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Thread: Card with good multi monitor support?

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Question Card with good multi monitor support?

    This is the third time I'm trying to post this but I get "your post needs to be approved by a moderator" message every time I try and that obviously doesn't happen. I'll try to remove that link I had before and see it this works better.

    I recently upgraded my computer and was thinking about getting a new graphics card. Unfortunately that requires endless hours of research and it's impossible to avoid running into problems anyway. I decided to keep my old graphics cards because I know what kind of shit I can expect from it. Very few people are qualified to answer the questions I needed to have answered anyway so I just gave up. Then I found this forum and if there are any people who have any idea of the problems I'm facing it's the people here.

    I should probably begin by telling you want kind of system and config I'm running. I have a normal desktop setup with a GeForce 6600 LE using two monitors in xinerama. The dual heads are probably the source of a lot of my misery because many of the problems I have go away in single head mode but there is no way I'll ever go back to running in single head mode and preferably I would like a add a third head if possible. I don't play games so I don't need a high performance card but I use google earth and run video game emulators so I do need at least minimal opengl support.

    Kernel problems:
    I've been using the nvidia binary drivers for as long as I've been running desktop linux. I wouldn't go as far as calling them terrible anymore but there is definitively room for improvement. What annoys me the most about them is that they often break when I upgrade the kernel. I like to use -rc kernels and even the most recent release usually don't support the -rc kernels.
    I got a laptop some years ago and decided to get an Intel cards because of the open source drivers. I believed this would make most of my problems go away but I was wrong. The Intel drivers are the worst quality shit ever. They broke for almost every kernel upgrade. It also took the developers several months to patch the problems so I had to keep a bunch of out of tree patches around myself to fix the problems. At one point I had 3 separate patches for fixing 3 different problems. I will definitively never use an Intel card in the future and the problems with the Intel drivers taught me that open source drivers doesn't necessarily have to run better.

    Dual head problems:
    There are to my knowledge 3 different ways of using a single nvidia cards in dual head mode. The nouveau drivers, binary with xinerama and binary with twinview. None of them run flawless but they have different problems.
    * Using xinerama mode with the binary drivers is the best solution. The problem I'm having is that this mode is very slow. Moving windows between monitors takes forever and even things like minimize and resize is slow. I've gotten used to this over the years but it's something I would like to fix. Another problem with xinerama is that composition doesn't work. This is not a problem right now but it might be in the future.
    * By using twinview with the binary drivers the sluggish desktop is fixed. I still can't run composition because I always get nothing but blank backgrounds every time I try. composition work fine in single head so there is some kind of problem with the twinview setup. It doesn't really matter anyway because I don't need to use composition right now.
    The biggest problem with twinview is I can never get vsync in videos to work. Both the xvideo and gl video outputs of mplayer give me tearing on the 2nd monitor. I want to be able to play video with vsync on both monitors and this is not possible with twinview.
    * I've only tried the nouveau drivers a few times but I've never been able to get them to work properly. I always gets verticals lines all over the monitors when I enable the xrandr extended desktop mode. The top row of pixels gets duplicated all the way down. I chatted with some people in the #nouveau channel and they even tried to debug it but without results. At least with open source drivers you can debug the problem.

    60fps video problems:
    Nvidias xvideo implementation can't handle running 60fps video. There must be some kind of busy wait somewhere in the drivers because I get 100% cpu when I play 60fps video. This causes the xserver to stop processing input so if I open a 60fps video by mistake I have to watch all of it or hard reset the computer. There is a thread about the problem from 2006 (I was going to insert the link here but you'll just have to find post 77735 on the nvnews forum youself). I don't think that problem will ever be fixed in the drivers. If I use the gl output with mplayer the 60fps videos play fine but I can't get any vsync on the 2nd head even with xinerama mode so I don't want to use the gl output unless I have to. I've even gone as far as to code a small wrapper for mplayer that checks if the video is 60fps and enable the gl output in that case.

    Those are the main problems I'm having now. Does anyone know of a card / driver combo that can fix these problems? I want speedy working dual head preferably with composite, working vsync on both heads in dual head, working 60fps playback and preferably the ability to run -rc kernels without breaking my graphics all the time. What I'm asking for is probably impossible with the current xserver :(

    I've also been hoping to find some card that can give me working triple head output. I ran a tripe head setup using a separate voodoo card a few years ago but I only ran it for a few days. It was way to slow for daily use. Triple head got some other problems because the primary monitor is not the left one. Some games changed the resolution of the center head and draw the window in the top left corner of the left head and things like that. Programs like to assume the primary monitor is at offset 0,0 and draw things there so I could never get the triple head setup to work properly because of that.
    Are there any cards with nice working triple head support in linux that doesn't suffer from the problems I mentioned above? I have looked at the eyefinity support of >HD5000 amd cards but from reading this forum I've learned that the open source amd support is not mature or stable and the amd blog is the worst thing ever. Nvidia got something called surround technology for supporting 3 monitors but since it can't even properly support 2 monitors I can't see any reason why it would work.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Pleasant Hill, CA
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    First the bad news: I don't have any answers but I certainly admire the question.

    I'm new around here and don't know enough about video hardware to help at all, but I have a suggestion that might help. One thing I've learned from being on both sides of a problem is that it's hard to solve really big, complicated problems. A lot of people don't even want to get started, and others might not want to read such a long post.

    If you could somehow attack a subset of the problems, maybe you'd find some answers. Then again, it may just be that you are either asking an impossible question, or your problems are too advanced or specialized for anyone around here.

    Sorry I can't help; good luck with your search.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    I have some good news. I've been able to solve all the problems I had by getting a Sapphire Radeon HD5450 and using the xf86-video-ati drivers. This unfortunately introduced some new problems but overall it was a big win.

    I realized I was never going to find the answers I needed so I just bought the cheapest radeon I could find and hoped for the best. What I got was
    Speedy working dual head ✓
    Preferably with composite ✓
    Working vsync on both heads in dual head ✓
    Working 60fps playback ✓
    The ability to run -rc kernels without breaking my graphics all the time ✓


    In exchange I got 4 new problems to deal with. I've been able to find workaround for some of them but not all.

    Videos play out of sync
    Video is delayed a few frames. It's not much but it's enough to make all humans look like ventriloquists. It can happen in all video players using both xvideo and gl but it doesn't happen all the time. I haven't figured out what triggers it and creating a bug report is probably useless unless I can get some data to confirm my observations.

    The video drivers drops frames internally (workaround found)
    When I play 60fps videos in mplayer it plays them back fine at first but gradually starts to lower the framerate. Cpu usage remains low and mplayer reports perfect a-v sync. After a while it slows to a complete halt but if I decrease the playback speed a bit it will gradually increase the framerate back to normal levels. A helpful person in the #mplayer channel told me to use -nodouble option and this fixed the problem. I don't know why but it had something to do with XFlush vs XSync. I suspect the drivers still drops frames occasionally sometimes but I can't prove that.

    The mouse stalls (workaround found)
    Bug #29536 on freedesktop's bugzilla. I had this exact bug when I used the intel drivers. The same code is shared with the radeon drivers. It's still not fixed but I can kill the upowerd daemon on each startup to work around it.

    32-bit opengl apps don't work
    32-bit apps use the old precompiled emul-linux-x86 packages provided by gentoo instead of the new drivers from git. 64-bit Unigine Heaven runs but 32-bit version refuse to start. Mostly commercial games come in 32-bit versions so it shouldn't matter except that google earth is a 32-bit app. Wtf google? 64-bit cpus came out 8 years ago. I can fix the problem my switching to 32-bit gentoo or building every support lib in 32-bit but it's too much work.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    353

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    The GeForce 8400M GS works with the newest proprietary driver which fixes some bugs, and dual-head in TwinView (not tried Xinerama) works fast. Nouveau also works fine within its limits (if you use KDE + Nouveau 3D you may want the latest Git as that fixes an important bug). Even 2nd screen setup and autodetect (which the Linux blob lacks) work fine. My card is built-in in my laptop, but there are desktop cards named 8300, 8400 and 8500 based on the same NV86 chip.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
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    Hi,

    I was having similar problem recently but couldn't find any suitable feedback before buying new card.

    I decided to give it a try and go for 4 x 23" screens setup with ATI FirePro™ 2460 Multi-View.

    So far I've been playing with it for around a day and I have to admit I'm quite impressed.
    Despite the fact that graphic card comes with 4 mini displayports and apparently require displayport screens to use it, this card comes with 4 displayports to DVI adapters and works fine with 4 DVI screens.

    When I played sample video (quality isn't great - recorded using mobile phone), it was working well, even when displayed on all 4 screens. There was no tearing at all.

    I configured all screens with krandtray - worked out of the box.

    I'm using composited desktop and everything works surprisingly well (much better than on my old nVidia Quadro NVS 420).

    Below you can find some logs.
    dmesg
    lspci
    Xorg.0.log
    screenshot playing video - 5.6MB
    Code:
    $ glxinfo | grep OpenGL
    OpenGL vendor string: X.Org
    OpenGL renderer string: Gallium 0.4 on AMD CEDAR
    OpenGL version string: 2.1 Mesa 7.10.2
    OpenGL shading language version string: 1.20
    OpenGL extensions:
    If you need any more information or logs, please poke me.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Berlin, Germany
    Posts
    820

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    The AMD MultiView cards are insanely expensive.
    If all you want to connect is 4 monitors, get a Sapphire 5670 Flex and one active DisplayPort->DVI adapter for a total of ~100 EUR.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    2,058

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tholin View Post
    I have some good news. I've been able to solve all the problems I had by getting a Sapphire Radeon HD5450 and using the xf86-video-ati drivers. This unfortunately introduced some new problems but overall it was a big win.

    I realized I was never going to find the answers I needed so I just bought the cheapest radeon I could find and hoped for the best. What I got was
    Speedy working dual head ✓
    Preferably with composite ✓
    Working vsync on both heads in dual head ✓
    Working 60fps playback ✓
    The ability to run -rc kernels without breaking my graphics all the time ✓


    In exchange I got 4 new problems to deal with. I've been able to find workaround for some of them but not all.

    Videos play out of sync
    Video is delayed a few frames. It's not much but it's enough to make all humans look like ventriloquists. It can happen in all video players using both xvideo and gl but it doesn't happen all the time. I haven't figured out what triggers it and creating a bug report is probably useless unless I can get some data to confirm my observations.
    I doubt that this is related to the video drivers at all.

    The video drivers drops frames internally (workaround found)
    When I play 60fps videos in mplayer it plays them back fine at first but gradually starts to lower the framerate. Cpu usage remains low and mplayer reports perfect a-v sync. After a while it slows to a complete halt but if I decrease the playback speed a bit it will gradually increase the framerate back to normal levels. A helpful person in the #mplayer channel told me to use -nodouble option and this fixed the problem. I don't know why but it had something to do with XFlush vs XSync. I suspect the drivers still drops frames occasionally sometimes but I can't prove that.

    The mouse stalls (workaround found)
    Bug #29536 on freedesktop's bugzilla. I had this exact bug when I used the intel drivers. The same code is shared with the radeon drivers. It's still not fixed but I can kill the upowerd daemon on each startup to work around it.
    Don't know.... never heard of either of these.

    32-bit opengl apps don't work
    32-bit apps use the old precompiled emul-linux-x86 packages provided by gentoo instead of the new drivers from git. 64-bit Unigine Heaven runs but 32-bit version refuse to start. Mostly commercial games come in 32-bit versions so it shouldn't matter except that google earth is a 32-bit app. Wtf google? 64-bit cpus came out 8 years ago. I can fix the problem my switching to 32-bit gentoo or building every support lib in 32-bit but it's too much work.
    Well, if you want 32bit, then you need 32bit libraries. There is no way around this. Even with the blob drivers, you will note that the 64bit blob drivers come with 32bit libraries for those 32bit applications.

    I suspect that some of your problems may be related to gentoo. Especially your second and third problems. I've never heard of or experienced either of those two. Have you tried a different distro? (not to switch to, but to try to isolate the source of the problem)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    353

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    But the blobs of both manufacturers have both 64-bit and 32-bit by default. Ubuntu has 32-bit included for all open-source drivers except the experimental ones: Nouvean and Intel Gallium. And my card is NVidia... I can do nothing but compile it manually.
    Anyway, it's a bug and I've filed it.
    Last edited by AlbertP; 06-01-2011 at 01:40 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
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    2,058

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlbertP View Post
    But the blobs of both manufacturers have both 64-bit and 32-bit by default. Ubuntu has 32-bit included for all open-source drivers except the experimental ones: Nouvean and Intel Gallium. And my card is NVidia... I can do nothing but compile it manually.
    Anyway, it's a bug and I've filed it.
    Why do you think it needs a configure script?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    38

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    I think Nvidia NVS450 is a very good card. It also support many monitor. I think it will solve your problem.

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