[Solved] Ubuntu 11.04 Broken External Display

Well it took a day, but I fixed the monitor problems on Ubuntu 11.04!

After experiencing THE most unstable Ubuntu upgrade yet, my external display resolution was basically a sea of Technicolor vomit. The display on my Dell 1564 i3 was fine, but attaching an external VGA monitor resulted in an unusable display of flickering madness. I also figured out why they called the distro Natty Narwhal: because it acts like a beached whale with a spike in its brain! Fucking Natty.

Anyway, this is how I fixed the garbled external display problem:

1) The Easy Way

a – Open System > Administration > System Testing
b – After entering your admin password, click next. You’ll have a list of many items to test.
c – Chose Monitor Tests and Video Tests

Run the tests with your external monitor detached.

When the tests are complete, run them again with the external monitor attached. You may have to position your mouse on the ‘Test” button before you attach the monitor, since the display resolution will still be garbled once the monitor is attached. When you’re ready, click “Test”. When the tests complete, you should have your external display back. If all looks good, you’ll just have to configure your display settings. And that’s it!

2) The Hard Way
a – Open a terminal and type xrandr
b – You’ll see something similar to this:

Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 1680 x 1050, maximum 8192 x 8192
LVDS1 connected 640×480+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 344mm x 194mm
1366×768       59.6 +
1360×768       59.8     60.0
1024×768       60.0
800×600        60.3     56.2
640×480        59.9*
VGA1 connected 1680×1050+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 434mm x 270mm
1680×1050      59.9*+   60.0
1280×1024      75.0     60.0
1440×900       75.0     59.9
1280×960       60.0
1152×864       75.0
1024×768       75.1     60.0
832×624        74.6
800×600        75.0     60.3     56.2
640×480        75.0     60.0
720×400        70.1
HDMI1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
DP1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)

Choose which display you want to be your primary and form your command like so: xrandr –output VGA1 –primary

Honestly, this isn’t the best method if you want to fix it visually. Running the Monitor Tests from the System Testing menu uses xrandr anyway and should get your second external monitor up and running. Hopefully things will run better in 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot which will be out in October 2011.

Next up: How to Uninstal Unity

6 thoughts on “[Solved] Ubuntu 11.04 Broken External Display

  1. Doesn’t it? I was VERY close to switching distros, but now that the external monitor display looks good, I’ll give Ubuntu another chance.

  2. Thanks for the posting – I tried but could not get it to work using System Test, Monitor. Am I am doing this wrong.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *