Dell Inspiron 4000 with Linux (RedHat 7.0)

Hardware

Pretty much a standard configuration:

Size

Linux Installation

Because I was in a hurry, I erased the pre-installed Microsoft Windows-Me, and installed RedHat 7.0 instead. If I have more time, I may turn it into a dual-boot system by re-installing Windows. I'm not interested in most of Windows, but wouldn't mind having the MS Encarta Encyclopedia and MS Streets & Trips installed.

The installation of RedHat went pretty painless. See the Linux on Laptops homepage for various people's experiences.

I chose to install "everything" (which is the "package" listed last in the list of packages). In the past I have wasted lots of time trying to select exactly what to install, and often ended up missing something. Unfortunately, "everything" takes a lot of space, especially with my "small" disk. Also unfortunate is that the installer does not come with an opt-out method for package selection: I would prefer selecting "everything", then unselecting some big things that I really don't need (KDE, say, or the Czech spelling dictionary). In fact, selecting each package individually adds up to 1.2GB, but selecting "everything" gives 1.9GB; this discrepancy is confusing, and not explained anywhere. Installing "everything" took a bit over half an hour.

At one time, the install froze (early on, during copying from cd to disk), forcing a reboot. It is unclear to me what the problem was, but later it occurred to me that maybe the system was trying to suspend. Maybe it's a good idea to disable automatic suspension in the BIOS before installation.

In the past I've had problems with the RedHat install trying to probe the graphics card (fatally aborting the installation), but in this case it worked smoothly (as I knew in advance from http://www.linuxlookup.com/html/reviews/systems/laptops/inspiron4000.html). It identifies the screen as "DDC probed monitor/laptop screen".

Various Components

Touchpad

The touchpad works fine. However, under MS Windows there was a variety of settings that could be associated with the touchpad. It is unclear whether that can be done under Linux. The Laptop-HOWTO suggests that this can be done using gpm, but I haven't figured out how to set that up for use under X-Windows.

There are only two mouse buttons, which is a real pain. Clicking two buttons simultaneously is always inconvenient, but especially with the Inspiron's rather stubborn buttons. Actually, there are four buttons, one left-right set above the pad, one set below the pad. Does anyone know a way to make these behave as four different buttons?

Sound

I haven't tried to set this up. See, e.g., Matthew Smith's Inspiron page.

Ethernet and modem card

The Mini-PCI 56k+10/100 card, by ActionTec, includes both the ethernet interface and a winmodem chip.

The ethernet card was recognized by the install program; it uses the eepro100 driver.

Fortunately, this particular winmodem has good support as a linmodem. In particular, I got http://walbran.org/sean/linux/stodolsk/ltmodem-5.78e.tar.gz, followed the installation instructions, and that worked fine.

I had some trouble figuring out how to set up a ppp configuration: this used to be done with Linuxconf, but RedHat has moved that functionality to the intuitively named rp3-config.

This ActionTec modem + ethernet card has a problem with suspension: it works fine until you suspend the system (e.g., by closing the lid). After suspension, neither modem nor ethernet card works. I've created a fix for this, and now both work fine.

APM

Suspend and resume seem to work well most of the time, as caused by closing and opening the lid (or with "apm -s").

Although the BIOS has a setting that says it should suspend after a certain idle period, this does not happen; i.e., if the computer is open but idle, no suspend occurs. This could be because the system is not actually idle by the BIOS's standard, or more likely because apmd has disabled that feature. The display does go blank after a while, but isn't actually turned off, which seems a pretty useless mode. This display blanking does not involve apmd. I seem to recall that X-Windows has some settings for this, but it also occurs when X is not running. Suggestions to improve this?

I would like to set up an emergency shutdown in case the battery gets extremely low, but don't know how to do that. It would be especially nice if this would also occur when the system is already in suspend mode when the battery becomes low.

I went to some effort to create a primary partition that can be used by the suspend-to-disk (hibernate) feature. (The original hibernate partition had been erased when I deleted MS Windows.) However, at first I made a mistake, using the wrong partition creation program, and, for unknown reason, the correct program no longer works. Any help would be appreciated. (here's what I did.)

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Last modified: 2001/5/14 -- Marcel van der Goot <vdgoot@earthlink.net>