SuSE Linux 9.0 on the Dell Inspiron 8600
Date of information: 2004-11-23, page version 2.0 (update history on end of page)
|Hard Disk (UDMA)
||Works well, throughput about 29 MByte/s
||Reading, writing, hotswap works. Some apps like k3b have problems, though.
||playback works, but no reaction on hardware keys yet. Microphone not tested.
|Keyboard (special keys)
||Keycodes working for volume and xmms control.
|ACPI (Power Management)
||SuSE standard kernel has ACPI backports, so battery status etc. works, but no suspend. Screen blanking with NVidia driver and workaround
||2D works with opensource nv driver. Faster graphics, 3D and TwinView available with the new NVidia driver versions 5328-5336,6111!
|IEEE 1394 (Firewire)
||External FW harddisk works fine and fast
||10/100 wired network works fine. Occasional device hangs fixed
||driver present, but no success during a few hours
||both USB 1.0 and USB 2.0 working
||Works great, nearly out of the box.
||Dell TrueMobile 1300 is working! Details below!
||not working, device configuration stuck somewhere (not yet examined).
||Works fine, gets listed in acpi -v. Is hot swappable.
||Works well so far.
Well, the only hard issue is ACPI which does not allow suspending.
Also, battery will not last as long as with
Windows running. But that is all due to the lack of acpi support in the
current Linux kernels. Most new laptops are built without apm and with
acpi only, so this is not a Dell-only problem.
However, in my opinion, it would be helpful by Dell to leave apm in the
BIOS for some more time, which would enable Linux users to use the
essential power management features until the kernel is ready to
support ACPI suspending.
My machine has the following components:
||Pentium M, 1.7 GHz
||2 GByte DDR-2700, 333 MHz 2.5CL
||Both slots are occupied with a 1 GByte module each
||80 GByte ATA/100 UDMA5 4500rpm
||IC25N080ATMR04 on 82801DBM Ultra-ATA controller
||1680x1050 WSXGA+ TFT
||GeForce FX 5650 Go, 128 MB DDR-RAM
||10/100 MBit/s RJ45
||BCM94306, aka Dell TrueMobile 1300
||IEEE 802.11g/b, in mini-PCI slot
||1 cardbus slot, type II
||1 firewire port, 400 MBit/s
||Two 2.0 ports, 480 MBit/s
||Second battery for media bay, port replicator (4 USB, PS/2
mouse and keyboard, VGA, DVI, Ethernet, Modem, External
MediaBay, parallel, serial, SP/DIF, SVideo), floppy drive for
media bay (can also be connected via USB)
Further, the following ports are provided:
- 1 parallel
- 1 RS232
- VGA, SVideo out
- mic in, stereo headphones out (just these two plugs; SP/DIF is available with port replicator)
- of course, a Power plug (external adapter)
- port replicator dock at the bottom
Intended Software configuration
My plan initially was to have a native WinXP installation, a native SuSE9
installation, the ability to boot one or the other, while being able to
run the WinXP also inside a VMware Workstation 4 with Linux as host
operating system. This turns out to be difficult: VMware does not yet
run on SuSE 9.0 (segfaults in vmmon module), and WinXP on raw disk is
not supported. We will see whether this gets better with the next
VMware build. In the worst case, I'd have to reinstall XP in a
virtual disk while losing the dual boot option, or switch to w2k,
Coming from an IBM Thinkpad 600X (PIII-500, 576 MB, 48GB Harddisk, SuSE
7.2 and W2k, all hardware components running smoothly on Linux), I'm
a little bit disappointed about the VMware issue and ACPI stuff,
Update 2003-12-23: VMware now runs fine for months with
the SuSE vmnet modules. Do not use those provided by VMware, they don't
work. If you have the segfaults mentioned above, you most definitely
have some of the VMware-delivered modules left anywhere.
Dual boot however doesn't work due to the lack of VMware's support for
XP on raw disk. I'm now running a virtual XP session most of the time,
that is completely separate from the native installation which I
downsized to the minimum.
Update 2004-04-06: VMware 4.5 fixes the module problems.
It now runs fine with the modules that VMware comes with. That finally
enables me to apply SuSE kernel updates.
Preparing for installation
My unit came with Windows XP Professional pre-installed which
configured itself upon the first boot. I wasn't able to downsize the
partition far enough as I wanted, so I threw it away and repartitioned
the disk as follows:
Then, I re-installed Windows from the CD that came with the Laptop and
all the drivers for that world.
|/dev/hda1 || ||43 MB || ||Dell Service parition, simply left untouched
|/dev/hda2 || ||14 GB || ||Windows XP
|/dev/hda5 || ||25 MB || ||/boot
|/dev/hda6 || || 2 GB || ||swap
|/dev/hda7 || ||60 GB || ||/
Installing SuSE 9.0
Afterwards I installed SuSE9.
The basic installation went quite fine. Just choose a display
resolution which does not exceed the physical one in either dimension.
Be prepared to have internet connection ready so that you can fetch
update and supplementary packages for the nv display driver. Do
not test the X11 configuration after setup because you won't be
able to see anything after it switches back to the framebuffer-driven
setup screen, which makes it difficult to finish the last install
steps. You will however want to install another
XF86Config to make things work (this one is for the
NVidia driver but also includes comments for use with nv).
It's a good idea to set up normal vga mode for the boot process,
otherwise you'll see nothing but funny bars when switching from
nv-driven X11 to text console. I abandoned grub and switched to lilo
for that, and included a vga = normal in lilo.conf.
(Who needs grub? lilo works!)
By the way, create a directory /users and put all home directories
there instead of /home, because otherwise things will get confused when
using NIS with automounting. SuSE doesn't seem to care of that. yast2
also writes defective yp.conf files sometimes which do not work.
Update 2003-11-03: I had occasional complete freezes of the
whole system (didn't have Sysreq enabled to try at that times). Seemed
that the probability of a freeze to occur increased with I/O load,
such as "netcatting" a few gigs from disk over 100 Mbit network.
I realized that very many devices share IRQ 11, so I tried the
kernel parameter pci=noacpi. Since then, no freeze occurred
any more - we will see.
whole section updated 2004-01-05
The GeForce FX 5650 Go is a rather new chip. nVidia has finally managed
Dec 22, 2003 to release a proper driver.
Before that date, the only choice was the
open-source nv driver that comes with XFree86 4.3. The bad news is that
DPMS does not work with that one, so you cannot suspend the screen
which is bad for battery and screen lifetime.
Some other fellows posted here and there that the older 4363 driver
would work for them, but for me it produced ugly patterns on the screen.
The new driver, however, works fine now, supports OpenGL and TwinView, is much
faster than nv, takes very little CPU time with mplayer and supports DPMS
MPlayer finally works with rpm packages from packman, my self-compiled one
didn't, and it's not included with SuSE 9. Only operable video output
filter that supports fullscreen with the nv driver was x11 which unfortunately
needs 100% cpu all the time. With NVidia drivers, also xv, sdl, gl and gl2
do work. xv is the one I chose for my videos since it's the optimum regarding
cpu time and getting aspect ratios right.
If you wonder why the X process grows to 170 or 189 MB at runtime: this is the
combined amount of process memory, shared memory and mapped graphics
memory, which of course is already 128 MB. Use pmap
to show the real memory usage.
Here is my XF86Config running the 1680x1050
screen, now updated to use the NVidia driver.
I also included a 1024x768 mode for the use with external
beamer, but that was not working with these timings and the nv driver: screen is
shown small with native resolution, no visible image on beamer.
With the new NVidia driver, I created a TwinView configuration (contained in above
XF86Config file) that brings a 1024x768 screen with 1024x1050 virtual size
to the external VGA connector that sits on the right of my LCD. Unfortunately
the NVidia driver considers the external monitor the primary one, so the
login dialog of kdm is there. You can however login blindly, of course,
if the beamer or external monitor is not yet in place at that moment.
With that configuration, I have a virtual 2704x1050 screen on which I can move
windows around. I can display a presentation on the beamer while working
privately on the internal display. A positive side of the primary display issue
is that when I play a movie with mplayer (use -fs -screenh 768),
the movie is shown full screen on the beamer while I can just normally work
on the LCD with other applications (for which are 95% CPU left thanks to the
One drawback with the NVidia driver is that it's apparently not possible
to switch to text consoles while X is running. However, text display is at
least left clear after exiting X completely - with nv, the text was not
really readable once X had been running. Another problem is that after
I changed TwinView configuration on/off, the machine occasionally froze completely
at restarting the X server.
2004-08-03: Beware of NVidia driver version 6106 when using
TwinView: the signal on the external VGA connector is unusable, at
least for beamers! (5336 works fine.) Update 2004-11-23:
Versions 6111 and 6629 are out. 6111 works fine but with no noticable
enhancements over 5336, while 6629 has starting problems and sometimes
freezes the machine when starting X. So far, 6111 seems to be the one
to use with this machine.
There are reports with burnin-effects on Dell notebooks,
especially Inspiron 8500 and Latitude D800. I did not yet experience
any burnin effects, but watch out for it when using the brightest
My display makes noises when dimmed. Looks like not normal: when I
twist the panel a bit, the noise disappears.
I had occasional hangs on the built-in 10/100 interface, mostly when
heavy traffic was going on. It turned out to be a bug in the 1.0.1
version of the bcm4400 driver in the Linux kernel that comes with SuSE 9.0.
I found some useful information
at RedHat with a hint that that could have been fixed in 1.0.2. So I
downloaded the 1.0.2 sources and recompiled the module. The fix
works well, no more hangs since then, even with constant 100 MBit
traffic over hours. Here's my recommended chain of action to do this:
Note that the sources above are to apply to the 215 version of the kernel-source
package (check your installed version with uname -r).
Other subversions may require slight changes. If you are afraid of doing the
compile work on you own, you can try just substituting the bcm4400.o module in your /lib/modules
directory against the one contained in the tar archive provided above.
- Install package kernel-source matching your current kernel version (rpm -qa|grep -e ^k_ -e ^kernel)
- Go to /usr/src/linux/drivers/net
- mv bcm4400 bcm4400_101
- tar xzf /path/to/downloaded/bcm4400_102.tar.gz
- ln -s bcm4400_102 bcm4400
- cd /usr/src/linux; make dep && make && make modules
- cd /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/net/bcm4400
- mv bcm4400.o bcm4400_suse.o; cp /usr/src/linux/drivers/net/bcm4400/bcm4400.o .
- ifconfig eth0 down; rmmod bcm4400; depmod -a; modprobe bcm4400
Two topics are here to solve: hotswapping the drive unit (to exchange
it against the floppy drive or the secondary battery pack), and burning
all the different media.
Writing DVD+R and DVD+RW is somewhat more complicated than CD-R or
CD-RW. My first attempt with the KDE program k3b to write a DVD+R
resulted in a destroyed media while k3b reported success. So I went
back to my old principles and use own scripts to burn something.
You should definitely read
Andy Polyakovs DVD+R/DVD+RW on Linux
introduction before just invoking my scripts. It is very well written
(text quality, layout, content and HTML code quality!) and was my guide
to create the dvd writing scripts. These scripts expect just a
directory name as argument and that directory will become the root
directory of the burned media. There is one script cd_master that should be hardlinked to
cdrw_master, dvd_master and dvdrw_master. It
will set the correct options according to the own name for all of the
different media CD-R, CD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW. Another script
named cd_writeimage writes
an ISO9660 image to CD or DVD. Same renaming conventions.
To create an image from an existing DVD media, use the following
command: dd if=/dev/hdc of=file.iso
To enable hotswap, you need the idectl
script that normally belongs to the hdparm package but is not included
in SuSE 9. Do a idectl 1 off to take the drive out
and put the battery in, and idectl 1 on after
inserting the drive again. The battery will become recognized in acpi
subsystem after a few seconds.
Update 2004-04-06: I've gotten some problems with that
procedure recently. Kernel crashes when pulling out the drive even after
doing idectl 1 off. No clue yet what's in the way.
The floppy drive does not yet work for me, neither
inside the media bay nor via the usb cable. The kernel tries to wrap a
ide-scsi device around it and fails somehow.
Wireless LAN 802.11b/g
Dell TrueMobile 1300 is working! thanks to the genious Linuxant DriverLoader that loads
the original Broadcom Windows XP drivers into the Linux kernel. It's
commercial, but a fine solution.
Update 2003-10-29: Alexander Bokovoy
corrected me that "there are plenty of 11a/b/g cards based on
Atheros chipsets which work under
Linux very well since this July with madwifi drivers which are available
for FreeBSD as well -- Atheros sponsors their development. In
particular, I have D-Link AG650 (802.11a/b/g) PCMCIA card working
without any problems and in .11g mode have 2.5MiB/s (~20-24 Mbit/s
throughput) which is very close to achievable limit for .11g."
Performance of the device with my Orinoco AP is not as well as with
my Orinoco PCMCIA card in my old IBM: only about 450 kB/s in
short distance, and even only 50 kB/s in the next room where the
IBM has full 550 kB/s throughput. I have to test that with
Windows to discover whether it's a hardware or software issue.
iwconfig is showing a clean 11 MBit/s connection all the time.
Audio playback and recording is working reasonably well out of the box.
Speaker quality is well, but could be better. At high volume levels
there is some rattling noise, but that's probably a case issue; Dell
laptops simply don't have the case quality as those from IBM...
The Fn-key combinations work partly: dimming the screen works,
dimming volume doesn't. Switching the wireless devices off
with Fn-F2 seems to work, while ejecting and CRT/LCD and,
of course, suspending doesn't.
The additional hardware keys (increase/decrease volume,
audio off, play/pause, stop, next, previous) don't work
out of the box but the produce scancodes.
You can make them do what you want by modifying your .xmodmap
file and configure the window manager to pick up those keybindings
and do something when they occur. The drawback is that this
doesn't work any more when changing window manager.
If you are happy with the actions it offers, the gnome-tool acme
might be your solution. I set it up in 2 minutes and it just works fine
for the volume buttons.
I did the following to make the Play/Stop/Next/Previous buttons do
the right thing in a running xmms with Enlightenment 0.15:
- Have the following lines appended in your $HOME/.Xmodmap
(make sure you have no scan codes doubled in this file):
keycode 164 = XF86AudioStop
keycode 176 = XF86AudioRaiseVolume
keycode 162 = XF86AudioPlay
keycode 153 = XF86AudioNext
keycode 144 = XF86AudioPrev
keycode 174 = XF86AudioLowerVolume
keycode 160 = XF86AudioMute
- Copy /usr/X11R6/share/enlightenment/config/keybindings.cfg
to your $HOME/.enlightenment/ directory and edit it, insert
the following lines after the line __ACTION __A_FOCUS_NEXT:
__ACTION __A_EXEC "xmms --play-pause"
__ACTION __A_EXEC "xmms --stop"
__ACTION __A_EXEC "xmms --rew"
__ACTION __A_EXEC "xmms --fwd"
- Restart Enlightenment.
Reading all the states works, including battery status and lid
closing flag. Processor speed is managed by cpufreqd which
The screen blanking works by issueing xset dpms force off.
To get the thing switch the screen off when I close the lid, I added
the following functions in /usr/sbin/acpid_proxy near line
/usr/X11R6/bin/xset dpms force off
/usr/X11R6/bin/xset dpms force on
and changed the ACPI_BUTTON_LID_OPEN setting in /etc/sysconfig/powermanagement
to xon and the ACPI_BUTTON_LID_CLOSE to xoff and restarted
Update 2004-01-05: Currently I'm entering rcacpid restart after starting X in a root shell.
Setting an at event in /etc/init.d/xdm to get this done automatically
did not work. Anyone an idea on that?
The fan is not
represented in /proc/acpi/fan. I have a little more than 3
hours of continuous use with the internal battery alone and about 5 hours
together with the extra bay battery (and the nv video driver which didn't
support screen blanking, should be even more now).
SuSE did some work to include acpi support in their special
2.4.21 kernel. I don't know how much it equals the -rc2-ac3
kernel which is reported to support acpi best currently.
The i8k module
loads with force=1 and shows some correct and some
irrational values (fan speed 141000 rpm?).
Works fine. Just make sure the device is activated in BIOS and
assigned to COM2. I successfully use the IR port with gscmxx
to read/write my gsm phone phonebook.
Works great, nearly out of the box. With a little help from Toms
technote, Internet via GPRS and bluetooth works flawlessly.
If you also have a dual boot installation and use bluetooth with both
platforms, be aware that the bluetooth device id is the same, but
everything else differs. So if you make your phone trust the
connection, you won't be able to connect with the other platform
because signatures differ. You have to delete the device from the
trusted devices list in the phone and have it created newly.
Update 2004-01-11: In the meantime, I have Internet via
GPRS/Bluetooth, an IP connection to my girlfriend's Inspiron 8600
(modprobe bnep; pand -s -r GN -E; ifconfig bnep0 ...) and a
Logitech MX900 Bluetooth mouse running. The latter one was some
more work. I fetched bthid-0.8.tar.gz
from Peter Klausler's website
on that topic. His page is about the MS mouse however, which I
never would have bought (simply wrong manufacturer ;-), so the key
mappings did not work correctly. With some experimenting and some
help from Charles Bueche, who has a fine
Site about the MX900 with kernel 2.6,
I managed to patch the bthid code, and with my
modified bthid code I finally
have all buttons working. The forward/back
buttons and the app-change button are however not yet assigned to
do something useful, but left/right, middle, wheel and up/down do work fine.
Bluetooth mousing is nice. No more cable fiddling. I start to like
that bluetooth stuff :-)
Update 2004-01-15: I updated the bthid code to send simulated
alt+left or alt+right keystrokes for the forward/back buttons so that
Mozilla will do a back or forward.
USB works. I recently bought an external hard disk from LaCie for
temporary storage and backups (80 GB). Unfortunately the disk doesn't
reach it's full possible speed as it does under Windows, as the
SuSE 2.4 kernel obviously doesn't have the new 2.6 USB 2.0 queueing
code, so throughput is only at about 15 MByte/s while it should
be at least double that.
But that's not a Dell problem...
There are several other sites around. Some of those are specific to single technical topics. I
linked those directly inside the corresponding sections in this page.
Page update history
||Added a users's comment in WLAN section and some more links
||Info about system freezes in install section
||USB section added
||Updated after NVidia released their new driver; added some experiences here and there
||Added comments on TwinView in X11 section, as well as a comment in ACPI section
||Added experiences with a Logitech MX900 Bluetooth mouse in Bluetooth section
||Modified the linked source code for MX900 driver in Bluetooth section
||Added comments in DVD section and regarding VMware
||Added information about how to fix the occasionally hanging eth0
||Added warning about NVidia driver 6106
||Info about new NVidia driver versions; new keybinding help for remaining audio keys
Maik Musall (when mailing me, please give an expressive, wordy subject so I don't overlook your mail among all that spam...)