First Impressions of the Dell Vostro 1400

Linux is installed, and it's snowing out. Whee. So far everything has worked so so.

Installing Fedora was a breeze, being familiar with the process. The only difficulties were in keeping Wintendo intact. (Please take politics somewhere else before making comments.) I had to use GParted's LiveCD to resize the NTFS partitions, even though Vista now has the native capability to do so. The hard drive is 160 GBs and Vista only takes up a whopping 12 GB. Despite this, Vista wouldn't let me resize itself smaller than 90 GB. Thus, GParted was needed. The resize went smoothly, and Vista repaired itself afterwards. There was no problem there.

The Fedora installer went without any hiccups. Rebooting into Windows though was scary. Using the option figured out by Anaconda, I got a message from Vista saying "BOOTMGR missing". Fedora booted fine. The strange thing about the configuration of this dell is that there appears to be two copies of Windows. Partition 0 is some 80 MB thing that no one can read. I'm going to explore it later. Partition 1 is Vista. Partition 2 is some other Windows setup I know nothing about. Probably the recovery partition. Finally, Partition 3 is the extended partition holding Linux in all its glory. When I tell grub to boot from Partition 2, and using the command 'makeactive', Vista boots fine. It was a bit unsettled at first, but it fixed itself. The amount of self repair Vista did overall shows that Windows certainly has matured, not that we can't do any better. Finally, there's Dell Mediadirect to test. This results in a lovely BSOD. I will probably break out the repair CD later and see what I can do with that.

Final Score:
  • Vista: OK

  • Fedora: OK

  • Dell Mediadirect: Epic Failure

I commented before that the level of polish between the Dell hardware and Vista software was excellent. This experience was denied to me in Fedora. Suspend was disabled, and Hibernate refused to turn the screen back on. Sound appeared to not work. A quick update of Fedora solved the power management issues. There is still a bit of a disconnect between how the BIOS turns down the screen brightness and how the OS does it. Sound only works through the headphone port. I did a bit of googling, and I found that there are a number of similar problems with the chips and codecs Dell uses with the hda_intel driver. Even their Dell N models were not immune to such problems, although I believe their Ubuntu remixes come with patches for these things. Overall it's a jumbled mess.

I spoke to a colleague today who uses Vostro laptops in his office, and he mentioned there were no problems with sound with any of the laptops, and they run a mixed environment of Fedora, Gentoo, and Debian. He mentioned trying the latest development version of ALSA, which I will probably do at a later point. I am loathe to do so because it puts files outside of /home that aren't managed by yum.

Another sticking point I had to deal with was the usage of the media keys. Fedora defaults to some strange "XF86Play" meme for naming the media keys in the shortcuts control panel. I have yet to meet a laptop who knows what that is supposed to mean. Instead I had to manually set it up, which was simple enough to do. All I had to do was assign keys. Why this can't be done to work for all laptops out of the box, possibly with some quirks system like we have with hal is beyond me.

Compiz (naturally) couldn't be enabled by default. The system has an nVidia card in it, that required certain drivers from a certain non-US source. They installed flawlessly. Kudos to the guys who work on that. After restarted X, using the default Compiz setup from Fedora was sluggish, on the friendly side of painful. It made the system feel a bit gummy all over. I will probably experiment later with Compiz Fusion to see how well it can work on this machine, and if experience serves me correctly, I would say pretty good. Nevertheless, a few keystrokes away, and I had xmonad installed. I'm going to work on getting it packaged for Fedora tonight for once and for all. With xmonad, the system is very snappy.

For what it's worth, the music quality from my headphones is still great.

4 flames:

Jeremy zei

With Fedora 9, the resizing will be nicely integrated :-) And gparted has been on the live CDs all along to allow people to use it, so you could have gone that route. Which version of ntfsprogs was on the gparted livecd, though? I know that versions before 2.0 had some problems with resizing Vista, but ntfsprogs-2.0 should be okay for resizing Vista's NTFS (specifically, around the boot loader stuff you saw)

As for the XF86_ media keys, if you're using a US keyboard, that actually should be what the keys are mapped to. What keysyms were effective instead?

Yankee zei

Fedora LiveCD is good, but the GParted Live CD is alot more lightweight, and just as effective. I was using the latest version, which based on my success I presume had ntfsprogs-2.0 on it.

Mute: 0xa0
Lower Volume: 0xae
Raise Volume: 0xb0
Play/Pause: 0xa2
Stop: 0xa4
Previous track: 0x90
Next track: 0x99

vitaliy zei

Hey body, like my dell vostro 1400 as well... Maybe we should create a fun-club?:)

Current Source zei

I just installed Fedora 9(Beta0 on vostro 1400 from the live cd. Sound does not work out of the box(I don't have time to spend to fix it like I did for Fedora 8. Wireless stopped working after