Laptop and Linux: the fixes for a Dell Precision M4300

The Ubuntu Live CD worked straight away for the laptop: I was able to boot into a temporary copy of Linux using the VESA display drivers, and test sound, CD and other peripherals (obviously) and wired networking. However, optimising the system wasn’t so easy, and as I say Nick practically installed Ubuntu for me, fixing all that he could.

Below is a list of the main fixes and workarounds that Nick employed, for my reference as much as anything else.


Gusty Gibbon kernel, headers etc. on a Feisty Fawn installation, mixed with apt-pinning; necessary to get the wireless to work.


Bleeding-edge Intel wireless drivers were needed for the IPW 4965 chipset (they in turn need most recent kernel). Download the following:

  • mac80211 8.x driver
  • ipw4965 latest driver source
  • ipw4965 latest firmware

The 4695 is a firmware-less card, so you need a copy of the firmware in /lib/firmware/: it gets automagically flashed to the card on boot.

Then, the nastier bit,

  • install Gutsy kernel headers
  • patch kernel headers for mac80211
  • build ipw4965 module

Three lines, detailing so much pain. At least the kernel itself didn’t need recompiling.


Although ALSA is configured correctly, there’s some bug in the handling of this version of the 82801H chipset. I’m looking into it: there’s nothing more embarrassing than making your users choose between good networking and audio playback…!


The most recent version of the linux-restricted-modules for Gutsy now makes this fix redundant, but initially we needed a bleeding-edge 100.14.09 version of the NVidia drivers to get the display working properly.

The hack to install that was originally accomplished by downloading a non-standard installer and crossing one’s fingers; it worked pretty well but the restricted modules kept trying to do their bit and had to be removed. If you’re sure you have a compatible, hacked-in NVidia module on your system but the restricted version keeps butting in, then sudo modprobe -r nvidia and then restarting X works: Xorg looks in the right place, whereas the kernel gets it wrong.

Edit (2.6.22-10): doesn’t seem to support 100.14.09, so back to the NVidia downloads again.


There seems to be a recurring bug with the Linux kernel and SATA CDROM drives, frequently whacked but never fully squashed, that the Gutsy kernel has fallen prey to: my CD drive was not at /dev/scd0 by default. Running sudo lshw produced no details under “*-cdrom” There are a lot of solutions out there, but the one that seemed to work for me was to load the ide_cd module using modprobe.

This does seem to have put my CDROM at /dev/hda, which took a bit of finding, but at least as soon as I ran modprobe Sound Juicer spotted the audio CD in the drive. I’ve not yet tested CD writing, nor DVD writing, so I don’t know yet whether or not I actually need ide_scsi instead; Nick assures me that as most devices support ATAPI these days then the SCSI support shouldn’t be necessary.


The Precision seems to have an internal USB bluetooth dongle! hcitool finds it with no trouble. I’ve not used it yet and might need to add hci_usb to /etc/modules.


As I don’t have any Firewire devices, I still have to have a poke around for this; might need the firewire host controller driver, or sbp2 (SCSI over firewire). Watch this space.


I also have an M4300 and also have struggled to get installed with ubuntu. The Feisty live CD failed me, details are at:

Using the latest gutsy (test version) live CD I managed to install and then went through some problems with nvidia. Essentially, I needed the wireless driver which comes in the package linux-restricted-modules-2.6.22-10-generic but as you also note: this is not compatible with this laptop. The solution was to find all the installed files with nvidia in the names and manually remove them, then install the driver 100.14.11 from nvidia which is rebuilt for the kernel after doing "sudo sh NVIDIA[tab]", with the NVIDIA[tab] file being downloaded from

If you find a solution for the sound card problems it would be great to hear about it.

I remain somewhat disappointed at the level of difficulty still needed to get linux working. It will be some time still before I can recommend it for my mum!

I feel your pain, I really do. The one consolation I would suggest is that we're both using really very new hardware: wireless, monitor drivers and kernel are all bleeding-edge, to the point where Gutsy isn't at all released yet nor recommended for non-testing use. Whereas anyone using older hardware, especially on the desktop, will have an easier time: if I'd thought then I'd have gone for a different machine.

(If the industry worked closer with Ubuntu, rather than keeping the sort of distance you maintain between a valued acquaintance who nonetheless does not wash often enough, then the support cycle would be faster.)

if I may ask a curious question: did you get suspend/hibernate/resume functionality to work on this machine, and, if so, was that very tricky? Thanks!

I've not managed to get those options to work at all, but I can safely say I've never found a Linux box---even ones maintained by quite techy friends---where anything other than shutdown, poweroff and restart worked trouble-free, so I've not really looked into it.

Thanks for the quick reply!
Actually, I think recent Linux versions behave quite well with those ACPI goodies; on my current laptop it all works well in Ubuntu Feisty, except that I need to reset the wireless adapter after resume (but then that uses WinXP-64 drivers with ndiswrapper so I'm amazed it works at all :)).
My guess was however that it would all be a bit trickier with nVidia graphics like your machine has.

After reading your hopeful words above, I did get it to briefly hibernate - just the once. I've not managed that since. I just Googled for the ACPI magic words and gave them a whirl, so I couldn't tell you what I did.

I've just ordered this laptop from Dell.

Does anyone have new info regarding the sound problem?

Thanks and best regards,