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ericn

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May 11 10 10:55 PM

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Apple's most recent update to Snow Leopard, 10.6.3, has produced a bunch of display problems in MacBooks with Intel graphics [here][here][here][here]. And I'm pretty excited — not because I get any joy in the trouble these problems are causing people, but rather, that these problems will require Apple to overhaul the Macbook's internal display driver and, perhaps, in the process, fix the display rotation that never has worked properly in  MacBooks and Modbooks with Intel graphics.


Though notoriously slow, the Intel integrated graphics (at least in the X3100 version) are reasonably capable, and support many of the calculations required for pro app 3D rendering and resolution independent graphics. Nonetheless, since Apple intended the MacBook for causal computer users, they did not see any reason to support these advanced features when they wrote the driver for the MacBook's internal display. Consequently, we have the odd situation in which Intel graphics based MacBooks can support things, like display rotation, on external displays that they can not support on their own display.


When the Modbooks first came out, Axiotron complained to Apple about the lack of screen rotation. .Apple responded:


We specifically disallow this. The assumption was that an external display may in fact be physically rotated and the attached computer will in no way be compromised. A laptop (if rotated) becomes nearly un-useable. We are concerned about users rotating the display but being unable to "de-rotate" it.


This is a typical Apple half-truth. While this is certainly a legitimate concern, it conveniently overlooks Apple's past and on-going support for rotating the internal display in PowerBooks and MacBook's Pros. In fact, Apple simply did not consider it worthwhile to expend a lot of engineering time building a full-featured driver for the display on a lower priced notebook.


Recently, this decision has come back to bite Apple in the butt. Compare these screenshots illustrating some of the recent MacBook display problems that began appearing in Snow Leopard updates 10.6.2 and 10.6.3




Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 11.55.48 PM



with this photo showing my Modbook's distorted portrait orientation.




The problems are all related. 


I think there are two things going on here. First, Apple is updating the display drivers to 64-bit and introducing bugs in the process. Additionally and more importantly, as Apple is moving Snow Leopard towards resolution independent graphics, in ordinary operation, the MacBook is being asked to do the sort of vector and 3D calculations that once were only required in professional graphics apps and the limitations of the display driver are becoming more and more obvious. This Apple support discussion seems to suggest that display corruption is getting progressively worse with each successive update to Snow Leopard. In order to address these issues, Apple will likely have to support some of the vector and 3D calculations that the Intel graphics chips offer, but were previously unused. My hope is that while they are going through the significant effort of rewriting these drivers for 64-bit and supporting the functionality they need for resolution independent graphics, they will go the extra half-inch and support display rotation as well. 


Ever hopeful,


EricN


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#3 [url]

Jul 14 10 9:25 AM

Second party display driver?

If rotation works in Windows, and on other video cards, and even on the same video card on external displays shouldn't it just be a matter of comparing something in the drivers that allow rotation and the ones that don't?  Could I make my screen id as an external display?  I'm speaking out of complete ignorance, but you would think that this would be within the ability of SOMEBODY out there...  I know there are second party drivers for a lot of video cards on the PC/Winblows side.  Why not for Mac OS X? 

It seems that Apple has no intention of addressing this issue.  It might be time to find an adequate way around it.  I wish it was within my skill set to do so, unfortunately I'm completely outclassed when it comes to stuff like this.

I really, really want this feature.  I've managed to get the thing to do primarily everything else I want (except semi-permanently hiding the cursor), and if I could rotate the screen I'd be golden.

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ericn

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#4 [url]

Jul 14 10 6:00 PM

It seems that Apple has no intention of addressing this issue. 


Yep.


It might be time to find an adequate way around it.  I wish it was within my skill set to do so, unfortunately I'm completely outclassed when it comes to stuff like this.

I'm in the same boat.  I know just enough C and am persistent enough that could modify fb-rotate to get it to do what I want, but modify a display driver — ha! Not in this lifetime. Besides, where would you find display driver source code to modify? 


The only thing I've done in this regard is use SwitchResX to play with the Modbook's display settings so that rotation might be possible. I got some interesting results but nothing useful. After borking my Modbook a couple times, I gave up. [Fortunately, the SwitchResX faq explains how to unbork your computer.]


EricN

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#5 [url]

Nov 8 10 3:28 PM

Hey EricN,

I had an idea... as I am constantly dreaming that there will be a way to rotate my damned modbook.  It's likely impossible, but I thought I'd get the gears turning here.

I noticed that I AM able to successfully rotate an external display while I was playing around with my usb display.  I tested on a few others (via display port), both a regular computer lcd monitor and an lcd tv (via an hdmi adapter).  They all seem to work.

So, my question is... would there be some way of 'tricking' the modbook into treating the main monitor as an external monitor? 

I'm not even sure it would work, but maybe??

D.

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ericn

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#6 [url]

Nov 8 10 6:59 PM


Tantalizing isn't it. If only we could pipe to display back into the MacBook ...

I suspect that that approach is a dead end. I believe that the MacBook internal display do not have a DVI-type interface, but connects to the graphics chips more directly (for simplicity and to save space and cost). So, Apple has to write a custom driver for the internal display. For simplicity and performance reasons, they gave the custom driver only basic capabilities. There may also be a turf battle between Intel and Apple regarding who gets to write the driver. If Intel insists on writing it, you can be sure Apple will tell Intel no more than it has to about how the internal display works.

DisplayTwister (in combination with SwitchResX) offers a totally software solution (with problems) as described in a post at InsaneyMac:

SCREEN ROTATION


The drivers for the Intel GMA950 just do not appear to support screen rotation. 


I have managed to get the screen to rotate using an app called DisplayTwister. If you use this on the default R1F resolution of 1280 x 800 you end up with part of the screen blank and the visible screen scrolls from top to bottom. You can get a third party tool called SwitchResX which enables you to create a resolution of 1280 x 1280. Then when you use DisplayTwister you at least have no blank section on the screen but you still have part of the screen scrolled out of sight.


DisplayTwister is tantalising because it shows that even though the drivers are not available it is possible in software to get screen rotation. However, it is too slow and the screen scrolling is a pain. Finally, it does not map the touch screen so there is no correlation between the pen activity and the mouse point which somewhat destroys the point of a tablet.


It seems more likely that I could modify DisplayTwister to work better on a Modbook. It would make a very slow interface, but maybe that is OK. However, my attempts last year to contact the maker of DisplayTwister failed.

EricN

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#7 [url]

Dec 12 10 10:11 PM

Hey Eric,

Do you know if:

1. Screen rotation worked in OS X leopard (less snow)?

(I vaguely recall accidentally rotating the screen on my macbook when I first got it - I was brand new to Mac)

2. It is possible to dual boot OS X Leopard AND OS X Snow Leopard?

I think I might be willing to deal with having to reboot for the one or two things I would actually use screen rotation for.

Thanks!

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ericn

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#8 [url]

Dec 13 10 5:11 PM

1. Screen Rotation works in both Leopard and Snow Leopard, but portrait orientation does NOT display properly if your MacBook/Modbook uses Intel's integrated graphics regardless of which OS you use. (MacBook Pros (and the old Powerbooks) all seem to display portrait orientation correctly.)

2. Of course you can dual boot. Just set up two empty partitions on your disk. Install Leopard in one and Snow Leopard in the other.

EricN

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ericn

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#10 [url]

Dec 14 10 3:53 PM

Really?  I could have sworn it worked on my macbook in 10.4....

I've tested with Intel and NVIDIA graphics with both Leopard and Snow Leopard. But I have no first hand knowledge of Tiger's (10.4) ability to display portrait mode. If you have a MacBook/Modbook old enough to test that, it might be worth the effort.

EricN

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