Linux on my Dell Latitude 420

I got my new laptop yesterday.  A super light-weight Dell.  It weights only like 3.5 pounds even after upgrading to the 9-hour battery.

My old Sony Vaio was a beast… 10+ pounds, 16.1" screen, awesome high res.  It was great for about 4 years, but recently has started to crash regularly.  Probably due to internal parts deteriorating because of how hot it’s non-mobile CPU and gig of RAM got.  And towards the end it had a battery life of only 15 minutes.

So last night I stayed up until 2:00am tweaking out the new laptop.  When I installed Ubuntu, I used 7.04 Beta (Feisty Fawn) because it had two new things I wanted… a sweet wireless manager and slightly newer versions of common apps (namely OpenOffice and Gaim).  Everything went very smooth and pretty much works.  But before I bravely wiped my Windows XP partition, I couldn’t find any posts about people successfully installing Ubuntu on this laptop.  I can happily say "it works!", and here are my notes on a few of the oddities I had to work through…

– "sudo apt-get install 915resolution" in order to get the 1280×800 resolution working.

– Turn off tap-click on the touchpad so it doesn’t click while you type… In /etc/X11/xorg.conf add this to the Synaptics Touchpad section: Option "SHMConfig" "on" …then log out and back in and install "sudo apt-get install qsynaptics".  Run qsynaptics to adjust the touchpad settings.

– Switch the two mouse inputs so that touchpad is primary and the other IBM-style pointer thingy is secondary so that the standard Gnome mouse speed controls affect the touchpad… In /etc/X11/xorg.conf, comment out this line in the Synaptics Touchpad section: Option "SendCoreEvents" "true".  Also comment out this line in the Configured Mouse section: Option "CorePointer".  Then at the bottom in the ServerLayout section add:  InputDevice "Synaptics Touchpad" "CorePointer".  Log out and back in.

– Now, since Dell didn’t give us a middle mouse button, and I’m always going to use the touchpad buttons, change both upper buttons to a middle click.  In /etc/X11/xorg.conf, in the Configured Mouse section, add: Option "ButtonMapping" "2 2 2"

Fyi, ButtonMapping maps physical buttons to logical buttons.  For a 3 button mouse the first number sets the action for the left button, second for the middle, and third for the right.  So normally the values are "1 2 3".  A left-handed person might set it to "3 2 1".  And above I made them all middle-clicks by using "2 2 2".  It gets more complicated with 5-button mice.

– "sudo apt-get install libpam-keyring" in order to get it to stop prompting me for my wireless network keyring password every time I login.  Then "gksudo gedit /etc/pam.d/gdm" and add "@include common-pamkeyring".  Also need to set the keyring password equal to your root password, and delete your existing default keyring… "rm ~/.gnome2/keyrings/default.keyring"

– Lastly, 7.04 comes with Compiz.  To turn it on, Preferences > Desktop Effects.  But after you turn it on, it sets your workspaces to "1".  So right click on the work spaces and set it to whatever you want.  But then cube-rotate doesn’t work.  Disable Desktop Effects and re-enable it, and it will start working how you’d expect it to work.  But then never open the Desktop Effects preferences again, lol.  If you do, it will revert back to one workspace.  There is an Ubunto 7.04 bug open for this, so it should be fixed before it is released from beta (I’d hope).

Update: one more thing… comment out all of the dhcp lines in /etc/network/interfaces unless you need them.  This will make bootup speed a lot faster.

I think that’s most of what I had to figure out.  Everything else worked out of the box.

8 thoughts on “Linux on my Dell Latitude 420

  1. Jon H.

    How does Compiz run on the integrated video? That was one concern that scared me into getting the thicker model with the nVidia card in it.
    You sold me on 7.04. Upgraded my laptop last night after the lack of a wireless manager in 6.10 totally prevented me from connecting at Kevin’s place.

  2. Bill Boebel

    > Why didn’t you get a macbook (pro)? 🙂 or at least
    > something sexy like a newer vaio, or something with
    > a built-in webcam.
    I looked at both before deciding on the Dell. I was leaning towards the Mac at first, so I used my friend Manny’s Mac a bit a week ago. I just could not stand (1) having no list of open windows anywhere. I kept losing my windows when they were behind something else. And (2) having to get used to windows management buttons (maximize, minimize, close) being in a new spot. I’m sure there are tools that you can use to tweak around that though. The last thing that deterred me from the Mac Book is that the lightest one was still over 5 pounds.
    And I’ve never used a webcam, I rarely use a CD/DVD drive, and I’m not a gamer, so I am willing to give up peripherals in favor of portability.
    As for the Vaio, the comparable laptop cost about $1000 more than this Dell.

  3. Bill Boebel

    Oops, I forgot to list one step in the libpam-keyring process. And I also left out the word “install” on the apt-get lines because I was up too late again last night writing this post. Updated.

  4. Pingback: Ubuntu pre-release updates are good. | Bill Boebel

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