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orinoco77: (Default)
[personal profile] orinoco77
I've been able to spend some time tinkering with my aging iBook recently and one thing that's really starting to bother me is the ridiculously cramped screen. 800x600 just doesn't cut it anymore. So, I decided to see what I could do to change that. There are some published hacks whereby you can swap out the old LCD for one that's capable of a higher res, but having taken one of these things apart in the past, I'm in no particular hurry to do it again, so I thought I'd see what was possible with software. Turns out it's perfectly possible to get yourself an acceptable desktop on standard iBook hardware with nothing more than good old VNC.

If you're running linux on an old iBook like me, or if you've got one of those new-fangled eee-pc gizmos or similar, this might be of use to you. Basically, the idea is to use two VNC servers to firstly give yourself a desktop your hardware isn't capable of, then shrink it to fit. You'll actually need two different VNC servers to accomplish this, but it's not too much trouble and if you're using Debian or Ubuntu, they're both apt-getable. The recipe goes something like this:

Run your first VNC server to give yourself a larger than life desktop:
$ vncserver :2 -geometry 1024x768 -depth 16

Then run your second VNC server to shrink and re-present the first for your client:
$ x11vnc -display :2 -rfbport 5903 -scale 600/768

Finally, connect to the second server to see your scaled desktop:

vncviewer :3 -fullscreen

So, to recap, that's run me a new VNC server on display 2, at 1024x768, attach a new VNC server to that display, scale it to 800x600 and present it on display 3, and finally connect the viewer to display 3 to view the results.

It works pretty well. I'm typing this on my iBook, running the display at 1600x1200 and it's still readable and reasonably responsive (as much as this machine ever is).
Date: 2009-05-15 08:26 am (UTC)

From: [identity profile] dave-t-lurker.livejournal.com
Can't you still set up X to do the windowed desktop thing? I know you used to be able to have say a 1024x768 desktop, but have a 800x600 window to it, you could pan this window around the larger desktop.
Date: 2009-05-15 03:24 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] orinoco77.livejournal.com
Yep, you can, but it is teh gey! Well, not that bad, but it's more faff than I really want in my life. I just want to get more space on my desktop, I don't want to be scrolling around it all the time. The primary motivation is development IDEs. You definitely don't want to be scrolling around those just to see what's on the periphery.
Date: 2009-05-15 03:38 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] dave-t-lurker.livejournal.com
Ok, I think I didn't quite get what you were doign when I first commented. Lack of Tea and all that.

Doesn't 1600x1200 squished to 800x600 look horrible though?
Date: 2009-05-17 10:20 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] orinoco77.livejournal.com
Actually, it's surprisingly readable. I don't think I'll stick with it. I think I can probably cope with a lot less and give myself less eye strain. It works quite well though.
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