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Installing Debian GNU/Linux "Squeeze" on a Dell Inspiron 3500 "D266XT"

Introduction

Dell are a US based global supplier of PC computers. Their Inspiron models are consumer laptops targetted at home users, and sold on their value proposition. My unit was purchased from Dell as a "remanufactured" model while I lived in the USA. It was supplied with Windows 98 (OEM US Edition). When I replaced my home computers in 2005 I installed Debian on it to use as Linux laptop for occasional use in presentations. It is fitted with an after-market ethernet card and has had a RAM upgrade.

General Hardware Specifications of the 3500

Hardware Components Status under Linux Notes
Pentium II 266 MHz Works No special procedure required during installation
337.8 mm 1024x768 TFT display Works No special procedure required during installation
Neomagic NM220 (MagicGraph 256AV) Works No special procedure required during installation
256 MiB SD (66 MHz) RAM Works No special procedure required during installation
3 GB 2.5" PATA Hard Drive Works No special procedure required during installation
Third Party Fast Ethernet: Netgear FA510 Works No special procedure required during installation
1x USB 2.0, PS/2, 9-pin serial and parallel Works No special procedure required during installation
DE-15/D-sub 15 VGA out Works No special procedure required during installation
Neomagic NM3298 (Sound Blaster Compatible Audio) Problematic Apparently can be made to work, not really tried.
48.5 WH Li battery Works No special procedure required during installation
Twin CardBus/PCIMCIA slot Works No special procedure required during installation
8-Speed CD-ROM Works No special procedure required during installation
90mm/3.5" floppy-drive Untested Untested
Winmodem Untested Assumed to be unusable

This laptop is operating under Kernel version 2.6.32-5-686

Basic Installation of Debian GNU/Linux "Squeeze"

  • All my systems at home run Debian GNU/Linux, of which all but this one one run AMD64 versions. My servers and family systems run Debian stable (Squeeze at the time of writing) and my desktop runs Debian testing (currently Wheezy). Originally I installed an earlier Debian stable on the notebook, but later upgraded to take advantage of newer packages in Squeeze.
  • Debian GNU/Linux is freely available from a world wide set of mirrors, for multiple system architectures and in a range of installation media. If you have decent network available at the time of install it's best to use the simple network install CD image and install all other packages on demand over the network. If you are installing without a network, then the DVD images are more complete and allow for a near complete install. All Debian images are designed so that you only need the first disk in the set, to perform the basic install. The disk images can be used to create bootable CD or DVD, bootable USB keys, PXE boot images or as in my case bootable hard disks.
  • Installation was standard from Debian netinstall CD. I did only a minimal install with no GUI. The install is a standard Fluxbox desktop system, mostly with Debian defaults.
  • All hardware works perfectly with the vanilla Debian testing installation except the audio which is notoriously difficul to make work with the onboard chipset.

Setting up Additional Features for Debian

  • Suspend to disk works, using the default Debian install though I only used it to test it.
  • Touch pad works with default X.org configuration, including three-button emulation.

Unresolved Issues

  • No audio - I gave up trying. Apparently commercial OSS drivers can be bought and some ALSA drivers can be made to work.
  • Modem doesn't work - I don't use a modem anymore so this isn't a problem for me.

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