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Disclaimer:
My aim was to get the system work.
I did not check whether I my installation is able to get most of the machine.
I am writing this manual because this laptop has a problem that makes it virtually unusable under most stable Linux distributions and it took me quite a lot of time to figure the way out.
This manual doesn't claim to be a full Lunux-on-laptop installation manual, it's just something I missed when installing the system.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment.

Summary:
What needs workarounds: Graphics w/o external display (needs newest kernel); WIFI (needs non-free software)
What I didn't get to work: Touchpad scrolling
What works out of the box: Almost everything
What I didn't check: Suspend

The main problem of this laptop is that most of the time the laptop screen is black unless you plug in an external display.
In the following instructions I assume you don't have an external display to plug in and out after each reboot, in case you have one you can install the Desktop environment and Xorg straight away and update the kernel later.

Pre-installation:
Before installation I recommend updating BIOS to the latest version. The update is available on the DELL website as a .exe file, but luckily you can create a FreeDOS bootable USB Stick and run the update utility from it.
Also, to get wi-fi running you'll need to install some non-free packages, so ensure you can have Internet connection via ethernet cable at least during installation.

Installation
It is crucial NOT to install the Desktop Environment before updating the Linux kernel.
So when you get to the "Software Selection" screen during installation, deselect "Desktop Environment".
The rest of the installation process is as usual.

After the installation is complete and you've logged in to your system, you'll have to upgrade your Linux kernel from the testing branch and install non-free wifi firmware.

# vim /etc/apt/sources.list

add line deb [whatever server you use]/debian/ testing main non-free (use other lines as example)

After that:

# aptitude update (It will find several hundred updates available, ignore it, don't upgrade)

# aptitude search linux-image

look for the latest version, it should be at least 2.6.38

# aptitude install linux-image-2.6.38-2-amd64 (or whatever you found)

# aptitude install firmware-iwlwifi wireless-tools

Now we've got everything we need from the testing branch, vim /etc/apt/sources.list again and comment the previously added line.

Reboot the laptop, logging in to the new kernel.

Now you can install Xorg and a Desktop environment of your choice.

# aptitude install xorg
# aptitude install kde
# startx

Have fun.

Linux On Laptops

Comments

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