Ubuntu Lucid Lynx (10.04) on a Dell E6510 Laptop

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Contents

Introduction

In July 2010 I got a Dell Latitude E6510 laptop, and put Ubuntu Lucid Lynx (10.04) on it. It's a really great laptop, but getting everything working has proved to be a lot harder than I imagined, a bit like being back in the bad old days of Linux.

So, this page is to document what I've found out so far, what I've still got to do, what works, and what doesn't. I'll try to keep it up to date as I find solutions to the last remaining issues.

Last updated: 20 November 2010

Things that Worked

Some things worked just fine without minimal or no intervention on my part. These included:

  • Webcam
  • Speakers
  • Bluetooth
  • Mute and volume control buttons

Video - NVIDIA NVS-3100M

I went for the NVIDIA NVS-3100M video with the 1920 x 1080 screen. Getting this video card working has been a big problem, and it took a few months to get it completely solved.

Installation

The problems start straight out of the box. When booting from the CD, you have to:

  • Hold down F12 to get the BIOS alternative boot menu, and choose CD
  • Press F6 on boot, and select acpi=off noapic nolapic nodmraid nomodeset. Note: it's possible that not all of these are required, although just nomodeset on its own led to a hang for me.

This gets the video going in 800x600, which is enough to both complete the install and inspire you to get the video working properly.

Nouveau Driver

As of kernel 2.6.32-23 this video card doesn't work with the open source Nouveau driver - there's a new opcode in the card that the driver knows nothing about. It might be fixed in the 2.6.35 kernel - ` see this thread for details <https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/556872>`_.

I gave up trying with Nouveau and went to the proprietary driver (which at least works...).

Proprietary Driver

I'm currently using the NVIDIA proprietary driver provided with Lucid (see details below). As of kernet 2.6.32-25 this works reliably (I run at 1920x1080).

Prior to 2.6.32-25 it could take anything up to 6 attempts to get the machine to boot properly - often it just ended up at a blank screen with a flashing cursor. See this bug report. If you haven't come across it before, the trick to restart the machine when it's hung like this is to hold the power button down until the laptop switches off (about 10 seconds). Solution - make sure you're using at least 2.6.32-25.

To get the proprietary driver working I had to:

  • Use the System | Administration | Hardware Drivers menu item to install the driver
    • Note: I also tried the drivers directly from NVIDIA, which are a significantly later version than those provided with Lucid, but I didn't see any difference with them. Also, they're more painful to use, because you have to re-install them after each kernel upgrade (there are PPA's around that fix this, but I didn't try them)
  • Remove the installed nouveau drivers: sudo apt-get --purge remove xserver-xorg-video-nouveau
  • Added blacklist nouveau to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf.

Note: I don't know if both the latter steps are necessary.

See this thread for further information.

Touchpad

By default, the touchpad is detected as a PS2 mouse, so the touchpad driver isn't loaded - this means that you can't disable the oh-so-annoying 'tap to click' behaviour, and also that scrolling doesn't work.

Rezwanul Kabir has developed a patch to allow the touchpad to be recognised, and a few other people in the community have contributed as well. See https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/550625 - I posted a 32-bit version of the replacement driver for 2.6.32-24, and someone else has posted a 64-bit version. This is incomplete - horizontal scrolling doesn't work, and no configuration is possible under System/Preferences, but it disables tap-to-click and tap-top-right-corner as a right click, and vertical scrolling works. Thank god, because I was being driven wild by the cursor jumping around when ever I so much as looked at the touchpad!

This issue is still a mess (as of 2 October) - the 'official' patch doesn't disable tap-to-click, and the standard touchpad configuration isn't available for you to disable it yourself. Every time there's a kernel upgrade you need to copy your patched psmouse.ko in again, and for me this broke when a version of 2.6.32-25 was installed, so I'm still trying to rebuild with my patch. Not happy...

Microphone

The built-in microphone didn't work, but plugging a headset into the microphone jack did.

This post provided the answer - adding options snd-hda-intel model=dell-s14 at the end of /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf and rebooting made the built-in microphone works perfectly.

Function Buttons

I haven't tried much to get the function buttons working. Here's what I know about so far:

  • Screen dimmer (on arrow keys) - works
  • Num lock (F4) and numeric keypad (on right of keyboard) - numeric keys work if numlock is on and Fn key is held down (I'm not sure if this is how it's supposed to work)
  • External monitor (F8) - doesn't work
  • Suspend (F1) - works.

Suspend/Resume

I haven't played with this much, since resume sometimes seems to have the same failure problems as starting up with the NVIDIA drivers. But by and large, suspend/resume works OK both by closing the lid and pressing the suspend function key.

Wireless

The machine has the basic Intel wireless support, and this initially seemed to work out of the box. It's using the iwlagn driver, according to sudo lshw -C network.

However, once I got a new router (Billion 7800N), I found that the driver would periodically crash and restart, sometimes re-establishing the IP connection and sometimes not. This seems to be tied to WPA2 security. The message I got was:

Microcode SW error detected.  Restarting 0x2000000.

After a lot of googling, I eventually found that Intel has released a new version of the microcode that fixes this - find it at the Intel wireless download site.

Other Information

These are some other web pages that I found at least passingly useful along the way: