RandR 1.3 - Power to the Netbooks
[ 3. May 2009; Nerd]
By replacing xandros on my Eee PC with Ubuntu, I lost the function which would allow to emulate a 1024x768 screen either by panning or down-scaling to 1024x600. It didn't really hurt while using it by myself, because Ubuntu is doing fine with 1024x600. But it got really painful when doing presentations with a connected projector. After some fiddling with mirror mode it would typically end up with a 640x480 resolution. While this is enough for Powerpoint, it fails badly for demos. So there had to be a fix for the netbook.
Just after I learned that Randr 1.3 would be the answer to my problems, I got lucky. The newly released Ubuntu 9.04 finally comes with an X server having the latest Randr extension. This version of the "X Resize, Rotate and Reflect Extension" supports arbitrary scaling of the virtual desktop for each connected monitor, plus it brings back good old panning. In other words, it allows the 1024x600 display of my Eee PC to view larger virtual screens (like 1024x768) either using panning or down-scaling.
"xrandr" is a nice command line tool for accessing the extension directly. I used it in a script which forces a 1024x768 mode line on the VGA output and also provides panning or scaling (1x1.28) for the netbook display. (Forcing the mode line helps with older projectors which cannot communicate properly with the system.) Toss in acpid and using external displays becomes as simple again as pressing a button.
I am not aware of any GUI tools supporting the new 1.3 features yet. (GNOME display settings don't even support all which 1.2 has to offer)