an excellent job at giving us a GNU/Linux distro that was both newbie-friendly and highly configurable. So what have you been drinking that gave you the idea of taking away a tool that worked fairly ok, and replacing it with several that don’t work at all?

And how is it a sensible idea to tell people who complain that autoconfiguration doesn’t work for them to please use the autoconfiguration method?


Your answers in the comments, please. Thanks.