XPS M1330 Ubuntu External Display

I’ve just bought a new laptop.

The Eee had reminded me how much I liked Linux, and I’d had some annoying problems on the Macbook – Apple seem to have really screwed up something on the wireless networking in Leopard.

So I got one of these:


It’s a Dell XPS M1330 – Core 2 Duo at 2.2 GHz, 320 GB hard disk, 4GB RAM and a WLED display, and, amazingly for Dell, it’s stylish and light. Also, best of all, you can buy it from Dell with Linux pre-installed! It probably would have been the same price to buy it with Vista, have a good laugh, and then wipe it and install Ubuntu anyway, but I wanted to show my support for what Dell are doing here.

On the whole, I love it. But there was one issue that was driving me up the wall. I bought with it a nice external 24″ Dell LCD monitor. But could it be configured to work with the stock Ubuntu install? No. Experimenting with the Ubuntu settings in the administration section just seemed to make things worse. Googling for advice brings up nothing useful, apart from lots of people complaining about the same thing. I saw some advice somewhere to run “nvidia-settings”, which I hadn’t yet tried. Not as useful as I thought it was going to be…

Running “nvidia-settings” does nothing. Doesn’t print anything, doesn’t open a window. Finally I decided to have a look at the binary – maybe run strace on it – and I find it’s inexplicably been replaced by a placeholder script which does nothing but return true. That is not clever…!

I now have it running though. Here’s what I did.

First I tried installing a package from synaptic called “nvidia-settings” – that sounded hopeful! When I installed it, it warned about needing to remove the package “nvidia-glx-new”. OK, I figured I’d try it.

That was worse – I couldn’t get a resolution above 800×600 on the main display.

So I decided to revert to the package “nvidia-glx-new”. Reinstalling this package warned about removing the “nvidia-settings” package I’d just installed. That was expected.

So after a reboot I’m back where I started. Except on a whim I try running the command line “sudo nvida-settings” again, and, hey presto, that nasty little placeholder script has been replaced with the real thing. After a bit of experimentation with the nvidia tool, I’m now typing on a dual screen setup, with the external screen at 1920×1200, and the internal screen working correctly too. The compiz stuff seems to have been disabled in dual screen mode, but that’s OK for me – it’s just eye candy, and I suspect it will all come back if I just run one screen (either one). I’ll experiment.

Oh, and running the 1920×1200 screen on a VGA cable gives a slightly shimmery display. But the M1330 has HDMI out, and using that gives a beautiful, rock solid hi-def display.

So I’m now happy. Hope this saves a few people having to trawl though as many pages as I have trying to get the external screen working. But please don’t blame me if you screw up your install completely. I’ve only just got it working like this! There may be some pitfalls to it. It makes me wonder why, in the Dell pre-installed Ubuntu, the nvidia-* commands were replaced with dummy scripts.

Oh, and the laptop in general? I’m really pleased with it. Much more so now I’ve got a big monitor to go with it.

Update: unplugging the big screen and restarting X causes everything to revert to normal single screen, just as I’d hoped. Also compiz effects come back (once re-enabled) – so it seems like it’s working just how I want it!

2 Replies to “XPS M1330 Ubuntu External Display”

  1. Thanks for telling about how you’ve got it working. Planning on buying a monitor myself, and was uncertain until I read your post.

  2. thanks so much for this article.. fixed my problem exactly as you described it!

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