Xorg/Gnome 3 on high DPI screens

After reading around a bit trying to figure out what I should do about high DPI with a new laptop I’ll soon be receiving, it has become clear that resolution independence in Linux/Xorg/Gnome is a very (un)popular topic.

I heard a while ago that Apple had implemented resolution independent display in OS X and probably in iOS too [citation needed] and wondered if such a thing existed in the FOSS world. It seems many have tried and failed.

It boils down to:

  • people expect different behaviours with their screens
  • information reported by hardware is too unreliable to come up with any good solution

The semantics of resolution in the computer world have been twisted away from the real meaning to being more related to what one should associate with physical dimensions - how much one can fit on the screen.

I think the only reason Apple can do it is because, once again, they control/have dominion over the entire chain and can make it happen.

For all the discussion from people who actually know this stuff rather than a guy who just read the articles and felt like posting about it, see here.

Currently, in Fedora 16 with Gnome 3, Xorg hard-codes 96dpi regardless of what your screen/driver report. One can adjust for this, if one wants, by calculating:

<scale factor> = <monitor dpi> / 96.0

And then adjusting the gsetting setting:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface text-scaling-factor <scale factor>

I did this on my current 1280x800 260mm x 160mm Lenovo X200s screen and text seemed a bit too large for my taste. Clearly I have been indoctrinated by demons. Therefore, I will take people-in-the-know’s advice and ignore DPI but adjust to my taste.

There is still one problem with this unfortunately. I have a 23” 1080p external screen and will soon have a 15.6” 1080p laptop screen. Maybe the difference in DPI will screw me over a bit. I expect so. Oh well.

Also, here’s a Firefox addon - NoSquint - to adjust the default zoom level for all pages.