LCD Monitor Recommendation

I have been on a 3 year quest to dump my old Sony CRT monitor and replace it with an LCD monitor, but I keep getting sidetracked.

I am looking for suggestions (recommendations really) for a high end/quality LCD monitor.

Resolution must be 1920x1200 or higher (NOT 1080), and most likely 24in display.
It would be really nice with dual-inputs so I can add both my desktop and laptop.
A built in USB hub would also be pretty useful.

Price is not an issue (it is, but I care more about quality), so I have an open mind. I don’t care for another TV, just more screen space.

My top picks are the Dell UltraSharp U2410 and the NEC MultiSync EA241WM. I’ve always been interested in Samsung but too lazy to figure out which series are cheap and which are quality.

If you own or use any of the above monitor or know of one you really love please let me know. I want to buy something in the next 1 to 2 weeks. (Apologies for all the messages).

Leave a comment or Contact me.

Default Xorg Resolution

Recent versions of Linux and the Xorg X-Windows system have been engineered to require very little configuration settings to properly detect graphics options and display resolutions. In most cases graphics should “just work”.

The Xorg system stores all its configuration options in the file: xorg.conf. Many distributions including Fedora and CentOS keep this file in the /etc/X11/ directory. In the past this file would contain a great deal of information that was not easy to setup. However as of recent releases, this file is not required for graphics to work correctly. Both Fedora and CentOS will provide a very minimal xorg.conf file if required.

Typically the proper resolution for your display will be detected at run time. While this is great for most users, it often leads to strange resolutions or blank screens depending on your monitor or LCD screen.

EDIT: If you have NO file at all, on the Fedora wiki is: How to create xorg.conf. This works for both Fedora and CentOS.
There are two solutions if you have no xorg.conf. As ‘root’ run either of the following:

# yum install system-config-display
# system-config-display --noui


# yum install xorg-x11-server-Xorg
# Xorg -configure
# cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Whenever I install Fedora or CentOS with the X-server, I typically edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf and add the following Section (or at least the missing parts):

Section "Screen"
        Identifier "Screen0"
        Device     "Videocard0"
        DefaultDepth     24
        Subsection "Display"
                Viewport   0 0
                Depth     24
                Modes     "1024x768"

The Modes line will control the resolution. You should put the proper resolution for your display. You can also add mutiple modes if you monitor supports it. For example:

Modes     "1280x1024" "1024x768" "800x600"

If you have an LCD and Xorg does not properly detect the resolution, set the mode to the maximum resolution your LCD supports. If you have a standard CRT monitor that Xorg detects higher resolutions (with poor refresh rates) set the mode to the resolution you are comfortable. Also, if you have a CRT you can set multiple modes, then using either Gnome or KDE you can pick a resolution you prefer.

Note: This does NOT apply to everyone (most people will find the defaults correct), however many people have reported that setting a fixed resolution is helpful. Especially for some LCD’s which just seem to go blank.

For more information run man xorg.conf

Edit: 11/23/2009

Command Line DVD Burning

When I built my server, I only used a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combination drive. Whenever I remotely downloaded a ISO using wget or bittorrent, I would have to copy the 2-4GB file(s) from my server to either my desktop or laptop. I finally caved, and bought a DVD-RW drive for my server (even though it will get minimal usage).

(This was all on my CentOS 5 server, I executed these commands entirely remotely. )

After I installed the new drive, I ran dmesg to check how it was detected:

[mirandam@atlas ~]$ dmesg | grep DVD
hda: HP DVD Writer 1140d, ATAPI CD/DVD-ROM drive
hda: ATAPI 12X DVD-ROM DVD-R-RAM CD-R/RW drive, 2048kB Cache, UDMA(66)

The device is /dev/hda, which will be linked to the DVD device in /dev:

[mirandam@atlas ~]$ ls -l /dev | grep dvd
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root         3 Aug 19 19:44 dvd -> hda
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root         3 Aug 19 19:44 dvd-hda -> hda
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root         3 Aug 19 19:44 dvdrw -> hda
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root         3 Aug 19 19:44 dvdrw-hda -> hda
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root         3 Aug 19 19:44 dvdwriter -> hda
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root         3 Aug 19 19:44 dvdwriter-hda -> hda

Necessary Software

In order to work with DVD writing, you should have the dvd+rw-tools package installed. This will most likely be installed if you have Gnome or a CD/DVD app such as K3b. If not install via yum:

# yum install dvd+rw-tools

I wanted to erase a DVD+RW.

I had a junk DVD+RW (Memorex) laying around that I wanted quickly deleted. I used the dvd+rw-format command (it took less than 30 seconds):

[mirandam@atlas ~]$ sudo dvd+rw-format -force /dev/dvd
* BD/DVD+RW/-RAM format utility by <appro>, version 7.0.
* 4.7GB DVD+RW media detected.
* formatting 92.3\

I wanted to burn a downloaded ISO file onto the DVD+RW.

I used the growisofs command. I tried using sudo but it refused, so logged in directly as root.

[mirandam@atlas ISO]$ su -
[root@atlas ~]# cd ~mirandam/ISO/

[root@atlas ISO]# growisofs -dvd-compat -Z /dev/dvd=DVD_Image.iso -speed 2
Executing 'builtin_dd if=DVD_Image.iso of=/dev/dvd obs=32k seek=0'
/dev/dvd: restarting DVD+RW format...
/dev/dvd: "Current Write Speed" is 4.1x1352KBps.
   31490048/2530975744 ( 1.2%) @4.0x, remaining 7:56 RBU 100.0% UBU   2.4%
 2512584704/2530975744 (99.3%) @4.0x, remaining 0:03 RBU 100.0% UBU  99.8%
builtin_dd: 1235840*2KB out @ average 4.0x1352KBps
/dev/dvd: flushing cache
/dev/dvd: writing lead-out

As you can see, it took about 8 minutes (fast!) for this to finish. After it finished, I mounted the new DVD to test it (my image was udf, most linux CD/DVD images are iso9660):

[mirandam@atlas ~]$ sudo mount /dev/dvd /mnt/dvd -t udf

When I got back to the server, my DVD+RW was ready for me.

I plan to always leave a DVD+RW media in the drive so it can serve as an means for backup. Automating the process may also be a good idea.

More Info

64-bit Linux

There was some discussion on the fedora-devel list about changing the default architecture for 32-bit Fedora. Which would mean that users running 32-bit Fedora with modern CPU’s will see some improvement, while older hardware will need to be supported by some secondary means or not at all.

There are some good points in the thread, but the question I found myself asking was: “Why do I still run 32-bit Linux at all?”. For 3 years, all of my computers have been 64-bit hardware.

I thought it was the web, however …

  • Flash: Runs great using 32-bit software in 64-bit Fedora (the native 64-bit plugin is currently in beta).
  • Java: OpenJDK has had a native 64-bit browser plugin for Java for over a year (the official native 64-bit plugin for Sun Java was released almost 6 months ago) .
  • I don’t even use things like RealPlayer anymore, and most websites no longer bother to embed video directly.

I often would recommend to people that multimedia had limitations or would require work in 64-bit Linux, but all my DVD’s, music and collected media work perfectly fine! And if you’ve looked at tutorials for media playback, there is little or no difference in the work required. (FYI: I have not missed anything for NOT having the win32 binary dll’s).

The only insignificant difference is the (sometimes) 10-15% size increase in downloads and applications for using 64-bit software. However for the performance gain, the cost in hard disk or download time is well worth it.

I feel silly for installing CentOS 32-bit on my personal server last year. That is not even used for multimedia or web. I think may upgrade it.

I admit I’ve been a luddite for far too long. If your hardware supports it (almost no new hardware is pure 32bit), then you should be using 64-bit Linux. In your next update or install cycle, skip the i386 and go download the X86_64!

Hardware Changes and Failures

I am currently in the process of installing a new hard drive on my laptop. The 100GB was not enough. I have not had time to install Fedora on it.

I found out I have some hardware failure on my desktop. This is where I did majority of my testing.

I have not had time to find a new UPS since my main one failed a few weeks ago. This is probably a priority since I run my server on it.

Other than the CentOS running on my server, I have not touched Linux or done any work on my Fedora setups for weeks now.

Fedora 9 Review

After spending a good deal of time configuring Fedora 9 I thought I would take this opportunity to provide my thoughts and feedback. The following is my Review of Fedora 9 (F9).

“Sulphur” smells only just a little.

Installation Media

The first thing I was happy to see was that the team finally decided to offer Fedora 9 in multi-CD installations in addition to the DVD installation. This has been missing since Fedora 7. I’m glad someone realized that Live image installation is NOT the same. I chose the DVD installation.


Note: For the first time I simultaneously installed Fedora on both a Laptop and Desktop. Additionally I used both 32-bit and 64-bit versions for installation.

As always the Fedora installer always seems to slowly lose features. Although in this case some very useful features got added. This release saw the addition of partition-resizing in the installer as well as encrypting your file system. While I do not think that majority of users require the encryption, the re-sizing ability is welcome as it accepts the possibility that many people wish to dual-boot or are not yet ready to abandon Windows. Unfortunately, I did not trust the Fedora installer to re-size my (pre-setup out) partitions.

For Package Selection I was fairly pleased with the default set of packages. I find that with each release there are less changes I need to do. Although I would still prefer if KDE, thunderbird, and k3b were installed by default. Oddly my install later added up to be a whopping 4.8GB! Almost 1GB bigger than I recall the similar installations for either F8 or F7! Not sure what was added!

The First Boot did see some minor changes. The security settings for both the Firewall and SE-Linux (Security Enhanced Linux) were removed. I would guess that many people possibly just disabled them upfront instead of actually learning to use them. I guess this is probably a smart move for Fedora.

Software: Fedora Desktop

After the First Boot configurations were set I made it to the login screen. This is where I will use the phrase: “Familiarity Be Damned!”. I follow the Fedora defaults of using Gnome but this release really had some major changes in software components.

The new verion of GDM (which manages logins) requires you to double-click your name and has this annoying animation after selection. There is an option at the bottom for selecting alternative desktops (e.g. KDE). Overall the login screen seemed incredibly clunky and unpolished. I felt it was a minor detraction, since technically I did not see any major functionality lost.

After logging into Gnome, my first reaction was that nothing major had changed. Which from the perspective of the GUI seemed to be true. I did notice 2 new applets on the top-right. The first was PackageKit and the second was NetworkManager.

PackageKit seemed to give a pretty simple interface for accepting new updates. I liked it for the most part, it reminded of a similar feature in Ubuntu. Although, if one saw over a 100 I doubt there would be much usefulness in “Reviewing” an update before install. Overall positive improvement.

NetworkManager which I was believe was available in FC5 is finally enabled by default in Fedora 9. The previous network service is disabled. This is a potentially problematic issue. Some setup’s (like my desktop) may find NetworkManager a nuisance. I ended up disabling NetworkManager in Fedora and concluded that this option was still too beta-quality. That is until I tested the same on my laptop. I enabled the WiFi and clicked on the applet which showed my WPA2-PSK access point. I entered my pass phrase and I was connected! No configuring, no tweaking, no firmware-ing, no ‘yum-ing’. My Intel Pro ABG3945 Wireless worked out of the box! So, I can only conclude that NetworkManager, while not perfect for all configurations, is definitely worthwhile for some.

Firefox 3 – While I did not go through all the new applications, I am not very impressed with Firefox 3 (not Fedora’s fault). The interface seems a little annoying and only 2 of my 10 extensions work, which makes surfing a little difficult in Fedora 9.

Otherwise the GNOME setup seemed satisfactory. The only other quirk I had was that point-and-click NTFS partition mounting did not work for me like it did in Fedora 8. As usual I just prefer to have all my NTFS partitions fixed and mounted at boot. Also occasionally after I login I find that my time is several hours off? I do have NTP running. This causes a nuisance for dual-booting.

Software: Java

Fedora 9 ships with OpenJDK instead of IcedTea that was shipped in Fedora 8. I want to believe that the development is moving closer to be functionally same as the popular Sun Java, but I am confused. OpenJDK is version 1.6 while IcedTea was 1.7? Okay, no biggie. What was the biggest disappointment was the OpenJDK web-browser plugin did NOT work on the popular Java Test Page. Why does this bother me? Because IcedTea in Fedora 8 worked like a charm.

Software: KDE 4

Although I was initially excited about trying KDE4, that excitement quickly faded after using KDE for a few minutes – “Familiarity Be Damned!” Simply put, it is missing too many features and there are enough changes to frustrate you. While again, I do not blame the Fedora developers for including this, it does add to the feeling that many software components in Fedora 9 may seem incredibly unfamiliar or just NOT ready.

System Issues

While there may be many software updates at the system level, I did not notice anything new that would significantly change the user experience. I would say on a very positive note that sound seemed quite issue-free. The PulseAudio (first included in Fedora 8 ) worked great for me. While not a big deal, the doc writers should have made sure to add libflashsupport in the Release Notes to get sound in Flash working.

Now to SELinux – the super security tool everybody loves to hate and nobody has the patience to learn. For the first time I found running Fedora with SELinux set to Enforcing has NOT caused a single problem. All plugins, drivers, 3rd party and proprietary apps ran without issue. This was 3 different hardware installs! First time ever! It only took 4 years!!! Well, I’ll wait till a SELinux policy update renders my system useless. But overall, I was quite pleased.

Fedora included Upstart which is Ubuntu’s new startup system. While I know that this opens the door to many optimizations during startup, I did not notice any major changes. I think this will be gradually improved over time.

Hardware Support – Laptop

While I do not have much new hardware on my desktop, I do have a Thinkpad Laptop. I was shocked that almost every single feature worked out of the box for my laptop: video resolution, sound, touchpad/pointer, SD card, wireless, battery, volume, brightness and hibernate. While my mute button still does not work correctly and the suspend is a little buggy, I have not really debugged them. Even so, the amount of time in the past I would have to configure all of the previously mentioned options was days of tweaking, researching and kernel compiling. I was really pleased with how well Fedora 9 – 64-bit worked on my laptop.

System Issues – Xorg X-server

Unfortunately the release of of Xorg 1.5/7.4 was not ready in time for the release of Fedora 9 so a development version 1.4.9999999999999 was shipped (not sure how many 9’s). While there is nothing technically wrong with this, the Nvidia binary driver (must have for 3-D and compiz effects) will not work correctly with this release. Since no one knows the Nvidia’s release schedule or the internal working of their hardware, basically you cannot do 3-D or effects in Fedora 9 if you are an Nvidia user (like myself). I wish the Xorg release was ready. I’m eagerly waiting to fix the last remaining quirk on my Fedora 9. Annoying, but people should have patience.


I’m not a big fan of shipping development versions of software, but in the open source world – everything is development software. Overall I am not super thrilled with Fedora 9 on the desktop but the drastic improvements on the laptop front are well worth it. Obviously I don’t plan on using Fedora as a server.

I don’t think I will ever agree with some of the default decisions (e.g. NetworkManager over network) but nothing seemed too difficult to resolve. I think this release was definitely moving in the right direction. Much better than Fedora 8. I feel Fedora is trying real hard to catch up to Ubuntu’s polished quality.

I personally would recommend that people wait for at least the update to Xorg. This seems to be a big road block for many. I do not think that there was a major lack in quality in the distribution as a whole (like in many past releases). I just think that many of the components shipped in Fedora 9 just need a little catch up time.

Glad I tried multiple different installs, it broadened my perspective. Maybe Fedora 9 “Sulphur” will do the same for you? Happy installing!

Local Server Hardware

After identifying exactly what my local linux server requirements were, I decided to take a good look at my hardware options. From the start, I wanted to (1) save money, (2) save electricity/power and (3) minimize noise.

To address these issues, there were many decisions I made. First of all I did not need any peripherals. The server could be entirely “headless” (i.e. no monitor, no keyboard, no mouse, etc). The primary things of value are: disk storage, memory, cpu and network. Hence the following are my requirements:

  • Processor – CPU speed should be about 1Ghz. Preferably a low power processor (ex: Geode-NX, Pentium-M, etc.). I prefer a CPU without a fan and that could be cooled with the heat-sink alone. Although I do not plan to do major computational critical tasks, in the past I have seen certain processors (Via) have difficult with SSH (something that will be critical to performance for me).
  • Memory – Minimum memory: 256MB. From my experience using Fedora as a server and building other minimalistic Linux machines, I know that all my tasks/processes should be fine with about 150-200MB of memory after some tweaking. For safety, about 512MB will be perfect.
  • Disk – Minimum storage space: 80GB. All of my critical documents, development, music (mp3’s, etc) and server backups could be fit easily into 20-30GB. I think double that amount should be adequate. However, realistically, since I most likely would want a SATA drive for performance, most drives are at 160GB for the best price.
  • Video – Don’t care. On board. The most I would need to do is run a remote X-server session, which does not benefit from better video hardware.
  • Sound – Don’t care. On board. Would never be used.
  • Network – Standard networking is now 100Mbit, however it would be a nice to have 1Gbit. Although both my desktop and laptop are both 1Gbit, I do NOT have a gigabit switch.
  • DVD – For installation, a DVD drive would be needed, but once complete, everything would be done over the network. However, there is a practical advantage to having a DVD-RW. Even if the hard drive was very large, a 4GB DVD backup could still be useful for incremental long term backups.

What did I end up getting?

  • Motherboard/CPU – Intel Celeron 220 1.2Ghz. I found a mini-ITX CPU/board combination. My primary reasons for purchase were (1) price – less than $80 USD, (2) no noise – fanless, (3) power consumption was only 27W. The other features of the board were SATA, Onboard video/sound, ethernet and USB2.
  • Memory – 1GB 533Mhz. I did not need 1GB, but the price was only $25 USD and since the motherboard only had 1 slot which supported maximum 1GB, I decided that it was best to just max it out for now.
  • Storage – Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 SATA 250GB. I did not need the space either but the price was only $70 USD which for the features (16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s) was a good deal. I currently recommend Seagate Barracuda drives, they are great performance and reliability.
  • Case – Antec NSK MicroATX Cube (350W). I thought it would be best to minimize the space the system would take. Also this series of cases is known to be absolutely silent as well as power efficient. This was the most expensive part: $100 USD.
  • DVD – I recycled an old DVD-ROM I was not using.

Total spent: ~$280 USD. This was well within my budget of $300-400.

There were some things I learned and I did run into some issues. I should first mention that everything did “work” correctly.

  • Motherboard SATA – I realized later that the motherboard only supported 1.5Gb/s SATA. So my drive is not operating as fast as it can be, but this is acceptable since majority of my file transfers will be somewhat smaller and the standard SATA performance is very good.
  • Motherboard Video – I knew that onboard video is pretty low performance (in this case SiS Chipset). However for whatever reason the VGA-out on this board was especially noisy. While this would be unacceptable for normal use, I never intended to have a monitor on this machine.
  • Motherboard BIOS – This board had an Intel BIOS. I am most familiar with Asus motherboards and in the BIOS setup there is an option to manually set the startup time (fixed, daily, etc.). The nvram-wakeup utilizes the setting to wake-up the computer. However this board does NOT have that option. I was hoping the machine would sleep during in-activity and wake automatically. I have not yet decided how to work around this other than manually starting it each morning.
  • Celeron CPU – While this CPU met my needs perfectly, I was a little disappointed it did not power-throttle (i.e. reduce clock speeds to save power). The ACPI information is a little bit confusing, however given that it is low power anyways and it does support 64-bit, this is acceptable.
  • Case – Any “smaller” case typically has problems. Antec is usually known for their quality, however I found my case incredibly noisy. The power supply fan rattled too much. I was thinking I would have to RMA to Newegg, but luckily I eliminated the noise by taking everything apart and re-tightening every single screw. Very frustrating but it worked.

Overall I am happy with the purchase. I did end up saving quite a bit, but I can’t help thinking that perhaps spending a little bit more would have allowed for some slight benefits.

I guess I was a little bit wordy, but I wanted to explain very clearly my thought process in assembling a computer with a very specific purpose.

More on this after the software is up and running!

Resuming USB after F7 ACPI Suspend

As mentioned in my Fedora 7 Review, there were some ACPI regressions in functionality. The basic problem is as such: Before I hit ‘Suspend’ my mouse is working fine, however the mouse fails to activate after the computer is resumed.

To get the mouse to work again, I must run the following, after which the mouse works perfectly.

[mirandam@charon ~]$ sudo su -
[root@charon ~]# modprobe -r ehci_hcd
[root@charon ~]# modprobe ehci_hcd

How do I know which module to pick? Trial and error. There are only 3 USB modules that I considered:

[mirandam@charon ~]$ /sbin/lsmod | grep hcd
ehci_hcd               35405  0 
ohci_hcd               23749  0 
uhci_hcd               26833  0

I went through each and loaded and re-loaded it at the terminal line until I found the correct one.
(How did I get to the terminal with no mouse? Quick Tip: Create a shortcut key combination in Gnome: System > Preferences > Personal > Keyboard Shortcuts).

The Fedora FAQ says to use the “Quirks Page” to try to diagnose the problems. The site is a little “dumbed” down but it might be helpful to newbies.

The information I required was how to unload modules prior to suspending. This is mentioned in the site. The proper method is to add a file unload_modules in the /etc/pm/config.d/ directory. The file should have 1 line listing the modules you want to unload (separated by spaces) in a specific format. In my case this would be:

Hence I ran:

[mirandam@charon ~]$ sudo gedit /etc/pm/config.d/unload_modules

Added the above line, and presto!, my USB mouse propely resumes after an ACPI suspend (S3, Suspend to RAM).

The above quirks page may not be entirely comprehensive but should provide many common tips. Unfortunately power management (including suspend and hibernate) are ever changing in Linux. The current structure does seem like progress (even if it does create regressions as in my case).

For reference I have an ASUS A8V, Athlon 64 running 32 bit, kernel 2.6.21-1.3228.fc7, with a Logitech MX 400 Laser Mouse.