Ubuntu 8.10 rocks my Inspiron 1501Sat, Nov 1, 2008 in Desktop Open Source
I’m really really happy about Ubuntu 8.10 because it lets me stop kicking myself so much for buying a Dell Inspiron 1501. This little laptop was the el-cheapo option for me, found via dealnews.com. I was going to buy the virtually identical one that came with Ubuntu installed, but then Dell offered a deal on the 1501, which had Windows Vista, and I caved in to the allure of saving about $200.
Of course I promptly discovered that the two most important differences between the models involved hardware for which no good Free Software drivers existed: the video card and the wireless card. The Inspiron 1501 has a “ATI Technologies Inc RS482 [Radeon Xpress 200M]” and a “Broadcom Corporation BCM4311 802.11b/g WLAN (rev 01)”.
I use dual monitors; it’s pretty much a necessity for me. And I just couldn’t get the radeon driver to work right with them. I spent a lot of time trying. I ended up going to the ATI driver, which is proprietary; it had its own issues with mouse pointer corruption and the lot, which eventually were fixed, but it still disabled suspend/resume, and plus it’s non-Free. My colleagues know this irked me – they just heard me griping about it a few days ago.
But now, praise be, the radeon driver works with my dual monitors! And the drag-and-drop point-and-click configuration interface works, too! I’ve got a 1680×1024 external monitor, positioned above my 1024×800 laptop display, and I have never so much as peeked at /etc/X11/xorg.conf. Thanks to all the people who worked so hard on this! (It didn’t work flawlessly until I rebooted, but who’s complaining.) Suspend/resume now work great!
I haven’t gotten the wireless card working yet; the bw43-cutter package seems to have disappeared. But I’m actually hoping that I won’t need proprietary drivers for this, too.