The new Laptop is almost fully supported under Linux. While the install process wasn’t really easy, the hardware was afterwards detected without a problem.
The new laptop works like a charm. After few days I am already sure that my money was well spent. The hardware is almost fully supported, and everything I tested works like expected.
General hardware support
The general hardware is well supported: CPU, hard disk, RAM, screen, touchpad, bluetooth and USB controllers usually don’t make any problems on modern Linux distributions.
Other hardware also works well: the Intel WLAN card works, also does the Intel Audio. I found some articles mentioning problems in this regard, but this was fixed with recent kernels.
The NVIDIA GPU is also supported – with recent proprietary NVIDIA drivers. I would have liked to have a GPU where high quality free drivers are available, like Intel cards or ATI/AMD cards, but there wasn’t a comparable model out there featuring ATI/AMD, and Intel cards simply don’t have enough power. I just hope that NVIDIA starts a similar Open Source attempt as AMD/ATI. For a start full RandR 1.2 support would already help me to re-use all my RandR scripts I wrote over the time for different monitor setups…
Anyway, with the standard Fedora 8 system for the usual hardware and binary drivers for the NVIDIA card I can – without any problems – suspend and resume this machine.
Hardware quirks, untested hardware
There are two things I have noticed so far which are not working perfect or not at all: the first one are several multimedia keys on the keyboard: the mute/volume up/volume down keys are not working. I hope to solve this by following the guide at the hal quirk page.
Another things which is at least not working as perfect as I would it to work is the hard disk: I get a specific sound once in a while, like 2 till 3 times each minute. It sounds to my untrained ears that the hard disk just writes some small data package. The program
powertop suggested to do
echo 1500 > /proc/sys/vm/dirty_writeback_centisecs when I noticed the sound once while powertop was running, but I’m not sure if these things are really related.
The sound is certainly nothing really disturbing, but it is at least noticeable, and I just wonder where this comes from and if it is something I could fix with software improvements.
Besides the here mentioned hardware there is of course hardware I didn’t test yet – like the modem or the docking station connector. I didn’t test the first one because I don’t expect to ever need it, and I didn’t test the second one because the docking station is not here yet.
The only real problem I encountered with this machine was the installation – I struggled with it for quite some time until I found a decent way.
First I tried to boot the system using the normal Fedora 8 install DVD – that “failed” while attempting to load
/sbin/loader: it just showed a message informing me that it loads the loader, nothing more. The boot up didn’t continue. However, the system didn’t really freeze because I could still restart it with Alt+Ctrl+Del. I’m not sure what the cause is/was.
The second try was an old Ubuntu 7.04 Live CD I still had somewhere – while I didn’t plan to start using Ubuntu for a longer time it would have been an option if Fedora wouldn’t have worked. But that CD failed to load as well.
The third try was an OpenSuse 10.2 Live DVD – that one worked pretty well. And since I already have a long OpenSuse past and since I am pretty used to their system it was really tempting to switch with this laptop. But then I also tried another recent Ubuntu Live DVD – and it worked as well. So I decided to also try a Fedora 8 Live CD – and indeed, the Fedora 8 KDE Live CD worked.
I must admit that I am surprised that there were so many problems. The Dell D630 is a quite old model and out there for quite some time, and I wonder how others have managed to install Linux on it in the past, as it looks to me that only new distributions successfully booth the machine.