Dell Inspiron 6400 and Ubuntu Feisty Fawn

2 minute read

This post records my (pretty positive) experiences installing Ubuntu Feisty Fawn on a Dell Inspiron 6400.

My wife recently bought a Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop. We use Ubuntu 6.10 as our main OS on the home machine, with Win98 and WinXP as alternative boot options for some legacy software that the children use.

My wife is happy with OpenOffice for most things, but she collaborates on a project where they use Powerpoint to deliver educational and training materials for glaucoma. She has found that the OpenOffice presentations will be subtly changed when opened under MS Powerpoint and vice versa. She would really like to have Powerpoint available when necessary.

My plan therefore was to use Ubuntu with VMware running some version of windows which could host MS Office purely for powerpoint. Plan B is to buy crossover office.

Unfortunately, although Dell have announced support for Ubuntu, it is not available in the UK. So when the laptop was delivered with Vista pre-installed I needed to shrink the Vista partition and install Ubuntu. My thinking on this was that I would have a safety net in case the VMware/MS-Office thing didn’t work.

There are a number of tutorials on dual booting Ubuntu and Vista. They rely on using the Vista disk management tool to shrink the Vista partition. However, it is limited in how much it will shrink it by. I was unable to get it to shrink more than around 50%.

The Dell machines come with three partitions - a small utility partition, a 10Gb partition used by the Recovery Environment and an NTFS with Vista.

After shrinking Vista, there was around 37Gb of an 80Gb disk left! Vista will be going if everything else works out OK!

Anyway,once shrunk, I booted off the Feisty Fawn disk, and the install went very smoothly. The screen on the 6400 is a wide screen and so everything was stretched, but I reckoned on fixing that later.

Grub sorted out all the partitions,and installed the necessary boot loader without any interventions from myself. Rebooting the system gave me the normal Ubuntu boot menu with the two linux choices and a Vista boot choice.

Booting into Ubuntu, my first job was to sort out the network card so that I could upgrade the system with recent patches and security updates.

The native driver for the 1390 card (lspci gives:

Broadcom Corporation Dell Wireless 1390 WLAN Mini-PCI Card (rev 01)

Although the OS could see the card, and ‘ifconfig’ showed the MAC address, I couldn’t get it to speak to my wireless AP. I decided to go the ndiswrapper route.

I followed various instructions on the net, which should have extracted the relevant driver from the Dell CDs, but I couldn’t find the appropriate driver. In the end I found a post which showed how to get the driver from an internet site. Stupidly, I didn’t make a note of that!

Then I found I needed the latest ndsiwrapper, so I pickd it up from sourceforge and compiled it.

From then on it was the usual ndsiwrapper procedure, and it worked perfectly.

The graphics card was the next job. To get X to use the whole of the display,…..

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