This laptop is now well supported under Linux, so changes to this page will be much less frequent. The version numbers for software that I mention might not be the most recent version available. In most cases, it can be assumed that a newer version of the software will still function on the Inspiron 5000e, if an older version of the software worked.
Just for fun I have decide to start coloring changes I make in red so they are easier to find. Things will stay "new" until I add something else. Thanks to XEmacs and html-helper-mode the date at the top is always current to the last time I changed this page.
Things that work. Things that don't work. Things I don't know about. Places to get more information.
This is my recommended setup: Linux kernel 2.4.10 and XFree86 4.1.0. A comprehensive tutorial on upgrading to these two packages is beyond the scope of this web page. I suggest you consult information specific to your Linux distribution to find the easiest method to upgrade. Debian unstable (but not testing yet) supports both of these items without problem. I do not recommend just apt-get dist-upgrade -ing from stable to unstable if you don't know what you are doing. Anybody with a bit of Linux and Debian experience can probably handle the broken dependencies, etc., but it won't "just work," which is why it is called "unstable."
Most people come to this page because they are trying to get XFree86 running on their 5000e. XFree86 4.0.2 (and 4.0.3 and 4.1.0) fully supports the ATI Mobility chipset in the 5000e, so I recommend that you upgrade to 4.1.0. Here is a copy of the XF86Config-4 file that I use. The paths and such are setup for Debian, but it should be pretty easy to touch up to work on other distributions. 4.1.0 is currently in Debian unstable, and I am sure will move into testing soon.
2.4.<mumble> kernel DRI modules are not advanced enough to provide direct rendering under XFree86 4.1.0, so the module from the DRI tree must be used if you insist on running something from an older tree. You should follow the instructions in the DRI compilation guide to obtain the sources. To compile the kernel module you should go into the directory build/xc/programs/Xserver/hw/xfree86/os-support/linux/drm/kernel and run make -f Makefile.linux. You should then be able to copy the r128.o file into /lib/modules/`uname -r`/....
Kernel 2.4.10 includes the updated DRI code, simply build the kernel and enable the /dev/agpgart module with the Intel 440BX option and the Rage 128 option under Direct Rendering Manager.You also might want to read Scott A. Crosby's XFree86 on Inspiron 5000e -- HOWTO and addendum on the linux-dell-laptops e-mail list.
External video works by pressing FN-F8 several times. Eventually the display will switch to being external only. I was using this on an external projector that looks best at 800x600, so I added the line
Modes "800x600"to the
Depth 16section of my Screen definitions in my XF86Config-4 file. Then I started X with
ssh-agent startx -- -depth 16and it came up at 800x600 and looked fine on the external projector.
This give me an opportunity to mention the PPower4 package. It is used to create presentations out of TeX or LaTeX which can then be displayed with Adobe Acrobat.
Starting with XFree86 4.1.0, the Option "Display" "string" can be added to the Device section of the the XF86Config-4 file. Where string is FP, CRT, Mirror, or BIOS. See the r128 man page.
I installed the irda-common package, uncommented (or added, I don't recall) irattach /dev/ttyS1 to /etc/irda/drivers and made /dev/pilot a link to /dev/ircomm1 and I can sync my Palm III over IR. No other changes were necessary, but it takes 10-20 seconds for the hot sync to begin after I tell the Palm Pilot to start.
modprobe maestro or put
alias sound maestro alias sound-slot-0 maestro alias sound-service-0-0 maestrointo /etc/modutils/local and rerun update-modules. Non-Debian people can just add these lines to /etc/modules.conf or /etc/conf.modules.
Sometimes the Alsa package doesn't work right, and I think this is because parts of the Maestro sound chip are powered down and the Alsa driver doesn't know how to turn them back on. A work around is to load the kernel maestro driver (when Alsa is not loaded) with the option use_pm=0, then unload it, and then load the Alsa modules.
Starting in kernel 2.4.9 or so, the hardware volume controls on the left side of the notebook are functional. Sometimes the volume control only works when a program actually has the sound device open.
I am using PCMCIA-CS 3.1.24, and it seems to work fine. I have used a Lucent WaveLAN card, a Linksys PCMPC100 10/100 ethernet card, and a 3COM 3CCFE575CT 10/100 ethernet card. All work without any difficulties. If you are running a 2.4 kernel you can also use the CardBus (yenta) driver which is included with the kernel.
Pressing FN-Esc or FN-a makes the computer enter sleep mode, when APM is enabled in the kernel.
VMWare currently functions.
DRI works great under 4.1.0 with the 2.1.6 version of the DRI kernel module (see above).
USB works for me using either the usb-uhci or uhci modules. I have successfully used an ov511 based USB webcam, an ISD-200 based Archos Jukebox 6000 (the necessary driver is part of kernel 2.4.10), and the Toshiba PDR-M4 digital still camera. The hotplug package in Debian works great for me. With it running I can just plug in my devices and the proper driver gets loaded without any hassle. BTW, the 1.42 version of the ov511 driver (on the webpage linked above) works much better than the one included in the kernel).
Due to strange IBM logic, the recent purchase of a Thinkpad T21 with a mini-PCI ethernet/modem combo card could only be sold to us with a builtin mini-PCI modem, and a second mini-PCI ethernet/modem combo card, so after swapping the IBM mandated internal modem for the combo card I thought I would try the spare modem in my 5000e. The modem is labeled an IBM V.90 Modem with Voice or some such and identifies itself as LT V.90 Data+Fax Modem Version 5.95a.
Anyways, it is basically the Lucent/Agere LT WinModem. I think this should be very similar (if not identical to) the modem that Dell supplies. Using the 5.95a driver from http://www.heby.de/ltmodem I built the Debian package, installed it, and then the modem was working. I successfully made PPP connections to both my institutes's and university's modem pools. BTW, this was with a 2.4.4 kernel.
Though not earth shattering, as other people have mentioned to me that they got their modem to work, I was pleased that it will save me from buying a 56k PCMCIA modem for use when I travel (my 8 year old 28.8 PCMCIA modem is just too slow for somebody as bandwidth spoiled as I am).
Things that don't work: (fill in information about problems)
The 5000e really works well for me, and at this point the only thing I
that bothers me is the general crapiness of the notebook itself.
After owning my notebook for about 20 months,
Dell has released an updated BIOS (A05) which fixes the APM problem. If you have installed the Compal BIOS the Dell installation disk will claim that you are not using a Dell computer. The failed check is an external program, so look at the end of the autoexec.bat file for the command to run to install the BIOS. The latest BIOS is now A06, and it claims to have fixes to prevent the battery from catching on fire.
I cannot get the kernel frame buffer to work (this is different than the text mode virtual console, which works fine). Though aty128fb.c claims to support the video display in the 5000e, it does not work for me. If anybody has any information on this, let me know.
The newest Rage 128 driver, still only in CVS, has the ability to turn off the flat panel. Expect the next release of XFree86 (4.3.0, 4.2.1, ?) to be able to properly turn off the backlight and flat panel when idle.
Stuart R. Anderson has made available an XFree86 4.1 ATI driver that includes the ability to turn off a flat panel display. It is available on his website at http://www.xfree86.org/~anderson/. I have been using this driver for about a week (at the time of this writing) and have not had any problems. Installing the update is as simple as copying the new r128_drv.o into the place of the old one, and restarting X. Be warned though, this is for XFree86 4.1.0, and won't work with newer versions of XFree86.
The XFree86 4.0.2, 4.0.3, 4.1.0, and 4.2.0 Rage 128 driver cannot turn of the flat panel display. A look at the code shows that DPMS is disabled for flat panel displays, though it will work on an external CRT attached to the notebook. If it is important to you that the display be turned off when idle, then flip to a virtual console (ctrl-alt-f1) and the kernel APM driver will turn off the display after several minutes. Use ctrl-alt-f7 to return to X.
The key repeat rate in X is too slow after resuming from a suspend. To get around this, after resuming run xset r rate 660 25 in X to set the repeat rate to the normal default. Set it faster for more fun. The command kbdrate -r 20 can also be run (requires root). I have my machine configured to automatically run that command upon resuming.
I and several other people have noticed that the laptop will occasionally crash when exiting X if it had previously been suspended while running X, and then resumed. I work around this by flipping to a virtual console before I suspend. This flipping could probably be automated using chvt and apmd, but I haven't bothered to set that up.
Sometimes when I exit X (I think after having gone through a suspend resume cycle) the keyboard and mouse will stop responding. The machine has not crashed, and the keyboard can be recovered by suspending and waking the machine. This is easiest to do by closing the screen until the suspend light is flashing, and then opening it again.
Dave Marsh reports that this seems to be due to the touchpad sending data when no process is reading /dev/psaux. He reports this problem persists with the A06 BIOS, and says that running GPM will fix the lockup problem, though he prefers not to run GPM. GPM is working fine for me, using this config file. I then have X use /dev/gpmdata for the mouse. I have not had the keyboard lockup problem since running GPM.
Thanks to Philipp Rumpf and Linus Torvalds I tracked down a bizarre problem that had been plaguing my Inspiron. Summarized, the grub bootloader was setting up memory in some not quite right way which was preventing Linux from properly initializing certain PCI devices. I like the advanced features of grub, so I am now using version 0.90, which seems to work fine. Another work around is to use the --no-mem-option on the kernel configuration line for grub:
kernel --no-mem-option (hd0,0)/vmlinuz root=/dev/hda1
There has been some noise on the XFree86 xpert mailing list about patches to profide composite out on ATI cards which support it. I have not tried the patches because at this time they require recompiling X, and I have no need for composite out, so my motivition is too low for such a large undertaking.
Kelly Bergougnoux reports that TV out works at 1024x768, 800x600, or 640x480 by pressing Fn-F7. This works for me, but after going back to text mode the screen wasn't quite right, and I had to reboot to correct it.