Linux on the Dell Inspiron 700m.

Mar 17, 2016

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Hardware assay:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium-III M, 1.6 GHz, clocked at 3193.03 bogoMIPS

  • Memory: 512MB

  • Chipset: Intel ICH4

  • Video: Intel 855GM. Hardware graphics acceleration works.

  • USB chipsets: UHCI, EHCI, OHCI. Use all in-kernel drivers.

  • Audio: Intel i810. Use in-kernel ALSA drivers.

  • Modem: Intel AC'97 Winmodem. Use SLmodem ebuild.

  • Wireless networking: Intel IPW2200. Use IPW2200 and IEEE 802.11 ebuilds.

  • PCMCIA/Cardbus: Texas Instruments PCI7420 Use in-kernel Yenta driver.

  • Firewire/IEEE 1394: Texas Instruments PCI7x20

  • Mass storage controller: Texas Instruments PCI7420/7620 CardBus/OHCI

  • Ethernet: Broadcom BCM4401/B0

  • Touchpad: Synaptics. Compile in PS/2 driver, event interface.



ACPI
ACPI seems to work very well. I've gotten the LCD panel to power itself down after periods of non-use to conserve power. I've not yet tried suspending to disk because I don't have a dedicated disk partition to try it with. Power management, battery monitoring, and low-power modes all work as expected.

System quirks:

  • From time to time on later version kernels (>=v2.6.10) sometimes the built-in keyboard will get stuck in caps lock mode, no control characters will function, et cetera. This does not affect USB keyboards. While I have not yet been able to eliminate this completely, I have been able to mitigate it somewhat by adding the following to the kernel command line in /boot/grub/grub.conf: i8042.nomux=1 pci=assign-busses

  • UPDATE: This seems all but fixed with kernel v2.6.19.

  • I find that the special Synaptics touchpad drivers are more trouble than they are worth because they not only destabilise my laptop, but they also slow X.org down unacceptibly.

  • UPDATE: After some experimentation, I've found that this problem appears related to the CPU temperature of the Dell 700m. By design, the fan intake for this model of laptop is on the bottom, right where a user's leg would be if it were positioned as intended, i.e., on the user's lap. By making sure that the flow of air to the fan is unrestricted, this problem can be reduced to a one-in-who-knows-how-long problem.

  • The speakers on this unit aren't very good. Get yourself a good pair of external speakers, a good pair of headphones, or a good FM transmitter.



Video quirks:

  • Because this unit has a widescreen flat panel, some video BIOS hackery is required to get an optimal screen resolution of 1280x800. emerge 855resolution

  • I've never gotten the TV-out function to work because I can't figure out the incantation for /etc/X11/xorg.conf. If you do get it to work, please e-mail me.

  • The VGA-out jack works fine so long as the external display is connected before you boot up. Use the key combination Fn+F8 to toggle between the LCD panel and the external display. It even seems to work with VGA projectors.



Gotchas:

  • For CPU throttling to work, you must emerge cpufreqd and compile in all of the CPU governors available in the kernel source tree.

  • Sometimes when you boot up, you'll find that the wireless network card will have shut itself off even though the driver will state otherwise. If this happens, you'll find that the output of iwconfig eth1 will show that the string 'off'. To fix this, log in as the root user and ensure that the sysfs filesystem is mounted. Change to /sys/bus/pci/devices/0000:01:01.0 and cat rf_kill. A value of 0 means that the wireless network card is active; 1 means that the software killswitch is on; >=2 means that the hardware killswitch is active. If you don't see a 0 in there, echo 0 > rf_kill and check the output of iwconfig again. This should fix everything.

  • If you cat the rf_kill pseudofile while tapping Fn+F2, you should see the contents change every time you try to turn the wireless network card on or off.

  • Unlike a lot of 700m users, I haven't tried to use a microphone yet, so I don't know if Dell ever fixed that bug in the sound subsystem.



  • Tricks and tips:

    • To conserve power, unload the IPW2200 driver modules, which will deactivate the wireless network card. Also, turn your screen brightness down a little (key combination: Fn+down arrow)

    • I get more stable results with the vanilla kernel sources and not the Gentoo-maintained kernel sources.

    • If you compile in the i8k driver, you can control the system fans with the i8kfan utility, even though the driver will pretend to throw an error.

    • Keep a close eye on the CPU and mainboard temperatures with a utility like gkrellm. You do NOT want this laptop to overhead and crash, especially if you're compiling.



    Software packages that will make life easier:


    All of these can be installed natively through Portage.

    Kernel .config file: v2.6.19
    Kernel .config file: v2.6.17.13
    /etc/X11/xorg.conf file
    /etc/laptop-mode/laptop-mode.conf
    /etc/cpufreqd.conf