Fedora Core 2 Linux on a Dell Inspiron 4150 Laptop

This page contains some tips to get Fedora Core 2 Linux working on a Dell Inspiron 4150 laptop. It's not a tutorial; I assume you have the basic idea of how to install Fedora. Rather, I just highlight some of the potential trouble spots (in particular, the places I had trouble!)

I wrote this in the first person, showing what I did. Please do not take any of this as definitive! There were many diversions I'm leaving out. But I have left some older RedHat and Fedora versions, RedHat 7.3, RedHat 8.0, RedHat 9 and Fedora Core 1, for your amusement.

  1. Using the pre-installed Windows XP, "printed" system information onto a "generic printer" via "print to file" and saved the output on another machine. I haven't needed it yet!

  2. I ordered mine with minimal RAM (128M) and installed a 512MB SODIMM from oempcworld.com, part 512M-SO2100. I just used their web memory configurator and got this chip. It seems to work flawlessly. In the past I've also had very good luck buying memory from Crucial, but they didn't have the 512M part when I was looking.

    It's tough to install RAM in that tiny memory compartment; I got it stuck the first time by not pushing it hard enough into the slot. If you are at all nervous about taking apart your expensive and fragile laptop, consider ordering yours from Dell with all the RAM you want (and paying Dell's premium) or having a pro install your 3rd-party RAM.

    In case anybody cares, here are the RAM chip details.

  3. Unfortunately I occasionally need Windows XP. So I re-installed windows xp from scratch on a new 10G FAT partition, leaving 28G or so for Linux. There was a small FAT partition in front of the old Win XP partition that I left alone. I think that's a hack Dell uses to store windows boot stuff, but I just ignore it. Using FAT for my Win XP partition allows me to use fips if I ever want to repartition, and gives me read/write access to the filesystem from Linux. (Though I understand NTFS support for Linux is now pretty good.) Reinstalling XP, rather than trying to preserve the factory installation, meant I wouldn't need PartitionMagic and saved me from a bunch of shovelware.

  4. Flashed the latest BIOS, which you can download from Dell. I'm using flash BIOS version A06, which solved clock drift and APM problems with an earlier RedHat release.

  5. Ftp'd the iso CD images of Fedora Core 2 (tettnang), burned them, and booted the laptop from disk 1. (By hitting F12 during the memory check, you can tell it to boot from CD just this once without changing the BIOS setup. This is a trivial, but really nice, BIOS feature I haven't seen before.)

  6. This time I did a CD install; previously I've also used linux askmethod which allowed me to select an NFS boot (it autodetected the mini-PCI ethernet card). The install did not detect the monitor, but gave me the option of selecting the manufacturer, Dell, and then selecting "1400x1050 laptop display", with "millions of colors". (Mine is the SXGA+ model, YMMV.) I chose the "custom" installation rather than one of the standard package collections. You have to be careful here. You'll see a lot of packages checked but the checks do not mean everything in those packages will be installed! You have to click details on each package to make sure you get what you want. I was lazy and the disk is big so I just said, "everything". But this is a matter of personal choice.

  7. At this point, I had a functioning linux system, with X humming along just fine. As of Fedora 2, they use the X.Org version of X, not XFree86. I have not had to touch the config files.

  8. They broke the wireless install, at least for my "Dell TrueMobile 1150" wireless card. To see whether you have this card as opposed to the newer "Dell TrueMobile 1180" card, try the following:

    % cardctl ident|grep TrueMobile
      product info: "Dell", "TrueMobile 1150 Series PC Card", "Version 01.01", ""

    Anyway, the Anaconda installer detected both eth0, the wired Ethernet card, and eth1, the wireless card. But it detected both as Ethernet even though eth1 should be Wireless. I do not like the Red Hat network config tool (particularly all the duplicate versions of ifcfg-eth* files) and also the fact that it seems not to understand the difference between Ethernet and Wireless either) so I edited /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth1 by hand. It now looks something like this:


    At this point I was still getting PCMCIA errors when I tried to bring up eth1. So I groveled around the net for awhile and eventually found RedHat bug 121742. Read it if you are interested, but the workaround I chose is simple: Just comment out the line

    alias eth1 orinoco_cs
    from /etc/modprobe.conf (this file gets created automatically during the install). My /etc/modprobe.conf now looks like this:
    alias eth0 3c59x
    ###alias eth1 orinoco_cs
    alias snd-card-0 snd-intel8x0
    install snd-intel8x0 /sbin/modprobe --ignore-install snd-intel8x0 && /usr/sbin/alsactl restore >/dev/null 2>&1 || :
    remove snd-intel8x0 { /usr/sbin/alsactl store >/dev/null 2>&1 || : ; }; /sbin/modprobe -r --ignore-remove snd-intel8x0
    alias usb-controller uhci-hcd
    Another bug report with some useful information is bug 116367.

  9. I have the optional DVD/CD-RW drive. The Fedora install created a functional /etc/cdrecord.conf. It may be a good idea to have the drive attached when doing the install even if you are not doing the install from CD.

  10. By default, Fedora Core 2 uses ACPI, not APM. I guess this is supposed to be an improvement, and it does seem that the bottom doesn't get as hot as it used to. But now I don't know how to get it to suspend. Closing the cover seems to turn off the display; you have to hit Fn-F8 to get the display back on.

    You can force the kernel to use APM by putting apm=on acpi=off on the relevant line in /etc/grub.conf.

    There's a BIOS setting on the power management page for "Smart CPU Mode" which comes with a warning: "When this option is set to DISABLED, the CPU runs at maximum speed and may affect thermal control and battery performance." I discovered that you should take this warning seriously, at least as far as heat goes. My advice is to leave it enabled.

  11. This has nothing to do with this particular machine, but whenever I ran up2date it refused to update the kernel-doc package. My solution, from bradthemad in fedoraforum.org, was to temporarily set exactarch=0 in /etc/yum.conf and then run

    yum update kernel-doc

Cool Stuff

Flexible bay

I never saw it documented, but the bay that usually holds the floppy or DVD/CDRW can also hold a second battery. This brings my battery life to something like six hours. Too bad I no longer routinely fly coast-to-coast!

I'd love to know the rules about when I can swap stuff in that bay.


Last modified: 2004-07-17

Jon Dreyer