Two monitors, Linux and an ATI card. Woes!

About a month ago we decided to upgrade to the latest Linux Mint on some of our computers here.
The installation on my wife’s system went really fast and really well. In fact, I have to say the end-to-end installation for Linux Mint was very quick. It was the quickest of the distros that I tried to install. Approx 20 minutes to install and maybe 10-15 minutes reconfiguring and upgrading packages.

My setup has two Acer LCD monitors 1680×1024 (ATI HD3450) that gives me a desktop that is 3360×1024, and for that the installation was not so smooth. Technically it took me about the same time to install but only one monitor stayed on after booting. Then it noticed I had an ATI card. I remembered the ease of installing the previous version ATI drivers so I clicked ‘yes, go ahead’ and that was when the fun began. After installing the driver it then recognized the second monitor, but only as a mirror of the first.
After many hours of modifying my xorg, crashing and then reinstalling, the best I managed was to get one monitor mirrored or two separate desktops that I could move documents between, or a big screen that was one and a half monitors in size.

I then tried Mint and KDE 4.xx. Also didn’t work, but it didn’t matter as it would not allow me to play sound. Several times I went back to Linux Mint Felicia, which worked EVERY TIME, no issues. I then came across an article that suggested that the issue lies with Xorg 7.3 and up and the kernel. As I had no issues jumping distros I thought this was my chance to see some other variations in action.

The latest PCLOS had just come out (PCLOS2009). This was funny because it gave me a 1024×800 desktop. After reconfiguring I could get 1280 something but I was having sound card issues. I felt I should try something else. I had been listing to Distro Watch recently and heard the man talking about how stable Debian was.

After installing Debian Lenny which really is a nice distro, (a little retro, but I could have seen myself keeping it) I had two monitors working in mirror each time I logged in. Basically I had similar issues as I did with Mint, except I did not get the black space invaders screen of death as often. I was usually able to recover. Bottom line-I could not compile the Debian version ATI driver because of error messages.

Then I went over to the dark side-Ubuntu 9.04. Don’t get me wrong, without Ubuntu there would he no Mint, I just like being different.
Here is where the video setup woes ended. I came across this message on the forums:

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1203437

I followed the installation, step by step, and wow! I now have my monitors working in big screen mode I have Compiz working and the video is no longer flickering like crazy (I always had to turn off compiz when watching pod-casts). Yes, the dark side of the force is strong with this one.

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