Ubuntu installed on the Inspiron 640m

Only a few hours after playing with Vista, I resized that partition (Vista now has a “shrink” utility) to 60 MBs and left 40 MBs free for Ubuntu (the rest 20 GBs are reserved by DELL as a recovery partition). So, unfortunately the i810 driver that ships with the current beta of Feisty 7.04 does not support the 1440×900 resolution and in fact X crashes not only in normal mode but also in safe mode! I had to edit the xorg.conf file manually and install the system to the hard disk while using the VESA driver under VGA. After installation Ubuntu found all the Vista partitions and included them in the Grub menu, while after manually changing the vertical and horizontal sync on xorg.conf and installing the 915resolution package I was up and running at the native resolution. However, after installing the updates it seems that Ubuntu has upgraded the driver to the latest i810 driver that actually fixes this problem and does not require the 915resolution anymore. The next hurdle was with the wireless driver, but this tutorial worked perfectly, check the shot! However, it seems that the wifi antenna is not that strong, my “osnews” network only shows 50% strength even if it’s in the next room.

Except the screen problem (which it might be fixed by the final version of Ubuntu) and the wireless problem (which is something that Canonical must both fix and support, as they need to blacklist a module before installing the new module), everything else works like a charm. It’s amazing that all the “special” buttons on the laptop work! The touchpad works well too, with wheel support. And what do you know? Suspend/resume works perfectly, including when you close the lid. Battery life *seems* to be around 5.5 hours, while with Vista you can go as much as 6.5 hours.

Isn’t that something! I am pretty happy with Ubuntu on that laptop so far!

15 Comments »

Luis wrote on March 13th, 2007 at 3:25 AM PST:

Everything looks pretty good. It’s great to see that you can install Ubuntu in a new laptop and have such a good experience out of the box (well, almost).

Ubuntu is a very well thought system. It’s the one I’d recommend to my friends if they wanted to try Linux.

I just wonder why so much memory used? 263 MB without any serious application opened? Or was that screenshot taken after hours of using the system? It seems that the more RAM we have, the more our systems use (and it’s not for cache, since those 263 MB are without counting buffers/chache).


Tom Dison wrote on March 13th, 2007 at 4:54 AM PST:

Glxgears FPS?


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Eugenia wrote on March 13th, 2007 at 5:51 AM PST:

>I just wonder why so much memory used? 263 MB without any serious application opened?

The system has 2 GBs of RAM. If you have so much memory the Linux kernel caches more. If my laptop only had 512 MBs of RAM these apps would have shown that ubuntu uses about 90 MBs of RAM. These numbers are never accurate. Unless you run kernel 2.2 or something, or Win98, you won’t get accurate numbers about memory usage.


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Eugenia wrote on March 13th, 2007 at 8:24 AM PST:

I just tested glxgears, it only does about 1150 fps (and that’s with the latest driver that ubuntu updated the last few days). My ATi 9000 Radeon Mobility on my other laptop yields 1650 fps.


Tom Dison wrote on March 13th, 2007 at 8:28 AM PST:

My 64MB ATI Mobility (IGP320) only get about 320 fps (and that _is_ with hardware acceleration enabled). I only have one thing left that requires me to boot into Windows, and that is Half-life 1. It runs under Wine, but my framerate is too low. For everything else I can just use Parallels (.NET Development, Cystal Reports, etc).


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Eugenia wrote on March 13th, 2007 at 8:37 AM PST:

BTW, I installed Neverball, this nice 3D game, and it works extremely smoothly.

As for your ATi Mobility, is it with ATI’s driver or with Xorg’s? If your chipset is supported in 3D by xorg, use their driver. I am sure that your chipset can yield much better results. Email me and I can give you some hints on how to speed up your xorg.conf.


Tom Dison wrote on March 13th, 2007 at 8:47 AM PST:

It’s not supported by the ATI driver. Older integrated chipsets don’t get much Linux support from ATI. Newer ones do better. Things are better than it used to be. I used to have to hand-compile X and DRI to get 3D support. At least X.Org since 7.0 has supported the 3D on my chipset, although not very well. I’ll email you anyway to see if any of you xorg.conf secrets can help.


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Eugenia wrote on March 13th, 2007 at 9:32 AM PST:

I just emailed you back, hopefully this will work.


Luis wrote on March 13th, 2007 at 10:08 AM PST:

I have a low end Intel card (64 MB sh.mem) and I hardly get 500 fps in glxgears, but that doesn’t keep it from running smoothly, be it Beryl/Compiz, Google Earth or Tuxracer. I can only notice a slow down when I turn on transparency in Beryl’s rotating cube.

Some other cards can give 3000-5000 fps but don’t work as good in Linux, for what I hear. So I don’t think that those fps are too important.


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Eugenia wrote on March 13th, 2007 at 10:37 AM PST:

Luis, if you have an Intel CPU, try this on the terminal:
INTEL_BATCH=1 glxgears
This gives me 1700 fps instead of 1150.
Also, make sure you are properly loading the glx and dri extensions in your xorg.conf.


peejay wrote on March 13th, 2007 at 11:28 AM PST:

“Only a few hours after playing with Vista, I resized that partition (Vista now has a “shrink” utility) to 60 MBs…”

You’ve done the impossible! :O

GB, right? ;)


Luis wrote on March 14th, 2007 at 4:58 AM PST:

try this on the terminal:
INTEL_BATCH=1 glxgears

I tried it, but it didn’t make any change. I think that 490 fps is what I can expect from this card. DRI and GLX are both enabled, and as I said, 3D apps work quite smoothly, so no complaints.

If I ever need a boost for a more 3D intensive app, I can always change the Color Depth in xorg.conf to 16 instead of 24. With that, I get 950 fps and even the transparent rotating cube in Beryl is smooth enough.


blag wrote on March 14th, 2007 at 10:04 AM PST:

Hi Eugenia, I just saw you post the link here from Jono’s blog. Thanks for posting…it looks like all Dell has to do is switch from Broadcom if they really want Linux supported.


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Eugenia wrote on March 14th, 2007 at 10:07 AM PST:

I don’t think that Broadcomm has any problem –under pressure from Dell– to release their firmware for their Wifi chipset. The open source BCM43xx driver half-works with the chipset (I had to use ndiswrapper and blacklist the bcm43xx open source driver to get it running), so if Dell was to use the laptop model as-is for their linux endeavors, it is possible they can fix the driver easily.


Tom Dison wrote on March 14th, 2007 at 5:03 AM PST:

This weekend I will be trying all the tricks given me from Eugenia (and from a link she gave to a Ubuntu forum post). I’m hoping to get my card from 320fps to 700-800. I wish you could just change the video card in my laptop (disable the integreated). Do they make mini-pci video cards? I could replace the minii-pci wireless card. I can dream!


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