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New Is it something to do with plug and play monitors?
I use a KVM on my home machines and I see similar behavior when I start up a linux box while the KVM is pointed to a different machine. If I restart the offending box, it comes up in the expected resolution. I had assumed that when booting, the system probed to find a P&P response and if not found, defaulted to VGA. It only does this when booting without a monitor present, so it's not that much of a pain for me.

So, Greg, was my assumption anywhere close?
New That behavior would have been acceptable.
Unfortunately, with a monitor plugged in it didn't recover and didn't present any resolution choices. A power-off restart didn't help either.

If there's some secret package that fixes this, as Greg implies, it should be part of the install.
New It goes a bit deeper
KVM switches can feed incorrect EDID information to the PC. I've worked with one KVM setup where we had temporarily swapped a 17" CRT for a 15". Weeks after that, I booted up a Linux box on the switch and it came up using the 15" monitor frequencies. It turned out the KVM switch was still passing on the 15" data (easy to spot as the monitor serial number is part of the info.)

Windows seems to grab whatever settings it first encounters and doesn't care much about changes afterwards unless you go fiddle with the display settings. Linux believes what it receives in response to its P&P requests and pays the penalty if the data is incorrect.

The graphic cards themselves are involved as well. If the card can't detect a monitor on a port when the PC is started, it may just shut off the port. In that case, I haven't yet found a way to get anything back to normal short of rebooting because even recycling the X server will not reset the card.

E.g. a GeForce card with S-VHS port assumes you want TV out when no monitor is attached to the DVI or analog VGA ports and will enable only the S-VHS port. A monitor plugged in afterwards will not get any signal.
     Well now, isn't that cute. - (Andrew Grygus) - (7)
         Hmmm. Simple fix... an excluded package. Oops. - (folkert) - (6)
             Neither OS/2 nor Windows does this. - (Andrew Grygus) - (5)
                 My "Disinclined to help" is because of your cute... - (folkert) - (4)
                     Reading comprehension please. - (Andrew Grygus)
                     Is it something to do with plug and play monitors? - (hnick) - (2)
                         That behavior would have been acceptable. - (Andrew Grygus)
                         It goes a bit deeper - (scoenye)

Loose the hounds!
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