"->" means separate file (page).
Inspiron is a fine machine suitable for running Linux.
In short, here is how you can install Linux, details follow below.
For Inspiron 7000 check
for better information.
You can buy an Inspiron directly from
- Subscribe to Inspiron mailing list.
- Partition your hard drive.
- Install a newest Linux distribution (e.g. Red Hat 5.1 or newer,
kernel 1.0.34 or newer).
- If PCMCIA is not recognized automatically, configure it manually.
- Set up X-windows.
- In BIOS SETUP change serial and parallel ports settings
from [PnP OS] to [Auto].
- If your kernel does not support power management
(machine crashes or hangs after suspend and resume) then
recompile and install kernel with APM enabled.
- Configure sound for native Crystal sound card support
(BIOS SETUP and /etc/conf.modules).
For Inspiron 7000 hack around or wait for sound support.
There are two Inspiron mailing lists: inspiron-linux and inspiron-general.
To subscribe send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
When sending a question provide
your Inspiron type (number),
and describe what you have done.
Provide any additional potentially helpful information like
BIOS settings etc.
Mailing list history
I have installed
Red Hat 5.0 distribution, from CD-ROM.
Another good distribution is
If you have Slackware, you may find
Joel's Inspiron page useful.
Installation went smoothly, but there were some post-installation problems
which are described below.
was not recognized - even in "expert" installation mode.
Note: This means that one cannot easily install Red Hat over NFS or FTP
using PCMCIA network card.
I had to activate PCMCIA by hand.
I edited /etc/sysconfig/pcmcia:
Then command /etc/rc.d/init.d/pcmcia start
activated PCMCIA correctly.
(One could also reboot.)
Other people added some PCIC and CORE options - see mailing list archives.
You might also want to check /etc/pcmcia/network.opts.
Because of the PCMCIA problem
I had to activate Ethernet networking
through my PCMCIA Ethernet card by hand too
(modem card initialized automatically).
I edited /etc/sysconfig/network:
and created /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0:
Of course you have to substitute your own data
(if you are on real network contact your network administrator,
if you connect to Internet by PPP and have your own mini-network
see PPP HOWTO and IP-Subnetworking mini-HOWTO).
Then command /etc/rc.d/init.d/network start activated networking.
You will also have to edit files
/etc/hosts and /etc/resolv.conf.
The graphics controller in Inspiron 3000 series is
which up till recently was unsupported by
(because NeoMagic refused to release technical specifications).
has ATI 3D Rage Pro controller,
follow the link for more info.
Right now it seems that Inspiron can work with newest standard XFree86.
You can read the information below if you are curious anyway.
One can run in 640x480 with 16 colors using XF86_VGA16 server.
However 16 colors is too little for many programs
(including Red Hat system administration tools),
they complain: can't find a usable depth.
One can also run in 320x200 resolution with 256 colors
using XF86_SVGA server.
To see how to run in 800x600 16 color more go to
Douglas'es Inspiron page
One can try
Jeff Shorey's free X-server for NeoMagic chipset (unaccelerated).
It is supposed to run up to 1024x768 resolution and up to 64K colors.
Recently there were reports on the Inspiron mailing list
of success with 64K colors and 800x600 resolution,
also 1024x855 virtual resolution.
You can also try the free
XBF_NeoMagic X server
from Red Hat.
After installing the rpm you may have to do
cp /etc/X11/XF86Config.neomagic /etc/X11/XF86Config
Also you may have to delete
the Subsection Display through EndSubsection
in order for it to come up in the right mode
(1024x768 at 16 bpp instead of 320x200),
but I heard that this is not necessary as of version 1.1.0.
You might need to do
ln -s /usr/X11R6/bin/XBF_NeoMagic /etc/X11/X
ln -s /usr/X11R6/bin/XBF_NeoMagic /usr/X11R6/bin/X
Many people who wanted to run X-windows at full resolution and colors
"LX Laptop Accelerated-X for Linux"
server for $200 (or now for $150?) from
(formerly known as
(it may be possible to get a student discount),
Linux Mall for $160.
"Minimal" installation is sufficient for running X11 programs.
Remember to select mouse type:
PS/2 on /dev/mouse.
You have to install
patches for Accelerated-X v.4.1.
I installed the following patches:
Only 2, 12 and 21 are NeoMagic specific.
If you cannot find patch 21 on XiG web site,
go directly to
XiG FTP site.
Read the *.txt files for instructions how to install them.
For version 4.1.2 on Inspiron 7000 install patches 1,3,4 (see mailing list).
After installing Accelerated-X you may find several problems.
To see what undesirable changes did installation of Accelerated-X
you can check permissions, owners, MD5 checksum etc. of all files
before and after installation and compare results.
- Some X programs stopped running.
Error message contains text
can't resolve symbol.
This is because Accelerated-X installation overwrote
shared libraries (even though it should not do it
You can cure it by re-installing XFree shared libraries:
rpm -ivh --replacepkgs XFree86-libs-3.3.1-15.i386.rpm
I am afraid that this step can remove some of the acceleration
if any is implemented by means of shared libraries.
- twm window manager is run instead of fvwm.
You can cure it by re-installing xinitrc package
to restore /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.
- oclock and xclock show wrong time.
Re-install package XFree86.
- Some programs complain about colors.
You probably run the X server in 32K or 64K TrueColor mode.
Some programs are written in a broken way.
This problem is not XiG's fault.
Re-configure (using Xsetup) to use 256
I have a script which selects one of two
/etc/Xaccel.ini files before I start X.
Some of the programs affected are:
xboing, xbl, xfishtank.
- Suspend hangs Accelerated-X, see below.
It is hoped that Xi Graphics releases bug fix.
tripwire is a good tool to do this.
On Red Hat Linux you can use the following command
(you can direct the output to a file and later diff the files):
rpm -Va. It takes a few minutes to execute.
It checks only files which belong to packages,
which usually is enough.
I re-installed the following Red Hat packages:
XFree86-libs, XFree86, filesystem, aout-libs, X11R6-contrib,
I could have re-installed more (in particular xdm)
but I got tired of it (and I don't use xdm).
If you run Accelerated-X uninstall program you will find that
it removes many files which belong to other packages.
Don't run Accelerated-X uninstall.
You can find here
instructions from XiG
about how to install Accelerated-X on Red Hat 5.0.
This is especially useful if you want to run xdm.
Possible solution to some of the problems would be
to choose custom installation and install the X server only.
Another way would be to not to install XFree86 at all and install
This could cause some problems with package dependencies though.
You can look at my file
- this is the 1024x768 64K colors TrueColor setup,
to get 256 colors PseudoColor setup remove the line:
Depth = 16;
See also information about running
XFree in 1024x768/16bit mode with BSD
(should be applicable to Linux too).
If your parallel port does not seem to work
(e.g. printtool complains that there is no parallel port)
you can fix it as follows.
Reboot the computer and at the boot screen press F2
to enter the setup screen.
Find parallel port settings in System Devices page
and change it from
[PnP OS] (plug and play operating system) to [Auto].
You should be able to use the printer via
In order to make the serial port work you should make changes
analogous to those for the parallel port.
In BIOS SETUP change serial port settings
from [PnP OS] to [Auto].
You should be able to access the serial port
via /dev/ttyS0 and /dev/cua0.
Note that the modem PCMCIA card
(which is always accessible by symbolic link /dev/modem)
is now at /dev/cua1 and /dev/ttyS1
instead of /dev/cua0 and /dev/ttyS0.
I use the serial port to NFS mount my
Psion 3a palmtop by p3nfs
original site or as Red Hat or Debian packages).
The internal "modem" in Inspiron 7000 is is just a so-called
and therefore it will not work under Linux.
sound did not work.
Inspiron 3000 series has Crystal
CS 4237B Audio controller,
and as the manual says it has
Sound Blaster Pro-compatible voice and music functions.
has ESS Maestro-2 wavetable sound system,
follow the link for more info.
Sound can be enabled by following steps described below,
but there may be still some problems.
I have created the following /etc/conf.modules file:
alias sound cs4232
options -k cs4232 io=0x530 irq=5 dma=1,0
alias midi opl3
options -k opl3 io=0x388
Then I rebooted (e.g. Ctrl-Alt-Del) and pressed F2 to go to
BIOS SETUP menu.
There in System Devices page I have set-up
audio system as follows:
SB I/O address: [220h]
WSS I/O address: [530h]
AdLib I/O address: [388h]
1st DMA channel: [DMA1]
2nd DMA channel: [DMA0]
Then save the setup (press F10) and reboot to Linux.
Note: you can use different settings, see
To verify that the sound works do
cat /usr/share/sndconfig/sample.au > /dev/audio
(the file is found in sndconfig package).
In fact you can 'cat' any file (even executable or text) to
/dev/audio or /dev/dsp - you will
hear noise which sounds somewhat like sound of modem.
Of course you can run some program which makes sound,
like xboing, doom or quake for example.
This is what cat /dev/sndstat gives on my system now:
Kernel: Linux host.subdomain.domain 2.0.32 #1 Wed Nov 19 00:46:45 EST 1997 i586
Config options: 0
0: CS4232 (82C930) (DUPLEX)
0: Yamaha OPL-3
0: System clock
1: CS4232 (82C930)
0: CS4232 (82C930)
These are the relevant boot messages, as reported by dmesg:
ad1848/cs4248 codec driver Copyright (C) by Hannu Savolainen 1993-1996
mpu401.c: I/O port 530 already in use
YM3812 and OPL-3 driver Copyright (C) by Hannu Savolainen, Rob Hooft 1993-1996
As you can see there are still some
Other configurations also seem to work
(i.e. you can hear sound).
If program xgal complains:
xgal.sndsrv: Couldn't open DSP /dev/dsp
then you can change permissions on the device:
chmod o+r /dev/dsp, but this makes your system less secure
since anyone who logs into your machine, even from other continent,
can hear everything you say through the built-in microphone.
I was told that
OSS/Free driver works.
I have not tested it.
It seems to require kernel re-compilation.
I was also told that OSS/Free is basically what is already included with Linux.
There may ba a final solution to the sound problem.
Check those e-mails by Ben Brown and Tudor Hulubei
to learn how to get
native Crystal sound card support.
I am going to post an update when I test it.
There is one more hint about sound configuration.
There is a page about
making OSS/Free work with the CS4237B sound chip.
Original SVGAlib configuration didn't work.
You can use the following
file to use SVGAlib.
However only standard VGA resolutions are available.
No high resolution SVGA modes work due to unsupported NeoMagic
You can test SVGAlib with programs like doom
or quake (with this configuration it runs only up to 360x480).
Originally when I tried to suspend the system, it
crashed and hanged.
It can be fixed by configuring the kernel to enable APM
and re-compiling it.
On Red Hat get package kernel-source.
Read the Kernel HOWTO and README in kernel source directory.
Run make menuconfig or make xconfig.
In section character devices enable APM.
You can check the relevant part of my kernel
Compile, install, configure lilo and reboot.
With this configuration the system will power off
on shutdown or init 0.
Suspend still does not work if Accelerated-X is running
(unless you switch to text mode before suspend e.g. by pressing
keyboard and mouse do not work right after that and one has to press the
If you accidentally suspend in X-windows you may still be able
to avoid pressing power button and having unclean filesystem after that.
Try not to press any keyboard key and shut down the X session
using mouse only (choose exit from menu or close the last application
window - in my case it is xterm called LOGIN).
It may be difficult to do if you are running xdm.
Then you can either restart X or reboot for safety.
After suspend and resume keyboard speed resets to default.
It can be restored using kbdrate, for example to
have the fastest setting you can execute kbdrate -r 30 -d 250.
Hint: If you cannot turn off the power and
you think that you have to take out the battery then
try to hold the power button for 10 seconds.
Updates (info I was told):
The Synaptics touchpad
is seen by software as a PS/2 mouse.
You can configure it in Linux using program
If you want to use external PS/2 mouse you have to have it plugged in
at the boot time or at the time of resuming after suspend.
See how to setup PPP on Red Hat 5.1.
It automatically disables the touchpad.
If you want to switch back to touchpad, disconnect the mouse
and reboot or suspend and resume.
You can also use serial mouse and the touchpad simultaneously,
see the mailing list archives for more information.
This is not Inspiron-specific, but I put it here for convenience.
I have done it differently, without using any Red Hat utilities,
To use an external ZIP drive just do insmod ppa.
It comes up as /dev/zip and can be mounted as a normal filesystem.
Zip Drive Mini-HOWTO.
If you still have trouble read this
e-mail from Paul Feehan.
See how to upgrade memory on the Inspiron.
If you have more than 64 MB of RAM then you need to give kernel
a special option in order for it to be recognized,
You can find instructions and necessary files at
DELL file library.
e.g. if you have 96 MB you would use
You can type it at the boot prompt but it is more convenient to add it to
Request flash.txt for instructions.
You can also find there drivers, diagnostics, utilities, etc.
whether to update BIOS.
Many (all?) of them have been solved by using latest software versions.
Suspend does not work with Accelerated-X
Note: people reported that it works fine
with Red Hat 5.1 (kernel 2.0.34).
Sound still has some problems
Note: people reported that it works fine
with Red Hat 5.1 (kernel 2.0.34).
Keyboard rate resets to default after suspend/resume
Note: people reported that it can be fixed with
A05 flash BIOS upgrade.
SVGAlib works only in standard VGA modes
quake.x11 sometimes causes
my hard disk was divided into 2MB and 1MB DOS FAT16 partitions.
I used FIPS version 1.5c
it can shrink
to shrink DOS partition to 1.5MB and use the rest for Linux
(of course Linux can use the DOS partition too).
I would like to thank the following people:
- Dell Inspiron 3000 M233XT
- 48 MB RAM
- 3 GB HDD IBM-DTCA-23240
- XGA TFT 13 inches 1024x768 LCD display
- ATAPI CD-ROM CDR_U200
- PhoenixBIOS 4.0 Release 6.0 Rev A01, Keyboard BIOS Rev A00
- Modem PCMCIA card (add more details)
- Ethernet PCMCIA card Megahertz CC10B2
- External 3-button PS/2 mouse (Logitech)
- HP Deskjet 310 and HP Deskjet 600 printers
- Linux Red Hat 5.0 loaded with lilo, Accelerated-X v.4.1
- Lian Shen
(lian <AT> lsm.iet.mavt.ethz.ch)
for creating the original Inspiron mailing list.
(druppy <AT> ntsj.com)
for re-creating the new Inspiron mailing list.
- John Bowman
(bowman <AT> math.ualberta.ca)
for fixing the suspend problem and providing PCMCIA info.
- Tomas Pihl
(tomas <AT> pihl.org)
for various info, including suspend.
- Rob Clark
(robert <AT> cstr.ed.ac.uk)
for the sound driver cs4232, /dev/dsp
and other information.
- Sandra Loosemore
(sandra <AT> shore.net)
for PPP, ZIP, XBF and RH PCMCIA installation info.
- Ryan Faussett
(ryan <AT> onysd.wednet.edu)
for information on how to set-up XBF_NeoMagic in the right mode.
- Roy S. Moore
(lizard <AT> texas.net)
for the sound information related to OSS/Free.
- Bruce Cohen
(bic <AT> lick.pvt.k12.ca.us)
for improvement suggestions
(Xaccel.ini, /dev/lp1, mouse)
- Vipool Rathod
(vip <AT> dao.gsfc.nasa.gov)
for 3c575 3Com 10/100 BaseT card information.
- Steve Hsieh
(steveh <AT> eecs.umich.edu)
for corrections about DVD and 10/100T cardbus.
- People on the Inspiron mailing list for sharing their experiences.
- Linux community for making Linux what it is now.
- 2003/10/18 Removed local email archives.
- 2002/01/05 Added
XFree in 1024x768/16bit mode with BSD.
- 2001/03/04 Added link to
OSS/Free on CS4237B.
- 2000/01/13 added more sound hints
- 1999/10/13 mailing lists moved to thot.net.
- 1999/06/02 added tpconfig
- 1999/03/14 updated mailing list section
to reflect list split,
added standard neomagic support in XFree86
- 1999/02/08 added
changing nts.ml.org to ntsj.com
- 1999/02/02 added
APM with 2.2 kernels,
Simon's Inspiron 3200 page
- 1999/01/13 added
more Zip dive hints (updated 1999/01/20)
- 1998/12/05 added
Monolith shutdown effect on mailing list
- 1998/10/22 added
Inspiron 7000 page ,
ATI 3D Rage Pro ,
removed DVD problem, Dell's 10/100T Cardbus
- 1998/10/06 added
Dell's 10/100T Cardbus,
Linux Mall ,
patches for AccelX 4.1.2
- 1998/10/05 added
impossible CD installation using DVD drive,
avoiding crash after suspend in X ,
internal winmodem in 7000
- 1998/09/02 added
XBF symlink ,
large memory ,
fix manual network restart ,
newest 3Com 575 trouble
- 1998/08/10 added
Red Hat kernel compilation problem
- 1998/08/04 added
ZIP drive and
- 1998/08/04 added
fix to keyboard rate after suspend and
- 1998/07/27 added
keyboard rate after suspend ,
- 1998/06/22 added
Crystal native souncard support
- 1998/06/18 added
- 1998/06/16 added
XBF_NeoMagic X server
(updated 1998/07/01, 198/07/27)
- 1998/05/29 added memory upgrade
- 1998/05/20 added external mouse
- 1998/05/17 added Jeff Shorey's free X-server
- 1998/05/13 added instructions from XiG
- 1998/05/11 added new mailing list
- 1998/05/08 added
suspend fix ,
installation over PCMCIA and
mailing list closure
- 1998/04/19 added fix to the susped problem
- 1998/04/06 added serial port
- 1998/04/03 added related links
- 1998/03/31 added 3c575
- 1998/03/28 added
- 1998/03/27 added Xaccel.ini
- 1998/03/26 added
IP number references
- 1998/03/16 added cs4232 (sound)
- 1998/03/16 added sound (first try)
- 1998/03/15 first version