Linux on the Dell XPS m1210
I finally got the new laptop and managed to get Linux running on it. I did have my share of battles with getting Linux working on this Laptop. I wanted to try out Ubuntu badly after hearing such glorious reviews and the whole FOSS community going ooh-ahhh over it. Well sadly, I couldn't get it to install!
Here's how the Ubuntu saga went, I downloaded the ISO from the website, burnt it and booted off the laptop's CD-ROM, it gave the boot-choice-screen and I selected the default installation method. Everything went well till it tried to bring up GDM at which point it stalled and I had to reboot. I tried another time, this time it started X and stalled again. Frustrated I got an old Oct 2004 Debian-testing CD and did a minimal installation. Everything went perfectly. Thank you Debian!
After a dist-upgrade to etch and getting X working using the vesa X.org driver I managed to install most of the packages which I require, GNOME, gVim , Firefox. The kernel, hal and DBUS were installed from debian-unstable as it's better to have the latest versions of these packages. ACPI events were handled very well by the acpid daemonand battery information is available from gnome-power-manager. cpufreqd was setup to control CPU frequency scaling and I even managed to test out the VGA out capability of the laptop. I also got the nvidia driver working from the nvidia.com website.
So, here's a run down of what works and what doesn't on the Dell XPS m1210.
- ACPI - works through acpid
- Bluetooth - works with kde-bluetooth. Debian does not have gnome-bluetooth.
- CPU frequency scaling - works with cpufreqd.
- Nvidia Go 7400 - works with the latest nvidia drivers. I installed them through the nvidia-installer and not the Debian way.
- Touchpad - Debian identified it as a regular mouse. However installing the xserver-xorg-input-synaptics package and using the "synaptics" driver in X.org works fine.
- USB - works , it identified my MS wireless Optical mouse under /dev/input/mice
- Sound - ALSA works with the Intel HD audio driver. Some problem with the volume though, the main volume control seems to be the headphone , haven't poked around much, I'm just glad it works.
- Multimedia Keys - works with lineakd.
- Ricoh Card Reader - Tried with my Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo in a Memory Stick adaptor and it doesn't work. Havent tried with SD or MMC but other m1210 owners have said that SD works with the Ubuntu kernel. The drivers for the Ricoh card reader are available in mainline 2.6.17. If anyone has success with MS Duo please let me know.
- Suspend to * - The system goes to sleep but fails to wake up. Suspend to ram was tested with s2ram.
- Wireless - seems to use the ipw3945 drivers. Haven't poked around much.
Coming back to Ubuntu, I got a Dapper CD from a friend at work and tried to install it on the laptop, this time the gods favoured me and I managed to clear the GDM screen and see the desktop. Clicking on the "Install" icon started the installer and I managed to get to the partition manager. gParted is so better nowdays, it mimicks Partition Manager so well and is a pleasure to use. Resizing existing partitions is a breeze. I allocated around 5 GB for Ubuntu and clicked "Next". This started a "universal progress bar" which seemed to be doing everything.. formatting partitions, copying files etc. Unfortunately it stalled at 43% and I had to give up. Oh! it even managed to screw up my Windows NTFS partition, no problem though, I wasn't going to use it anyway. The only info I could mange to get were some bad I/O messages on the sr0 device (cd-rom). I didn't investigate further. Will try Ubuntu when Eft comes out.
General Info on the m1210It's an excellent laptop as in it allows you to carry around a lot of power for a reasonable price. It looks pedestrian compared to an Apple MacBook or a Sony Vaio SZ but considering the value for money factor the m1210 is better than the SZ. Build quality is rock solid, it feels monolithic with nothing dangling or "squeezable". The LCD is sharp and bright. Controlling the LCD brightness works with the Fn keys in Linux. I have the 9-cell battery and batter life lasted around 5-5.5 hours(without wi-fi) which is pretty good. The keypad has good sturdy full-sized keys. The touchpad seems a bit small but is workable. I use the wireless mouse anyways. the 12.1 screen is readable, I was worried I might have to squint to read text, but it didn't turn out bad at all, the sharpness of the screen is amazing. It reflects everything though so I would say it's going to be tough reading in daylight. All in all a good laptop to have around if you are a semi-frequent traveller.
The Dell XPS m1210 is a great laptopReviewer: Toufeeq Hussain - July 16, 2006
The Dell XPS m1210 is one of the best Core Duo based laptops in the marker. It has solid build quality coupled with some amazing performance features and is fully customizable to the core.