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My new work computer is a Dell Vostro 1310 laptop. I am most chuffed with this new machine, as this is my first modern, up-to-date programming notebook for a long time now (some people think it’s boxy! but all I want is a no-nonsense machine). And it runs Debian Lenny, which marks a change from my old Ubuntu and Slackware days. So, this is me showing off a new laptop and sharing some issues for anyone wanting to install Debian Linux on a Vostro 1310.

Now, Vostro laptops may be customized considerably prior to order, so the hardware specs vary. Mine is a Intel Core2 Duo T9300 @ 2.50GHz (6MB L2 Cache, 800 MHz FSB), 4Gb RAM box, probably near the top of the range. For WiFi, it’s got the Dell 1505 miniPCI card (that’s probably a Broadcom 4328, capable for 802.11n) and for Bluetooth the standard Dell Wireless 360 Bluetooth Module. It’s got a 13.3 inch WXGA screen and a 128Mb NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS (64 bit) video card.

Here’s the output from 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 Controller #4 (rev 03)
00:1a.1 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #5 (rev 03)
00:1a.7 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB2 EHCI Controller #2 (rev 03)
00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) PCI Express Port 1 (rev 03)
00:1c.1 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) PCI Express Port 2 (rev 03)
00:1c.3 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) PCI Express Port 4 (rev 03)
00:1c.4 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) PCI Express Port 5 (rev 03)
00:1d.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #1 (rev 03)
00:1d.1 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #2 (rev 03)
00:1d.2 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #3 (rev 03)
00:1d.7 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB2 EHCI Controller #1 (rev 03)
00:1e.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge (rev f3)
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation 82801HEM (ICH8M) LPC Interface Controller (rev 03)
00:1f.1 IDE interface: Intel Corporation 82801HBM/HEM (ICH8M/ICH8M-E) IDE Controller (rev 03)
00:1f.2 SATA controller: Intel Corporation 82801HBM/HEM (ICH8M/ICH8M-E) SATA AHCI Controller (rev 03)
00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) SMBus Controller (rev 03)
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation GeForce 8400M GS (rev a1)
06:00.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4328 802.11a/b/g/n (rev 03)
07:00.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168B PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet controller (rev 02)
08:05.0 FireWire (IEEE 1394): O2 Micro, Inc. Firewire (IEEE 1394) (rev 02)
08:05.2 SD Host controller: O2 Micro, Inc. Integrated MMC/SD Controller (rev 02)
08:05.3 Mass storage controller: O2 Micro, Inc. Integrated MS/xD Controller (rev 01)

Installing Debian Lenny 64-bit (amd64)

For the record, my first attempts at installing Linux on this box were very frustrating, as both Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10 64-bit versions wouldn’t correctly recognise the Ethernet card (Realtek 8168) – which is the last thing I’d expect not to work. Same thing happened with 64-bit Debian Sarge. I was getting frustrated by the time I tried 64-bit Debian Lenny, but things suddenly worked out of the box and installation was a breeze (using the netinst CD).

I decided to go for the easy option and install Windows drivers for the WiFi card through ndiswrapper. The process is relatively straightforward:

Well, all you need to do (as root) is rmmod ssb ; rmmod ndiswrapper ; modprobe ndiswrapper ; modprobe ssb

You should now have a wlan0 interface to configure for WiFi connections (you might want also want to install wifi-radar). The rmmod ssb etc. stuff needs to happen every time the system boots. I have written a simple initialization script that does this.

Now, I thought I was having a Bluetooth problem, until I noticed I had switched off WiFi and Bluetooth using the little switch at the right side of the laptop, next to the DVD drive slot. As it happens, Bluetooth worked out of the box, but please have a look at this if you have Vista pre-installed: http://onemansjourneyintolinux.blogspot.com/2007/10/enabling-bluetooth.html

I had opted for Windows XP pre-installed with Vista installation media, so I didn’t experience any problems. In fact, I routinely use Bluetooth to connect to my 3skypephone mobile and use it as a 3G modem. Please have a look at this, if you are interested.

I have also installed NVIDIA drivers for the video card (here’s one of many tutorials) and Compiz-Fusion, which looks quite nice! Here’s a brief video:

Screen capture (with recordmydesktop) was a bit flickery, sorry, but I was stressing the machine: I was using loads of Compiz-Fusion eye-candy and installing Vista as a virtual machine through VirtualBox at the same time.

Suspend and Hibernate work out-of-the-box. All-in-all, this laptop gives me everything I need for heavy development work – power management, connectivity, performance (and eye candy to impress co-workers). I don’t know if the fingerprint scanner works, I haven’t even thought about using it yet.

My only real complaint up to now is audio 😦 This is an interesting story, actually, because I had sound when I first installed Lenny about a month ago (well, without headphone jack sense) and then I went for a kernel update, which broke sound! The sound device now doesn’t even show up in the operating system, so it’s no use recompiling ALSA (which I have done, just in case). Now, Lenny has not been officially branded as a “stable” release yet, this is supposed to happen in 1-2 months, so here’s hoping one of these days I do a system update and suddenly everything works (again). But, as I said earlier, I am using this laptop as a development box, so lack of sound doesn’t really affect me. It’d be nice, however, to be able to listen to some mp3s while at work, which I do through my n800 (as a quick fix).

Update (2008-11-21): A prerelease version of Adobe Flash player 10 has just been released for Linux 64-bit systems. You may find it here. I installed it by extracting and copying libflashplayer.so to /usr/local/lib and updating the /etc/alternatives/flash-mozilla.so symbolic link to point to /usr/local/lib/libflashplayer.so

Update (2009-02-09): The real problem with sound on this laptop is that the operating system does not even recognise there is a soundcard in the system (there is no audio controller in the lspci output). A few days ago, I decided to update my kernel to 2.6.26-1-amd64 using apt-get, just in case it would make a difference. Well, it doesn’t 😦 I have downloaded my kernel’s headers and recompiled the latest version of ALSA (1.0.19), but the audio controller just doesn’t show up. So, I’ve bought myself a cheap (10 EUR) C-Media based USBsound card, which works fine (mic too).


Linux On Laptops
TuxMobil - Linux on Laptops, Notebooks, PDAs and Mobile Phones

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7 Comments

  1. i got the same problem with the realtek 8168/8111 ethernet card… where did you find the lenny 64bit version?

    i try lenny beta2 dvd version and it didn’t work.

  2. i found it, but it didn’t work! did you use the netinstall cd?

  3. Hi stony.. the netinst CD I used is labeled:

    Debian GNU/Linux testing “Lenny” – Official Snapshot amd64 NETINST
    Binary-1 20080730-20:59

    If I were you, I’d try the daily built images (“which contain the latest available version of installer components”) from
    http://www.debian.org/devel/debian-installer/

  4. Why don’t you just re-install the old kernel that works ? There’s probably nothing you need in the new kernel anyway. 🙂

  5. I don’t want to keep back the kernel versions. I guess I’m an optimist 🙂 And how would you roll back to a previous package version in Debian?

  6. I have this laptop too. My system would not detect the audio device (in linux). This turned out to be a defective motherboard. I called dell and they replaced it. It now works fine in linux.


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