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I've successfully install Ubuntu 11.10 Desktop (x86) on an old(er) laptop that unfortunately has a broken screen, so there is an external monitor plugged in. On the livecd it come up on the secondary display just fine and I was able to install ubuntu and everything.

Unfortunately when I reboot into Ubuntu proper now, the secondary display is off and I'm literally driving blind here trying to switch it to the secondary display.

Using Nvidia open source drivers.

Things I've tried:

  • Rebooting back into livecd, mounting the partition and trying in vain to find a config file (it uses the open source drivers so no Xorg.conf I could edit manually)
  • Trying to blind-type xrandr settings into what I hope is terminal:

    xrandr --output VGA1 --auto

(nothing happened)

  • Trying to blind install openssh-server so I could ssh into it and maybe configure it from my working computer. For some reason though, no luck.

Ubuntu really should default to expanding to all screens for this use case.

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This issue appears to be resolved in 12.04, which is what I am using. Sorry I couldn't be of more help. – RobotHumans Apr 14 '12 at 23:45

Finally figured this out after blind-allowing Desktop Sharing (it didn't help that I had got the password wrong and that's why I couldn't install ssh server, hooray for passwordless desktop sharing!) and determined that in the install I had selected 'install 3rd party software' which included Nvidia proprietary graphics drivers. Normally that would be a good thing, but caused it to not recognize any other monitor and basically fail.

I reinstalled completely, unchecked the third-party applications, and finally after adding nomodeset to the grub boot I was able to get to the desktop.

There were several options in the restricted drivers I could install and noticed some old series that might work for the card that on that machine, so if I'm feeling masochistic I might try and install those and see what happens.

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