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Failures and Successes of Linux-based Development

Workaround: Brightness on Toshiba tecra A9 using Restricted drivers on Ubuntu

Posted by linuxhappy on December 17, 2007

What a pain.

I’ve had this new laptop (Toshiba tecra A9, with nVidia Quadro NVS 130M) with Ubuntu 7.10 has been more than a pain in the butt (although probably less of a pain in the butt compared to other distros).

Anyways, yet another issue I ran into is modifying the brightness controls. Using the open source drivers, the brightness controls work perfectly, but then I don’t get 3d support. Using the restricted drivers, brightness controls don’t work, but I get 3D support. I played around with a couple of things while using the restricted drivers:

1. proc filesystem:
There were a couple articles expressing that modifying values inside of the proc filesystem (/proc/acpi/…/brightness). Would actually change the screen brightness. This didn’t seem to work for me. Why it didn’t work? Couple theories why this didn’t work:

a. The kernel module that provides that proc entry isn’t the kernel module that actually controls the brightness

b. The kernel module that provides that proc entry doesn’t know enough information about my lcd backlight/video driver combination.

2. smartdimmer:
Tried this little program, but got an immediate “init_nvclock() failed!”. a couple searches and it was apparent that all this app does is try to smartly modify the proc filesystem.

Some type of gnome configuration editor I stumbled upon. I figure that instead of being able to control the brightness, I just leave the brightness all the way up ;). Anyways, opened up /apps/gnome-power-manager/backlight && played around but booting my laptop without the AC plugged in seemed to make my laptop still boot up in with the brightness dimmed down

4. (Successful work around) Ctrl + Alt+F1, to change to a virtual terminal, use the vesa driver to modify the brightness with (ctrl+alt+[f6|f7]), then press ctrl+alt+f7 to get back to X. (Credit to: Thinkwiki)
Option 4 seems to work “okay”.. at least it’s a way to turn the brightness to maximum without restarting my computer. I hope that one day nVidia open source’z their drivers.


8 Responses to “Workaround: Brightness on Toshiba tecra A9 using Restricted drivers on Ubuntu”

  1. Tags said

    You are brilliant. Thanks for this – having the same issue (my laptop has the same card) and turned up the brightness with option 4… Cheers!

  2. Mihai said

    thanks, it worked for me too

  3. Julian said

    worked partly for me…going to ctrl+alt+F1 then Fn+[F6|F7] changes brighness..but as soon as I get back to X it’s again the original

  4. Deckard said

    Option 4 worked for my Tecra M9 with the same video card as yours.

  5. Paul said

    I have been running suse10.3 on my tosh m9 for a while. I am using my own kernel – I too have problems controlling the brightness, it seems to be somewhat random, and anything less than near full brightness is too dim. If I switch between internal and external display whilst the machine is booting, or when X is running flick back to text console for a short while, the internal display comes back up to full brightness. I haven’t found any version of toshset, or any toshiba_acpi kernel module that allows me to actually control it properly!

    BTW, I am using the iwl4965 driver with that kernel just fine, only needing to put the firmware into the right place so that the module can fire up the hardware.

    BTW2, I am using a custom kernel because I needed to apply a patch to get bluetooth running, which the author told me about, and you can find here:

    Then I use this script to turn bluetooth on or off:


    U=`id -u`
    if [ $U != 0 -a “$1” != “” ] ; then
    #echo “not running as root, using sudo…”
    /usr/bin/sudo /usr/local/bin/bluetooth “$1”

    lsmod | grep toshiba_acpi > /dev/null
    if [ $? -ne 0 ] ; then
    modprobe toshiba_acpi

    if [ “$1” == “on” -o “$1” == “enable” ] ; then
    echo “enable” > /proc/acpi/toshiba/bluetooth
    elif [ “$1” == “off” -o “$1” == “disable” ] ; then
    echo “disable” > /proc/acpi/toshiba/bluetooth
    elif [ “$1” != “” ] ; then
    echo “unknown command, ignored”
    echo “”

    cat /proc/acpi/toshiba/bluetooth

    # end of bluetooth

  6. paul said

    Worked great for me on Samsung R700 laptop (Geforce 8400) with restricted nvidia drivers.
    Did Ctrl-Alt-F1 then logged in and ran the following command:
    echo -n 70 > /proc/acpi/video/NVID/LCD/brightness
    then logged out and pressed Ctrl-Alt-F7 to go back to X
    Thanks! This has been bugging me for a while. Nvidia drivers need to be fixed!

  7. K J said

    Still works great in 9.04!

  8. leodr99 said


    You might want to know, of this great utility that solved most of my issues with getting the, fn keys working in ubuntu and debian.
    At this website -> Toshiba Function Keys Daemon you’ll find the necessary package for that purpose.
    Or simply just get it via apt-get install fnfxd on ubuntu jaunty.
    After that just check the README file at /usr/share/doc/fnfxd/ directory.
    It’s all explained in there.

    Hope it helps m8s.


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