Friday, January 30, 2009

Slackware on Dell Inspiron 5000e

The other day, the hard drive I'd been waiting for, an 80 gig Samsung 5400 rpm 8MB unit finally arrived! I slapped it in, and replaced the old 5 gig hard disk and decided that the operating system I'm going to use on this is Slackware.

I'm really quite fond of Slack 12.2 and I LOVE how it's performing on the acer laptop. Slack is so rock stable on it, that I've had to do ZERO tweaking/repair for my family since I installed Slack on to it.

I'm going to once again try to walk that fine line between usability and speed in my all my choices due to the limited abilities of the hardware on this laptop.

I'm a tad pressed for time at the moment, but here's a teaser as to the fairly finished project. I'll post what programs I built and am utilizing on this install.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Network card has arrived!

I just received the replacement wireless network card and installed it in a pcmcia port. It's a Belkin F5D7011 wireless g card utilizing a broadcom 4306 chipset.

The 5 gig hard drive currently in this Dell inspiron 5000e has windows XP on it. I know... I know... I'm not a huge windows fan, which is why when the replacement 80 gig hard drive shows up, it's going to have some form of arch or slackware on it. I have XP on the 5 gig drive to ensure that if there are any hardware problems with any of the upgrades I've made to this laptop that tech support can't whine that I'm using an unsupported Operating System. That and I dug out my old Civilization 3 cd's and I've been rather addicted to this series of games for years.

I must say that I've had zero problems with this card and XP detected it out of the box as a dell mini pci card and installed the broadcom drivers automatically. When I install linux on the new hard drive, I'll be using either the b43 module, or ndiswrapper. The STA drivers don't support this card, but I've had good success with b43 and ndiswrapper with my broadcom 4311 chipset on the Acer laptop.

The hard drive is due to arrive on the 29th and I'm excited. It's a Samsung SpinPoint 80GB UDMA/100 5400RPM 8MB unit and I expect performance to be quite an improvement over this 5 GB UDMA/66 4200 RPM 2MB IBM travelstar hard drive.

I'm thinking of using openbox or pekwm with fbpanel, pcmanfm, geany, peazip, and an assortment of lightweight applications to top it off. Goggles music manager looks interesting, and I may try mpd as well.

I'll keep you all posted on how things turn out.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Slowest RMA processing on the face of the Planet

I've been waiting... and waiting... and waiting.... more or less impatiently for my RMA to process. I must say that this is the slowest service I've ever received from an online vendor. I made the initial purchase on the 17th of December, and received the products on the 23rd. All three components ordered were DOA. I received an RMA and sent them back on the 27th. They were not acknowledged as received until January 8th, and I STILL have not received credit for the items to even reorder new parts. It just goes to show you that going with well established and reputable companies is preferable to dealing with online retailers who may have the lowest price... but not the reputation to go with it.

So I got impatient and ordered a 256 meg stick direct from Crucial and I'm playing with an arch linux install on the old 5 gig hard drive. The realtek wireless usb dongle works fine and I have a basic openbox setup with fbpanel and conky working.

Performance-wise, I really can't complain. It's no barn-burner, but it runs firefox with flash and wicd connects on bootup with no issues whatsoever.

I installed sakura for a terminal emulator and it is both lightweight and very functional. Geany works fine as a text editor, and lxappearance sets the gtk themes.

I'll have more to report once I finally receive the stinking rma and some new parts. Here are some screenshots with wicd and volwheel running.

Friday, January 9, 2009

320 megs on a dell inspiron 5000e

As I've stated previously, I'm still waiting for my rma to clear and to order new parts. It seems that this dell laptop is very picky about ram, so I ordered a single 256 meg stick from crucial that claims to work in this system. The laptop can have a maximum of 512, and has 2 slots, but it came with a single 64 meg stick.

Adding the 256 meg stick has worked wonders for the responsiveness of this old laptop. The install of TinyMe (lightweight pclinuxos) went smoothly now that I had enough ram for the livecd to run and for the installer to do it's work.

On the positive side, it picked up the 8 meg mobility m3 (rage128) card and set the native resolution to 1024x768 with 3d enabled. The ess maestro sound card was also autodetected and worked out of the box as well.

As I'm waiting for some other parts to arrive (a 60 gig seagate 5400 rpm 8 meg ide hard drive, and a wpa2 pcmcia wireless network card), I'm stuck with a good old 5 gig hard drive and a usb wireless card.

And here was the first show-stopper. Since TinyMe uses such an old kernel, to get the realtek wireless card to work requires the eeprom and rtl8187 module to be patched... and since this old laptop does not have a wired internet connection, I'm at a bit of an impasse. I suppose I could download the files on another box and place them on my 1 gig usb thumb drive and then transfer them over, but that's a bit of a pain as there is only one usb port on this laptop, so that means swapping the wireless dongle and the thumb drive... but I'll probably just download the kernel source and build a more current kernel myself and include the rtl8187 usb support as all kernels 2.6.23 and later have it... it just needs to be enabled.

The decision to use an older kernel like this seems to be a bad choice in my honest opinion. The 2.6.26 kernel is rock solid and supports MUCH more hardware than the old 2.6.18 series. It also plays nicely with drm modules for older hardware as well.

In fact, a LOT of the software seems very outdated as well... and remember... I'm a long time Slackware user, so I don't HAVE to have bleeding edge software.... but c'mon.... ndiswrapper 1.48? 1.53 has been out FOREVER and it's still not included?

I think I'll only keep this installed long enough to help another user with his troubles with the mach64 driver and pclos, and then I'll wait for the new release of pclos to come out and then I'll modify my own openbox setup on it and see how that is.

I'm sure some users love TinyMe, and I'm trying very hard to like it... but with it's current limitations I'm finding that impossible at the moment. Pclos really needs to get their next release out the door and start progressing again or you'll find many more users moving on to other distros as well.

In fact... I have a freshly burned zenwalk cd calling my name.... hmmm.... =p

Friday, January 2, 2009

Waiting... waiting... waiting....

The joys of waiting for new equipment to arrive to continue adventuring in the world of linux has nearly driven me mad! Well.... perhaps that was a tad overdramatized... The point is that I'm still waiting for my credit, so that I can reorder parts to jumpstart the life of the dell inspiron 5000e laptop.

In the meantime, I've had to do absolutely no maintenance on the acer 3680-2682 laptop running slackware. It's so rock stable that I find it a tad boring to be honest. My main desktop, a core 2 duo @ 2.4 ghz, has been running arch linux and I tinkered a bit with pclinuxos on it as well. I'm waiting for the new pclinuxos release to try it out on my desktop, but it still has not been released.

I'd also like to try out tinyme on the dell after receiving the ram and hard drive upgrades, as the installer hangs with less than 64 megs of ram.

I'll post my openbox setup with pcmanfm and conky to show what I've been working on lately.

Hope you all had a great holiday season!