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zeiz 09-07-2012 04:48 PM

Install Linux on laptop with external monitor (display's dead)
Hi everybody,
I got a laptop Dell Latitude D800 with dead display and no OS.
I tried to install on it its "native" winXP with unattended setup and it installed something that doesn't fire up monitor :(
I tried several Linux distros and the only one that engaged the external monitor was Parted Magic. It's beautiful distro but it's rather set of tools on live CD that runs in memory and is not designed to be installed on disk.
What distro could the best in such conditions?
Being "blind" I cannot even see a bios. Perhaps somebody owns same laptop and could help me with bios "guide" or screenshots to give me idea what press after what :)
What if the bios has settings for external monitor? ... Well I could at least set bootsequence to usb>cdrom>hdd.
Please help.
Thanks in advance.

gedexas 09-07-2012 06:26 PM

If you can boot to any distro that shows the screen (parted magic will work for this) you can access you hard drive from it and put pretty much any other distro in there.

Let's say you want Ubuntu (just one example). Download Ubuntu install disk, create a partition for it on your hard drive and extract the install image to that partition. Once you're done, install a bootloader of your choice and configure your login manager to switch to external monitor. You can even have an init script to output the boot messages to the external screen if you like.

This is of course only one of the options, it's up to you to decide if this is what you want.

jefro 09-08-2012 11:34 AM

Take the drive out an load it externally.

I have use bios blind and it isn't fun but can be done if you have an exact model.

Consider fixing the screen?

It is possible that some distro's might respond to a function key to swap displays. Almost every laptop has such a key or key combo.

zeiz 09-08-2012 06:34 PM

Thanks guys. Of course I can copy anything using PM but the system must be installed anyway. During install it wipes PM from memory and I again have to answer questions "blind" and even if I manage this the system must be tweeked for external monitor and I don't know how.
I tried live CDs to get entire OS in memory and then install using external monitor. Old versions and "compact" distros have entire install in "dos" mode: external monitor doesn't work. New versions require better hardware: I have only 512Mb ram and what is worse the video card has only 32Mb of memory despite processor is Pentium-M 1.7GHz.
I tried to find D800 bios screenshots to try blind setup but couldn't find so far. Will try again.
The function combo fn-F8 (LCD/CRT)doesn't work even in "native" winXP some drivers are probably required. Anyway I tried fn-F8 every time - no luck.
Mint 12 LiveCD installed itself in memory and fired up external monitor but few mouse movements froze it completely so...
Fedora 17 showed its fireworks and then display turned black with moving (!) mouse pointer: I need to do some tweeks to X probably and don't know how.

Of course I consider new lcd panel, not brand new priced like better used laptop but used panel and this is tricky market: will take a while. The panel is LTN154P1-L01 (WSXGA=1680x1050) and I ordered it in 2 places...silence so far. They offer LTN154X1 but it's WXGA=1280x800.
In meantime I installed Ubuntu 8.4 on 30Gb hdd and made partition image with partimage. I'll try to apply the image to the laptop's hdd and then restore grub on mbr. However hardware is quite different and it could be just vaste of time.

jefro, what bios you did blindly? Mine is Phoenix, year 2004 but Dell could order already "delled" one from Phoenix...
Anyway I would try if know what to do :)

zeiz 09-08-2012 11:49 PM

Well I found my perfect distro: Ubuntu 10.04. Installed like a charm. Updates, videodrivers - just perfect.
8.04 was too old and 12.04 is too new :)

smeezekitty 09-09-2012 04:08 PM

FWIW some laptops will allow display switching with a certain key combination even if there is no OS.

ReaperX7 09-10-2012 02:09 AM

The Function + Screen Switch is supposed to be a BIOS feature, not an OS feature. It should switch the display immediately when pressed, unless you have a bad keyboard or a BIOS that's been corrupted.

zeiz 09-10-2012 07:51 AM

I also read that some people were successful with switching and even right at boot so they could enter bios. But on Dell Latitude laptops seems nobody was successful.
I tried many times fn-F8 (LCD/CRT is written on F8) and it didn't work. Perhaps 'cause my external monitor is LCD too. It's also possible that the feature was just turned off in bios but I cannot enter there :(
So I would highly appreciate if somebody help me with D800 bios screenshots to let me try "blind" bios setup.

In meantime I made unattented CD with XP. It makes full installation seemlessly but monitor doesn't work anyway and greeting sound doesnt' play. I think that XP is istalled because if I hit win-key and then "u" 2 times it shuts down. Then I can start it again and again shut down with that key combination. I analyzed the install with Parted Magic and it looks like full install (1.9GB), all the folders are there but there is no monitor.sys in system32\drivers folder. It's also strange that there is no sound when it starts. Something is wrong with drivers. I could try to copy nvidia driver for that card and then press winkey-R to open "run" dialog box and then typy c:\nvidiadr\setup but that setup requires many anwswers, license confirmation etc so its not a fun.
Windows supposed to install default generic drivers first and then user can afjust the generic config but in my case there is no even generic drivers for some reason. I tried this CD on another computer and it goes through perfectly so I have no clue...

smeezekitty 09-10-2012 03:12 PM


Originally Posted by zeiz (Post 4776816)
Perhaps 'cause my external monitor is LCD too. It's also possible that the feature was just turned off in bios but I cannot enter there :(

This certainly should not make a different. The name is a misnomer. It should be internal/external.
Maybe the bios is buggy. It should be possible to blindly switch IMO.

zeiz 09-12-2012 06:36 PM

Just to report...
Got WinXP installed and displayed on external monitor by just including "native" nvidia driver for my card in the unattended install (nLite)-much easier than I expected.
I will hopefully receive soon hopfully working (used) lcd panel for my display.
While searching for it I found a picture where D800 bios is displayed on ... external monitor! I wrote to the picture owner and he answered that there is no miracles and it's just fn-F#. I tried again F8 and all other # without success again so ReaperX7 was probably right: my keyboard isn't good enough (fn key works with some buttons and doesn't with some others).
I also found video on youtube with D800 bios screens so I could try "blind" setup now though I'd rather wait for the lcd replacement coming.
Next I'll try to flash M60 bios to D800 (read it's possible) 'cause current bios A13 is the latest version available for D800 but M60 is compatible and it's a step up. So if the bios was buggy it will be gone, thanks smeezekitty.
Thank you all, guys!

gedexas 09-13-2012 10:41 PM

Do not flash the bios with software meant for a different model. The laptops may be similar, they may use same processor, same video card, same wireless adapter and even be made my the same no-name company, but that does not mean that the bios will be compatible. In fact, bricking a laptop is quite easy even with bios that is meant for your model, that's why manufacturers advice against flashing bios they provide and design to work with your hardware, unless it is absolutely the last resort.

Think about this: If the bios you intend to install was actually compatible with your laptop, Dell would probably tell you that this is the bios that you should use.

smeezekitty 09-14-2012 02:04 AM

I agree. Do not flash the bios with firmware meant for another model. That is just begging to brick it or cause reduced functionality.

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