Redhat Linux 6.2 on a Dell Inspiron 3800
Suggestions on buying your Dell Inspiron 3800
- Buy it with as little memory as possible (32MB at the time of
this writing). Dell totally rips you off when it comes to memory. I
bought a 128MB stick from Crucial
(affiliated with Micron) for far less then Dell would have charged,
and was surprised when I installed the new memory that the existing
32MB stick was the same Micron memory as the memory from Crucial.
- Don't buy via the educational channel. You get a small discount
via the educational channel, however, since Dell has educational
programs in most states, they have to charge state taxes, and the 8%
CA tax I would have had to pay swamped out any educational discount I
could have received. I priced the same system through both channels
(i.e. education/home use) and buying as a home user was around $200
- Windows tax: I never tried to get a refund for the "required"
windows 98/etc. crap. You may want to check out: linux mall's refund site
I used Redhat 6.2, if anyone has comments for any other distributions,
pipe up, and I'll include them. Whatever distribution you're using,
make sure it has XFree86 version 3.3.6 or above (needed for the
graphic's chipset support), or you'll have to update the X server
Redhat 6.2 (from CD)
There are at least four ways to get sound to work on this laptop (I
expect most people will be going with option 1):
- Put the CD-ROM in the media port. Enter the Dell system setup,
and make sure you're setup to boot of the CD-ROM before the hard drive.
You'll also want to attach the floppy drive through it's parallel
attachment so that you can make a bootable floppy for emergency
purposes at the end of the install.
- I used the text mode installation, as the graphical mode didn't
work for me. I like the text-based install program better anyway
(less things to go wrong). A useful thing to know before you begin,
is that you can access a shell at anytime during the install process
by switching to the second VC (i.e. Alt-F2). The install program is
running on the first console (i.e. Alt-F1).
- Partitioning can be a tricky subject with having multiple OS's
installed on a single computer. Since I stopped using Windows around
version 3.1, I'll just tell you what I did to make a single boot
machine. I also used fdisk, as disk druid doesn't let you do all the
things you might want to do (like setting up the suspend-to-disk
partition). If you want to make a multi-boot machine, try checking
out Bob Carragher's notes on the
- Do you want suspend to disk functionality? If you do, you'll
have to create the appropriate sized partition. According to Dell,
the size of this partition needs to be:
Size of system memory + size of video memory + 1 percent of
size of system memory and video memory + 2 MB rounded up to the next
i.e., for a 256 MB memory system (wishful thinking):
256 MB + 6 MB + 2.62 MB + 2 MB = 266.62 MB ~= 267 MB
you will need to set this partition to type 84 (OS/2 hidden C:). You
will also need to run the mks2d program provided on the Dell utility
CD (this CD is self-booting). The mks2d program should be in
r:\win98\suspend or something like that.
- Setup a swap partition if desired. I'd suggest setting up a 64
MB swap partition. And of course, set this partition to type 82 (Linux
- Use the remaining disk space as your Linux partition (type 83).
- Installing X-windows worked like a charm for me. I set my display as
"lcd panel 1024x768", and everything else was automagically
- Everything else in the install procedure should be "obvious".
- [new] Zach Brown has
coded a free (beer and speech) OSS compatible driver for the ESS
Maestro 3i. This driver is included in the 2.2.19 and 2.4.3 kernels,
so just upgrade your kernel and you'll have native support for this
chipset. I personally use this driver, and it works great, even with
suspends. The sound quality of this driver should be the same as the
4front Technologies driver.
- The ESS Maestro 3i can be run in Sound Blaster Pro compatibility
mode. Be warned, that the sound in compatibility mode is fairly
terrible (8 bit at 22 KHz), and is suggested only the masochistic.
You can either run the Dell supplied ESS files under Windows, and then
use a loadlin method to boot into Linux. The alternative way, figured
out by Peter Englmaier and described
here, uses the Dell supplied ESS files and dosemu. The
alternative method has the advantage of not needing windows and it
still works after waking up from a suspend.
- 4front Technologies
provides a native Linux driver for the ESS Maestro 3i. This is a
non-free product, however a free demo version is supplied which will
run for 20 minutes every time it's loaded up (and can be reloaded
indefinitely). The sound quality from this driver is far better then
that provided by the Sound Blaster Pro compatibility mode.
- [new] ALSA now
includes support for the Maestro 3i through the 'maestro3' ALSA
driver. This appears to be fairly stable, and since ALSA provides OSS
emulation, it should prove much of the same functionality as the
preceeding driver (#3). Graham Steel has a good
page explaining how to get ALSA working on your Inspiron 3800.
Other Things on the Laptop
If you're having problems setting up X, check out Stephen Hsieh's web page
regarding setting up Dell Laptop X servers. James Carter's
Linux/Inspiron 3800 web page is also extremely useful.
Running SuperProbe on my machine results in:
First video: Super-VGA
Chipset: ATI Rage Mobility (Port Probed)
Memory: 8192 Kbytes
RAMDAC: ATI Mach64 integrated 15/16/24/32-bit DAC w/clock
(with 6-bit wide lookup tables (or in 6-bit mode))
(programmable for 6/8-bit wide lookup tables)
Attached graphics coprocessor:
Chipset: ATI Mach64
Memory: 8192 Kbytes
An often report problem is "dancing" vertical lines on the right side
of the screen, which is especially prominant with dark backgrounds.
I've only seen this problem in 24bit/32bit color depths, however
some people have noticed this problem in 8/16 bit color depths also.
There are three ways around this problem.
I ordered a Linksys EtherFast 10/100 Cardbus PC Card (PCMPC200) mainly
because Linksys appears to support Linux to some degree. This card
worked correctly out of the box on a Redhat 6.2 install (after setting
up networking, of course). If you run into problems, check out their
web page, they have some comments on setting up their card to work
Ethernet issues with the Port Replicator Ethernet/PCMCIA Ethernet
Bob Carragher's notes on
getting this to work correctly.
I've heard reports of great success with the "Xircom Realport Cardbus
10/100 + 56k Modem", and the "Linksys EtherFast 10/100 + 56k PC Card".
I still haven't gotten around to buying a modem yet myself, however.
Tuning the Harddrive
You should be getting somewhere around 13 MB/sec transfer rates on
your harddrive. If you want to check this, try the following command
as root on an unloaded system:
/sbin/hdparm -t /dev/hda
You can get some useful info on your harddrive with the following
/sbin/hdparm -i /dev/hda
I had no problem with my harddrive (IBM DJNA-371350 4GB). Peter
Englmaier reported unsatisfactory performance on his machine (hardrive
is a Fujitusu MHK2060AT 6GB), and found the following hdparm settings
would bring his harddrive up to speed (he's using noflushd to spin
down his harddrive).
hdparm -qS0qm16qd1qX67qu1qk1 /dev/hda
To make his system always use these settings, he modified the
following four lines:
- /etc/sysconfig/apmd: (the RESUME line is bogus, the script checks
only for non-zero value).
HDPARM_AT_SUSPEND="-q -X0 -q -c0 -q -d0 -q -u0 -q -S0"
HDPARM_AT_RESUME="-q -X66 -q -c1 -q -d1 -q -u1 -q -S30 -q -m16 -q -k1"
# If HDPARM_AT_RESUME is set, the user has a broken disk.
# We'd better wake it up manually. :/
# ppe: changed the wakeup procedure
if test "x$HDPARM_AT_RESUME" != "x"; then
for i in /proc/ide/hd*; do
DRIVE=/dev/`echo $i |sed -e "s,.*/,,g"`
if test "x`cat $i/media`" = "xdisk"; then
hdparm -q -S0 $DRIVE
- /etc/rc.d/rc.sysinit: (this is only to speed up the fsck)
# Fix console loglevel
/bin/dmesg -n $LOGLEVEL
#ppe: speed up drive
action "Running hdparm" hdparm -qS0qm16qd1qX67qu1qk0 /dev/hda
# Mount /proc (done here so volume labels can work with fsck)
hdparm -qS0qm16qd1qX67qu1qk1 /dev/hda
Other 3800 pages
Andy Loening < firstname.lastname@example.org >
with help from:
Bob Carragher, Ryan Shepperd, Peter Englmaier, J. Joshua Feng, Ryan (from Javien), Graham Steel, etc.
last modified 2001.04.12