The full sensory experience of Linux on a Dell M4300: sound, vision and tinfoil-hat microwaves

Now that Gutsy Gibbon is fairly mature, I’ve managed to upgrade my machine to it and am now running the 2.6.22-14-386 kernel. More importantly, with a minimum of fuss I now have video, wireless and sound!

Long-term readers of Graceful Exits might remember that the too-new hardware in my Dell Precision M4300 needed some rather nasty hacks just to get both display and wireless card working. One of those left me with a weird hybrid Gutsy/Feisty installation of Ubuntu, which worked for a while. I could get both video and wifi (by compiling both myself) as far as the 2.6.22-9 kernel, but no further. I needed to upgrade fully to Gutsy.

From hybrid to Gutsy Ubuntu

Upgrading from the hybrid version required me first to comment out the two Gutsy repositories I’d sneaked into my /etc/apt/sources.list. Then gksudo update-manager -c presented me with the necessary upgrade button. An hour or so later all the packages had been downloaded, but it took a whole day to have to keep going back and clicking on “OK to replace this configuration file” popups in between sleeping, showering and going to work. There must be a better way for Ubuntu to do that during mass package installations such as an upgrade.

What worked and what didn’t

When it comes to display drivers, Gutsy is very forgiving. My nVidia drivers didn’t work straight away, but the machine realised this and presented me with a low-res VESA mode, which in turn led to a low-graphics mode that was still more than adequate for the mean time. When Gnome finally finished starting, I noticed with joy that wireless works in Gutsy out of the box. I didn’t need to download the iwlwifi package and compile it. Lovely.

If I were going to nVidia, I wouldn’t start from here

Envy is an easy way to install the right nVidia drivers for your machine. However, if you’ve already tried to install the drivers using nVidia’s own packages (as I had, back when I had a hybrid system), you need to find and delete these files. modprobe -l nvidia will tell you where they are: run envy -t and uninstall everything, then delete whatever’s remaining in, oh, something like /lib/modules/2.6.22-14-386/kernel/drivers/video/nvidia.ko. Then reinstall the drivers with Envy. That should be enough.

Alsa is a known problem, to put it mildly

A comment on Ubuntu bug 131133 describes the Alsa codebase as “mercurial”. Apparently the snd_hda_intel support is fixed and broken on alternate releases, and Ubuntu High Command are doing all they can. In the interim there’s a workaround: method A worked just fine for me.

I’m terribly, terribly happy. K’s even happier, as now she’ll be able to prise me away from frequent driver recompilation messes.


A comment on Ubuntu bug 131133 describes the Alsa codebase as “mercurial”.

No it doesn't, it refers to the SCM they use!

Anyway, that bug is a bastard, agreed!

Just an F.Y.I ... installed Fedora Core 8 (x86_64) on an M4300 this past weekend.

Wow! *Everything* works. Sound, video, wired & wireless networking, bluetooth .... haven't tried suspending it yet.

Note: After the DVD install --- took a couple of hours to get all the updates from the mirror.

Man ... this machine is *fast*.

(Oh! The new X11 "nv" driver works out of the box. If you want 3D (compiz) --- you need the 'binary' nVidia driver --- check