I'm coming to the conclusion that external binary drivers from a graphics card vendor ARE EVIL INCARNATE. On three separate desktop PC's over the past two years;
A) 12yr old 1GHz pentiumII 256MB ram bog standard desktop with 10+yr old graphics card
B) 2yr old 1.6GHz celeron 1.2GB ram with onboard video
C) 1yr old 3.3GHz AMD 2GB ram with onboard video
D) latest Intel 3.3GHz i5-2500K 2GB ram with new reputable brand-name 256MB video card
all possible permutaitons of A), B), C), D) with the following three monitors
aa) 3rd hand CRT capable of 1024x768 (Packard-Bell, dodgy EIDID codes list worst mode first)
bb) simple flatscreen capable of 1024x768 (Hansol H711)
cc) new wide flatscreen capable of 1920x1080 (BENQ)
All of these combinations are less frequently able to detect the monitor and available screen resolutions after installing 3rd party drivers. The list of available defaults gets truncated and the system loses its ability to use the native resolutions which are best for each respective monitor.
On fresh installs of various versions of Ubuntu including 7.10, 8.04, 9.10, 10.04 and 10.10 I've had the same behaviour every time - don't install 3rd party graphics drivers unless you need transparency effects; rely only on linux defaults, and it ends up with the best resolution of the monitor for workstation use by the end of the week. For some reason the available modes are not always listed in >Display> gui nor in xorg.conf but occasionally they are and once found they work.
After installing proprietary drivers, fancy screen effects become enabled but it forgets the most useful screen resolutions at every reboot and cannot read the monitor type. I suspect that the 3rd party driver hogs the reply from the find monitors EDID or something like that rather than making it available to be applied.
After much searching I'm still usually stuck with a downgraded screen resolution, always about 70% of the best available from the particular screen plugged in. How can it choose which downgraded screenmode to offer the poor unsuspecting user without knowing something about the screen it is plugged into? 800x600 if plugged into a 1024x768 last year and offered 1024x768 if plugged into a 1920x1080. Therefore it could seem that the proprietary driver is using information to f about with users instead of putting that information to best good use. If I were a weak willed puppet in the dungeon of lost computer users I'd pay for a different operating system on the grounds of it being worth paying the professionals to sort out the hardware drivers. As it is, I smell an extortion racket and when I smell that smell I usually flush twice and use bleach just to make sure.
PS If the 1995 operating system had not shipped on a broken installation disk I'd be playing some of my favorite games on it at high resolution and super fast frame rate.