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Supporting Old Hardware In X Gets Brought Up Again


Published on 01 December 2010 10:39 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in X.Org

It's long been a topic of what parts of X.Org should be killed with fire. There's plenty of dated and obscure X.Org and Mesa drivers around for hardware that hasn't even been manufactured in years and are rarely used. At XDS Toulose and on other occasions it's been decided not to do a massive purge of all these legacy graphics drivers for Linux. Old hardware support by the X Server has once again been brought up, but this time it's about monitors.

In the middle of November there was a series of patches published by Peter Huttrerer and one of these patches changed the X classic driver default resolution to 1024 x 768 (mailing list message) and also changed the default pixel clock to match accordingly. This would seem like something trivial -- and to most people it won't even impact them at all -- since these days it's hard even finding anyone with a monitor resolution less than 1024 x 768 with most people (aside from netbook users) running at much greater resolutions. Our annual graphics survey confirmed this that there's not many running a resolution less than 1024 x 768 at least as far as non-mobile devices are concerned.

Luc Verhaegen commented though, "Why change this, are we suddenly forgetting the whole of the 90s ever happened?" AMD's Alex Deucher responded, "At some point you have to move things forward. If you happen to have one of those old monitors that only support 1024x768i chances are you know what you are doing. The vast majority of people who will hit this case have a monitor that is capable of 1024x768p which is a much better user experience than an interlaced mode or 640/800 progressive." Additionally he said, "Most people that hit this now will be using a KVM or have a busted EDID or something and 1024x768p for most people "just works", no xorg.conf editing needed. In fact on newer monitors, it probably has a better chance of working than 1024x768i or some other archaic mode. If you have an old vga fishbowl, then you can edit your xorg.conf." Of course, a series of email exchanges between Luc and other developers has since ensued. Here's some quotes below.
We don't handle serial mice without an xorg.conf either. If your hardware's old enough to have reached the age of consent in most of the world, and if you're then running a modern X.org on it anyway, writing a static configuration seems like a sensible thing to do. KMS defaults to 1024x768 without KMS, so if you can't manage that you've failed long before you get near X.

Matthew Garrett

We provide pretty much no support for hardware that's the same vintage as the monitors you're talking about. Why would the people using these monitors be running current versions of X? Why would they not be able to write an xorg.conf? Why are they more important than the people who have to deal with the more common cases of missing EDID?

Matthew Garrett

If this really is how you feel about the thing, then be consistent, and rm -Rf everything except -intel, -ati and -nouveau. Because in your world, no-one would be running anything else.

Luc Verhaegen

People using old monitors probably still have an xorg.conf that they've been using with it for years, unless they just dug it out of a closet or rescued it from the recycling pile.

X.Org has discontinued a lot of the old input drivers already, and I wouldn't be surprised to see older video drivers like rendition and i740 join them eventually. There are always going to be limits to mixing and matching components of vastly different ages in your system, whether it be trying to run 2010 Xorg on a 1995 kernel or a 1995 monitor.

Alan Coopersmith

I wasn't going to say anything, but I have an XGI Volari hanging on my wall with a Dx9 sticker on it. I've just been too lazy/incompetent/indifferent/much of an AMD whore to get started on KMS for it. My Didj and Ego share a similar fate, along with other various video cards. Modern and rare things do exist.

Corbin Simpson

And just how certain are you that 1024x768 is going to help all those cases with missing EDID compared to 800x600?

This makes me want to start arguing for making 640x480 the default.

Luc Verhaegen.

Perhaps this is why certain vendors don't want to work with Xorg. We target 1990 hardware to the detriment of modern desktops.

[Editor's note: In reference to, Why More Companies Don't Contribute To X.Org]

The 1024 x 768 default though was merged yesterday into X.Org Server 1.10 in time for its merge window closing.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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