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Redhat 7.3 on a Dell Inspiron 2650

Here is how I have set up linux on my inspiron 2650. Please note that you are responsible for your own actions and just because something worked for me does not mean that it will definately work for you. This page is written with the assumption that the reader is an intermediate level linux user. If you use linux a lot, then I would recommend checking out this price comparison site to find linux compatible hardware - it is where I go when I need to buy new components.

Here is a general overview of my system (template taken from Mandrake on a Dell 8100).
Component Type  Installed Type  Running on Linux  Comments 
Processor  Intel Pentium 4 1.7GHZ-M yes   
Display  14.1" XGA TFT  yes  Running at 1024x768 
RAM  256 MB  yes   
Video Card  16MB DDR NVIDIA GeForce2 Go 100 AGP 4x   yes   
Hard Disk  20GB  yes  Hitachi DK23DA-20 
Floppy Drive  3.5'' in modular bay  yes   
Touchpad  Builtin  yes  works out of the box (PS/2) 
Modem  Builtin AC'97  not had to use   
NIC  3Com 3c905-TX/TX-M [Tornado]  yes  Detected automatically 
Fixed Optical Drive  Toshiba DVD  yes  Plays DVDs perfectly 
Sound  Builtin, i810 driver  yes, mostly  Ugly, can only play at 48000Hz so requires resampling by arts (I use KDE). After resampling, sound quality is very good.
USB  Builtin Intel  yes  Microsoft USB Intellimouse
Fuji 6800 Zoom Camera 
PCMCIA (PC card)  Builtin  yes  Not used


I did not want to keep windows XP on this so I made the following partitions:

Disk /dev/hda: 255 heads, 63 sectors, 2432 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 bytes

   Device Boot    Start       End    Blocks   Id  System
/dev/hda1   *         1       408   3277228+  83  Linux           (was for a dual boot, now is used for experiments)
/dev/hda2           409       539   1052257+  83  Linux           (/home, ext3)
/dev/hda3           540      2377  14763735   83  Linux           (/, ext3)
/dev/hda4          2378      2432    441787+  82  Linux swap      (swap)

Installation of Linux was simple enough, everything was detected automatically, including the soundcard. There were however four problems that needed tweaking:

  1. Soundcard - it can only play back at 48000Hz so be sure to resample where possible. I use arts under KDE which allows fixed resampling. Be sure to set arts as the soundserver to use from the various programs like xmms, xmame, mplayer, etc. You can wrap unsupported programs with artsdsp to force resampling (which I do on epsxe for instance).
  2. IDE - the default installation does not and can not use DMA
  3. USB Mouse - if the mouse was unplugged it would need to be reset manually before it was recognised again
  4. Graphics - were not accelerated
The soundcard may be possible to cure with ALSA but it works moreorless perfectly inside KDE the way I use it, so I have not had any reason to investigate alternate drivers.

Hard drive/DVD DMA

This was the worst issue. I was getting about 2-3MB/sec speeds from the HDD without DMA so needed to fix it. DVD speed was too slow to play back DVDs after the default install. Finally I fixed it by making and installing a new kernel 2.4.20-rc2-ac1. After installing this kernel, all my problems went away and I was able to enable DMA which made the computer soar.

So in a nutshell download:
linux-2.4.19.tar.gz and patch with
patch-2.4.20-rc2.gz then patch with
patch-2.4.20-rc2-ac1.gz and install.

Then after installing, add the following lines into /etc/rc.d/rc.local:

echo "Starting DMA"
/sbin/hdparm -d 1 /dev/hda > /dev/null
/sbin/hdparm -d 1 /dev/hdc > /dev/null
to enable DMA on the hard drive and DVD drive. The DVD drive is now fast enough to play back movies without any trouble.

USB Mouse

I wanted to be able to use both the touchpad and my external mouse at the same time and switch between the two (removing the USB mouse when it was not wanted) at my will without having to reconfigure anything. I did this by putting USB support into the kernel when I compiled it, and then have the following in my /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 file:

Section "ServerLayout"
        Identifier     "Anaconda Configured"
        Screen      0  "Screen0" 0 0
        InputDevice    "Mouse0" "CorePointer"
        InputDevice    "Mouse1" "SendCoreEvents"
        InputDevice    "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"

Section "InputDevice"
        Identifier  "Mouse0"
        Driver      "mouse"
        Option      "Protocol" "IMPS/2"
        Option      "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
        Option      "ZAxisMapping"  "4 5"

Section "InputDevice"
        Identifier      "Mouse1"
        Driver          "mouse"
        Option          "Device"                "/dev/mouse"
        Option          "Protocol"              "PS/2"
        Option          "Emulate3Buttons"       "yes"
        Option          "ZAxisMapping"          "4 5"
and that is all it took to be able to switch between the two :)


It is an NVidia card so I thought I might as well install the accelerated drivers (I have not had too much trouble with them, and they *do* let me play tux racer and PSX emulation so what's a guy to do :)). The drivers can be downloaded from the NVidia website. Instructions are provided there but in a nutshell I have the following in my /etc/X11/XF86Config-4:

Section "Module"
        Load  "dbe"
        Load  "extmod"
        Load "fbdevhw"
        Load  "glx"
        Load  "record"
        Load  "freetype"
        Load  "type1"

Section "Device"
        Identifier   "NVIDIA driver (generic)"
        Driver       "nvidia"
        VendorName   "NVIDIA"
        BoardName     "NVIDIA GeForce 2 GO"

Section "Screen"
        Identifier   "Screen0"
        Device       "NVIDIA driver (generic)"
        Monitor      "Monitor0"
        DefaultDepth    16

        Subsection "Display"
                Depth       16
                Modes       "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"

and I am using the GLX v3123 and built the kernel module from source (also v3123)

Fuji 6800Zoom camera

This works easily and simply. Just make a /mnt/fuji directory and then mount it using:

mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/fuji
from there you can read files straight from the filesystem on the camera.

'I' button

The little dell information button is keycode 129. You can put this into ~/.Xmodmap if you want to assign something to it, but personally I do not bother as I cant think of anything worthwhile to put on it.


I have loads of non-redhat software on my box, including:

  1. espxe - PSX emulation... a laptop that runs PSX games flawlessly :)
  2. xmame - Arcade emulation... can not live without it.
  3. other emulators - though I do not play these as much (ok maybe zsnes ;))
  4. mplayer - my preferred media player
  5. ogle - my preferred DVD player (with deCSS)
  6. nget - for pillaging entire binary newsgroups


Overall I am pleased with my laptop and it offers me a great range of abilities that windows would not come close to. I have no regrets about being 100% linux and do not miss windows at all. My thanks to the linux kernel mailing list archives and the dell linux laptop group on yahoo for the snippets of information that I compiled to form this document and my laptop configuration.

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