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Linux on Dell Precision M90 - Part II: X-Windows Install

by: dsmith - May 13, 2006

This section of the guide covers configuring X-Windows to work with the Dell Precision M90 with an NVIDIA Quadro chipset. It also covers custom modelines for X-Windows, enabling a scroll mouse in X-Windows and improving your fonts in X-Windows.

I placed this section next as it is convenient to have a GUI to work with in order to set up the rest of the items. You are able to get the nice xconfig option for your kernel compilation as well as easily scroll through your consoles. The downside is that every kernel recompile is going to necessitate a re-creation of the video driver. To me, this is a small price to pay for a workable GUI.

NVIDIA driver installation

Linux purists have a problem with the NVIDIA driver, in that NVIDIA does not release their source code. In fact if you watch at boot up when you have this module installed, it will even complain by saying:

  • nvidia: module license 'NVIDIA' taints kernel.

Besides that little quirk, I have always felt that the NVIDIA drivers are well written and that NVIDIA is continually working to make these drivers the best they can be. It is one reason that I look to put NVIDIA cards in most of my systems.

If you don't have a problem with the warning message then download the driver from nvidia. You will need to select the graphics drivers for the Quadro card for Linux on Intel AI32. This will give you a file called something like:


Execute the script file. Select no to the question about connecting to the site to find a precompiled kernel module. At this point, you are probably not connected to the internet plus there is never a module for Slackware. This will build and install a binary module for your nvidia graphics card. If this is the first time that you have built this driver then select to allow the program to update your x11 configuration file.

NOTE: You will need to re-run this script if you ever change your kernel. It is quite quick and simple. Just keep the binary .run file somewhere convenient on your system. Each time you have to rebuild your kernel, simply run the script after re-booting and in less than a minute, you should be able to have your NVIDIA modules re-installed.

Custom screen resolution

In order to get the native resolution, you may need to set a Modeline inside of our xorg.conf file. You can visit this site to find the proper Modeline for your monitor. Please note that setting a modeline presents some risk and you need to be cautious doing this.

I added the following Modeline to the Monitor section of my xorg.conf file:

Generic Code Example:

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier     "My Monitor"
    HorizSync       31.5 - 50.0
    VertRefresh     40.0 - 90.0
    Modeline "1920x1200" 210.68 1920 1952 2752 2784 1200 1224 1236 1261  <-- Added this line here

and added 1920x1200 as the first display option in my Screen Section:

Generic Code Example:

Section "Screen"
	DefaultDepth 24
	SubSection     "Display"
        Depth       24
        Modes      "1920x1200" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"  <-- Right here

Mouse Setup

While you are mucking around in the xorg.conf file, you may want to enable your mouse wheel as well. Find the section labeled InputDevice that is for the mouse. I generally like the protocol to be set to Auto in order for the touchpad to work as well.

Modify the xorg.conf file as so:

Generic Code Example:

Section "InputDevice"
    Identifier	"Mouse1"
    Driver		"mouse"
    Option		"Protocol" "Auto"
    Option		"Device" "/dev/mouse"
    Option		"ZAxisMapping" "4 5"   <-- Add this line here

Font Improvement

Linux and X-Windows are somewhat limited in what fonts they have available. If you are dual-booting, you should have ready availability to all the Windows fonts as it is installed on your system. It is quite easy to get these fonts to work in Linux.

Make sure that you have the NTFS file system driver loaded in your kernel.

Generic Code Example:

Filesystems -->
	DOS/FAT/NT Filesystems -->
		NTFS Filesystem Support

Note: You can select NTFS Write Support here if you want as well. However, it is not necesary for this step and NTFS write support is currently extremely limited.

Mount the Windows directory and copy all the fonts to a directory of your choice. Also, make sure that font directory is readable by everyone. Do this as root.

Generic Code Example:

mkdir /mnt/xp				<-- Make the Directory for mounting xp if necessary
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/xp
mkdir /usr/local/fonts		<-- Use whatever directory you feel is best
cp /mnt/xp/WINDOWS/Fonts/* /usr/local/fonts
chmod 755 /usr/local/fonts

Put the directory into the local.conf file in the font configuration directory.

Generic Code Example:

echo "<dir>/usr/local/fonts</dir>" > /etc/fonts/local.conf

This is assuming that the file local.conf does not exist. If it does, use the append (>>) redirection.

Run fc-cache to create an index of the new fonts.

You will need to restart X-Windows if you are running in X-Windows.

If you looked at your font availability prior to doing this, you would have had maybe two dozen fonts. You should now have several hundred. This will make a huge difference in the overall appearance of your X-Windows.


You can type startx to get into X-Windows. Once you are comfortable that things are set up and working well, you can actually set your runlevel to 4, so that your Linux system will boot into a graphical mode. This is set in the file called /etc/inittab:

Generic Code Example:

# Default runlevel. (Do not set to 0 or 6)

Set it back to 3, if you don't want to boot into X-Windows.

That's really about it. Slackware does a nice job of setting up everything so that X-Windows is quite easy to configure. The NVIDIA drivers will never be included with any distribution of Linux due to the nature of its license. So it is to be expected that you will have to install these drivers yourself.

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