Red Hat Linux 6.2 on Dell Inspiron 5000
(posted: 6/25/2000 - last update: 11/16/2001)

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I purchased my Dell Inspiron 5000 notebook on 5/8/2000 with the following specifications:

Processor: Intel Mobile Pentium III at 500 MHz
Memory: 128 MB
Hard Disk: 18 GB
Display: 14.1-inch XGA 1024x768
Mouse: Touchpad (PS/2 compatible)
Video: 8-MB ATI Rage-Mobility P AGP
Sound: ESS Technology Maestro-2E

The notebook came with Windows 98 SE preinstalled. (This is a great notebook and I would highly recommend it. Perhaps its only limitations are the built-in speakers [I would recommend external speakers for DVD movies], and the built-in winmodem if you require a modem to run under Linux).

I purchased a boxed version of Red Hat Linux 6.2 (I bought the "Deluxe" version mostly for the phone support, but it turns out Red Hat doesn't provide support for installation on notebooks).

My goal was a dual boot installation of Windows 98 and Linux (yes, I'm relatively new to Linux, although I have some prior Unix experience).


Installation worked smoothly (in text mode), graphics and sounds worked out of the box following installation!


As previously reported by others (see the Dell Inspiron entries on the Linux on Laptops page), graphic mode installation did not work. Moreover, all previously reported tricks such as linux vga=2 or linux vga=791 or linux vga=792 failed as well (the screen results are scary!). Text mode installation worked quite smoothly, however. (I used text mem=128M)

Before installing Linux, I partitioned the hard drive with PartitionMagic 5.0. I ended up with the following partition configuration:

FAT32 (C:) 7,286.8 MB primary (PartitionMagic automatically shrunk my Windows 98 partition to this size to ensure that the following Linux partitions would start before the 1024 cylinder boundary)
Linux Ext2 14.8 MB primary (according to the Red Hat manual this should be just under 16 MB)
Extended 5,655.2 MB primary (Partition Magic created it automatically)
Linux Ext2 5,012.9 MB logical (this size is pretty arbitrary, about 800 MB bare minimum)
Linux Swap 132.9 MB logical (to be slightly bigger than the 128 MB RAM)
FAT32 (D:) 509.4 MB logical (My thought was to use this to access Windows files from Linux, so that I'd have a smaller volume to mount. Now, I suppose that doesn't really make a lot of sense.)
Unallocated 4,341.1 MB (I guess if I get really serious about Linux, I'll make its partition that much bigger...)

After this, I started the text installation of Red Hat Linux 6.2 (text mem=128M). Most menu choices are pretty self-explanatory. I chose a KDE workstation installation. I selected to partition manually. On the following screen I entered a /boot mount point for the 14.8 MB partition as, and a / mount point for the 5,012.9 MB partition. I selected "LCD panel 1024x768" from the list of monitors, "2-button mouse (PS/2)" with for the mouse configuration (I checked "Emulate 3 Buttons"), and picked all auto-probed options thereafter (including the Mach64 driver). I opted not to start in X Windows automatically, assuming from all the previous reports that the X server would not work.

The workstation installation automatically configures LILO into the MBR for a dual boot environment. I changed the default boot option to Windows (by editing the /etc/lilo.conf file to read default=dos and then running /sbin/lilo).


This basic installation was successful. At this point, I had Linux running in text mode.

Being too scared to alter the /etc/X11/XF86Config file, I was willing to purchase the commercial "Accelerated X" Server from Xi Graphics. However, I typed startx just out of curiosity to see how it would fail! To my great surprise, I was being presented with a beautiful KDE desktop, which seems to match precisely the 1024x768 pixel screen. I cannot say anything about the graphics speed at this point (supposedly very slow).

Furthermore, sound worked right out of the box as well (with very good volume), despite all previously reported problems with the Maestro sound card.

I have a 3Com Ethernet card (3C589D-TP), which should work without any problem, although I haven't tried it. The built-in winmodem should definitely not work under Linux (however, I haven't tried it either).


After a text mode installation of Red Hat Linux 6.2 using previously configured Linux partitions, I have a working dual-boot Windows/Linux notebook. Graphics and sound worked out of the box.


Hewlett Packard Deskjet 722C printer works without problems. Configuration was straightforward with the printtool command. The driver description contained a note to disable the "Fast text printing" box. I presume this was important. All print jobs tested were immediately successful, including printing text or postscript from the command line (lpr), and using the print menu in StarOffice 5.2.

I ordered the "Creative Labs DE5620 Modem Blaster 56K External Modem", which has been described as "plug-and-play" under several operating systems, including Linux.

The "Modem Blaster" works great under Linux as well as under Windows 98. Installation was trivial in both operating systems. This makes a pretty complete system under Linux.

The 3Com Ethernet card (3C589D-TP) works fine after configuring it with netconf.

Kernel upgrade from 2.2.14-5 to 2.2.16-3 to address a number of security issues. The kernel upgrade was uneventful. No issues so far.

Miscellaneous updates, including to Redhat's up2date updating utility itself (look under both "Security Advisories" as well as "Bug Fixes" on Redhat's website). It works fine now on the command line.
As a general comment, I'm using this Linux box fairly infrequently these days (I'm mostly working on a Unix/Solaris box that's maintained for me at work). You are still welcome to mail me with your questions, of course. Always glad to help. :-)

Several updates and miscellaneous notes as follows:

Kernel upgrade to 2.2.19-6.2.12 (uneventful) and other miscellaneous updates. With my Red Hat update licences long expired, I found the mirror site at (directory: pub/linux/redhat/updates) to work well. I have to note that my maintainance and use of this installation has become very infrequent and that my memory on this is really fading... :-(