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I just installed linux-image-686-pae on my Debian system and the PAE kernel effectively increased the memory limit.

However for some reason my dual monitors both show the same image, instead of an expanded desktop. When I use GRUB to boot the normal kernel, the second monitor once again expands the desktop. What's going on?

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Sounds like a bug in the display driver in the PAE version of the kernel, assuming the normal kernel is the exact same version as the PAE one. You should file a bug. – Patches Dec 6 '11 at 5:37
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I installed the bigmem kernel instead.

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