Ubuntu Linux 6.10 on a Dell D420

edgy eft

Hardware Specs

I got a system with:
  • 1.2GHz Core Duo processor
  • 1GiB RAM
  • Intel ipw3945 802.11abg wireless
  • 60GB hard drive
  • a USB CD reader, (the cheapest option in the optical drive menu)

Installing Ubuntu

This part was easy. Really easy. Attach the CD reader, put the Ubuntu CD in, and boot. Press F12 during the BIOS startup to get a boot menu. Then basically just do the regular Ubuntu install, selecting your time zone, host name, etc. I partitioned the disk manually, creating the following partitions:
After installing, the system booted into X11, played the Ubuntu login sound, and gave me a gdm login screen.

Configuration and General Hardware Setup

Some things needed configuring after installation...

1280x800 Video

The system booted into a low resolution at first. To fix this, I ran:
apt-get install 915resolution
Afterward, I restarted GDM and video was happy. Acceleration and 3D "just work" too. I can run Mplayer fullscreen with xv video, and StepMania runs at a smooth 60fps at 1024x768, with just enough room around the edges to show window borders and system stats.

Wireless Networking

I installed wifiroamd from source because I like it. It's a lot easier for me than any of the gnomey network applets, and generally makes wireless just work automatically.

The ipw3945 chipset on this notebook works out-of-the-box with Ubuntu, but it didn't automatically get on my access point. After installing wifiroamd, it's quite happy and automatic.

The only issue I've found with wireless so far is a lock-during-boot problem when the radio kill switch is set to kill. If I turn off the radio then try to boot, it'll hang with "soft lock detected on CPU#0". But there's already a patch to fix it in future versions, and it's easy to work around.

Suspend / Resume

I'm still working on this, sort of. I've gotten it to work well enough that I can deal with it, but it's not perfect.

Suspend and resume work "out of the box" with ubuntu, but not very reliably. Press the "Stand by" (Fn-Esc) button to suspend, then close the lid and re-open the lid to resume. Suspending and resuming are both very quick, but occasionally it doesn't work completely. I've seen it fail perhaps 10% of the time (very rough estimate), in the following ways:
  • No response at all while trying to resume.
  • Keyboard won't respond after resume, plugging in a USB keyboard locks the machine.
  • Resume works, but within an hour, Xorg stops responding correctly to the keyboard.
Since the stock suspend stuff wasn't reliable, I installed suspend2 from Trevino's package repository. At first it seemed to work perfectly, except that it takes quite a bit longer to suspend and resume, because it's using the disk instead of RAM.

However, I got a hibernate/resume failure rate of roughly 1/4, which isn't high enough to be useful. At least, using suspend-to-disk... but installing Trevino's packages seems to have fixed the suspend-to-ram feature. It has failed (so far) only once in about 50 days, for a rate of somewhere between 1/30 and 1/90. I didn't count how many times I suspended, but it was roughly once or twice per day on average.

Another quick note: I found that the FullSpeedCPU option causes the CPUs to lock at 1200MHz after resuming, but it's easy to change the setting.

Touchpad Calibration

By default, the nib mouse in the keyboard worked fine, but the touchpad responded rather slowly. I've improved it, but am not totally happy with it yet. More details later.

The touchpad does not seem to support 2/3-finger taps, like my older Synaptics touchpad did. And it seems to lag after taps before responding. I haven't gotten corner taps or double-taps or dragging to work reliably yet, though these seem to be calibration issues.

System Stats

I'm using Conky to display info about my system, including:
  • Time / date / hostname / uptime
  • System load, number of processes
  • CPU speed, CPU temperature, CPU utilization
  • Memory total/used
  • Swap total/used
  • Disk activity
  • Mounted filesystems, and free space on each
  • IP address and throughput for each NIC
  • Wireless link strength and access point name
  • Battery/AC status, percent left, charging info
  • Weather
  • Todo list
  • Other misc info, as I please
Most of this works easily and automatically. For those who have less time to configure stuff, Gkrellm also works pretty well.

Notes, complaints, etc

Some things don't seem to be fully supported yet:
  • Sound volume settings include Master and PCM, and that's all. I can't change the PC speaker beep volume, and the default is rather loud. So, until the driver is better, I disabled beeps with xset b off in my ~/.Xsession.
I haven't tried some components yet:
  • Modem
  • External VGA
  • Microphone jack
  • Firewire/1394 ports
  • Wifi finder thing (use when system is off)

Last modified: February 11, 2007 @ 3:17 MST
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