GNU/Linux on a Dell Inspiron 1525

This document describes how I installed and configured GNU/Linux (64-bit openSUSE 10.3 distribution) on a Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop. You may also be interested in my more recent guide on OpenSUSE 11.3 on a Dell Inspiron 1525.

Technical specifications

The Inspiron 1525 is available in various configurations. My system has the following components:

Component Details
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 (2.40 GHz, 800 MHz FSB, 3 MB L2 cache)
RAM 4096 MB 667 MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM (2×2048)
Hard disk 250 GB 5400 RPM SATA
Display 15.4" TFT widescreen; 1440×900 (WSXGA) resolution
Graphics controller Intel 965 GM
Modem unknown
Ethernet Marvell 88E8040
Wireless LAN Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG
DVD drive TSSTcorp DVD+-RW TS-L632H
Sound Intel 82801H (ICH8 Family) HD Audio Controller
Touchpad AlpsPS/2 ALPS GlidePoint
Integrated camera unknown
Ports IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
4× USB 2.0 
RJ45 (Ethernet) 
RJ11 (modem) 
HDMI 
S-Video 
VGA 
2× headphone 
microphone 
memory card reader 

Summary

Component or featureDetails
Suspend to disk partially working
Suspend to RAM not working
DVD works out of the box
USB works out of the box
Ethernet works with kernel \>=2.6.23
WLAN works with iwlwifi-kmp-default \>=1.2.0_2.6.23.17_ccj64-0.1
FireWire not tested
graphics works out of the box
hard disk works out of the box
modem not tested
sound partially working with alsa-driver \>=20080531
memory card reader not tested
touchpad works out of the box
camera works out of the box

Details

Most components and features work out of the box. Here is a description of some components which required some configuration, or which I have not yet gotten to work.

Ethernet

The Marvell 88E8040 network card was not recognized by the openSUSE 10.3 installer, which uses an older 2.6.22 Linux kernel. To get the network card to work, I used my wireless connection to install a 2.6.23 kernel from the jengelh repository. Here are step-by-step instructions:

  1. Start the YaST Control Center.
  2. Select Software->Software Repositories.
  3. A new window will pop up. Press "Add".
  4. Select the "Specify URL…" radio button, and press "Next".
  5. Fill in the fields as follows: : Repository Name: suser-j.engelh : URL: http://ftp5.gwdg.de/pub/linux/misc/suser-jengelh/SUSE-10.3/

  6. Press "Next".

  7. Press "Finish".
  8. Back at the YaST Control Center, select Software->Software Management.
  9. A new window will pop up. Change the Filter drop-down menu to "Search".
  10. In the Search box, type "kernel-default" and press Enter.
  11. In the search results pane, right-click on the kernel-default package and select "Update". You may get a message indicating that other packages (notably the kernel wireless drivers) will be upgraded as well; this should be fine. If any conflicts are generated, use your best judgment to sort them out.
  12. Press "Accept".
  13. When the upgrade is complete, reboot your system.

WLAN

The variant of the Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network card in the Inspiron 1525 is not supported by the outdated ipw3945 or iwl3945 drivers which come with openSUSE 10.3. However, upgrading to a more recent version of iwl3945 (iwlwifi-kmp-default-1.2.0_2.6.23.17_ccj64-0.1 and iwl3945-ucode-2.14.1.5-13) from the suser-jengelh repository (see above) fixes the problem. Make sure to either uninstall the ipw3945 packages, or configure the wireless card to use the iwl3945 module rather than the ipw3945 module in YaST.

See also:

Sound

There are many variants of the Intel 82801H (ICH8 family) sound card. The one used in my Inspiron 1525 is a STAC9228; it may not be fully supported yet, and I am still trying to get it to work properly.

The version of ALSA which ships with openSUSE 10.3 (1.0.14) does not support the sound card at all; no sound is produced. Upgrading to the 10.0.16 driver did not fix the problem. I downloaded, compiled, and installed a more recent snapshot of alsa-driver (20080531) from http://ftp.kernel.org/pub/linux/kernel/people/tiwai/snapshot/ (formerly ftp://ftp.suse.com/pub/projects/alsa/snapshot/driver/), upon which the sound now basically works, provided that the module is loaded with the option model=3stack. Here are step-by-step instructions:

  1. Download the most recent alsa-driver snapshot from http://ftp.kernel.org/pub/linux/kernel/people/tiwai/snapshot/. The version dated 20080531 works for me.
  2. Untar, compile, and install the snd-hda-intel module as follows: : $ tar xjvf alsa-driver-20080531.tar.bz2 (substitute the name of the file you downloaded) : $ cd alsa-driver : $ ./configure --with-cards=hda-intel : $ make : $ sudo make install

  3. If the driver fails to compile, then try an earlier snapshot. (Not all snapshots are guaranteed to compile.)

  4. As root, add the following line to the file /etc/modprobe.conf.local: : options snd-hda-intel model=3stack

  5. Reboot your machine.

  6. If you don't get any sound yet, or if it is coming out of the left channel only, then run the following command: : $ sudo rcalsasound restart

There are a few minor problems with the sound. For one, the right headphone jack does not produce any output at all, so you will need to use the left jack. Another problem is that whenever the balance slider is moved to the right, the master volume drops proportionally. I have reported this as a Bug 0003987 on the ALSA bugtracking system.

Here are some pages with information on using the 82801H sound card under Linux:

Keyboard

The keyboard includes three volume control buttons, four media control buttons, a "Home" button, and various Fn-key combinations. The volume control buttons do not work out of the box; possibly they send standard key codes which can be mapped with xkb. The other five special buttons I haven't tested yet.

Fn-Up and Fn-Down correctly increase and decrease the LCD brightness, respectively. Fn-F1 correctly suspends to disk. Fn-F3 is presumably meant to suspend to RAM, but this doesn't seem to work. Fn-F8 switches between the local, external, and dual display modes; I haven't tested this.

Touchpad

The touchpad works out of the box, though it needs some configuration. The right edge of the touchpad acts like a vertical scrollwheel. Presumably the bottom edge is supposed to act like a horizontal scrollwheel, but the default mapping seems to instead be Alt-Left and Alt-Right, which causes no end of grief in web browsers. I suppose this can be fixed by tweaking the X.org configuration.

Modem

The modem does not show up in the YaST Hardware Information application, so I assume it is not working out of the box. However, I haven't done any extensive testing.

See also:

Camera

I can't find the built-in webcam in the YaST Hardware Information application, but it is recognized in the boot log and seems to work in applications such as Skype and Kopete. I haven't tested its built-in microphone.

ACPI

Basic ACPI functions such as the battery monitor and turning off the LCD screen seem to work. Suspend to RAM does not work at all. Suspend to disk seems to work some of the time; other times it gets stuck while suspending and I have to power off the machine. I haven't yet tried troubleshooting these problems. Please let me know if you know how to get suspend working properly.

It is possible that the problems with suspend result from a BIOS bug; according to the DellLinuxWiki, BIOS versions A09 and above cause problems with suspend. My laptop came with version A11 preinstalled.