Linux on the Dell Inspiron 4150 Laptop

I purchased this notebook on January 20, 2003. I sent it in to both and There is also a mailing list for dell laptops with a FAQ.

New: I hear from Travis Fraser that the A06 BIOS fixes the clock bug! Haven't tried it myself.

I installed RedHat 8.0. I later upgraded to RedHat 9, and most recently I have installed a bunch of sound-related stuff from Planet CCRMA.

The laptop came with (rough details):

Component Status
Batteries Gives me 3 hours for each battery. I played with the APCI patch to the kernel; it could not figure out the battery status, so I stopped using it.
USB Works with my USB keychain storage device
External Mouse & Keyboard Did not try external mouse or keyboard.
Video I picked 1400x1050 resolution, 24-bit color. Yow. Bigger fonts needed.

I get occasional video glitches when I switch to text and back (usually done because I lost the mouse). Also, I get a glitch 100% of the time when the screen is powered off by the BIOS. To stop this last problem, I went into setup and changed the Battery option to never power the screen off. The default on AC is to never power the screen off. After the glitch hits, it's not easy to get rid of; going in and out of text mode isn't enough.

This guy has a better solution: switch to a console (Ctrl+Alt+F1), turn off the screen (Fn+D), show battery status (Fn+F3), (Esc) to exit, then return to X with (Ctrl+Alt+F7).

Keyboard auto-repeat is FUBAR after this, however, and the mouse doesn't quite work right. After a few hours both problems spontaneously disappear.

built-in Ethernet Network RedHat's installer identified it has a 3c58x device, and it works.
built-in Wireless Network From surfing the 'net, I see that Broadcom wireless isn't a happening thing with Linux yet. I'll plug in a pcmcia card, I suppose... too bad, because some earlier 4150s shipped with wireless that was compatible with the orinoco_cs driver.

If you'd like to sign a petition asking Broadcom to do Linux drivers for this chip, it can be found at

Modem It claims to be an Intel 82801CA/CAM AC'97 Modem (rev 2). It's on the PCTel list as a winmodem which works with the pctel kernel driver. However, that driver doesn't seem to be a part of Redhat 8.0, and I've been too lazy to try to get it to work.
Sound RedHat's installer detects it as needing the i810_audio driver, and it works OK. I later installed ALSA, which correctly configured the sound.
CD R/W and DVD The CD-ROM so far, works great. But it does not hotswap under Linux. I haven't tried burning a CD.

With RedHat 8.0, as a DVD player, Ogle is unhappy and shows a very low framerate (6 per second), and there's no sound at all. I do have Xv and the sound works for other things, so I'm not sure what the problem is. With RedHat 9, this problem went away: Ogle reported 29 frames per second. I'd guess that XFree86 changed...

Linux New: I hear from Travis Fraser that the A06 BIOS fixes the clock bug! Haven't tried it myself.

The clock runs slow, quite quickly, if you get what I mean, several minutes per hour. This webpage talks about the cause. I have verified that turning off my toobar battery monitor keeps the clock working. ntpd can't really deal with a 1% problem.

With the toolbar battery monitor off, my /etc/ntp/drift is -131. The clock still runs slow when I am running grip/cdparanoia to rip CDs.

Serial I somehow managed to get the serial turned off in the BIOS, which was very confusing when I went to sync my Handspring. dmesg is your friend. I don't think that's the default BIOS setting.
Infrared (irda) port This starts defaulted off in the BIOS, so you have to turn it on. RedHat 9 has infrared support, so all you need to run is "/usr/sbin/irattach /dev/ttyS1" as root. At that point I could watch the discovery protocol with "irdadump", and see my Handspring, so I think that's fully working.

Greg Lindahl
Last Updated: September 3, 2003