Linux and XFree86 on Dell Inspiron 2600

Main content: 2002-09-20


Comment added 2003-02-03:
A More recent Inspiron 2600 install using Red Hat has been done by Jonathan Lee, you may read his information here.

Comment added 2003-02-28:
I've gotten a couple of e-mails with helpful tips regarding Linux and the Inspiron 2600, so I am posting them here for others to know, I have not tried them myself (yet), as my system is working as I set it up to begin with and I have a busy schedule and can't afford downtime right now :)
Jonathan Lee (Canada) notified me that the direct rendering issue is more likely a kernel problem rather than X, the built in support for DRI/DRM with i830 (i830.o as module) in kernel 2.4.20 is broken or buggy/flawed, even 2.4.21-pre4-ac4 is not fixed. You can build this module from the Xfree86 4.2.0 sources, something like:

  cd /usr/src/XFree86-4.2.0/xc/programs/Xserver/hw/xfree86/os-support/linux/drm/kernel
  make -f Makefile.linux
Nils Valentin (Japan) notified me that there is a new BIOS release, A07, available that solves the 1MB video-ram limitation. You can download this file from the BIOS area at Dell's FTP server.


This is not a complete set of instructions of how to do it, this is how I did it on my newly bought laptop (notebook) with a base installation of Debian Woody. This information will most likely be obsolete by the time XFree86 version 4.2.2 or newer has been released.

I am not a "good linux hacker", and especially when it comes to the X window system I am a newbie, so some of the things I did may be quite foolish. Since I am using Debian Stable, I don't like to be creating stuff on my own that makes package usage difficult, I even tried the X-dev stuff from http://people.debian.org/~branden/ as of Sept. 7 (4.2.1, I386), but using that package source (apt) corrupted other things on my system, probably because I use woody and not sid and had to hack in sid's glibc6 and other things. I have the 15" LCD version, I don't know if that would make any difference compared to the 14". This approach will overcome the video card legacy memory size and allow you 1024x768 in 24bit colors.

Here is what I did to my system today to make this work, it came with Bill Gates XP amateur (home) edition installed on a fulldisk (18) GB partition.

2002-09-20 (Well, I started yesterday but completed that today):

And that was it, it work for me.. DRI (Direct Rendering) does not work, so trying to start Tuxracer gives really slow going game. According to some information at http://www.xfree86.org/~dawes/845driver.html there has been some changes done to XFree86 that will implement a better solution than this patch I used here and also include direct rendering, I will probably try that sometime soon, or maybe just wait until 4.2.2 is released.

Another couple of things worth mentioning is that the soundcard works fine with the i810/ac97 driver, and the network card works with the 3c59x driver. 3com has released source for a specific 3c9xx driver, I didn't even bother trying it.

Good Luck :)

PS! Instead of asking me about some X-specifics and such, you will probably have better luck at one of the newsgroups, as I am only the guy that "got it to work" wihout really understanding it all.

Jon Thomas "Stoker" Stokkeland


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