Debian Linux on Latitude E6520

2011-12-27 at 21:15:17 | categories: tips

Debian Linux on Dell Latitude E6520

Lately I had opportunity to up a brand new Debian system on Dell Latitude E6520 laptop. Almost everything worked out of the box! Almost, because I spent some time on figuring out how to make the nvidia driver to work... and how to enable video over HDMI interface. To save you some struggle here is the step-by-step instruction how to make it work. BTW it should work also in Ubuntu systems.

NVidia output via HDMI

  • (Re)start the laptop and enter its BIOS setup (press F2). At "Video" disable Optimus technology. As of today it is not supported out of the box in Linux. There is Bumblebee, but I have not tried it.
    With Optimus enabled my Xorg server started using Intel chipset. lspci was showing both: intel and nvidia cards, but I could not use the nvidia at all. Without Optimus lspci shows only nvidia, but at least it can be used.
  • Install nvidia stuff: proprietary drivers, glx support, config tools. In debian it is pretty easy - they are already prepackaged (in non-free and contrib sections), so I've installed: nvidia-glx, nvidia-kernel-dkms, nvidia-settings. They depended on some more nvidia stuff. Maybe on other linux systems you would need to download drivers from nvidia and use those. If so make sure it is right for your system (64 or 32 bits).
  • Generate new xorg.conf if you don't have one: Xorg -configure.
    It should be done without Xserver running and produces file. Copy the file to /etc/X11 and startx. Somehow automatic procedure, i.e. without xorg.conf did not work for me and instead of xserver I got nothing.

  • Start X. At this moment I had the laptop connected via HDMI to the monitor. The monitor was not automatically detected by the gnome display tool and it was not possible to manage it, so X started on the laptop only. However I could run nvidia-settings tool to set all the outputs (laptop screen, HDMI and VGA).

Reboot does not work

Another small issue was that reboot did not work. It caused everything to shutdown and then the system was halted, but still not rebooting. Solution was pretty simple: add reboot=pci to your kernel options.

In debian I added that to /etc/grub.d/10_linux: .... linux ${rel_dirname}/${basename} root=${linux_root_device_thisversion} ro reboot=pci ${args} ....

Then of course update-grub to generate new /boot/grub/grub.cfg and make the change permanent.

I hope this description can save you some time. Good luck and Merry Christmas (written around Chrismas 2011)!