Ubuntu Edgy on Latitude D820

With great surprise I found out that my long awaited laptop arrived the next day after Christmas! Of course, for a few days I did not get much sleep and I played with my new toy.

The alternatives

It was a hard choice to find a replacement for the Inspiron 8000, which I used for 5 years with great joy. I was tempted by the new MacBook Pro, but adding the cost for 3 years of warranty, and all taxes in Romania, and Leopard needing a few more months of wait, I chose Dell Latitude D820 with an extra bonus: better screen resolution.

Of course, I wanted to install Ubuntu, as I used it on my old laptop, and it had marveled me with automatic detection of external hdd, digital camera, cdroms, printer and memory sticks.

The old:
Dell Inspiron 8000, 1Ghz Pentium III, 15 inch 1600×1200 display resolution, 512M RAM

The new:
Dell Latitude D820, 2Ghz Core 2 Duo, 15.4 inch 1660×1050 display, 1G RAM, 80G hdd at 7200 rpms, no windows

It was a nice surprise to find out from the local Dell distributor that I could order the laptop without paying the Microsoft tax.

Installing Ubuntu Edgy

I installed Ubuntu Edgy 6.10 in less then an hour and almost everything worked from the start. I had only one great trouble: the wireless connection, but helps to the efforts of other folks, I managed to make it work, and also decided to write this article so that others will install it faster than I did, and use the night for sleep, not work.

Here are some improvements I did after the fresh install:
Gnome display optimizations:
I created 4 workspaces  (right click on the 2 original workspaces in the bottom right corner -> preferences), and added shortcuts for going to each workspace (System -> Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts)
I added a shortcut for terminal (System -> Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts -> Run a terminal)
I installed the printer (System -> Administration -> Printing)
I installed some nice tools with apt-get install: xpad, gqview, acroread, tightvncserver, xtightvncviewer, openvpn, cvs, ssh, inkscape, xpad, mplayer
I created shortcuts on the panel to OpenOffice Org, Skype, Gaim, Xpad

Next, for importing the docs and the settings from my old computer, I used nfs to mount my old home directory. Here is a good example of setting nfs server and client:

Importing files

Here is my todo list for importing stuff:

  • copy the hosts entries (I have a huge list of ip’s that I use every day)
  • copy my .profile file (HISTSIZE, JAVA_HOME, ANT_HOME definitions)
  • export/import my bookmarks, worked fine from 1.5 firefox on my old computer to the new 2.0
  • copy my media files and documents
  • commit to cvs my working projects on my old computer, and check them out on the new comp
  • install java, ant manually (I like to have control of the java version used), and of course remove the default virtual machine (apt-get remove gij libgij-7)
  • install java ide
  • import the email from my old .evolution directory. I imported each directory by hand (Evolution->File->Import->Import single file-> selected file /home/rodica/.evolution/mail/local/Inbox). It took some time, but I did not want to take any chances with copying the .evolution directory as is, as I had different versions of evolution.

Firefox Flash plugin

Here I encountered the first problems: right after copying flashplayer.xpt and  libflashplayer.so  to /usr/lib/firefox/plugins/, firefox started crashing when trying to access some flash enabled sites. And the solution: there is a bug in firefox2.0 at 16 depth, so I edited by hand /etc/X11/xorg.conf to  set DefaultDepth  24. It worked like a charm.

Nvidia driver

I then realized that nv driver was installed, and not the proprietary Nvidia driver, so no 3D acceleration available! I tried to use apt-get install nvidia-glx, but I noticed in time that the 386 kernel was downloading, so I stopped it (I really like that edgy comes by default with 686 SMP, to take full advantage of Core 2 Duo). And I found this nice envy tool on the net, that does the install of Nvidia driver without installing a new kernel:
It worked really nice, thank you Alberto!
For the image freaks, you can try nvidia-settings utility and use this picture to manually calibrate your gamma:

Next: The Mic and Skype.

No apt-get for skype, so I downloaded the static binary from www.skype.com. Of course, the mic was not working: I was aware when I ordered it that this new laptop has one channel for both line and mic. I wonder how many cents did they gain on each laptop for this “feature“, that I find very annoying. And I know for sure from my friends that Inspirons and the smaller, more expensive (and fancier) laptop models have the same stupid problem, and even the mighty MacBook Pro!
After some time sent on the net, I found the wonder solution: Start Applications -> Sound and Video -> Sound Recorder. Then go to Files -> Open Volume Controls -> Options Tab. Set Input Source to Line. Then set it again to Mic. Then test to record something, it’s stupid but it works!

The wireless card

Finally, I arrived to the wireless card, which did not work at all, and I was not seeing eth1 device with ifconfig -a. I have never seen the activity led flashing, and as I never installed Windows, I first thought it was somehow disabled from bios, but it was not the case. I thought it had something to do with the drivers, as I could see the device with lspci:
0c:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection (rev 02)

After some research on the net, i found that there are two approaches for the Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection:
– to use the windows driver, with ndiswrapper (more details at ndiswrapper.sourceforge.net)
– to use the official intel driver ipw3945. I noticed that edgy had already  installed the driver, I could see it with lsmod, so I continued to research on that direction:

lsmod | grep      ipw3945               
ipw3945               124576  0 
ieee80211              35272  1 ipw3945

The project page is: http://ipw3945.sourceforge.net
I downloaded the latest version from there, and only installed by hand the ipw3945d daemon, as the driver is already configured on edgy 6.10.

cp x86/ipw3495d /sbin
cp x86/ipw3495d-start /sbin
cp x86/ipw3495d-stop /sbin

I also installed a nice utility program called NetworkManager:

sudo apt-get install network-manager-gnome

After starting the daemon (/sbin/ipw3495d-start), wireless came to life. I only entered the access password and voila!

I also wrote a small script to make the daemon run as service, installed it and rebooted. Here is the /etc/init.d/ipw3495.sh script that I wrote:

#! /bin/sh -e

# Provides:          ipw3945d
# Author:       Rodica Balasa
set -e


. /lib/lsb/init-functions

test -x $DAEMON || exit 0

case "$1" in
        log_daemon_msg "Starting ipw3945d" 
        start_daemon $DAEMON_START
        log_daemon_msg "Stopping ipw3945d"
        killproc $DAEMON_STOP
    $0 stop
    $0 start
    echo "Usage: /etc/init.d/ipw3945.sh {start|stop|restart|force-reload}"
    exit 1

exit 0

After reboot, the NetworkManager showed up in the panel, and so far wireless works really nice.


Some final  (less objective) considerations: the D820 speed really impressed me, the LCD panel is of good quality, relaxing for the eye and with very fine granulation of pixels.  It would be nice if Firefox 2.0 would be more stable, the Mic properly detected, and the ipw3945d daemon installed from the start. The exterior design is too spartan for my taste, but it has a classical touch (no blue flashing leds, the silver case is not too shinny). The interior is black, so it will keep its clean aspect for some years I hope. The average power consumption is around 25W, 4 times lower than of a light bulb,  and the 9 cell battery lasts for 4 hole hours. I really like this fine machine.

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