1920×1080 resolution on Dell Latitude E6520 with Nvidia NVS 4200M card running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Lucid

Out of the box, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Lucid) on Latitude E6520 with 4200M GPU produced low resolution graphics and the latest Nvidia driver from the Ubuntu repository returned errors (something about card incompatibility). Turns out, the driver provided by package nvidia-current in Lucid is version 270.29, whereas support for the NVS 4200M GPU appears to have been added starting with 270.41.03, with driver version 270.41.06 being the latest as of this writing.

Getting the driver directly from Nvidia is only sightly harder than running "apt-get install nvidia-current" and took much less time than it took to write this post. :-)

First things first -- disabled Optimus in the BIOS and removed all the nvidia packages previously installed.

Then, identified the latest driver from ftp://download.nvidia.com/XFree86/Linux-x86_64/latest.txt. Then got it from ftp://download.nvidia.com/XFree86/Linux-x86_64/.

Alternatively, could:
- Go to nvidia.com > Download Drivers
- Select NVS, NVS Series, NVS 300, Quadro Graphics Driver, Linux 64-bit, English
- Search > Download

Once the driver was downloaded, opened the shell and ran:

sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop
cd ~/Downloads
sudo sh NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64-270.41.06.run

Answered "Yes" to all the prompts. Then to start the X server back up:

sudo start gdm

Was greeted with a sharp looking login prompt in the middle of a humoungous desktop. The Nvidia utility (System > Preferences > NVIDIA X Server Settings) confirmed I'm running the latest driver (270.41.06). Nice.

Obviously, the problem with the above method is that the driver is now managed outside the package manager. Since it's not something I'm planning to upgrade often (probably never for the life of this installation -- e.g a couple of years), it's not a big problem.

This is a first in what's likely to be a series of posts on this laptop, while I wrestle it into being useful by replacing Winblows with Linux and Free Software.

8 Comments

  • 1. Mirko replies at 11th May 2011, 6:57 am :

    Thanks for this great post. I’m planning to buy the same laptop and to install Ubuntu as well.
    Do you have any further comments on what works out-of-the-box and what is your configuration?
    E.g. will I have problem with the SSD drive, or the external USB3.0, and so on..
    Cheers

  • 2. Alain Kelder replies at 12th May 2011, 10:21 am :

    No problems with the SSD, don’t have any USB 3.0 devices to test the new bus, can only confirm it works with older USB devices.

    One remaining issue is that the track pad is picked up as a regular mouse so features like scrolling don’t work. I haven’t tackled that one yet.

    Since this laptop has some very recent hardware, if you’re set on Ubuntu, your best bet would be to go with the latest Ubuntu with the newest kernel. I decided to give the latest LTS edition a shot because after four years of exclusively running Ubuntu on all my desktops/laptops, I’ve realized that I just can’t keep up with Canonical’s six month release cycle.

    Last week I installed Debian Testing (Wheezy) on another partition and been using that. AFAIK, Ubuntu is derived from a mix of Debian Testing/Unstable with Canonical’s modifications. Unlike Ubuntu, Debian Testing and Unstable are rolling release distributions meaning, you upgrade often, but in theory never have to rebuild — you always run the latest stuff. I’m still very new to a rolling distribution, but have a feeling that might be the way to go on a desktop/laptop (I like Debian Stable for servers). Anyway, this is not what you asked, but just wanted to explain why I may not be posting much more about running Ubuntu on this laptop.

  • 3. Henry Truong replies at 20th May 2011, 11:53 am :

    Hello room,

    I am current setup this laptop Model for my group so do you know how or any script that automate encrypt the disk with passphrase on it. (one of the partition I need protected)

    Thanks
    Henry Truong

  • 4. Tim replies at 22nd June 2011, 11:40 am :

    Thanks for the info! I’ve been struggling getting the nvidia driver on my new E6520; it was only loading the Vesa driver, and if I tried the binary nvidia driver then X would fail to start. I normally run squeeze, but I grabbed the latest nvidia .debs from wheezy based on your later blog entry, and it still didn’t work. I figured my only option was to try the binary source directly, so I started following your guide, and after I changed the BIOS setting for Optimus to disabled, when I rebooted X came right up running the nvidia driver! I wonder if something with that BIOS setting was keeping Debian from using the nvidia hardware at all, but thanks for indirectly helping!

  • 5. Alain Kelder replies at 22nd June 2011, 12:10 pm :

    @Tim

    Yeah, I think what you experienced there is Nvidia’s new Optimus tech that only works on Windows 7. Apparently, Optimus switches between the integrated graphics chip and the Nvidia GPU depending on whether it thinks your current workload requires a high end card. Because integrated graphics draws less power, this improves battery life. Unfortunately, for OS other than Win7, enabling Optimus disables the Nvidia GPU altogether — you’ll always be running off the integrated chip! That’s why if you want to run a non Win7 OS on a laptop with Optimus, pick one that has an option to disable it — both Dell and IBM and possibly others now include this feature.

  • 6. tasuo replies at 8th July 2011, 3:33 am :

    your instructions worked like a charm, thank you very much. my hibernation problems vanished as well after this.

  • 7. Cheshire replies at 25th December 2011, 11:39 pm :

    Thank you thank you thank you. I’ve spent the past three days manually configuring Xorg.conf, installing 11.10, 11.04, and 10.10, repeating test after test after test. This was exactly what I needed to know.

    Thank you!

  • 8. Alain Kelder is a Giant D&hellip replies at 18th July 2012, 11:44 am :

    [...] new enough to support the bleeding edge NVS 4200M video card that came with the laptop, I installed the Nvidia driver from source. Now that the driver available through APT supports my card, I decided to switch to that. The [...]

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