HowTo: Downscale HiDPI to scaled resolution

HowTo: Downscale HiDPI to scaled resolution


I have seen the future and it is HiDPI monitors and laptop screens (what is known as Retina Display in the Apple world). My current laptop is the Dell XPS 13 (9360) which came out of the box with Ubuntu. The highest resolution is 3200×1800. This is astonishing and really puts Dell ahead of other laptop manufacturers who are still putting out non-Retina laptop displays.

3200×1800 = Tiny Icons, Tiny Text

Unfortunately, no one is really ready for the future with HiDPI in GNU/Linux! When I left the native resolution at 3200×1800, the GNOME3 theme was small and had to be scaled to a factor of 2, the icons in most GTK and KDE applications were also tiny.

To try and solve those problems I asked on AskUbuntu (a Stackoverflow/Stack Exchange off-shoot):

The ArchLinux wiki has a page for HiDPI screens and on it you will find ways to:

Downscale from 3200×1800 to 1920×1080

But what if you wanted to downscale rather than upscale everything? I thought of this idea when using the Macbook Pros at my job (every developer job seems to have consolidated on Apple Macbooks as the gear of choice, guess it’s less of a pain for the IT support department to deal with? or they get a nice volume discount?)

The Macbook Pro has a Retina screen with a high native resolution, 2880×1800. However, Apple has downscaled to a lower resolution, 1400×900 to be precise. Apple labels that as the best resolution, and this Anand Tech article explains that for every pixel at the lower resolution you actually four pixels (since the native resolution is so much higher). I have actually found it hard to go back to regular monitors after working on a downscaled Macbook and I wanted the same experience on the Dell XPS. Not only that, but downscaling would also fix my problems with tiny text and icons.

Here are the instructions on how to downscale a HiDPI GNU/Linux desktop to a scaled resolution, specifically on GNOME. Unity has its own tweak tool and there are instructions on the ArchLinux Wiki to downscale KDE.

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Ten Steps to Successful Open Source Crowdfunding – Open Collective

Open Collective, the KickStarter-like service for funding free/open source projects, has published a practical 10-step guide to crowdfunding open source projects.

One of those steps is something more projects could do to raise money. It’s printing stickers and creating shirts emblazoned with the project logo:

People donate because they want you to use their money to power up the project. So get proactive! Print stickers and other merch, cover costs associated with conference talks, and financially support people who make key contributions.

Putting stickers on your laptop is a tradition for developers, they show off what you support,which software and programming languages you use. I wouldn’t mind stickers for Ubuntu, Red Hat, LibreOffice or PostgreSQL on my laptop.

Swag-style t-shirts are also great. When I was tending the FSF (Free Software Foundation) booth at LinuxCon 2016, it was awesome to see people buying t-shirts.

When you need to fund your free/open source projects, consider Open Collective!