Ever since I've been asking this question, the predominant answer has been something to the effect of "well one day we'll have free drivers so we can just ignore the problem"

But, in the meantime, NVidia-settings has been so awful it's been scaring users away from Ubuntu for the past 4 years. If you have multiple monitors, or want to change resolution, NVidia-settings gives a horrible experience. On multiple occasions I've seen it, singlehandedly, convince a user that Linux was "not ready".

Most of the stuff in there doesn't even make sense -- for instance there's a completely useless "write to xorg.conf" button that is incredibly scary.

So what can we do?

  • @Scott Ritchie: the need to restart X itself to enable/disable multiple monitors or change resolution is bad per se. Is there really much NVidia can do about it? This is a real question I'm asking, not a rhetorical one.
    – Mussnoon
    Nov 17, 2010 at 9:07
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    @Mussoon, that's not really necessary, I have an nvidia and I can do either without restarting X every time.
    – RolandiXor
    Nov 17, 2010 at 13:24
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    @Scott Could you perhaps highlight some of the major issues with it? AskUbuntu isn't really the place for logging bugs (how many NVIDIA developers do you think will read this post?) but if you have specific complaints, perhaps we can help with those.
    – Oli
    Nov 17, 2010 at 15:44
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    @Scott Additionally, I can only say that nvidia settings works for me. I don't need to use it often but when I do need it, it lets me set up my monitors, change frequencies, change display properties, OpenGL settings, etc... (Again, for me) it's perfectly functional.
    – Oli
    Nov 17, 2010 at 15:46
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    No, it's not perfectly functional, this should be obvious. There is a giant broken and confusing "Save to X Configuration File" right in the most important tab (Display Settings), for instance. Nov 18, 2010 at 11:14

5 Answers 5


The nvidia-settings tool is open-source (GPLv2 + BSD), so it's entirely possible for anyone to make it better. I'm not sure how easily patches would be accepted by nVidia, but at worst you could fork it.

The other option is to write a different front-end, disper from this answer takes that approach.

Both of these options are constrained by the interface exposed by the binary blob, so there'll be a limit to how much you can implement. The blob's interface is reasonably good, though, so you could make a lot of progress without needing any explicit support from nVidia.

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    Perhaps a better question is why our built in tool doesn't use the interfaces exposed by the drivers and demonstrated by nvidia-settings. IIRC Alberto Milone was working on it a couple years ago. Nov 18, 2010 at 11:13
  • That's a fine question. It'd certainly be possible.
    – RAOF
    Nov 19, 2010 at 0:50

Check out Disper and Disper-applet. Disper is a CLI front-end to the nVidia driver (so you can change the monitor configuration from the command line), and Disper-applet is a very simple gnome-panel-applet that allows you to change the monitor configuration on the fly.

There is a .deb for installing disper, but not for disper-applet I'm afraid -- if you need help, post a question on the Launchpad-page.

Link: https://launchpad.net/disper

All the best N

  • wow, 2010 and i'm stilling use the CLI on the desktop, that's progress. Nov 18, 2010 at 1:15

Well the Catalyst control centre is not a terrific piece of software either. So ATI/AMD is as much to blame. The problem lies with the perception that linux users are not heavy gamers, so do not need advanced tools for tweaking their graphics experience. We can start by writing a front-end to nvidia-settings to tweak hidden settings. I am not exactly sure whether that is possible,but like many users i favour the "Do it yourself approach".

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    who said anything about gamers? I like to use two monitors , successfully with running into loads of bugs. Nov 18, 2010 at 1:16

The answer to this question is the answer to bug #1. The moment the community is large enough to show these companies that linux is a platform worth giving some attention to, is the moment they will suddenly give us high quality software. Everyone who has ever done development on both windows and linux knows that Linux is in all honesty more straight forward to develop on in modern systems (many will claim otherwise for various reasons, but we know if we weighed the differences linux would win).

If we can make linux appear also to be a market, as opposed to just a free for all anything goes community, you will see an influx of high quality software even faster. That would happen because first game/3D application/math application developers who target ATI/nVidia would be indirectly putting pressure on them to provide a good experience for linux customers (as well as regular users equally), and with the bottom line falling from under them, the big two would scramble to make a better experience.

I hope my little rambling/rant makes sense =), but in my opinion this is the solution we seek after.

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    I heard this argument 5 years ago. Don't you think it's time canonical got into making hardware? I'd definitely buy a certified machine from them knowing that all devices drivers functioned correctly and the software tools that configured them where easy to use and bug free. Nov 18, 2010 at 1:19
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    Making hardware is not as easy as it sounds. Even canonical would have a hard time keeping up with that one, but the idea is a good one :)
    – RolandiXor
    Nov 18, 2010 at 3:07
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    Actually, making hardware won't change the issue: your hardware would need chipsets made by third party manufacturers that may not provide better software. I mean : if you want good graphics, besides nVidia or ATI, who are you going to ask for a chipset ? Nov 18, 2010 at 7:16

Nothing should save to etc config files without root privileges. Use any sudo method and run nvidia-settings the "save to x config" still works even in 11.04.

We use large CRT's in a number of systems so nvidia-settings is crucial. We use many meta-modes in all our systems. Low-res for games, high-res for graphics, medium for web and development. We use multiple monitors with multiple inputs, sometimes using the secondary monitor for systems from the rack on a KVM. Meta-modes makes it easy to switch between all the setups, single, dual, triple, low-res, high-res, etc.. When using the KVM we prefer to match the lower refresh rates of the onboard video. When using both (or three) monitors on the main system we prefer the highest refresh rate. Setting up the 8 or so meta-modes used on a new system takes less than a minute then press "save to X" and the system is configured. Then switching between the setups is keystroke for the KVM and metamode select. No sudo needed after initial setup, only to save to the config file.

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