Linux on the Dell Inspiron 1520

19 February 2008

Linux distribution successfully used: Gentoo Linux 2007.0

Currently running kernel: sys-kernel/vanilla-sources v2.6.24.1

I'll put everything else behind the cut because it'll take up a few pages... Hardware assay

  • CPU: Intel Centrino Duo T7500 running at 2.20GHz x2
  • Memory: 2GB
  • Chipset: Intel ICH8M
  • Video: nVidia GeForce 8400M GS, 256MB video memory on-board. Using the closed-source nVidia drivers from Portage (x11-drivers/nvidia-drivers) with full acceleration. Haven't tried VGA or TV-out yet.
  • SATA: Intel 82801HBM/HEM (ICH8M) chipset, using in-kernel drivers (CONFIG_ATA_PIIX)
  • IDE: Intel 82801HBM/HEM (ICH8M) chipset, using in-kernel drivers (CONFIG_BLK_DEV_PIIX)
  • Ethernet: Broadcom BCM4401-B0, using in-kernel drivers (CONFIG_B44)
  • Wireless networking: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 3945ABG (using the drivers contributed to the kernel tree by Intel (CONFIG_IWL3945))
  • USB: Intel Corporation 82801 UHCI, EHCI, using the in-kernel drivers
  • Sound: Intel ICH8 HD Audio, using the in-kernel drivers
  • Firewire: Ricoh R5C832 IEEE 1394 Controller, using the in-kernel drivers
  • SD card reader: Ricoh R5C843 MMC Host controller, R5C592 Memory Stick Bus Host Adapter, xD-Picture Card Controller using the in-kernel drivers (CONFIG_MMC_BLOCK, CONFIG_MMC_BLOCK_BOUNCE, CONFIG_SDIO_UART, CONFIG_MMC_SDHCI, CONFIG_MMC_RICOH_MMC)
ACPI works as expected. I've not really tried to get suspend to RAM or disk working, but low power modes work as expected. The screen powers itself off when the lid closes, and comes back on when it opens. By defaulting to the conservative CPU throttle, setting the hard drive spindown (in /etc/conf.d/hdparm, sata_all_args="-S24"), and turning down the screen brightness, I can get about four hours of runtime out of a single charge. By turning off the wireless chipset using the physical switch on the chassis I can get about five hours of runtime.


  • Wireless networking: Since v2.6.24 of the Linux kernel, you don't need to use the net-wireless/iwlwifi ebuild to supply the drivers. Un-install them and enable the modules in the kernel source tree. Please note that you will still need Intel's firmware (net-wireless/iwl3945-ucode) for them to work. I find that they work just as well.
  • The NetworkManager subsystem works so long as you completely delete the links for your network interfaces from the /etc/init.d directory. Also, ensure that the /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf file's ctrl_interface line has the value /var/run/wpa_supplicant/wlan0 - this is a glitch in NetworkManager that I've yet to contribute a fix for.
  • v2.6.24 of the Linux kernel also includes the latest stable ALSA sound drivers, so if you have the media-sound/alsa-driver ebuild installed, remove it. Enable the ALSA drivers in the kernel and use the Intel HD sound drivers (CONFIG_SND_HDA_INTEL).
  • I've installed the Synaptics touchpad drivers (x11-drivers/synaptics and gnome-extra/gsynaptics) and turned off everything that annoys me (like tap-dragging along the edges). No problems.
  • One thing that annoys me a little is that a key (usually 'w') will stick every once in a while. I suspect that it's a console driver in the kernel that I really don't need, and will get shaken out soon.
  • If you let the udev service load your drivers at boot-time, chances are it'll mess with your wireless configuration and give you two interfaces, wlan0_rename and wlan0. While not harmful, this will throw any network configuration system into a tizzy. What you want to do is edit the /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist file and add the line blacklist iwl3945 at the very end. Create a file /etc/modules.d/iwl3945 containing only the line options iwl3945 disable_hw_scan=1. As the root user, run the update-modules utility. What this will do is prevent udev from loading the driver module just because it found it and cause an explicit driver load a few seconds later into the boot process, which will make the wlan0 network interface do the right thing. It's confusing and annoying and should be done automagically but it isn't.
Kernel config file: v2.6.24.1 /etc/X11/xorg.conf file

Comments? Questions? Problems? Leave a comment here and I'll answer it as soon as I can.

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This work by The Doctor [412/724/301/703] is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.