Debian Linux on Dell Latitude C610

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This page describes how I installed Debian Linux on a Dell Latitude C610. Installing Debian was fairly easy; getting XFree86 to work took a long time. Hopefully these hints will make it easier for the next person. I received much helpful advice from Kay Nettle, our local Debian wizard, but I am responsible for any errors in the following.


The configuration of my laptop is:
   Dell Latitude C610
   1.0GHz Pentium III processor
   20GB hard drive
   512MB memory
   Combo DVD / CD-RW drive    Toshiba SD-R2102
   14.1" TFT display
          ATI RADEON Mobility (Dell), chip M6 (LY)
          32-bit color   Internal D/A 350 MHz   60 Hz scan
          16 MB memory   Adapter String 1002-4C59-00
          Bios BK 5.0.0 VR005. |
   Wireless Ethernet card     1150 Wireless Networking 802.11 (Intersil PRISM2)
   56K Modem                  Winmodem, PCTEL 2304WT v. 92 MDC
       + 10/100 Ethernet      3Com 3c905C
   Built-in stereo speakers   Intel 82801 CA/CAM AC'97 Audio Controller
   Windows XP operating system
   Modular floppy drive

Partitioning: crude but effective

I was not able to change the size of the Windows XP partition directly. I used the F2 (or F12) key during boot and changed the setting to allow booting directly from cdrom, then booted from a Debian CD (2.2 rev. 5) and installed Debian. It was not possible to change the size of the Windows partition, so I deleted it, then made a new half-size partition for Windows and two partitions for Debian. This had the effect of wiping out Windows. (Maybe if I had edited /etc/lilo.conf after installing Debian, it could have booted Windows; that may be worth a try.)

Having wiped out Windows by installing Debian, I then reinstalled Windows. Since the disk partition had been changed, Windows gave me the option of setting the size of the disk partitions, so I allocated about half of the disk to Windows. Reloading Windows wiped out Debian; it took about an hour, but didn't require much interaction.

Finally, I booted from the Debian CD again and re-installed Debian. Now I was able to put the two Debian partitions in the unused space above Windows. Perhaps I should have tried to make a FAT partition to use in communicating between Debian and Windows, but I didn't.

In case of a hangup in the boot process, you can say linux -s to Lilo boot to get into Debian for maintenance. All in all, getting the basic Debian to work was not too hard.

Installing XFree86

The version of XFree86 that comes with this Debian doesn't work on this laptop; you need the latest version of XFree86 (4.2.0). This version of Debian is -glibc21; the only binary version of XFree86 (4.2.0) available was -glibc22, so it was necessary to compile XFree86 from sources. (Even after upgrading to -glibc22, the binary of XFree86 did not work, but compiling from sources did.) Compiling XFree86 from sources is not too hard once everything is set up properly, but it was a frustrating task to solve all the problems.

Before you can compile XFree86, you need several libraries that did not get installed with Debian, even though I asked for nearly everything in the ``easy'' install of packages. The following things are needed:

There were several errors where a file in the xc/... tree was symbolically linked to something in /etc/... which was sym-linked to itself. I traced the links and deleted the files that were linked to themselves.

Compile XFree86 as per the instructions by doing make World >& world.log and then look at world.log with emacs and search for ** to find errors. Once there are no errors, make install >& install.log and check install.log for errors. The make World takes about half an hour. make Everything >& every.log can be used for a faster remake. A few times I deleted everything in xc/... and started over until I got a clean make.

The file XF86Config that is generated by running xfree86 -configure is pretty good, except that you need to change the mouse to Protocol "PS/2" and Device "/dev/psaux" .

The Debian boot process as initially configured will start xfs and xdm.   xfs hangs up and requires cycling power to kill it, and it doesn't seem to be needed. I removed the files /etc/rc2.d/S20xfs and /etc/rc2.d/S99xdm to avoid running xfs and xdm during startup. After logging in, X is started by running startx . Exit by entering exit or power off by entering halt from root.


Adam Monsen reports that the PCTEL 2304WT V.92 MDC winmodem should work with the driver at:

Gordon S. Novak Jr.