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Installing Ubuntu 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon" on Dell Vostro 1400

Last updated: 2007-10-28

General Hardware Specifications:

Hardware Components
Status under Linux
Notes
Intel Core 2 Duo T7250, 2.0GHz Works No special procedure required during installation.
14.1 inch WXGA+ TFT display Works, 1400 x 900 No special procedure required during installation.
128MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS Works Using proprietary driver, nvidia-glx-new (100.14.19)
2GB DDR2 SDRAM, 667MHz, 2 DIMMs Works No special procedure required during installation
120G 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive Works No special procedure required during installation
Broadcom NetLink BCM5906M integrated network card Works Uses tg3 driver
56k softmodem, part of Intel audio card Not tested. BIOS reports: Conexant HDA D330 M
User forums report not working under Ubuntu 7.10
8X CD/DVD Burner Works No special procedure required during installation
Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 802.11a/g Wi-Fi Mini Card Works Using proprietary driver, ipw3945
85 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion Battery Works No special procedure required during installation
Intel 82801H (ICH8 Family) HD Audio Controller Works, one of two headphone jacks active BIOS reports: Sigmatel 9228
Requires specific module options for snd-hda-intel (see below)
Dell MediaDirect 3 Deleted May be possible to use under dual boot (see below)
MediaDirect hardware controls (launch, play, stop, forward, back) Works When computer is off, launch button boots laptop. When computer is on, launch button starts Rhythmbox, which responds to hardware play/stop/forward/back controls
Keyboard volume controls Works No special procedure required during installation
S-video TV-out Not tested No further information
Firewire IEEE I394a port Not tested No further information
ExpressCard slot Not tested No further information
8-in-1 memory card controller Not tested No further information

This laptop is operating under Kernel version 2.6.22-14-generic

Disclaimer

This is freely available information. It comes with absolutely no guarantees. Use at your own risk. Remember, it's Linux: if you break it, you get to keep both pieces.

Basic Installation of Ubuntu 7.10:

Tested several different distros and LiveCD installers before settling on a Linux-only, Ubuntu-only, single partition installation.

Updating the BIOS
Getting sound to work
Unresolved issues
lspci
00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Mobile PM965/GM965/GL960 Memory Controller Hub (rev 0c)
00:01.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Mobile PM965/GM965/GL960 PCI Express Root Port (rev 0c)
00:1a.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Contoller #4 (rev 02)
00:1a.1 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #5 (rev 02)
00:1a.7 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB2 EHCI Controller #2 (rev 02)
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) HD Audio Controller (rev 02)
00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) PCI Express Port 1 (rev 02)
00:1c.1 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) PCI Express Port 2 (rev 02)
00:1c.3 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) PCI Express Port 4 (rev 02)
00:1c.5 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) PCI Express Port 6 (rev 02)
00:1d.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #1 (rev 02)
00:1d.1 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #2 (rev 02)
00:1d.2 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #3 (rev 02)
00:1d.7 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB2 EHCI Controller #1 (rev 02)
00:1e.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge (rev f2)
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation 82801HEM (ICH8M) LPC Interface Controller (rev 02)
00:1f.1 IDE interface: Intel Corporation 82801HBM/HEM (ICH8M/ICH8M-E) IDE Controller (rev 02)
00:1f.2 SATA controller: Intel Corporation 82801HBM/HEM (ICH8M/ICH8M-E) SATA AHCI Controller (rev 02)
00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) SMBus Controller (rev 02)
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation GeForce 8400M GS (rev a1)
03:01.0 FireWire (IEEE 1394): Ricoh Co Ltd R5C832 IEEE 1394 Controller (rev 05)
03:01.1 Generic system peripheral [0805]: Ricoh Co Ltd R5C822 SD/SDIO/MMC/MS/MSPro Host Adapter (rev 22)
03:01.2 System peripheral: Ricoh Co Ltd R5C843 MMC Host Controller (rev 12)
03:01.3 System peripheral: Ricoh Co Ltd R5C592 Memory Stick Bus Host Adapter (rev 12)
03:01.4 System peripheral: Ricoh Co Ltd xD-Picture Card Controller (rev 12)
09:00.0 Ethernet controller: Broadcom Corporation NetLink BCM5906M Fast Ethernet PCI Express (rev 02)
0c:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection (rev 02)

Dual booting and MediaDirect

To install Ubuntu while keeping Vista, it is necessary to shrink the Windows partition to make room. However, while Vista has a dynamic disk resizing tool, it would not reduce the size below 50% of the original size, despite much cursing and swearing. However, the GParted LiveCD can be used to shrink the existing Windows partition. During the Ubuntu install, select "Guided--use largest available free space" when partitioning.

Dell ships the Vostro 1400 with Vista and MediaDirect 3 installed. MediaDirect is a cut-down version of XP that allows users to play music and DVDs from the laptop without booting into Vista: the computer acts like a standalone media player. It can also be used to access Office files on the user's Windows partition, etc.

It is possible to set up a dual-boot Vista/Ubuntu environment that leaves MediaDirect intact. However, it is rather fragile, and did not survive my various attempts to install different versions of Linux. My first working dual-boot install put Ubuntu into disk space created by shrinking the main Windows partition, with the rest of the factory partitions untouched. Even though GRUB was using the master boot record, launching MediaDirect still worked. However, subsequent installs must have stepped on something, because MediaDirect would announce that it could not read the disk, or go directly into GRUB, or trigger a BSOD.

As noted above, the MediaDirect hardware controls do function in Ubuntu. When the computer is turned off, the MediaDirect launch button (which is to the left of the power button and marked with the "Home" icon) will bring up first the MediaDirect splash screen and then GRUB (with some screen garbage before the Ubuntu boot sequence starts). When Ubuntu is running, however, this button will launch Rhythmbox (the Gnome music player), and the hardware play/stop/forward/back buttons will control the analogous Rhythmbox functions.

For the record, here is the report from GParted after resizing:

/dev/sda1   fat16		78.41 MiB
/dev/sda2   ntfs    RECOVERY    10.00 GiB
/dev/sda3   ntfs    OS          19.53 GiB
unallocated                     79.68 GiB
/dev/sda4   extended             2.50 GiB
unallocated                      1.00 MiB
/dev/sda5   fat32		 2.50 GiB
Experiments with other Linux versions
Comments

Although I prefer Debian Etch, I have to give credit to Ubuntu for making it very, very easy to install Linux on a laptop. I have run 8 or 10 different versions of Linux over the last 8 years or so, on around 8 different types of hardware (servers, desktops, laptops). This was the very first time I have not had to edit the configuration file to get X working--let alone install a proprietary driver. With the exception of sound, everything I wanted Just Worked.

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