Working Dual Screen for my Aspire One with Fedora 10

OK, so I wanted to use my Aspire One to do presentations. However – getting dual screen to work was quite a lot of work.

I found a simple solution, which I am going to outline step-by-step for your convenience. This is all based on Fedora 10, 32bit, fully updated.

Result will be:

  • External VGA runs with 1024×768 @ 60 Hz, good enough for most projectors out there, with a single click
  • The display of the Aspire stays fully usable
  • The GNOME panels stay on the laptop

So step by step.

First – open a root shell because we will do some evil hacks.

We need to create an xorg.conf file, which normally doesn’t exist. so type

# Xorg -configure :1

Don’t be surprised. Your screen will flicker around. After a few seconds you will find a new file in your directory called xorg.conf.new. Copy tis file to the X11 directory:

# cp xorg.conf.new /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Now we need to make a few changes. First we need to switch down to 16 bit colors, due to the limited graphic memory of my Aspire One. Second we need to create a bigger virtual screen.

So find the section called

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Screen0"
Device     "Card0"
Monitor    "Monitor0"

Right there add a line with

Default Depth 16

This forces X to use 16bit colors, making sure the extended display will fit in the 8 MB of graphic memory.

Now go down in xorg.conf and find the section

SubSection "Display"
Viewport   0 0
Depth     16
EndSubSection

And add a line with

Virtual 2048 2048

so the whole section looks like this:

SubSection "Display"
Viewport   0 0
Depth     16
Virtual 2048 2048
EndSubSection

OK. Done with that part. Now the next part. We want to make sure that we can switch the layout in a very simple way. I am pragmatic. So no fancy GUI or stuff. What I need is to be able to present. So when I hook up a projector, I want to switch the VGA to a fixed 1024×768 resolution at 60 Hertz. This is compatible with most projectors. So I wrote a little shellscript that also makes sure that the top and bottom panels are at the right place – on my laptop.

I stored this under /usr/local/bin/vgaswitch:

#!/bin/sh
/usr/bin/xrandr | grep "VGA connected"
if [ $? = 0 ] ; then
echo "VGA connected, setting VGA to 1024x768 @ 60 Hz"
/usr/bin/xrandr --output LVDS --auto --output VGA --mode 1024x768 --rate 60 --right-of LVDS
# Now move the panels back to the laptop screen
gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/bottom_panel/monitor" --type integer "1"
gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel/monitor" --type integer "1"
else
echo "No VGA connected, back to single screen"
/usr/bin/xrandr --output LVDS --auto --output VGA --off
# Now move the panels back to the laptop screen
gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/bottom_panel/monitor" --type integer "0"
gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel/monitor" --type integer "0"
fi

Make the script executable with a chmod a+x /usr/local/bin/vgaswitch

The final step is to add a new panel launcher that calls the script. Done.

So now when I hook up a projector, I click on the icon that calls the script and – TADAAA! Remove the VGA cable, click it again, all back to normal. I am happy now 🙂

Me, Fedora 10 and my Acer Aspire One A110L – Happy

So I did it. I took 199 € and got myself a Netbook. I went shopping in the Munich Bermuda Triangle, where you find something like 10 shops, all fighting with eachother over the lowest price.

Walking thorugh all shops, comparing price, performance, design, I finally settled on the Acer Aspire One A110L – 512 MB RAM, 1024×600 screen, 8 GB of SSD, in white.

It gets delivered with Linpus, a Fedora derivative. Ofcourse I didn’t like it. So I put a standard Fedora 10 on the box. With the help of some pages across the internet, some studying and some use of my own knowledge, I am now quite happy with the setup.

Suspend/resume is a snap out of the box. Close the lid – sleep. Open the lid, press the power button, login after three seconds. I like it. I tweaked the font size and some other stuff, but in fact I did nothing special.

Upcoming mods:

  • RAM upgrade to 1.5 GB
  • Bigger battery
  • Find a cool sleeve
  • Mythtv and Totem, so I can watch my recordings

I am happy, finally a cool netbook that is mine and I can take everywhere 🙂