Dell SP2008WFP with Ubuntu

(Version numbers are of the form YYMMDD. An optional serial number may be added “.1”, “.2”, “.3” to differentiate multiple updates occurring on the same day.)

Changelog (in reverse chronological order; the topmost item is the most recent):

  • 080417:

    • Move to Hardy.

Older changes are here.

My Particulars

I use the SP2008WFP with a Compal IFL90 running Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron). If you are trying to install Ubuntu on an IFL90, see this page.

At a glance

The following table summarizes which functions of the LCD work and which don’t in Hardy.

I did not order the monitor with the optional speaker which I believe works through USB.

Function Linux in general Hardy
Webcam Y Y
Speaker (O) ? ?


With the latest nVidia drivers, switching between the laptop LCD and the external LCD is a breeze: just hit Fn-F3 and you can switch between 3 modes: 1) internal display only, 2) internal and external displays together 3) external display only.

Old Changelog

Entries are in reverse chronological order. (The topmost item is the most recent.)

  • 080103:

    • Added information about Hardy.
  • 071216:

    • Initial page.

5 thoughts on “Dell SP2008WFP with Ubuntu

  1. Ruben

    Hi Louis-Dominique!

    First of all, thanks so much for this great post. I have Debian Lenny (kernel 2.6.22-3-amd64 with Nvidia 169.07 propietary driver) working on the Compal IFL90W (actually it’s not Compal branded since i bought it in spain, it’s an AhtecSense XFLW90 Duo).

    Step-by-step and with some help I am getting to work (slowly because of time and linux knowledge) every piece of hardware in my laptop.

    I post here in order to know how to configure the external VGA port to use with projectors for presentations. I am near to it, but still don’t get it. I just want to have the whole screen being displayed in the projector without having to change (down) the laptop resolution (1440×900 in my case). Don’t know how to configure the nvidia-settings to get it working. I think twinview (with or without xinerama?, what i don’t still know what is ) is the solution, but since the laptop screen and the projector resolution are different, the displayed image by the projector is not the whole screen. I have been through different combinations with different results, but haven’t found the correct one. Don’t care if the laptop LCD has to be turned-off for the external VGA to work, though it would be really good to have the presentation in the projector and notes for the speaker in your LCD (i think i got this config once working using separate screens)

    Another thing, is that i’m not sure if my Fn+F3 button is working or not (same for other buttons –except for LCD backlight which is for sure working).

    I hope the solution to activate the VGA out port is easy for people with no knowledge at all about X servers, command line, etc…so that other people may use the laptop.

    Thanks so much.

    Ps: When i have time, if you want, i may post what i had to do to get Debian working…

    Ps: we can chat through jabber or msn if you want..

  2. Louis-Dominique Post author

    Ruben: I saw your post, then I forgot about it. Sorry about that. I’ve gotten in the habit of expecting comments only on my Compal page so I have not paid attention enough to the fact that you were commenting on this page.

    With the closed source driver, I know of two general ways to get an external display to work:

    1. Plug in an external display which has the exact same resolution as your screen. Then, hit Fn-F3. The laptop will then turn off the internal LCD and display on the external display. If you unplug the external display, and hit Fn-F3, it will switch to the internal LCD.

    Note that hitting Fn-F3 does not tell the driver to cycle between displays. It tells the driver “check whether there is an external display, if there is then send your output to the external display; if not, then use the internal display.” That’s why you have to unplug your external display first, when you want to switch back to the internal display.

    As far as I know there is no way with Fn-F3 to have both the external and internal display working at the same time. Also, last time I tried, this method did not work at all if your internal LCD and the external display have different resolutions. (I have not tried in a while with mismatched resolutions so maybe it works now…)

    2. The other way is to use nvidia-settings. Unfortunately, I can’t get into much details right now because I don’t have any external display with me right now. But I can give you a general idea.

    You first need to plug in the external display. Then, you need to go to the “X Server Display Configuration” tab (appearing on the left hand side). There you hit the “Detect Displays” button (bottom right). After you do that, you should see configuration options for two displays. Then, if I remember well, when you want both displays to show exactly the same thing then you set the displays to be in “TwinView” mode and “Clone”.

    Note that if your two displays have differing resolutions, compromises have to be made. Either you have to run one of the displays at a lower resolution than the max it supports, or you have to use panning on the lower resolution display.

    The other possibility is instead of using “Clone” you tell the driver to put the external display “Above”, “Below”, “LeftOf”, “RightOf” of the internal display. In effect this creates a new bigger virtual desktop.

    But here’s the problem, if you use panning or if you use “Above”, “Below”, etc… instead of “Clone”, then you have a desktop which does not neatly fit onto both displays at the same time. You risk inadvertently putting things off-screen. If you hit the maximize button, for instance, your window will no longer appear completely on both displays.

    The only way I know to have an easily manageable setup is to put the driver in TwinView, tell it to clone the displays and set the resolution to the maximum that the display with the lowest resolution supports. (Which is precisely what you were trying to avoid.) By doing this, you will be able to see the entirety of your desktop on both displays at all time. You don’t run the risk of sending things off screen by mistake and having to hunt for them or fix the size of a window in the middle of a presentation.

  3. Louis-Dominique Post author

    Recent change: I’ve just upgraded to version 169.09 of the driver and I found that hitting Fn-F3 now cycles between three modes:

    – Output only to internal LCD.
    – Output to internal LCD and external monitor in “Clone” mode.
    – Output to external monitor only.

    I don’t know whether the driver is also now better able to handle mismatches between the resolution of the internal LCD and external displays.

  4. Ruben

    Hi again Louis-Dominique.

    Thanks so much for every piece of information and all your time.

    I have been really busy finishing my master’s thesis so I couldn’t try your suggestions in depth. Finally I had to use openoffice on a friend’s windows laptop to be able to do the presentation, damn it!

    Anyway, I will go on now. I just tried once but couldn’t get it. Now I have time.

    I have realized of the great possibilities of having “bigger desktops”. I think there are two approximations to the problem:

    1.- A virtual, bigger, desktop displayed in two monitors (or monitor + projector). This is, an extended desktop within a single X screen.
    2.- Two separate X screens. This is, two different desktops.

    Option 1.- is the one you were telling me that has some problems like leaving a forgotten icon or file. I wonder whether you could have the same problem with option 2.-.

    I got option 2.- once without looking for it (the desktop displayed on the projector even had a different background). And i lost the xorg.conf file… 🙁 Now i think this is the best option, since you can set up the second screen to be completely independent (resolution, colors…) from the first one. And so you could have your presentation on one screen and maybe notes in the laptop LCD.

    I don’t know how but I’ll try to get this.

    Any suggestion will be really welcome. Even a small description about what xinerama and twinview are (i’m going to have a look over there and see if i find something).

    Thanks so much again!!

  5. Louis-Dominique Post author

    Ruben: I know how it is to work on a master’s. I have an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and I am working on a Ph.D. at the U. of Virginia.

    As for your display issues… I think I’ve covered pretty much what I know about how to work with nvidia-settings. I don’t usually do anything terribly fancy. TwinView is just the mode in which the GPU drives two displays. I don’t know anything about Xinerama I’m afraid. I suggest you Google it. For help from people who probably know more than I do, you can check here:

    Or here:

    I’ve used nvnews in the past and found it useful.


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