Okay, I'll admit I am about as Linux-savvy as the armadillo I passed on the way home from work today. I also know there have been volumes written about how to install graphics drivers in Linux, but allow me share a recent experience I had.
I very recently upgraded my graphics card from an 8600GTS to a 8800GT. Really a nice upgrade until I booted into Ubuntu for the first time. There I was in 2D mode with this huge resolution staring back at me. Obviously I lost my graphics card drivers. No problem though. Just run Restricted Drivers Management again like I did when I first installed Ubuntu with my 8600GTS card, right? Wrong. That gave me a message that my hardware doesn't need updating. Okay, I'm looking at this 22 inch screen that looks my very first Apple computer back in 1992, but hey, good to know I don't need an update! Well, obviously all is not well in Linuxland. I then tried fiddling with SUDO commands, the Screens and Graphics preferences, blah, blah, blah with absolutely no success. I can't be certain, but I think I heard faint laughter coming from my speakers at this point.
So, after a while I started to lose my patience and grabbed my Ubuntu CD thinking a clean install will put some fear into this stubborn OS. Then I decided one last stab at looking for a solution on the internet, and I stumbled onto something called Envy which is supposed to help simplify graphics card installations in Ubuntu and Debian. I figured I have nothing to lose so I installed it.
First, I uninstalled the existing drivers with Envy which took a few seconds. Then I told it to install the new drivers, and that is when the real action started. It zipped through screens of code that would make NASA proud, and just then I thought I heard a faint whimpering sound coming from my speakers.
When Envy was finished, it told me I had to reboot. So I did. When it was done I saw the EXACT SAME SCREEN I was battling all along! But something was different. I then realized that I wasn't greeted with that miserable message that I was starting up in 2D mode. So I quickly moused over to the Screens and Graphics preferences again and lo and behold there I could actually make changes that brought me back into 1680X1050 goodness, I could even choose my monitor. Then I noticed System Tools had a new NVIDIA settings panel with all sorts of features I never had before. Needless to say, I was able to put that install CD back, and all is now good with Ubuntu again.
Envy works with Nvidia and is also supposed to work with ATI cards as well.
Thanks for reading, and hopefully this will help someone in the same predicament.