Geeking about

Dell XPS 15

Getting Ubuntu 15.04 set up on a Dell XPS 15 (9530)


The Dell XPS 15 has a gorgeous screen, 15”, 3200x1800. This means that things can appear very small. Here are the things I did to make it usable.

  • the display settings have a scaling slider – from 1.5 to 2 should work OK.
  • firefox – you need to open about:config and change the value of layout.css.devPixelsPerPx to between 1.5 and 2.
  • chrome – todo

Then there are the parts outside of the X display – grub and the console, which I like to be usable:


Stealing from the testing goat HiDPI post:

You’ll have noticed that the GRUB boot menu is in a ridiculously small font because of all our teeny-tiny pixels. Fix it by generating a new font in 30-point:

sudo grub-mkfont -s 30 -o /boot/grub/DejaVuSansMono.pf2 /usr/share/fonts/truetype/dejavu/DejaVuSansMono.ttf

DejaVu works well because it has all the glyphs for the line art, others may not work so well.

Edit /etc/default/grub and add a line saying GRUB_FONT=/boot/grub/DejaVuSansMono.pf2, and run update-grub to commit.

TTY console

Stealing more from the testing goat HiDPI post:

One final thing that’s pretty much unusable out of the box are the TTY consoles you get from pressing, eg, CTRL+ALT+F1. To change their font, you’ll want to do a:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure console-setup

I picked the VGA font in 32x16, and it looks fine, if somewhat retro.

Touchpad Middle Button

The touchpad worked pretty well out of the box. Two finger scrolling was smooth, but …

I really like using the middle button in Linux, for pasting selected text, opening links in a new browser tab, closing browser tabs … But I couldn’t find a way to make it work. Various people mentioned that the top right corner of the touchpad/clickpad should work, but it didn’t for me. Eventually I worked out how to do it with synclient. First I had to look up all the sizes of stuff. It’s a long list, but here are the relevant results:

$ synclient -l
Parameter settings:
    LeftEdge                = 1765
    RightEdge               = 5367
    TopEdge                 = 1634
    BottomEdge              = 4420
# lots of stuff
    RightButtonAreaLeft     = 3566
    RightButtonAreaRight    = 0
    RightButtonAreaTop      = 4063
    RightButtonAreaBottom   = 0
    MiddleButtonAreaLeft    = 0
    MiddleButtonAreaRight   = 0
    MiddleButtonAreaTop     = 0
    MiddleButtonAreaBottom  = 0

And realised I might be able to set the MiddleButtonArea* settings, and it did indeed work. I created a file, ~/bin/ with the following contents:

# set up the top right corner as middle button
synclient MiddleButtonAreaBottom=2000
synclient MiddleButtonAreaLeft=3566

Then in the shell:

$ chmod +x ~/bin/
$ gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.peripherals.input-devices hotplug-command "/home/hamish/bin/"

The second command means that it should be re-applied on boot and when waking from sleep.

Swapping Caps Lock and Escape

The easy way of doing this through the standard keyboard settings has been removed, sadly. So I installed gnome-tweak-tool and found the settings in there. See screenshots of keyboard settings.