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Fedora Core 4 on Dell Inspiron 5150

My Installation Review and Configuration

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Linux On Laptops TuxMobil - Linux on Laptops, Notebooks, PDAs and Mobile Phones
 
Status at 15 October 2005
ProcessorSpeedstep & HyperThreading: OK. Needs more control.
*BIOS: I8K Thermals Good. Keyboard to finish.
ACPI: OK.  Needs testing.  (Poss cause of some freezing?)
OS:  Dual Booting Good.  ntfs Good.
RAM: Good. 
Harddrive: Good.
CDRom: CD OK.  DVD OK. Burning not tested.
Sound: OK. 
Video: OK. Concerned about performace. Not 3D enabled.
Network: Not tested.
Modem: OK. Fickle to connect. Awkward.  No modem sound.
USB:  Good
Printer: Not tested.
Flash Memory Key: Good.
External Floppy: Not tested.
GNOME: OK. Some minor bugs (Nautilus?).
Apps:  Yet to configure sun's Java.  Totem poss causing some crashes.
Misc: Intermitent Total System Freezes and various crashes. 
(*Latest priority.  Good - No complaints.  OK - Works with minor issues.)

Specification
Product: Dell Inspiron 5150 Laptop.
Processor:  Mobile Intel Pentium 4 Processor 3.06GHz/Speedstep/HyperThreading
BIOS: A35(09/29/2004) + ACPI + I8K Thermal/Keyboard
OS
:  Dual Windows XP Service Pack 2
+ Linux Fedora Core 4 (2.6.11-1.1369_FC4smp)
RAM
:   512M DDR SDRAM, 2 X 256 Dimms 333  Mhz                              
Harddrive:  60GB IDE Intel 82801DBM (ICH4) Ultra ATA Storage Controller
Cdrom:  QSI CD-RW/DVD SBW-242U  - 82801DBM ATA Storage Controller.                         
Sound:   Intel Corp. 82801DBM ICH4-M AC'97 Audio Controller          
Video:   64MB DDR NVIDIA Corporation GeForce FX Go 5200 (1400 x 1050)           
Network: (Not Connected):  Broadcom NetXtreme BCM4401-A1 Integrated Fast Ethernet Controller 
+ Broadcom 440x 10/100 Integrated Controller                    
Modem:   Broadcom BCM V.92 56K Modem
USB:   2 USB Controllers: Intel 82801DB/DBM Universal/Enhanced Host Controller 2.0
Printer: Dell AIO A940 Printer/Scanner/Fax Capture Fax BVRP
Flash Memory Key: 64M Dell/LEXAR DIGITAL FILM USB
External Floppy: USB - Pretty standard really.

What is this? These are some of my notes on installing and configuring Linux Fedora Core 4 on my Dell Inspiron 5150.  It is here because it might be helpful to someone else doing something similar, but I dont guarantee anything.  Good luck!
How to use this. This is not a step by step guide, although I tried to make it linear.  Scan over the document and use whatever is helpful.  I will try to provide tips for newbies, but this is not really a linux tutorial.
Disclaimer: This is just my experience, and it's work in progress.  I make no promises.
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INDEX
 
Preparation
-Choosing and Obtaining Fedora Core 4
-Preparation
-Prioritise
-Partitioning
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Review
-Installation
-Booting
-Dual OS handling
-Processor
 +Speedstep
 +HyperThreading
-BIOS
 +i8k Fan/Keyboard <- Important!
 +ACPI
-Suspension/Hybernation
-Harddrive
-Sound
-CDRom
 +CD usage
 +DVD usage
-Video                
-Network                        
-Modem      
-USB
-Printer 
-Flash Memory Key
-External Floppy
-Desktop and Apps
-Miscellaneous Issues
-Booting
-Dual OS handling
-Processor
 +Speedstep
 +HyperThreading
-BIOS
 + i8k Fan/Keyboard <- Important!
 + ACPI
 + Suspension/Hybernation
-Harddrive
-Sound
-CDRom
 +CD usage
 +DVD usage
-Video                
-Network                        
-Modem      
-USB
-Printer 
-Flash Memory Key
-External Floppy
-Desktop and Apps
-Miscellaneous Issues
-Links

Links
-Very Similar Pages
-Related Sites
-Other Useful Links

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Preparation

Choosing and Obtaining Linux Fedora Core 4 - I was already running Windows XP when, after installing Service Pack 2 things were even more unstable then before, so Linux was sounding better and better.

Many people download it, but I got my copy from a Newsagent.  The package consisted of a booklet and Four CDs, published by PCWorld minibooks. 
 
I figured Fedora Core 4 would probably be as good as any other distro and I like its relation to Red Hat, and as for learning value, it wouldn't matter which distro is used, as long as there is plenty of support.  Distro debating could be left for another day. I'd tried KNOPPIX before and it looked nice. I still keep a copy of KNOPPIX handy and I'm happy try try another distro but Fedora Core 4 was in front of me.
 
Linux is really the core.  You build it from there , so you can call it whatever you want, even GNU/Linux.  But if you don't call it Linux, people will get confused.

Preparation - I was expecting the transition to Linux to be difficult so it made sense to ease the jump by having a dual XP/Linux system until I was confident I could ditch Windows for good (although having XP around for games or something else isn't so bad).  Give yourself plenty of time if you're new to Linux, weeks, months, or years, whatever is comfortable.  I had some experience on Unix, but there was still a lot to learn. 

I strongly recommend that if you are new to Linux (and even experienced users too), you should do some research.  Have a look around on the net for people doing similar things and find some good support sites.  Keep a writing pad handly, and get detailed specs on your system.  Your specs will help you configure as much as possible during installation rather than post-install.

Prioritise - You probably have in mind which bits of hardward are more important than others to get working.  I figured the modem was pretty important so I could get more online help, but I could'nt get that working first, so I tried to access my XP partition to move data about instead.  This was tricky too, so I ended up using my Flash Key instead.  I was also worried about my thermal problems, so I tried to attack that early with little luck initially.  It all sounded good, but it all ended up getting pached up bit by bit everywhere.  In hind site...

Partitioning -  WARNING:  Please make sure you know what you are doing before re-partitioning your system!
 
I used Partition Majic to split my 60Gig HD.  I allocated about a third to Linux at the end of the drive (leaving the delicate XP boot stuff), figuring that after about a year, XP and my data were comfortably taking up about a third of the Hard Drive, so I allocated a third to Linux, leaving two-thirds to XP (a third for XP to expand). 
 
I installed a boot loader from Windows, but it wasn't neccessary because Fedora Core 4 came with it's own boot-loader (GRUB) which was the default after installation.

Review - (Initial Observations at Clean Install)

Installation - Simply inserting the CD, booting, and following the on-screen instructions seemed to perform a smooth install. On the surface there were no noticable problems, but some simple testing showed me that a lot of things needed to be set-up. Later I would do fresh installs to be sure I knew what I was doing, and there were minor differences on subsequent installs.
 
Initially a did a workstation install, but later I did a custom install and installed every 'visable' package (not a full install), although in future I'd avoid the java package. I skipped any network settings and auto partitioned,
Booting – (See also Dual OS Handling).

Booting-Up - GRUB is the default bootloader. By default the menu will not be visable but a countdown timer is visable.  If you interupt the countdown with a keystroke you can navigate the menu.  It has a nice blue screen with handy menus. It displayed three choices, roughly:

...Core-up... <- This is the Basic Linux core.
...Core...smp... <- This is Linux for Dual Processors or HyperThreading (that's us).
...Other.. <- This is my Windows XP.

What is noteworthy here is the two Linux options showing the core versions: 2.6.11-1-1396_FC4, and 2.6.11-1-1396_FC4smp. The smp version is for Dual CPU or HyperThreading, so that is the one I use, although it doesn't really matter, both should work. Pressing any key will interrupt the boot count-down-timer so you can move around the menu. It is recommended that you configure the boot menu, and you can configure it here, but it's probably easier to configure it later using VI. (See Configuration).

After the OS is chosen, Linux goes about its business of booting up, switching now and then from graphics mode to text mode, spewing out boot data until it arrives at the Login screen. Here you can choose your Desktop Manager under 'Session', your Language under 'Language', and so on. GNOME is the default desktop manager but KDE is available too. The Login screen, of course, is configurable. Shortly after logging in, you're at your desktop manager.

Booting Down – Sometimes the shutdown procedures are displayed on screen but most times not. Under what conditions this happens, I'm not sure. I expect it to be configurable somewhere because I prefer to see what is happening.

Dual OS handling - (See also Booting). As I expected, I couldn't access the XP partition. Of course it needed to be mounted. Unfortunately XP's ntfs file system isn't provided with Fedora Core 4, assumedly because of some legality on the part of Windows. The minibook has mislead me slightly on this point so this will have to be configured.
Processor The CPU load can be seen graphed on the System Monitor Resources tab. The System Monitor (Applications->System Tools->System Monitor) can also be placed as an icon on the desktop toolbar.
Speedsteping - No evidence of CPU speedsteping. It needs to be enabled.
HyperThreading - On the System Monitor Resources tab (Applications -> SystemTools -> SystemMonitor), two (2) CPUs can be seen with their load being graphed, which is as expected for a HyperThreading CPU. Exellent!  HyperThreading is an integral part of the core architechture.  The 'SMP' Linux core is already reaping the glorious wonders of a Psuedo-Dual CPU.
BIOS. The usual features seemed to work, Date, Time, etc.
(*)I8K Fan/Keyboard - The notorious I8k BIOS sub-system controls several Dell-specific key-system bindings such as volume and brightness, plus fan control and temperature monitoring. The Dell Inspiron 5150 has critical thermal design problems so this is important, even under Windows too.  There is nothing obvious to see around the desktop, although a search for i8k files shows some i8k.ko files and some KDE desktop config files. I am led to understand these drivers come default with Fedora Core 4 but they don't load and there are no apps to drive the drivers. The fans are relying soley on the BIOS which is extremely unreliable. This is a critical problem, but it can be configured.
ACPI – Advanced Configuration and Power Interface – As an industry standard power usage control interface this laptop is Compliant. I saw no evidence of ACPI but it's crutial for a Laptop. This computer is ACPI compliant but it was not enabled.
Suspension/Hybernation – Not yet tested. Assumed dis-functional.
Harddrive - Generally seems to work OK. Note however that the harddrive is installed with the name 'hdc' on this machine, not 'hda' as many instructions would have you to expect.  The CD is 'hda'.
Sound - The sound was auto-detected but couldn't be heard. It was muted by default in the ALSA Mixer application (Applications -> Sound & Video -> Volume). On my second install, it wasn't muted and worked fine. I've had no luck yet getting sound working in the KDE invironment.
CDRom – Detects well and file browsing works fine. Note that the CD mounts as ‘hda’ instead of the harddrive.  The Hard Drive is 'hdc'. The eject button doesn't work.  You can only eject from the CD icon under the myComputer Folder on the desktop, but not with the eject functions in other apps.
CD usage - CD Player (Applications -> Sound and Video -> SoundPlayer) generally works OK, however when using the ALSA mixer (Applications -> Sound and Video ->Volume), the CD music would faulter badly, needing to be paused and re-played.  CD Burning hasn't been tested yet.
DVD usage -There are no DVD codecs for Totem Music Player (Applications -> Sound and Video -> TotemMoviePlayer), so it doesn't really work.
Video - Video card seems to work OK, but I wonder how well it is performing.
Network - Not yet tested. The laptop is not networked
Modem - The modem is detected, but it doesn't work. Attempting to activate it via NetworkManager (Desktop -> System Settings -> Network) responds with an error dialog saying "network-config-manager:The modem could not be activated: Error 2". This very common problem is due to the internal modem being a “WinModem” which is designed to work with Microsoft Windows. I even got hold of another USB modem to get around it, but most USB modems are WinModems, so then I went back to my original Broadcom Modem. A modem can be a tricky thing to get working, but with a bit of configuration it works, awkawdly, and then simple internet browsing is pretty simple to get up and running from there.

USB - Plugging in devices generally works fine. The USB 64M flash key saved my life getting drivers from my WindowsXP, and the USB mouse worked fine too. Other devices will have to be tested seperately.

Printer - Not yet tested but its another one of those products designed for Windows.

Flash Memory Key - Plugs in, auto-detects, and works well. The USB 64M flash key was a godsend for getting drivers that were downloaded to WindowsXP over to Linux during set-up.
External Floppy - Not yet tested but it might be good for boot disks and moving small amounts of data around in MS-DOS format.
Desktop and Apps - The default desktop is GNOME but FC4 also comes with KDE. I spent most of my time in GNOME. It seemed a little buggy. A white line flickers down the left when moving files, several copies of the trashcan appear from time to time, the desktop refreshed only intermittently to show new files, file names ran off the screen, and files appeared on top of each other. File navigation with 'Nautilus' provides pretty standard file browsing and folder opening features but needed a little tweeking to my flavour.
 
On the desktop menu bar, the icons and tools lock on but they also change in width (e.g. Date/Time), making gaps appear, dissapear and icons move around. The skin gets messed up using JPGs. I like the transparency effect, but then the font color cant be seen against the dark background.
 
There were no screensavers and a few Apps didn't work so well. Eclipse froze the computer totally so that I had to pull out the laptop battery to reboot. Playing with the ALSA mixer made the Music Player go crazy. The games were puzzle-type games rather than the arcade shoot-em-ups that I Iike, like the ones I tested on KNOPPIX, but they're there if you're into that sort of thing.
 
OpenOffice is a good basic thing to have, and its always a welcome Application but it quickly crashes just by pointing to an inactive menu option. There’s plenty of programming tools and Mozilla Firefox is a fine web browser.
 
I also tested Java a bit but it didn't work too well. It was not Sun's java but GNU's Jpackage. Best to avoid installing it unless you're sure you want it, because it isn't completely trivial to remove it and install Sun's Java.
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LINKS
 
How I configured Linux after installation: FC4 on Inspiron 5150 - My Configuration 
 
Very Similar Pages:
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Other Linux/Laptop pages can be found listed at:

 

Recommended FAQs:
The Unofficial Fedora FAQ - http://www.fedorafaq.org
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Useful Linux Links:
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