Dell 8600

I have a new laptop, a Dell Inspiron 8600. The specs are as follows:

  • Intel Pentium M 755 (2GHz/400MHz FSB) 15.4 WSXGA+
  • 1GB DDR SDRAM (2 Dimms)
  • 64MB DDR Nvidia GeForce FX Go5200
  • 8x CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) w/ double-layer writing capability
  • 100GB Hard Drive
  • Integrated 10/100 NIC/Modem
  • Intel Pro/Wireless 2200 Internal (802.11b/g, 54Mbps)

I lucked out with the video card. Granted 64mb isn’t too hot, but ATI Linux support is dicey, so I wanted an Nvidia. Nick is also looking to get a new laptop and he discovered a few days ago that Dell is no longer selling the 8600 with Nvidia cards (probably why I got 25% off).

When I got the thing it was running Windows XP. Of course I wanted Linux. I wasn’t quite sure what distro I wanted to put on it, but I was leaning towards Slack.

The first order of business was to burn the Slackware 10.1 ISOs I’d downloaded earlier. I swear I was in Windows for at least 45 minutes trying to figure out how to burn a damn ISO. After that I just got fed up with it, formatted and installed Suse (which, by the way, resized and kept the Windows partitions. Interesting). After about three seconds in Suse I was burning the images. And they call Windows user-friendly…

The next few hours were spent distro-whoring. I went through Suse, Ubuntu, Gentoo, and Slackware, finally settling on Slack.

Getting everything to work in Slackware took a little work, but wasn’t too much trouble.

The first thing was, of course, to install the Nvidia drivers. Grabbing them off Nvidia’s site and installing them the normal way works fine (ignore the warning the installer gives about the conflicting rivafb module). My trouble was getting X to load after that. With the help of Google, I was able to make a custom xorg.conf that worked just dandy.

The second thing I wanted working was the wireless, which uses the ipw2200 module. I don’t know if it supports kernel 2.4, but I couldn’t get it working without upgrading to 2.6 (slackware 10.1 still ships with 2.4, with 2.6 in /testing).

Upgrading to 2.6 is easy. Simply read the README.initrd in /testing/packages/linux-2.6.10/. In the step that has you installpkg everything, I’d also add kernel-source (44MB).

When I got 2.6 running, it was a simple matter of doing make, make install on ipw2200. Then I extracted the firmware to /lib/firmware. After that finishes:

modprobe ipw2200
dhcpcd eth0

Also, reading the iwconfig man page is helpful.

Now the wireless is running. To switch back to the wired connection, do a

modprobe -r ipw2200
modprobe b44
ifconfig eth0 up

The next thing was sound. Since I’d upgraded to 2.6, I needed to install the new alsa-drivers. After that, there’s the problem of a conflicting module named snd_intel8x0m (something to do with modem sound). That needs to be removed and added to the blacklist.

modprobe -r snd_intel8x0m
pico /etc/hotplug/blacklist

Now all that’s left to do is run alsaconf and alsamixer to adjust volume.

It’s been running great for a few days now. The only thing I’m still working on is getting ACPI fully working (i.e. making the screen turn off when it’s closed).