As the majority of BSD/Linux users, I use X.org for my X Window System. I have a preference to edit my own xorg.conf to ensure that X runs properly on any of my system. To this date, I have never failed to get X configured. It is actually not that difficult. Today, distros such as Debian Lenny, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Sabayon, to name a few, can automatically create a working xorg.conf for users during installs. With the distros like Gentoo and Arch Linux, users are required to configure their own xorg.conf. Regardless of the configuration type you choose, you are eventually going to have to choose whether you want to use a propriety driver or open source driver. This can be a nightmare in itself if you are not careful.
Regardless of which distro I use, I have a preference to start out with the open source drivers. vesa is a common open source driver that I tend to start out with. It ends to work with most video cards. On my desktop, I have an Nvidia card so I decided to use the nv open source driver. Both vesa and nv work on my desktop.
I decided to try the nvidia driver on my Arch Linux desktop. Arch has a good wiki to get nvidia with 3D rendering to work. I got it to work and was quite happy, for about a month at least. So what happened?
The nvidia drivers, like it’s propriety counterpart, ati, have a tendency to break. For some computer users, it breaks a lot. With Gentoo, I never install the latest nvidia drivers. It breaks X forcing me to either revert to an older driver or switch to nv or vesa. With Arch, an update to the Gnome desktop broke X with the cause attributed to my nvidia driver. In Ubuntu, yes Ubuntu systems do break, an update to the kernel caused X to break as well. In PC-BSD, I was forced to rebuild X.Org. In all cases, I was either using the nvidia or ati propriety drivers.
When X broke earlier this week on my Arch system, I first had to find out what was the culprit (I mentioned above that I upgraded my Gnome desktop). X was working but I was getting a low resolution with the nvidia drivers. It did not matter if I set the Modes to reflect the resolution of my monitor, the lower resolution remained default.
Finally I decided to switch to vesa and the higher resolution (1440X900) returned. I made some more configurations to xorg.conf and I got the open source nvidia drivers, nv, to work at the higher resolution as well. The nvidia driver still do not work. No problem, I will not use them on my desktop again, I will stick to open source drivers which, from my experience, have never broke on me. Save the headache, stick with nv 🙂
I am eagerly waiting for an open source graphics card. There is one available but the price is quite expensive, $1500 US, higher than many custom-built desktops! Prices should drop in the future though.
Edit: This is a blog posting, not a news article, Beginner Howto, etc. The above posting mentioned that I preferred to use open source drivers on my DESKTOP, it does not mention that I use them on my other laptops and systems. I am also not denying anyone’s RIGHT to use propriety drivers, I use them as well.