Xubuntu 8.04 on Dell Inspiron 8100

Here are the steps I went through in installing Xubuntu on an old Dell Inspiron 8100. This is not a How-To!

  • Downloaded the CD for Xubuntu 8.04 from the Xubuntu site and burned to a CD.

  • Booted laptop from CD and chose the option for trying Xubuntu without making any changes. Successfully got the Xubuntu desktop, but the wireless card wasn't working.

  • Rebooted laptop with CD in drive and this time chose Install Xubuntu.

  • chose the right language, keyboard, and location for me.

  • On the partitioner options I chose guided, resize windows partition and create a new partition for ubuntu. However, this option failed after a long time of the system working on it, saying something about some write to disk failed. So I clicked the back arrow on the installer dialog until I got back to the beginning of the partitioner and chose to reformat the entire disk.

  • Rest of install finished without any problems. Removed install CD and rebooted into Xubuntu without any problems.

  • The little 'Restricted Drivers' icon was on the top toolbar, and when I clicked on it it said that NVIDIA accelerated graphics driver was available. I am a little scared of NVIDIA drivers on Linux due to some past experiences so I decided to leave this alone for now.

Getting the Netgear WG511 v2 wireless card to work.

  • The wireless card didn't show up under Networking, so I started following the instructions given here:

  • First ran $lshw and saw that my wireless card was apparently detected as
    Product: 88w8335 [Libertas] 802.11b/g Wireless
    vendor: Marvell Technology Group Ltd.
    physical id: 0
    bus info: pci@0000:0d:00.0
    configuration: latency=0

  • According to the web page, if there is no driver listed under configuration that means no driver is loaded, which is what I suspected anyways.

  • Poked around a bit on google, doesn't look like there is a native linux driver for this chipset, so on to plan B.

  • Wireless card is Netgear WG511 v2. Googling this and linux led me to this blog entry:


    Unfortunately the link there to the Windows driver for this card are broken. Looked for the CD for the card and couldn't find it.

  • Went to the NDISwrapper website list of supported chipsets and found an entry for the Marvell chipset and a few entries for the card. Downloaded the drivers from each.

  • Used Synaptic to install ndiswrapper-common ndisgtk and ndiswrapper-utils-1.9

  • Downloaded drivers from here:
    and then used the ndisgtk front end (Applications -> System -> Windows Wireless drivers) to install it. After that iwconfig seemed to show it as wlan0 so I guess it worked.

  • Next went to install WPA supplicant using Synaptic but it was already installed. So I went ahead and followed the instructions here for setting it up:

  • Success! Wireless is working using WPA.

Trying out the NVIDIA restricted driver. I noticed that the backlight was still on when the screen blanked after being idle, which meant that there would be no power savings from screen blanking, so I decided to go ahead and try the restricted NVIDIA driver (Applications -> System -> Hardware Drivers). I checked the NVIDIA box, let it do its stuff downloading and installing the driver, and then rebooted. Thank goodness the new driver worked!

Connecting to NSLU2 network attached storage device

  • Tried a bunch of variations on the mount command with no luck

  • On a hunch, opened up Synaptic and searched on smb and saw that the smbfs package is not installed by default. This packaged is needed in order to read and write from Samba/windows shares. Installed package.

  • Created mount point:
    $mkdir /home/andy/mount_point

  • Then mounted share (which has no password protection on it):
    $sudo mount -t cifs //\ / /home/andy/mountpoint

  • Success! Able to get files from the NSLU2

Transferring Firefox Profile

  • Tried the old way of just copying my Firefox profile from another computer over the profile at /home/andy/.mozilla/firefox/jdkfjld.default but the bookmarks didn't come through

  • Tried deleting everything out of the Firefox profile and copying the old profile into it, and that seems to have worked, though I think there was probably a better way to get the bookmarks in since I think Firefox 3 uses a different system for bookmarks.

Installing MS core fonts and cleaning up font appearance.

  • Used Synaptic to install msttcorefonts. Got a message that I would need to install and configure x-ttcidfont-conf in order to use them in X-windows. However, after I installed msttcorefonts Times New Roman showed up as an option in Firefox for default font, and when I checked Synaptic it showed x-ttcidfont-conf as already installed.

  • Next clean up font rendering. Applications -> Settings -> Settings Manager -> User Interface, check 'Use sub-pixel hinting' and also changed 'Use hinting' setting from Full to Slight.

  • Much better; Fonts look a lot better on Firefox, not as blurry

Remove one panel and move the main panel to the bottom of the screen.

  • Applications -> Settings -> Settings Manager -> Panel, then in Panel Manager select Panel 2 and then click minus sign to remove bottom panel.

  • Move remaining panel to bottom by going into Panel Manager and clicking button for bottom of screen, then select Normal Width instead of full width to make it look more Mac Dock like (but not really)

  • Add icons for open windows to panel by right clicking on panel, then choose add new item then find and select Icon Box.

  • Slim down the Applications button by right clicking itm, choose properties, and then unchecking the box that says show title in button

  • Get a more Mac look by going to Applications -> Settings -> Settings Manager -> Window Manager and then select Agua or Agualemon.


Anonymous said...

Have you had any problems with the optical drive?

Andy said...

I have never tried to use the optical drive on this laptop, so I have no idea whether it works or not.