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I have a laptop + docking station with 1x VGA and 2x Display Port (1 converted to DVI, 1 native DP) outputs on it. When docked I want it to use the 3 external displays and have the onboard display deactivated - and when undocked only use the onboard display.

I've tried:

  1. Kubuntu 16.10 Beta 2 (updated, so I think it was more of a "nightly", but hopefully pretty stable since it's due for a stable release next week)
  2. Mint 18 KDE
  3. Debian Jessie (kinda - having other trouble getting it to work for various reasons)

I've tried scripting out the configurations with a xrandr shell script, and sometimes it will help, but other times it won't.

I've also tried some kernel options, and I thought they were helping but then it stopped working again so I'm not sure (I think it was "video=DP-2:d" and a couple other things).

The weird issues I've experienced are:

  • A monitor just won't work and there's no way I can seem to get it active without rebooting (always DP).
  • Image onscreen being offset so only a small corner of it is actually visible to me
  • Black screen but mouse cursor seems to change to the I-Beam or Resize-Arrow so I think there are windows under it.
  • Sometimes the screen is black and the mouse can only travel along the vertical axis (super weird)
  • At some point, the auto-boot to X-Windows always gets corrupt and starts booting to blank screens (and AFAIK, reinstalling the distro is the only fix). However, running startx from TTY1 does work, there's just two instances of sddm running (one which is broken).
  • When the moon turns blue and the stars align just right I can get all my displays to be on and work the way I want, but then if I undock or reboot it's all haywire again.

These issues never occur if I'm only using my VGA monitor on the docking station.

I believe the problem lies in a combination of things related to not-so-great support for DP in Linux and the docking station (dynamically switching display configs).

Kubuntu / Mint KDE are obviously very similar so I'm not sure if it was a worthwhile test. Both were KDE, both were using SDDM, and both were based on Ubuntu / Debian.

The laptop is an HP EliteBook 840 G2. It has an Intel HD Graphics 5500. I verified the xserver_xf86_video_intel package was installed.

One last (semi-)requirement: I really want it to be eye candy. That's why I was kinda sticking with KDE, so it had a nice, modern, crisp look. It will be easier to sell a switch from Win10 to Linux to the folks at work, who are currently all on Win10.

tl;dr

What I need/want specifically:

  • Configuration that handles docking station with monitors connected via display port - laptop friendly
  • The ability to remove the laptop from the dock without needing to reboot (or reinstall Linux)
  • Pleasant to look at (KDE would be great)

My questions are:

  • Is there a laptop friendly distro that works well with docking stations?
  • Are there any suggestions for improving my experience with Display Port and/or Docking Stations (configurations, utils, etc)?
  • Are there any (preferably modern looking) desktop environments that can handle this better than others?

Thanks!

  • 2
    #1 and #2 both use KDE 5, which IMHO is not production ready. Try out an older release with KDE 4 or try Mint with XFCE (just remove their dang single Super key menu shortcut as it breaks other Super key+... shortcuts). I am not sure about DP, but I personally have had much more success with multiple monitor setups on XFCE than KDE. – Paul Nordin Oct 7 '16 at 6:01
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    I don't like KDE, so I have no experience with that, but a kernel from backports, I have no real problems with Debian Jessie on lenovo T450s and a docking station with two monitors attached via DP. xrandr has some peculiarities, so what works best for me is a script that calls xrandr twice, once to add the monitor attached through DP2-1 and once more to add both external monitors (so the second xrandr call includes all options to the first). – Henrik Oct 7 '16 at 9:10
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Well after much trial and error, I only found one configuration that consistently works (mostly), and that's using KDE 5.8 which is brand-spankin'-new.

In addition to the distros mentioned in my question, I tried the following since then:

I tried OpenSuse just on a whim, and it's the only non-Debian based OS I even tried, I believe. At that point, I thought the others were broken because of a quirk in the Ubuntu/Debian base, until I stumbled across this blog post and realized that OpenSuse was using KDE v5.8!

At that point, i went on a mission to find an Ubuntu or Debian based distro that shipped with KDE 5.8, and that's when I found KDE Neon. So far I love it and it's quickly becoming my new fav (at least for a flashy/slick-desktop edition of Linux).

That blog post mentions "5.7 and beyond" as having this overhauled multi-monitor implementation, but I was having major issues with 5.7. 5.8 will occasionally give me hassles when docking, but it's never gotten to the point where I can't somehow finagle it into working without a reboot (and even better, without corrupting my whole WM/DM and reinstalling Linux!).

But with all that being said, I think it's clear that Linux has some catch-up to do in this arena. Not a single distro worked as well as Windows 8, 8.1, 10, etc does. Even the ones that do work (kinda), I can't say they worked without adding "(kinda)". They're tolerable, and usable, but hardly ideal.

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