New Laptop: Linux on Dell XPS M1530

Oct 22, 2008

Well I finally got my work environment moved over to Linux which is part of the reason I haven't been writing lately. I wanted to share my experiences so far in case anyone else wants to take the jump. I've been using Linux for years on servers and felt it was a nice time to try it out on my new laptop and I really didn't want to go the Vista route. Fortunately, Dell does support a few of its systems for Linux.

When the laptop came, it had Ubuntu already installed. My experience is more from the Redhat side of the things but I was willing to give Ubuntu a shot. I got a bit frustrated at not being able to directly install RPMs or use YUM. With RPMs you have to convert them to a DEB file which is used in the Debian/Ubuntu world. Not a hugh deal but I decided that I throw Fedora on instead. Both Ubuntu and Fedora recognized all the components on the system including the thumb scan and camera, no headaches there at all.

There were a couple minor issues I faced hardware wise with Ubuntu and Fedora.

1. The touchpad doesn't work well initially (it basically jumps the cursor all over the place) when you install Linux, but it's a simple grub command that fixes it. Entering "quiet splash i8042.nomux=1" into the line that calls up the kernel found in /boot/grub/menu.lst then running update-grub

2. The volume is very low on the main laptop speakers. You simply go into volume control -ยป preferences and turn on the surround sound and then in volume control unmute it. The mic is also not active by default. You again go into the volume control turn on the digital input source in the preferences and adjust the volume for it.

My XPS M1530 came with a Intel Dual Core 2 processor and 4G of memory. Since the Core 2's are 64bit compatible I installed the 64bit version of Fedora. Once this was on, I installed VMware Workstation and then created a number of VM instances. One is a XP instance to test things in the world of Windows. I tied using Wine to run Internet Explorer and iTunes, but Wine just isn't there yet. My work environment is actually a VM instance running Fedora running on the laptop. I did this so that next time I switch computers I can simply move the VM.

Since I am on the road at times, I needed to be sure about having broadband access on the road. I upgraded my Verizon Wireless card to the new USB727 modem that they offer (Sprint offers the same model). It's 3G and works great. A funny note here is that Verizon doesn't support the modem for Linux but it only takes a few minutes to write up a dialer script for it. If you remember the days of dialer scripts for old computer modems, it's pretty much the same thing. You send a couple ATZ commands, the phone number and then finally the username/password and voila your connected. It always amazes me to see a major company (Verizon is a Dow Jones Index company as a matter of fact) taking no effort in supporting the Linux world. Time to wake up and smell the coffee guys! If you need help with the dialer script just let me know.

The GUI environment is Gnome which works fine. I still tend to jump into terminal to do various things but Gnome is well designed and fast. For my applications, eclipse and firefox naturally runs on Linux. My email client is Thunderbird which I haven't used before but I like it so far. My numerous RSS feeds are now in Thunderbird and posts show up like emails in the News & Blogs section. Skype has a linux client and it loaded in fine. However, iTunes is not supported on Linux. So I loaded it on the XP VM instead.

I installed ColdFusion developer edition on multi-server running on top of JRun without a single problem. I partly expected something to go wrong there, but not a single issue. Now I need to be careful about having any Application.cfm with the proper caps. If you have application.cfm it doesn't get called like it would in Windows. I had a few apps that had this issue.

So far so good, I'll post more as I settle into this new system.

Comments

lida

lida wrote on 10/22/08 5:15 PM

thanks a lot
Michael Brennan-White

Michael Brennan-White wrote on 12/03/08 11:34 AM

I wish I would have read your post last week about the Application.cfc vs application.cfc. I lost a week of Family Guy episode watching while I wondered why the app I copied over from Windows wouldn't work.

I think Adobe should put another dialog box in the install reminding dumb programmers like me how important the case of file names is in Linux.
John Mason

John Mason wrote on 12/03/08 1:44 PM

Yep, that one is tricky. It might make sense for them to put in an order of operation to that. If CF can't find Application.cfm then look for application.cfm. It wouldn't take much and probably would save a lot of developers the same headache.
Brian Starbuck

Brian Starbuck wrote on 12/06/08 3:43 PM

I'm gonna give this a go tonight after I transfer some data to an external. Hopefully my install will go as well as yours did.
John Mason

John Mason wrote on 12/08/08 3:34 PM

So here's an update on this..

Recently I did a full update of the system and messed up my external monitor settings. The monitor is a 22inch Dell and should be able to run a 1440x900 screen resolution (the internal laptop monitor has no problem with this), but for some reason Gnome doesn't allow for anything above 1024x768. There's actually no way to fix it from Gnome. You will need to manually set the resolution in the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. Once you have everything working, make sure to make a handy backup of that file since changing settings in Gnome will modify this file from time to time.

The following is my xorg.conf file in case anyone needs it for comparison. Notice, I set the Screen resolution modes and then specify the Modeline for the monitor. You need to modify this file as a super user (ie root) and then do the reboot so the new changes can take effect.

My xorg.conf file...

Section "ServerLayout"
   Identifier "single head configuration"
   Screen 0 "Screen0" 0 0
   InputDevice "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"

# keyboard added by rhpxl
   Identifier "Keyboard0"
   Driver "kbd"
   Option    "XkbModel" "pc105"
   Option    "XkbLayout" "us"
EndSection

Section "Monitor"
   Identifier "Monitor0"
   ModelName "LCD Panel 1440x900"
   HorizSync 31.5 - 100.0
   VertRefresh 59.0 - 75.0
   Modeline "1440x900" 106.5 1440 1520 1672 1904 900 901 904 932 -hsync +vsync
   Option    "dpms"
EndSection

Section "Device"
   Identifier "Videocard0"
   Driver "nv"
EndSection

Section "Screen"
   Identifier "Screen0"
   Device "Videocard0"
   Monitor "Monitor0"
   DefaultDepth 24
   SubSection "Display"
      Viewport 0 0
      Depth 24
      Modes "1440x900" "1152x864" "1024x768" "800x600"
   EndSubSection
EndSection
John Mason

John Mason wrote on 12/08/08 3:44 PM

If you do use the 64bit version of Fedora or any other Linux version on the M1530. Adobe recently released a beta version of Flash Player 10 which also has a 64bit version. You will not find this on the main Adobe site. Only on the labs site which by the way has a lot of great stuff that Adobe is working on.

The link for the Flash Player is..
http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/flashplayer10/

It works great for me and I haven't any problems so far. The labs site also has Flex Builder for Linux and the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) for Linux. So Adobe is working hard to get their products into the world of Linux.
Brian Starbuck

Brian Starbuck wrote on 12/08/08 3:49 PM

I had the same issue with my resolution. I'm currently trying to install the nvidia driver.
( http://www.nvidia.com/object/linux_display_ia32_100.14.09.html )
Also, would you mind posting your configuration for the touchpad? I think I have the idea of what you're saying but would like visual conformation.
John Mason

John Mason wrote on 12/08/08 4:15 PM

Sure, here's my version of the /boot/grub/menu.lst file. Naturally, yours may be slightly different. Agains, the key part is the "quiet splash i8042.nomux=1". Make sure to run update-grub after you do any modifications. Otherwise, the changes will not take effect. Also be very careful with this file since it pretty much tells the boot loader where to find your OS.

default=0
timeout=5
splashimage=(hd0,0)/grub/splash.xpm.gz
hiddenmenu
title Fedora (2.6.27.5-41.fc9.x86_64)
   root (hd0,0)
   kernel /vmlinuz-2.6.27.5-41.fc9.x86_64 ro root=/dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00 rhgb quiet splash i8042.nomux=1
   initrd /initrd-2.6.27.5-41.fc9.x86_64.img
John Mason

John Mason wrote on 12/08/08 4:17 PM

The "quiet splash i8042.nomux=1" is actually on the same line as the "kernel /vmlinux.." statement. It's wrapping on this blog.
Brian Starbuck

Brian Starbuck wrote on 12/08/08 4:27 PM

I had the same issue with my resolution. I'm currently trying to install the nvidia driver.
( http://www.nvidia.com/object/linux_display_ia32_100.14.09.html )
Also, would you mind posting your configuration for the touchpad? I think I have the idea of what you're saying but would like visual conformation.
Brian Starbuck

Brian Starbuck wrote on 12/08/08 4:31 PM

Sorry for the double post.
Thanks for posting that. I would've typed "quiet" twice, so I'm glad I asked.
Brian Starbuck

Brian Starbuck wrote on 12/09/08 1:03 PM

Well here is my little problem. I know I'm supposed to update-grub but I get
"bash: update-grub: command not found"

I've tried some forum surfing and google-power but all I can find is info on dual-booting. I'm running F9 32-bit on a m1530. Any idea?

Also my touchpad works fine at first, but if I shut the lid, which I do every 15 minutes at school, it starts jumping all over the place.
John Mason

John Mason wrote on 12/09/08 2:30 PM

Make sure you are a super user (ie root) so you can run that command.
Brian Starbuck

Brian Starbuck wrote on 12/09/08 2:31 PM

I was signed in as root. It's weird though. As of right now, everything seems to be running just fine. I noticed that I had two kernel lines, so I added the "splash...." to both in vi, saved, rebooted, and so far so good.


default=0
timeout=5
splashimage=(hd0,0)/grub/splash.xpm.gz
hiddenmenu
title Fedora (2.6.27.5-41.fc9.i686)
root (hd0,0)
kernel /vmlinuz-2.6.27.5-41.fc9.i686 ro root=/dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00 rhgb quiet splash i8042.nomux=1
initrd /initrd-2.6.27.5-41.fc9.i686.img
title Fedora (2.6.25-14.fc9.i686)
root (hd0,0)
kernel /vmlinuz-2.6.25-14.fc9.i686 ro root=UUID=b0dce61e-33e1-47bb-827d-e43383e0e085 rhgb quiet splash i8042.nomux=1


I don't know if that's good or bad, but literally EVERYTHING works now; well I'm not sure about the fingerprint scanner. I never used it so I don't think I'm going to put the on the list of things to mess with.
Thanks for the help. I've been wanting convert for awhile now but I didn't want to have a $1500 laptop with $500 of working hardware/software
Daiben

Daiben wrote on 12/16/08 4:00 PM

Hi,
Thanks for this helpfull thread.
Daiben
Daniel

Daniel wrote on 07/16/09 2:16 AM

I have a 1530 and I dont have Linux. My cursor jumps all over the place while Im trying to type, ofter times it skips back into the text I have already types. Any fix for this?

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