Thursday, 21 June 2007

Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) on a Dell Inspiron 6400

My new laptop
Originally uploaded by REALJimBob.
  • Dell Inspiron 6400
  • Core 2 Duo Processor T7200 (2.0GHz, 667MHz FSB, 4MB L2 Cache)
  • 2048MB Dual Channel 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
  • ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 256MB
  • 15.4" Widescreen Display WXGA+ (1440x900)
  • Intel Pro Wireless 3945 802.11a/b/g Mini-PCI Card
  • 160GB (5,400rpm) SATA Hard Drive
A 'reasonably' middle of the road Dell Inspiron model. Maxed out the CPU and RAM, the Hard Disk too although the HD choice was a disappointment, I would have preferred something faster/larger. Kept the screen small enough while still being usable.

Information Sources:

The Ubuntu website itself lists test results for the specific model, however it had only tested against the Herd 5 version of Feisty Fawn rather than the final release and the ATI driver installation instructions contained some errors where following the 6.10 (Edgy Eft) instructions fared better than the 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) advice.

Linux on Laptops linked to an article by Cedric Lagneau which also contained some specific advice on getting the ATI graphics subsystems to work correctly.

A combination of these instructions led to a successful installation...

Installing Feisty Fawn from the Live CD:

The Live CD won't start X correctly as the ATI card/screen resolution won't fly. Once the attempt fails it drops you back to a normal command prompt. You'll need an active network connection to perform the driver installation, and the commands are as follows:

$sudo apt-get update
$sudo apt-get install xorg-driver-fglrx

Reset the kernel dependencies to ensure the new drivers load correctly:

$sudo depmod -a

Configure Xorg to use the new driver correctly:

$sudo aticonfig --initial
$sudo aticonfig --overlay-type=Xv

And finally, restart the GDM server:

$sudo /etc/init.d/gdm start

X should now start correctly and allow you to start the installation procedure. I followed the obvious defaults for my configuration -- UK keyboards and language, and allowed the installation to completely overwrite my existing partitions (you do have install CDs don't you?). Upon restarting I ended up with the following partitions:
/dev/sda1 * 1 18701 150215751 83 Linux (142GB)
/dev/sda2 18702 19457 6072570 5 Extended
/dev/sda5 18702 19457 6072538+ 82 Linux Swap
X again, fails to start, so repeat the same commands again, but this time reboot instead of restarting GDM:

$sudo apt-get update
$sudo apt-get install xorg-driver-fglrx
$sudo depmod -a
$sudo aticonfig --initial
$sudo aticonfig --overlay-type=Xv
$sudo reboot

Once the system comes back up, it's as good a time as any to do a System Update (I'll wait here).

Back again? The wireless connection pretty much configured itself. I had to drop my router back from WPA to 128bit WEP encryption (as Gnome doesn't seem to know about WPA), but the ESSID appears in a drop-down list - select it, type in your passcodes (you may need to create an encrypted keyring as part of this). But it 'just works'...

The SD/MMC card reader was a total breeze. Plugged a card in and straight away Ubuntu asked me if I wanted to import my photographs.

Still to test:

DVD re-Writer
USB outputs -- all work, although some USB block devices don't seem to unmount from the desktop.
Additional graphics functionality (external monitors, TV out)
Audio (beyond basic beep) -- all works

Also, still need to transfer remaining personal files, applications and configuration from my 'work' laptop and Ubuntu desktop to the shiny new girl.

Update 30th July 2007:

Upgraded to Gutsy Gibbon last night, I'd manually compiled development versions of GIMP and UFRaw which caused it some confusion, but after removing all GIMP/UFRaw packages, deleting the compiled versions and reinstalling the packages everything worked a treat.

Desktop eye-candy (compiz) still doesn't work, I assume this is a limitation of the ATI graphics drivers rather than Ubuntu itself as other people have reported it working on other hardware.


StefanoTN said...

I tried many times to install Ubuntu on my Dell but I wasn't able. Then I followed your advices and it worked great.
Thank you man!

tobias said...

great and easy! i'v too tryed to get the xserver up and running on my 6400, but without luck. then i tried this artikle and it just worked :D