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Linux on a Dell Dimension 5150 - Nick [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Linux on a Dell Dimension 5150 [Oct. 20th, 2005|05:29 pm]
At the moment, we get all our office workstations from Dell. We ring up our friendly account manager, tell him what sort of specs we're after, anything special etc. A little while later, he suggests the machine currently on offer which best matches the requirements, for the cheapest price. After a bit of badgering over price, we order.

Normally, this results in us getting a fairly boring Dimension or Optiplex that runs Linux or Windows without problem. However, I think this time there was some sort of fancy offer on, because we got a Dimension 5150. This has a swanky apple style white case, and very very new Intel chipsets powering it. Swanky and new, however, isn't always as good as boring old when it comes to getting linux on.

The Ubuntu Hoary installer cd booted just fine, but couldn't find the network card. I installed anyway, and booted it up. lspci reported the network card was "Ethernet controller: Intel Corp.: Unknown device 27dc (rev 01)", and a bit of googling showed that was a "Intel 82801G (ICH7 Family) LAN Controller".

It seems that this is an Intel 10/100 integrated network card. It is supported by the e100 driver, but only the latest release, 3.4.14, and not by the older version in the Ubuntu kernel. So, I headed over to the Intel Site and grabbed the latest e100 driver sources. After installing the kernel headers (luckily on the ubuntu cd), I was able to compile them. I then had networking.

(Incidently, "modinfo e100" on the new driver reports the intel version number, but on the ubuntu one only reports the kernel version. So, you need to remove the module, then install it with "insmod e100.ko debug=16" and check dmesg to see what version you actually have)

Update: The Ubuntu Dapper install cd finds the network card just fine, so you shouldn't need to compile your own e100 driver with dapper.

With networking going, the only other problem was the display. It had a ATI Radeon X300, which isn't supported by the free ati Xorg driver. The Ubuntu fglrx driver was too old too, and tended to lock up the machine when I tried to use it. So, I had to head over to the ATI website and grab the latest driver (6_8_0-8.16.20-1). After chucking that through alien, and ignoring the clashes with the older fglrx driver (that's going to bite me later...), I had it up and working.

Hopefully in 6 months time, the drivers that ship as standard with Ubuntu will be new enough that it'll work on the Dimension 5150 without issue. For now though, you just have to shoe-horn some newer ones in, then everything works just fine :)