GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source personal

Debian and the girlfriend

Ada with the laptop

We got a new computer for the girlfriend some months ago. Since her old laptop was running Debian Lenny and she loved it, but the software packages were quite outdated, I decided to install Kubuntu 10.10 on her new laptop. Assuming that it would be easier to use with all of Canonical’s and community customizations, handle and detect new hardware drivers better and will have more updated software.

Turns out that she barely used her new laptop, complaining a lot about it. First, she had to get used to the new KDE 4 environment, when she got so used to KDE 3.5 on Debian Lenny, but change is something we all have to face. But the real problems were that hardware was not working properly, the touchpad had no scrolling and since its a single button pad with virtual buttons, the right button click didn’t work. Also, the Dolphin file manager would sometimes not refresh the files on the folders, so she couldn’t see some files that were recently saved. When trying to shutdown it would freeze up or the KDE shutdown menu window would not draw any options. When finally shutting down, it sometimes hanged at the end of the process, thus not turning off the computer.

After about a month of complaints and frustrations, she demanded me to install Debian back. I explained to her my initial decision to go with Kubuntu and that a new version 11.04 was coming out in a few days and that might fix her problems. But her argument was strong: “I need stability, and I don’t like to be on the bleeding edge since I’m not technical, I can’t troubleshoot the issues. Its fine for me to stay with the same stack of software for two years until the next Debian stable release.”

Ada, ballet & GNU

So I went ahead and installed Debian Squeeze on her laptop, expecting a lot of time spent in forums to get her new hardware working, configuring files, compiling drivers, etc. To my great surprise, everything worked out of the box, with very minimum custom configurations. She immediately started installing all her favorite software and was very happy with her new system’s stability and fast responsiveness. Software was (to the time of this writing) decently recent, and very stable so now she has completely ditched her old computer, feeling perfectly comfortable. Although she still misses KDE 3.5, she’s getting used to KDE 4 and customizing it her way.

Oh, and she made it all pink.

GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source

Debian Lenny on Dell XPS m1530

I got a new laptop in February. I wanted to get a Dell because of GNU/Linux compatibility in the hardware, but after seeing my available options at the time, I couldn’t get exactly what I was looking for.

But its a great machine after all. I got a Dell XPS m1530 the model that comes with a Blue-ray reader/writer, 4GB RAM, an nVidia card and a Broadcom wifi chip with a/b/g/n support.

So to get all of my hardware working on Debian Lenny, I had to do the following:

Wireless card

I got a Dell XPS m1530, with broadcom 4328 wifi card. This card is ugly because its Broadcom and you need to install a binary blob to make it work properly. Technically it is a good card and supports a/b/g/n bands.

To make it work you will need to compile the broadcom drivers provided on their website. But before you do that, you need to get these packages: sudo aptitude install module-assistant

Then blacklist ssb module by adding this to the file /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist
blacklist ssb
and update the init file with sudo update-initramfs -u

Graphics card

The graphics card is an Nvidia. You can get it working by using the debian way of installing the driver. Then install nvidia packages:

sudo aptitude install nvidia-glx nvidia-settings nvidia-xconfig

Then generate the Xorg config file with nvidia stuff:

run sudo nvidia-xconfig and restart X (press Ctrl+Backspace).

Suspend to ram

Both suspend to RAM and to disk work perfectly, but first you need to install uswsusp package:
sudo aptitude install uswsusp

and edit /etc/hibernate/ususpend-ram.conf by setting:
USuspendRamForce yes

SD card reader

It also works perfectly but only after adding the proper drivers:
sudo aptitude install libccid pcscd

What didn’t work

  • Multimedia keys
  • What I couldn’t get to work properly was the multimedia keys (volume, play, stop, forward, rewind) Eject works out of the box, but the rest don’t. They all worked when I installed (K)Ubuntu on a separate partition, but for some reason they don’t work on Debian Lenny. I’ve managed to make them work via xmodmap, but after a while of use, the xmodmap settings somehow are “forgotten” and I have to load my xmodmap file every certain amount of time.

    If someone has found a way to make the multimedia keys work, please let me know.

  • Sound through HDMI output
  • Getting video out worked after installing the nVidia driver (actually I didn’t test it before), but I couldn’t find a way to get sound. Not even with the latest nVidia driver.

  • Touchpad two-finger middle clicking
  • For some strange reason, after installing the nVidia driver, tapping with two fingers on the touchpad to do what you do with the middle click button on a mouse stopped working. I haven’t been able to get that functionality back, or enable other touchpad functions like two finger scrolling, that would be very nice, since the edge scrolling on this touchpad is not very sensitive and sometimes you must press very hard for it to respond.

I think that’s it. Other parts I didn’t mention, like the webcam, work out of the box, so I have nothing to say about that.

I really recommend the machine, it has great hardware and its GNU/Linux compatibility is good. You can find useful information on the Debian wiki page for the Dell m1530 too.