I successfully installed Ubuntu 9.04 on a Dell Vostro 1520, using both the LiveCD as well as the alternate installer.
Update 2010/01/18: Most if not all of the problems I experienced with 9.04 have been resolved in 9.10. The speakers work great and no GRUB hacks are needed.
- Wireless card (0e:00.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4312 802.11b/g (rev 01)/0e:00.0 0280: 14e4:4315 (rev 01)) works great using the proprietary Broadcom STA driver. I can connect to my WPA-PSK/TKIP network fine.
- CPU scaling works beautifully, although it seems I need to add two instances of the frequency scaler to the panel, one for each core. Right click on a blank spot on the panel, Add to Panel > CPU Frequency Scaler.
- I was disappointed to find that the Vostro had a glossy cover (fingerprint magnet) but am pleased to see that it isn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be.
- The alternate installer hung on me during the language select screen. This is probably the keyboard problem mentioned here. I rebooted, tried it again and installed successfully. On the subsequent reboot after install, the keyboard was unresponsive.
- Implementing the solution linked in the above paragraph resolved all keyboard non-response issues I have had.
- Resolved in 9.10
- PC speaker is enabled by default and will BOOP! loudly every time I fail a tab-completion, hit backspace too many times or shutdown the machine. The PC speaker cannot be controlled through the Volume Control or disabled in BIOS, so it can be muted one of two ways (both of which I implemented):
- Disable system alert sounds through System > Preferences > Sound > Sounds > Play Alert Sound— but it will still BOOP! when shutting down the machine.
- To shut it off completely, blacklist the speaker driver (easy to do).
- Resolved in 9.10
- The wireless switch doesn’t do what it should. Turning it to “off” knocks out the current wireless connection, but GNOME Network Manager gets stuck in a perpetual loop searching for wireless networks. I don’t know if the card is technically “off” when this is happening. The switch itself is also really cheaply constructed and is the only part on my machine that wiggles– I’d be afraid to use it extensively in case it got stuck in the “off” position.
- There is no clasp holding the laptop shut, and the exterior of the laptop is completely smooth. Since there is no groove to get a finger-hold on, it can be tricky to open the laptop if you have slippery hands.
- UPDATE 10/01: My speakers worked fine initially. They were not as loud as I’d hoped, but they worked.
When I plugged headphones into the jack, the headphones emitted only static. This was a minor inconvenience until I unplugged the headphones and found my speakers to be doing the same thing.
Upgrading the ALSA driver fixed the problem. Sort of. The speakers now work, but the headphones don’t. This works well enough for me, so I give up.
- Resolved in 9.10
- Out of the box, this laptop was unusably hot. I took a series of measurements so I had some evidence to present to Dell customer service. Dellfand does not correctly report internal temperatures on this model (report alternates between 50’C and -1’C) so I had to use an infrared thermometer and measure the heat of the case itself.Readings were taken at 15-minute intervals. Scaling was set to “OnDemand” and the computer was left to idle on a stock install of Ubuntu 9.04 over the course of an hour (temperature plateaus after that). Here are the results:
Time Left Palm Right Palm 5:15P 81.3’F 80.3’F 5:30P 94.1’F 88.4’F 5:45P 99.1’F 92.5’F 6:00P 101.6’F 95.4’F 6:15P 101.8’F 96.3’F
So after an hour of idling on a conservative power setting, my left wrist would be heated to feverish temperature on the Vostro. It isn’t comfortable to say the least, but it certainly isn’t usable. The Inspiron this laptop was supposed to replace peaked at 98.7’F– after several hours of moderate use!
09/11: Dell tech support had me update the BIOS to A03. The heating problem is no longer an issue. If your laptop is getting unbearably hot, see what version of the BIOS you are running and update it if necessary. Windows/Vista may be required; I don’t know if it is possible to do through Linux.