Dell Precision M90 and Linux


My conclusion after having set up SUSE Linux 10.1 on this machine is that if you have some experience in setting up Linux on computers, setting up this machine is absolutely boring. Load the DVD, clickety clickety and basically you're ready to start perfecting your setup.

Hardware

OK. I might have overdone it a bit. It's a large machine for a laptop.

Model:Dell Precision M90
42,4 mm x 394 mm x 288 mm
3.81 kg
Processor:Intel Centrino Duo T2600 @ 2.16 GHz
2MB L2 cache
667 MHz FSB
Memory:2 * 1 GB Dual Channel DDR2
Harddisk:Seagate Momentus 7200.1 80GB ST980825AS
DVD-CDRW:Hitachi HL-DT-ST GCC4244 CDRW/DVD
Screen:17 inch 1920 by 1200
Graphics card:nVidia G71 [Quadro FX 2500M]
Audio:Intel 82801G (ICH7 Family) High Definition Audio Controller
Network:Broadcom NetXtreme BCM5752 Gigabit Ethernet PCI Express
Wireless:Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection
Bluetooth:Dell Computer Corp. Wireless 350 Bluetooth
Card reader:O2 Micro, Inc. Oz776 SmartCard Reader
Card reader:Ricoh Co Ltd R5C822 SD/SDIO/MMC/MS/MSPro Host Adapter
Touchpad:SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad

Operating system

After trying to gain some confidence by booting from a Kubuntu Live/Install CD I decided to use SUSE Linux 10.1 on this machine. The Kubuntu Live CD already worked flawlessly, installing SUSE went without a hitch. A bit more configuration is needed than with booting from the Kubuntu CD, especially concerning the resolution of the screen.

Because this machine has an nVidia Graphics card, it was necessary to install the nVidia driver afterwards using tiny-nvidia-installer. This implies that you need to install the kernel sources.

There is one drawback in SUSE Linux 10.1. Novell decided to retrofit a number of installer backends in YaST. This amounts to making software installation with YaST unworkable. The backend integration is immature alas and has - out of the box - a number of bugs. I switched to using smart on the command line to manage software.

Desktop

KDE ofcourse. After setting up smart with the necessary channels I updated it to the latest stable version, KDE 3.5.3 at the time of writing this. If you want to use the Synaptics applet, make sure you deselect the ALPS checkbox.

BIOS updates

For someone that radically erases the installed Windows from his machine, a BIOS update can be hard. Dell provides those in executable form, a DOS program to be exact. However, they did also create the biosdisk utility to let users of Linux perform their BIOS updates. Just download the utility from the Dell support site, install it, download an update executable and install it as a GRUB entry with the biosdisk utility. If you reboot and select the new entry, it will boot into FreeDOS and allows you to run the BIOS update program.

Status

At the time of writing, I tested all hardware with the exception of the card reader hardware. I don't have any cards that fit, so I do not use that particular piece. Everything else works out of the box.


R.F. Pels