I basically wanted to replace my desktop at work with the laptop that they gave me. I might get to telecommute sometimes. Anyway, the desktop at work had two nice big monitors and I wanted to use these with the laptop, through the dell docking station. This is one of those things that I think should be easy but was not for me. Mostly because I look the wrong place for the solution at first.
The laptop has a nVidia 4200m video card with optimus. I installed ubuntu as normal, then I installed the current nVidia driver sudo apt-get install nvidia-current, rebooted the computer. went to the console and typed nvidia-settings. I got this error message “You do not appear to be using the NVIDIA X driver. Please edit your X configuration file (just run `nvidia-xconfig` as root), and restart the X server.” So like a lamb to the slaughter I did just what it said. Unfortunately when I rebooted the computer I just got a blank screen.
I rebooted the computer in recovery mode, deleted the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file and rebooted the computer. It started normally again. I did some more research and found that the bumblebee driver is supposed to work with the optimus nVidia cards I installed it, the system started up fine, but I still was not able to detect all 3 monitors. After some more research I found here that all I needed to do was disable the optimus feature from the bios.
So I disabled the optimus in the bios rebooted the computer, reinstalled the nVidia driver all then I was able to run nvidia-setting and see all 3 monitors, but I only configured the two external on twin-view. I might update this later after I figure out how to have just the laptop monitors as primary when the other 2 are not connect and the one of the externals as primary when the monitors are connected. I am not sure how much effort I will put into this as I hear that the next version of Ubuntu will have more support for this kind of thing.