Debian sid amd64 on Dell Studio 1537

March 2009

Installing Debian sid amd64 (March 2009) on Dell 1537 Laptop

Linux On Laptops

This seems like a pretty good machine so far. There are several hardware configurations. This one has the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3400 and the Intel 5100 WiFi card. All the hardware seems to work pretty well except:

Some hardware that is often problematic on linux works fine here-- in particular, the builtin sdhc card reader, and the builtin webcam.

I installed a stock kernel All necessary drivers are in the kernel source and most are loaded automatically. But, the wifi card also needs the intel microcode iwlwifi-5000-1.ucode. This is available in firmware-iwlwifi (probably non-free). Following are the drivers for the hardware.

Poking around in the stock kernel configuration to find these modules is tedious these days. There may be infra red hardware installed, but I am not sure. This Studio 15 has one half-height mini pci-express card slot and two full size mini slots inside. They, and the memory and harddrive, cpu, etc. are easily accessible from the bottom panel. The half-height slot has the intel 5100 wifi card installed. The other two slots are empty and are labeled for wpan and wwan. I wonder if other mini pci-express cards would also work in them. The BIOS has configuration options for wlan/wwan/wpan.

I bought this as a refurb from the dell outlet website and saved 30% or so, althought the main reason was I needed a quick delivery. But, a memory module was not snapped in properly (it still worked). And a few screws were loose and did not have the factory loctite on them. One of these small screws plays an oversized structural role holding the screen when rotating the cover and it was loose and causing the screen to close improperly.

Installation procedure

I imagine using ubuntu or something would have made an easier and more complete install. But I am drawn to debian like moth to flame. I tried the daily snapshot business card of the sid installeer, but it did not find the hardrive and the network properly. I used the Debian 5.0 business card disk. I shrank the existing Vista partition to 55 GB (47 were used out of the box!) I am keeping the Vista-- the first time I have paid for microsoft since DOS 6.0 on a preinstalled slackware machine in 94. (I inadvertently left vista in save to disk mode and the shrink failed at first. But, I rebooted vista, shutdown properly, and then the shrink worked). I had to reboot windows a couple of times after the shrink for it to start normally. The installer asked me several times if I wanted to start card services, which is the kind of thing the debian installer has been doing for over a decade... plus ça change . You may need to install grub and not grub2 (there is a choice). I installed grub2 on a different Studio 15 and it screwed up the vista boot. I installed plain old grub. After rebooting vista it took four minutes or so to boot, but then all was well. I installed only the base system of debian. Reboot into linux. Change apt source from lenny to unstable, then upgrade. Now you have a sid base system.

I also added deb sid main to /etc/apt/sources.list

Video Card

Each of the xorg radeon, radeonhd, and the ati proprietary flgrx drivers are supposed to support the Radeon HD 3400. The radeonhd produced only a black screen. The radeon driver works, but gives a little snow and the GPU (thermaltake sensor 3) runs 69+ degrees constantly and the fan is on high all the time. But suspend-to-ram works with s2ram -f -v -p -s. Note that the howto for s2ram gives a long list of switch combinations to try and this is not one of them. I tried all of them methodically with init=/bin/bash. I almost gave up and then tried this one for the hell of it and it worked. I am using the flgrx proprietary driver, which built and installed without much problem. With the same switches s2ram is unusable because it gives corruption (well I played with various xorg.conf settings but gave up) However, the display is very clear and the GPU is cool and the fan shuts off. In vt console, it is still hot and the fan is on high. pm-utils and its quirk-checker say I am good to go with 'ati' driver. Everything is fine. But kpowersave uses pm-utils and actually they fail to resume. But the s2ram line above does work. Also the quirk checker admonishes me for using the fglrx module.

Media keys

I installed keytouch,keytouch-editor. Run 'keytouch-editor' as root. There appears is a list of devices. Choose the keyboard. Press an extra function key to confirm at the prompt. The next screen is confusing. All you need is to press the 'new' button. Then press a media function key. Its name will appear. click ok. dont type anything anywhere. dont choose any actions. repeat clicking 'new', typing a key and then ok. Now save the file with some name. now run keytouch. try to import the file. if this does not work, copy the file to /usr/share/keytouch/keyboards. try to follow the naming examples. restart keytouch and try to choose your file from the list . It may show you your file, let you choose it, and then complain that it does not exist, while giving you the name it prefers that your file be called. rename the file to this name. restart keytouch. choose the filename. now a configuration panel gives you choices of what to do with the keys. The results are saved with the system initialization files. This final screen is actually kind of convenient and the media keys are then functional and fairly easily configurable.

Wifi catcher

This seems to probably work, but I think it is OS-independent.

Backlit keyboard

Controllable with the fn key.

Fingerprint reader

2810 AuthenTec. no driver available at this time.

Web cam

Works out of the box and looks nice with 'cheese'. Other programs I tried failed completeley for various reasons.

The finger print reader and webcam are connected internally via a usb bus.

Module rfkill_input allows the rfkill switch on the side to work. The wifi light also works properly.

Ricoh card reader seems to use shdc cards fine. But I didnt test it too much yet.

Other software issues

Mathematica 3.0 for windows works fine in wine. The characters were all greek when I tried with my last system.

Google earth

There are some 32 bit compatibility drivers necessary. I think ia32-libs-gtk, lib32ncurses5, lib32nss-mdns. Then there was a tip about disabling the libcrypt in the googleearth install directory. It works now.

32 bit compatibility

ia32-apt-get installs ia32 libraries under /emul. It uses trickery to show all 32 bit intel libraries as available for the 64-bit bit platform, but with ia32- prepended to the names. Still there are some kind of bugs with this system that are associated with perl.

Don't forget in the stock kernel to uncheck the option to load all the particular hid modules automatically. ( a huge number)

Use kmix to turn off the annoying console beep.

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