Ubuntu 11.04 on an old Dell Inspiron 8500

Phoebe’s EeePC 4G still works fine after 3 years, now running Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick – but the screen is just way too small. Apart from local apps, quite a few sites such as ABC4Kids have Flash games that require at least 1024×768. So, time to try something new, preferably without spending any money…
I have an old laptop I don’t use any more, a heavy Dell Inspiron 8500 which has a 15″ ultra-high resolution screen: max 1920×1200. At that resolution the pixels are ridiculously small so I toned it down even beyond 1680×1050 to 1440×900.
Installing Ubuntu 11.04 Natty on it was fairly straightforward, but even from the LiveCD the screen looked distinctly messy with vertical lines in various spots, and after a while the screen would lock up:
[drm] nouveau 0000:01:00.0 GPU lockup - switching to software fbcon.

The proprietary NVIDIA drivers make even more of a mess, but the older free nv drivers work fine. To make them work, you need to -apart from installing them- make sure the nouveau drivers definitely don’t get loaded.

  • sudo vim /etc/modprobe.d/nvidia-graphics-drivers.conf
  • Press i (insert mode) and add this line: blacklist nouveau
  • Press Esc, :wq <enter>
  • sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-nv
  • sudo reboot
If it all works you could do
  • sudo apt-get remove –purge xserver-xorg-video-nouveau

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