Wrestling with Dell Precision laptop. You too? Discuss tips & experience
If you have one of these new-ish Dell laptops, maybe we can help each other.
I've got a new Dell Precision M4600 laptop. In the Dell web pages,
there was indication that they had RedHat running on these things, so
I figured it was safe to order. Now I'm told it was a mistake in
their web pages (e.g.
Maybe you are like me, trying to install Debian Linux. The laptop can
"mostly work", except suspend to ram and the fancy touchpad features.
Since some of this success has been hard fought, I'd like to share to
other users and learn from others as well.
1. Don't bother with Debian Squeeze. The newer kernel from
testing/Wheezy is necessary in order to get the ethernet card working,
and it is also necessary to compile the Nvidia driver from the testing
distribution if you want to use your video. I tried using Squeeze as
the base but there were too many hitches, so I ended up stepping all
the way to testing. The newer kernel appears to be necessary to use
either the wireless ( Intel Corporation Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 ) or
the wire (Intel Corporation 82579LM Gigabit Network Connection ).
2. The kernel boot option "reboot=bios" is necessary. Otherwise, the
system cannot shut down or reboot.
Don't insert "reboot=bios" manually into /boot/grub/grub.cfg, the
system will erase the changes when you update the kernel.
Instead, edit /etc/default/grub, mine looks like this:
# If you change this file, run 'update-grub' afterwards to update
GRUB_DISTRIBUTOR=`lsb_release -i -s 2> /dev/null || echo Debian`
Now here are the things where I need help.
1. The touchpad "sorta" works. The system sees it as a PS/2 mouse,
and so you can point and click with it, but none of the synaptics
multitouch features work. I am tracking many bug reports from other
users on this. The touchpad is a thing Dell calls the "Multitouch"
and they say it is manufactured by a firm in Taiwan. I think in the
end it will be made to work as ALPS. I've patched the kernel driver
psmouse.ko and am able to get system to recognize the touchpad, but am
not able to get touchpad to respond to synclient. I've worked on this
quite a bit, and the web references seem to disagree about whether we
need a fix in the kernel module psmouse or a better program in user
space to interact with a touchpad.
Here are some links, in case you are wondering. This is an
ever-present problem, affecting all distributions.
Kernel Bug 28092 – Dell E4310 Touchpad not recognized by synaptics kernel driver
[Bug 773165] [NEW] Touchpad is recognized as PS/2 and ALPSsimultaneously
Bug 590880 – Trackpad on Dell Inspiron E6410 not recognized
Bug 318567 – ALPS touchpad in Dell Latitude E6510 not recognized by
Recognize ALPS Touchpad on Dell E6510 in Ubuntu
Bug #380126 in xserver-xorg-input-synaptics (Ubuntu): “[Karmic]
Touchpad not recognised correctly, synaptics driver not in use”
2. The keyboard is weird. Compared to previous laptops I've had, it is
almost awful. Because the screen is so wide, they decided to add a
full numeric keypad on the right, so now the touchpad is pushed far to
the left. Its quite uncomfortable for me to use this. Anyway, the
config of the keys is not recognized by any of the standard
configurations, so the page up and page down keys in the numeric
keypad do not work in most programs, and editors like "vi" go crazy
when you try to use the up arrow or down arrow keys in insert mode. An
Up arrow or Down arrow in vi prints out the letters "A" and "B" at the
start of the line. Lots of programs just ignore those keys.
If you have ideas about keyboard configuration, please speak up.
3. Wakeup from Suspend to RAM does not work. This appears to be a
deep-down problem in the kernel's support for Sandy Bridge
architecture. But after that gets fixed, there will probably be some
Nvidia driver problem too. It seems like there usually is.
Paul E. Johnson
Professor, Political Science
1541 Lilac Lane, Room 504
University of Kansas