Ubuntu on my Dell 700m FINALLY!

EDIT: These instructions are for Ubuntu version 5 and lower! If you are installing Ubuntu 6 and higher, you only need to run a single command:

sudo apt-get install 915resolution


Well, I’ve gone back to Linux and of course it wasn’t pretty. Driver support just will NEVER be as fast as it is for Windows. Sorry but it is true. So, I spent sometime trying not to give up and switch back to Windows.

At first I thought it was my fonts. If you installed linux from 1990-2002 it was always the fonts. I spent sometime installing cleartypes, true types, fixed width, etc. No luck.

Then I noticed that I had this monster f-ing headache and started looking at my display. Everything was blurry and stretched. The icons should have been squares or circles but were rectangles and ovals. I then googled for wide screen laptop and Ubuntu and had to piece through so much crap to figure it out. Plus, nothing I found gave me the trick to getting it all to work, which I finally figured out. Here’s my step by step:

  1. Download 855resolution from http://perso.wanadoo.fr/apoirier/. I think this is also in the universe section of apt.
  2. Ensure you have all the gcc, libgcc, g++, libg++, and dev packages installed. I could step through this, but I won’t because just install ALL of them. Anything that has gcc or cpp or g++ in the name, install it. You’ll save yourself headaches in the future. This includes all -dev packages as well. (Since this is ubuntu, use apt-cache search and apt-get install).
  3. Make and install this as root using the directions from the README.txt in the tarball. Don’t worry about all the other crap, just the Installing section.
  4. Next, I did this the hard way, but you might be able to hack up /etc/init.d/rc or find a chkconfig that works for Ubuntu. I ran out of steam and gave up at this point. Make a script in /etc/init.d that runs the 855resolution executable with the parameters you need to install your resolution to the graphics BIOS. There are a lot of good resources online about how to do this, but essentially you run 855resolution -l and then pick a resolution you will never use and replace it with your real resolution. The Dell 700m has a standard resolution of 1280×800. My script looks like this:
  5. #! /bin/sh
    test -x $DAEMON || exit 0
    set -e
    case "$1" in
            echo -n "Starting $DESC: "
            $PROG 7d 1280 800
            echo "$NAME."
            #echo -n "Stopping $DESC: "
            #echo "$NAME."
            #echo -n "Stopping $DESC: "
            #echo "$NAME."
            echo -n "Starting $DESC: "
            $PROG 7d 1280 800
            echo "$NAME."
            # echo "Usage: $N start" >&2
            echo "Usage: $N start" >&2
            exit 1
    exit 0
  6. I then added this to my runlevels in /etc/rc[2-5].d as a symlink named S10855resolution. This is the trick! You have to name this using S10 or something lower like S08 in order for it to be run prior to the Ubuntu GDM init script. Since Ubuntu uses a graphical display during startup, it starts GDM pretty early. You need to start 855resolution prior to GDM starting.
  7. If you want to further tweak your display settings. Follow the next steps. Otherwise, reboot and you should have a nice looking Ubuntu Linux install on a wide-screen laptop.
  8. Download this little helper: http://gtf.sourceforge.net/. The website gives compile directions.
  9. Run gtf to get your modeline for your exact video card.
  10. Copy whatever gtf outputs to your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file in the “monitor” section. There should be an existing modeline for your display. You can comment that one out and put in this new one.
  11. Reboot

Hopefully I didn’t miss anything. If you have issues, leave me comments and I can update this post.

9 thoughts on “Ubuntu on my Dell 700m FINALLY!

  1. I have Dell700m laptop as well. I just installed Ubuntu Linux, everything works fine except the screen resolution. I tried your method, but only the refresh rate changes, the resolution is still 1024×768. Please help.


  2. Tong, I just switched over to Fedora Core 5, which has much better support to the Dell 700m. It even allows you to use OpenGL with full acceleration, something that Ubuntu 5.10 does not support. If you are still thinking of Linux on a Dell 700m and up for another install, install Fedora Core 5. I’ll be posting instructions on how to tweak everything for Fedora Core 5 and the Dell 700m today sometime.


  3. I installed Fedora Core 5 today. After installation, the first thing I try to do is setting up the widescreen resolution 1280×800. There is option for it, but when I selected it, the actual resolution didn’t change at all. This happened to me when I try Ubuntu as well. Is it just my Dell 700m laptop having this problem…How’s your experience with FC5


  4. Finally, I got widescreen to work. Still trying to figure out how wireless work in FC5. It is not as easy to get softwares in FC5…


  5. Well, ive looked all over the place, including your site here, for exactly HOW to install this. I just cant do it. The reason Ubuntu “should” thrive is for people that dont understand Linux. Sadly, when you start reading a how-to guide, or drown in the Ubuntu forums, people like me are flooded with misinformation, pieces of code we dont understand, methods of sometimes using the terminal window, sometimes not… I just DONT GET IT. when I say I dont get it, I’m told to “read this and this on how Linux works” Well then why do I need Ubuntu if I’m supposed to learn Linux?

    The way I can explain this to you is; if I dont know how to drive a car, and you explain in great detail how to adjust the seat, how the ignition works, and so on. I want to get to the store. Typical Ubuntu/Linux speak would say “Then make sure you have a transmission, and shift it and then arrive at your destination” Well, how? Wheres the gear shifter? What gears are there? Whats this clutch for?” I ask the questions I need to, and I’m insulted by half the community “RTFM!” and ignored by the rest. I HATE Microsoft, they literally ripped me off by invalidating my genuine $299 boxed WinXP Pro serial number (long story) and I swore I’d never go back.

    Well, after installing Ubuntu and not being able to do anything but look at a stretched-out widescreen, I’m surrendering and buying Windows Vista.

    Sorry Ubuntu, you lose again. Maybe in another 16 years Linux might go mainstream for people that can do everything in the world EXCEPT UNDERSTAND CODE. Windows is for people like me, Ubuntu is for people that want to start (and CAN start) learning Linux.

    Thanks for trying, Brian. But I just dont know what you’re talking about when you say to get this and that and then install it.


  6. Pewaukee70, this is a very old post and Ubuntu 6.* has fixed this. You only need to install one thing now using this command:

    sudo apt-get install 915resolution

    I’ll update this post to mention that the instructions above are for 5.*. Don’t drop Linux yet. In fact you might want to try install Feisty Fawn 7.*. It looks to be a huge improvement in the Linux realm.

    Also, I think the best way to get into Linux is to first find someone who can give you direct help. This will help initially until you understand some of the ins and outs. Then you can transition to the Ubuntu forums and other places and be a lot more productive.


  7. I’m about to make the jump to Ubuntu 6.10 on my 700m. I have used it on desktops just trying it out. As long as I can get the wide screen to work ( which I hear isn’t as hard as it used to be ) I’m going to stick with it.

    I will still have just one Windows XP machine only because I have to have a couple of programs that will not run under wine (yet). I am going to resist Vista. Vista looks great but I think Linux will be good enough. As a bonus, I won’t be able to help everyone with their windows computer as I will known nothing about Vista after while.



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