Looking for a small fast VAX development machine

Mouse mouse at Rodents-Montreal.ORG
Sat Feb 27 20:24:12 CST 2016

> Running as root is unfortunate, however I think the framebuffer
> server used with DEC hardware doesn't require it; not at least it
> should.

Probably not.  Not required on the SPARC, either; X11R6.4p3 servers run
just fine as a non-root user.  But I've seen a "modern" SPARC server
that needed to run as root because it was trying to enumerate the SBus
itself, rather than leaving that to the kernel the way it should.  (It
might have been possible to make it work as non-root by granting the
user access to the underlying SBus, but that's almost as bad as letting
a non-root user access /dev/mem.)

> Or, worse yet, calling into graphics adapter firmware -- which has
> been the trend over the years, used as an excuse for not documenting
> hardware.  Now that is a security disaster, isn't it?

Indeed.  One of many.

> I think these days Linux is booted more often in the frame buffer
> rather than the text console mode,

That's my experience.  Indeed, its "text" modes usually are running a
terminal emulator and text renderer on the framebuffer in the kernel
rather than using the hardware's text mode.

>> It's a bit like monitors: apparently flatscreen technology has
>> improved to the point where monitors can no longer do what CRTs from
>> multiple decades ago did routinely.
> Hmm, the only feature of CRTs I'm missing is the greater flexibility
> in resolution selection.  [...]  So what was there routinely in CRTs
> that you're missing in LCDs?

Flexibility.  Reasonable approximations to unexpected things.

For example, I had a big CRT monitor that aws 4:3.  I once fed it a
1920x1080 signal.  It squashed it horizontally and lost pixels because
the shadow mask's resolution was coarser than the pixels, but it was
usable enough for text work that I could set the resolution back.  I've
yet to find a flatscreen that does anything but display some kind of
"input out of range" and nothing more in such a situation.

I've recently been looking for a flatscreen that will sync to the
1920x1080 from a cg14.  I have one at home (an Asus) that works ifne,
but at work I've been having trouble.  Behaviour has ranged from an
inability to make it display anything but its "out of range" box to the
flatscreen mis-identifying the input (as, eg, 800x600) to getting the
resolution right but putting the upper left corner of the image several
hundred pixels to the right and a hundred or so pixels down from the
upper left corner of the display.  (Just recently I finally found one
at the office that worked.  One of the older ones - apparently the
older flatscreens still were built with some degree of competence.)

I've even had trouble finding flatscreens that were willing to
letterbox rather than scaling (badly) when the input signal is smaller
than its native resolution.  (Ideally, it would be possible to scale to
the native size, scale by the largest _integer_ factor possible, or not
scale at all.  But, of my flatscreens, AFAICT only one is capable of
anything but the first of those, usually with ugly artifacts from
non-integer scaling factors.)

And then there's the adjustment time.  CRTs typically adjust to a
resolution change in a matter of a few vertical blanking intervals.
Flatscreens generally take multiple seconds, sometimes even a second or
so before they display _anything_.

I don't miss the weight, the power consumption, or the X-ray levels,
admitted.  But I can't help feeling that this much functionality loss
is an awfully high price to pay for those benefits.

And then there's HDMI.  I don't know whether HDMI would have happened
without the move to flatscreens, but it certainly is a correlate.

>> Fortunately, old X still works as well as it ever did.
> Well, if it indeed does in the first place. ;)

Well, yes, as badly as it ever did, too. :-)

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