Still a Work in Progress

Submitted on 03 May 2010

I discovered yet one more reason for my insistence that Linux is still not ready for primetime as as desktop operating system.  Until recently, my biggest complaint was the lousy support for wireless cards using the Broadcom chip sets.  However, the version of Ubuntu Linux and the kernel I have installed now appears to have finally resolved this issue (at least for the ancient 802.11b/11g card in my laptop).  So much for that…on to my next rant.  I have an ancient (circa 2001) Dell Dimension 8200 desktop that uses Ubuntu Linux 9.10 as its operating system.  The hardware configuration includes:

  • 2Ghz Pentium 4 CPU
  • 512MB RAM
  • Graphics Card with NVIDIA GeForce2 MX/MX 400 Graphics processor
  • Dell D1025TM Monitor
  • and a number of the other usual suspects.

When I did the initial install of Ubuntu 9.04, I let the installer choose the best configuration based on the hardware configuration and resources.  This included the Visual Effects, which the Ubuntu install set to “None.” This does not require the enhanced capabilities of the GeForce2 graphics processor.

ubuntu_visuals

One day boredom set in and I decided to try the “Normal” configuration.  This required loading of the restricted (i.e., proprietary) NVIDIA driver for the GeForce2 MX/MX400, followed by a reboot of the system to install the driver.

I encountered my first problem upon the system reboot.  The driver had set the screen resolution to 640×480.  I fumbled around with this for a while but finally got the resolution set to 1024×768 via the NVIDIA X Server Settings utility.  I did a reboot and everything looked fine…or least it did at first glance.   But, just as I was getting ready to congratulate myself on yet one more time beating Linux into submission, my smugness came to a screeching halt.  There was something missing in the application windows.

nvidia_nh_screenshot

I had no clue as to what happened.  My first thought was that I had  inadvertently done something to turn off the Titlebar display when I was changing the screen resolution.  I ran  the NVIDIA X Server Settings utility again and set everything to the default values except the screen resolution.  I rebooted, still had same problem.

I then set the visual effects back to “None” and rebooted, fully expecting to see no Titlebar.  Surprise, surprise…the missing Titlebar reappeared.   Big clue!

nvidia_h_screenshot

Armed with this clue I went to the Big Help Desk in the Sky, otherwise known as Google.  Did a search on “Ubuntu NVIDIA Titlebar” and got a number of hits.  I soon found a solution to my problem at the Pen Drive Linux web site.  Here is an extract of the solution:

The following tutorial explains how to fix the Compiz Ubuntu Desktop Effects missing titlebar problem. If you’ve been toying around with Ubuntu 7.04 and have enabled Desktop Effects “Compiz”, you might notice that the titlebar or window decorations have disappeared. This is a fairly common problem amongst systems using ATI or Nvidia video cards and commonly occurs after switching to a higher resolution. The fix is fairly simple.

ubuntu_nvidia_Pfix

The most telling information here regarding the state of screen drivers and Linux is the version of Ubuntu that the extract cites (Ubuntu 7.04, released in April 2007).  The version I had this problem with was Ubuntu 9.10, which was released in October 2009.

By the way, the AddARGBVisuals and AddARGBLXVisuals options tells the driver to display (True) or hide (False) the window decorations, one of which is the Titlebar.

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