Installing RedHat 6.2 on Dell Inspiron 5000

First, let me say that I benefitted greatly from the links on the Linux on Laptops page especially Linux on Dell Inspiron 5000 and Linux on a Dell Inspiron 3700/7000/7500. I also thank Nicolai Langfeldt (janl@linpro.no, author of above Inspiron 5000 page) for his comments, incorporated below.

Since I expect that most people will be interested mainly in the procedure, I focus first on the procedure I ended up with (optimizing out all my blind alleys) and sprinkle it with short notes and links to other interesting points.

Procedure

I now go over the remaining issues in http://intern.linpro.no/~janl/inspiron-5000.html

Sound: At this point I was able to use the cd player - the volume is quite low. Nicolai tells me I can run a mixer to increase the volume - Thanks. That works.

Also my network pcmcia card seems to work fine. Yes, suspend has problems. The recipe on the above page:
In /etc/sysconfig/apmd PCMCIARESTART="yes"
I'm not sure this is related to apmd. I still find that when I suspend and resume the network is unreachable. Perhaps that's because I don't automatically bring up the network at startup in the first place. (The idea of a laptop is to be able to move, and I imagine that some time I'll not be on a network at all, or be on a different one.) When I resume I have to redo the script I use to start the network connection. Since I imagine that I'll suspend and then move the laptop before resume, this seems not unreasonable.

My biggest problem has been that suspend/resume does not work. Well, it works the first time, but not after that. Originally the second time it did nothing (so the machine was still running when I shut it) and the third time I got a kernel panic. I upgraded kernel from 2.2.14-5.0 to 2.2.16-8 and that at least got rid of the panics. But lots of things still don't work.
2000-10-15: Ok, I've finally returned to this problem. The first thing I noticed was a message at boot complaining that the file /etc/rc.d/init.d/resume did not exist. I don't know who wants to use it, but I created that file. It's a shell script that does nothing (well, dumps a message into a /tmp file). This got rid of the complaint, but then I noticed in /var/log/messages that every 10 seconds (after resume) there was a complaint "Waiting for resume to be finished". This comes from /etc/sysconfig/apm-scripts/suspend, which complains cause the file /var/lock/subsys/resume exists. At this point I ignored the advice at the top of the file to NOT CHANGE it and added "rm $LOCKFILE" after the complaint and the following sleep. I assume this is not the "right" solution, and that something else should be removing that file. (Note, doing the rm inside the resume file I created above is not the solution - that does not work.)
Well, suspend/resume now works. I'll be happy to hear from anyone who understands all this and can tell me how things are really supposed to be. I'd also be interested in how they got messed up to begin with.

I've seen complaints about the touch pad, namely the "tap" feature, where a tap on the pad is interpreted as a click. This is a problem cause you tend to touch the pad while you type, and that can do things like change the window into which you're typing. In fact, it seems that just typing while using the shift key sometimes results in a click. (Has anyone else experienced this?)
The tap feature can be disabled with a program called tpconfig. Unfortunately, this is another thing that does not survive a suspend/resume and the current version cannot be used after a resume. The documentation says a future version will fix this.

I've not yet tried the built in modem.

Slow autorepeat - seems fine to me - about 20/second.
AHA! It's a lot slower after a suspend/resume! About 5/sec.
Yes, it's fixed by adding "kbdrate -r 30" to /etc/sysconfig/apm-scripts/apmcontinue.

Video rot after resume from suspend - yes, this is a problem. It's especially bad when you switch screens. The recipe on the above page seems to solve the problem. In /etc/sysconfig/apmd uncomment the line CHANGEVT="7" - good work!

IrDA - I have not tried this.

Why I chose this machine

I wanted a laptop on which to run linux. I'm not interested in windows. My previous experience lead me to expect to lose about a week to get everything working, even if there were no really big problems. One major consideration was that I wanted to avoid the really big problems, which lead me to look for machines on the Linux on Laptops page (http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/kharker/linux-laptop/) that had already been made to work without tremendous difficulty. I was especially attracted to the inspiron 5000/7500 by the large display in combination with the more or less acceptable price. My configuration ended up around $2600. I noticed a few days later that a better one was then available at lower cost.

Win98 Software licenses

When I exited setup I got the message that windows 98 was starting and got a screen with the title "Software Licenses" saying
 Before using your computer, read all of the software license agreements ...

 If you did not order Dell-installed software for this computer, or if you
 do not accept all the terms of the licenses, please call the customer
 assistance telephone number listed in your system documentation.

 Press any key on the keyboard to indicate that you have read all of the
 software licenses and agree to their terms.
What system doc do they mean? After trying a bunch of numbers from the Reference and Trouble Shooting Guide I ended up at Customer Service and told them that I did not wish to accept these licenses.

They didn't have a good idea of what to do about it but told me that I was not due any refund for windows. I currently have unopened Windows 98, Bookshelf 2000 and Office 2000. They also thought that deleting windows would void my warranty since support would not be able to debug anything without windows. I now believe this is not a problem because the "Dell Inspiron 5000 System Software" CD that came with the machine is a bootable CD which contains diagnostics. It also contains the "phdisk" program that creates suspend-to-disk partitions.

My problem with the text mode disk partitioning

In order to create partitions of types other than native linux I had to go to the menu that selects a partition type. From there I would end up on a [*] related to my (only) physical disk. The space key toggles the * but I never found any way to escape from that selection. I had to reboot. Maybe someone can tell me how to continue from there. Or how I should have known. Or is this just a bug?

Windows key

I notice that in linux before starting X, this key does nasty things. I never hit it intentionally but when I hit it accidentally I find myself at a new login! I now see that hitting this multiple times cycles between different sessions. I seem to have 6 of them. That's good to know if you ever use text mode. This seems to be related to "virtual consoles". You can switch among them with ctl-alt-f1, ctl-alt-f2, etc. Startx seems to use the one on ctl-alt-f7.

Function key

Anyone know what the various function key combinations are supposed to do? Fn-A does a suspend to disk. There's no indication on the keyboard that fn-A does anything at all. What other hidden fn- keys are there? Is there any documentation?

reset button

I've not seen any mention of this in the doc but there's a reset button on the inspiron 5000 - on the right side next to the speaker with a label that looks something like "-v-" - stick a paper clip in and push the little button inside. (I got this tidbit from Dell support.)

Getting back my ctl-meta- keys

This has nothing to do with the Dell machine, just "enlightenment", which is the window manager I get from the default installation of RedHat 6.2. The problem is that I run emacs and find that a bunch of ctl-meta- keys don't work. My local expert, Dave Morse solves the problem:

/usr/share/enlightenment/config/keybindings.cfg has at its end a bunch of C-M-whatevers at the end under the comment that says:

 /* 
 * These keybindings cant be edited because they aren't called "KEYBINDINGS" thus 
 * they also can never be lost or accidentally deleted by users 
 */ 
Comment out all that stuff. It's taking away ctl-alt-{A,B,C,D,O}.

Secondly, C-M-backspace is usually backwards-delete-sexp, but XFree uses it as its emergency reset chord. Open /etc/X11/X86Config and uncomment the "dontzap" line.

Lastly, there are tons of other keys stolen by enlightenment that are "configurable" by the gui tool. Click the toolbox, window-manager, run-configuration-tool-for-enlightenment.


Don Cohen
Last updated 2000/05/04 - one week after the machine arrived