vesa driver screen dimming problem

Steven Feil sfeil at
Thu Nov 7 11:23:54 PST 2013

From time to time, I find myself having to use the xf86-video-vesa
driver when my xf86-video-r128 driver fails after an upgrade (I'll
make a separate post about that).

When I use the vesa driver, I have a problem with my X11 screen going
into what I call dim-mode, where the graphic screen is very dim and
hard to read.  The dim-mode problem does not effect the tty screen.
Once X11 goes into dim-mode the only way I found to fix it is to, shut
down the Xserver (thus killing my desktop) and restart the Xserver.  I
am old school, I log into my session in text mode, then I use startx
to start my desktop. I first noticed the problem about a year ago, but
when I changed to a working xf86-video-r128 driver, I no longer had to
deal with the issue. I have only tried the vesa driver with one
computer that has a mo-bo video adapter.

Dim-mode can be triggered on one of two ways. One way is to
ctrl-alt-function to a tty screen, then ctrl-alt-function back to the
X11 screen. This causes the Xserver to go into dim-mode.  Games that
uses SDK will cause X11 to go into dim mode instantly. Also mplayer
will cause dim-mode after a few seconds of play.  No matter how the
Xserver gets into dim-mode, the only way to get out of it is to
restart Xserver, switching back and forth to ttys does not fix the

Looking at Xorg.0.log, I can see that no additional info is added to the
log file at the time the Xserver goes into dim-mode.

As a test I started :0 and it went dim when I went to a tty then back
to :0. I then started :1 and it was fine. I switched from :1 to :0 to
find that :0 was still dim. I then switched back to :1 and it too was
then dim.

I am wondering if the problem is due to a bug in the xf86-video-vesa
driver, or is there is a setting a can use to avoid this problem.

Excerpt from /var/log/Xorg.0.log 
X.Org X Server 1.14.3
Module vesa: vendor="X.Org Foundation"
compiled for 1.14.3, module version = 2.3.3
Module class: X.Org Video Driver
ABI class: X.Org Video Driver, version 14.1

/var/log/Xorg.0.log ->

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