Dell Laptitude D800 and Ubuntu Linux 4.10

Here's my experience on my first Ubuntu/Debian install. I have reached a state where I'm pretty satisfied, but I still have some issues that I would like to get fixed and I'll update this as I get into improvements.

The computer

  • Dell Laptitude D800.
  • Pentium Mobile 2.0 GHz
  • 15.4" WUXGA (1920x1200)
  • nVidia GeForce 5650, 128 Mb RAM
  • 2 Gb RAM
  • Intel Pro Wireless 2200
  • 60 Gb HD, 7200 RPM

Partitioning of the disk

I've used several approaches when it comes to partitioning of the disk, but this time I took the time to read a bit about it before I started. Used PartitionMagic from work to resize the huge partition which only included Windows XP. I ended up with the following:

/ 12Gb
/boot 23Mb
/home 10Gb
/usr/local 10Gb
/mnt/xp 22Gb
swap 2Gb

Installing Ubuntu

Installing Ubuntu 4.10 (Warty) went without any major problems. It didn't get the wireless card to work out of the box, but I wasn't too worried since Intel have launch a sourceforge project. I was a bit disappointed that it didn't managed to enable my 1920x1200 resolution on the screen.

Screen resolution and nVidia drivers

I was able to get WUXGA resolution (1920x1200) by using the these settings. I was a bit concerned about the resolution begin to big, but it works great on the GNOME desktop. I then followed this wiki-page to install the binary drivers for my nVidia card. This resulted in destroying my XF86Config-4 file so I had to create the WUXGA resolution once again. The only struggle is that gDesklet handled the binary drivers bad when it comes to font handling. They all the sudden got extremely small. I haven't figured this out yet.

Special multimedia keys

The laptop only includes volume up, volume down and mute buttons. I struggled a bit to get this working, but eventually i started gstreamer-properties application and got it use ALSA as the sound architecture. Then I just used the keyboard shortcuts application in GNOME to map the special keys to volume up/down and mute. I also had to work around a bug concerning IRQ conflicts. I solved this by adding acpi_irq_isa=7 to the kernel parameters. To avoid having to rewrite this every time you install a new kernel, you have to alter the line: kopt=root=/dev/hda8 ro. Just add the parameter at the end and then a updated kernel will use these parameters as well.

Memory problems

Since I'm using the full BEA WebLogic stack I have a need for lots of memory and I was really looking forward for this laptop with 2Gb!!! The problem was that Ubuntu only reported that I had 900Mb!!! Trying to cat /proc/meminfo gave me the same result. I tried to search for this and saw somebody else struggling. I also found a Debian message where somebody mentioned that 386 compiled kernels might be a problem. Used apt-get to install 686 compiled kernel, rebooted and voila - my gDesklet reported 1.98 Gb memory.

NTFS support

I used Ubuntu wiki again and I had mounted NTFS drive within no time. Just worked. I haven't enabled write access to it.

Multimedia support

I've gotten MP3 enabled which it's included in the base installation because of license issues. There's a pretty good description on the wiki, but I didn't get support for xvid,dvdcss and Microsoft w32codecs. Seemed like they were compiled with other libraries. Not an issue yet, but I have to fix this.

Wireless card

At home I only have wireless access and I have struggled ALOT with a 3Com card for many years now so I was really looking forward to this wireless card with Intel having launched their sourceforge project. There was some trouble compiling these drivers, but the reason was some of my lacking header files for the kernel. Got that fixed and then the driver compiled. I only had to untar the firmware into /usr/lib/hotplug/firmware directory. More details on the forum. This got the card working, but I wasn't able to get the card working with an encryption key based on ASCII signs instead of hexa decimal signs. So I had to reconfigure the access point to use hexa decimal signs and the first password instead of number three. I still have some problems getting IP address, but it does work (from time to time :-)


There are several pages on the Ubuntu wiki about Java. I tried one of them and it failed so I didn't use the 'apt way' of doing things. I regret this now, but I might fix it. This wiki page is a good starting point. I should have made a choice based on these options. Currently I have everything under /usr/local/java. Installed IntelliJ, BEA software and quite a few libraries. I do miss the JPackage project for Debian - although JPackage is far from perfect. Guess I also should install Eclipse - maybe - we'll see :-)

Minor stuff
  • I've installed Skype and it's working. Chose a static compiled version with the qt libraries since Ubuntu doesn't include them. Looks butt ugly, but works.
  • Configured gDesklet with quite a few cool desklets. They are pretty :-)
  • Installed a few Nautilus scripts. Must have!!!
  • Installed several development tools which were missing - such as Glade, MySQL and a lot more.
  • Installed Microsoft fonts which were available by easy apt-get command.
Some headache

I have quite a few issues still to be solved.

  • Suspend to disk doesn't work, but I'm looking forward to the next Ubuntu release which seems to focus a bit on laptop
  • Suspend to RAM makes X freeze. I think this is a problem with the binary drivers, but don't take my word for it
  • I haven't been able to get Citrix Client software to integrate with GNOME based Terminal Server Client software
  • I haven't tried VPN yet
  • Must do some hdparm optimalisation
  • I should have Wine/Crossover office up and running

My first Debian based installation has been a positive experience. There are a few issues and I get a feeling that Java have more friends in the RPM based distributions. I really like the wiki that Ubuntu have set up (Think they use Plone) and the howto's are on the average very good. The search strategy is first the wiki - then the web forum. Found answers on most issues.

I still have laptop challenges, but have hopes for next Ubuntu release in April. I also miss a few of RedHat/Fedora GUI tools, such as service/daemon configuration tool and a few others, but this might be better when GNOME System Tools grows up.

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