Monday, January 05, 2009

Ubuntu on Toshiba Satellite 1405-s151 & Screen Resolution Difficulties (800x600)

I had been very happy with Sidux on my laptop, but had a spare partition with a broken version of Kanotix on it, so decided to see if Ubuntu would work on it.

I got the Ubuntu distro from Linux Magazine, a British outfit. Thanks, lads - you're doing a terrific job.

You could have blown me over with a feather. This Ubuntu ("Hardy Heron" - Ubuntu 8.04) loaded first time and without even the slightest problem. Its maximum screen resolution was 800x600, but I could live with that, particularly as I was back online!

[I was still running Sidux because, although it couldn't recognize any of my wireless cards, it gave a screen resolution of 1024x768, so allowing me to watch Irish DVDs on an acceptably watchable screen.]

I had had difficulties getting 1024x768 on the Sidux box at first, but knew that it was possible because both Knoppix and Gnoppix recognized the screen at that resolution. Unfortunately, it was so long ago that I had no idea what I did to get the full resolution in Sidux.

Dangnabbit, I said to myself (as I do). If Knoppix and Sidux can do it, then this beautiful Ubuntu distribution can. So I'm going to find out how.

First thing to note is that this problem has been around for some time now. The Toshiba Satellite 1405-s151 seemed Linux-proof for some years, and I'm guessing that I was one of only several people ever who put Linux on it. Even when Linux distributions became capable of running on it, the screen resolution was always a problem, and probably will be.

The difficulty lies with the video card, a Trident Cyberblade XPAi1. This was made cheap and bought up in bushel-loads by Toshiba before Trident moved on to bigger and better things. The company offers no support for users, and because Trident is such a small player in the video card world, Linux drivers were not forthcoming. Even when available, they're not easy to find even now.

My hazy recollections of getting 1024x768 on the machine in the past involved editing xorg.conf with values gathered from gtf, a command-line program that provides information for the "screen" and "monitor" portions of xorg.conf. I experimented with this again this time, but simply ended up killing the computer. Thankfully, I know my way around Midnight Commander and could drop to a command-line level where I replaced xorg.conf with a backup (therefore making Ubuntu bootable again at a GUI level).

Unfortunately (and for no explicable reason), when I booted Sidux, I had lost 1025x768 and was back to 800x600! Whatever xorg.conf does, it's powerful magic, as it can even screw up another distribution on the computer (thinks, hm, maybe all distributions share the same xorg.conf?).

*NEVER EDIT XORG.CONF WITHOUT MAKING A BACKUP!* I know this through bitter experience. If you damage xorg.conf without a backup, you will have to reinstall your entire OS.

This time around, although it took *ages* of experimentation, I managed to get the desired screen resolution. Here's how *I think* I got it (all that experimenting means I can't guarantee that it's what actually did the trick, but at least you'll pick up a few tips):

1) System - Administration - Software Sources - Ubuntu Sources - Tick the Lot

2) Close that window

3) System - Administration - Synaptic Package Manager

4) Search - (for "Trident"). You should get xserver-xorg-video-trident and probably no other hits. If you don't get this, you will need to add more ubuntu software repositories and reload/update Synaptic until you do get it.

5) Install xserver-xorg-video-trident. You should now have a driver for your video card.

6) In a terminal, "sudo displayconfig-gtk"

7) Under the "screen" tab, you should probably have "Screen 1" as a possibility, with "Plug n' Play" as the model with a max resolution of 800x600. Click "model" and in the resulting window choose "Generic" and a resolution of 1024x768.

8) Under the "Graphics Card" tab there may (or may not) be nothing in the "driver" window. If nothing, or "default" or "generic", click that and look around ("choose driver by name/model") for a Trident driver. If "Trident", you probably don't need to do anything.

I think that's it. You may need to reboot, perhaps more than once, and run displayconfig-gtk again.

If all is well, you should have your 1024x768 monitor.

If it works, stop meddling. All you're likely to do is antagonize your machine.



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