Running Debian Linux on a Dell Latitude c610

This page describes how I installed Debian Linux on a Dell Latitude c610. That is the page describes how I think one should do, the actual route I followed was a lot less direct with may false leads etc. Also this was my first experience with Debian so I have probably done lots of things in the wrong way.

The hardware

My machine was configured like this: I am relatively pleased with this laptop. It has good performance, and I like the feel of the keyboard. It is equipped with both a glide-pad and small steering pin. One nice development since my previous (old) laptop is that now you can add/remove an external mouse and still use the glide-pad without a reboot. The integrated network options leaves me two free PCMCIA-slots. The only drawback is that the internal modem is a winmoden, and that there are too many bugs in the BIOS.

APM claims that the battery should last for almost three hours when fully charged. And by inserting another battery in the media-bay I can double that, which should be enough to last most transatlantic flights. That is unless you do CPU-heavy activities like watching moves etc in which case you may need a third battery to last all 8 hours.

I have recently tried to upgrade my BIOS but experienced some problems. The versions I have tried and their problems are:

I have tried even later versions of the BIOS but all of them have had the fan problem. But I just read on the net that the problem can be fixed by simply pression Fn+z. I haven't had time to test this yet but will probably do so soon.

Currently I run A04 pending verification of the fan problem workaround.

Basic installation

The system came preinstalled with W2K. Since I had no good repartitioning program I redid the disk completely. That is I repartitioned it during the linux-install and then reinstalled W2K.

Installing Debian was kind of complicated. It turned out that the kernel on the 2.2r4 cd-images did not support the builtin network card (but it did support the wireless). I borrowed a Xircom-card which I used during the installation. Things to think of during installation:

Immediately after the installation I upgraded to unstable. I also downloaded the kernel 2.4.16-sources and built my own kernel. I have made my current kernel configuration file available here. This file is for 2.4.19 which I run now.


To get the integrated network card to work I added support for 3c590/3c900 series cards to my kernel, after that it worked flawlessly.

The integrated wireless card is located on the PCMCIA-bus so once I got PCMCIA working I just added support for the Hermes cards (Networking->Wireless LAN). There were two entries for Hermes and I built both as modules. Although I think you only need the one with Orinoco support. I also had to change the Itersil entry in /etc/pcmcia/config to:

card "Intersil PRISM2 11 Mbps Wireless Adapter"
  manfid 0x0156, 0x0002
  bind "orinoco_cs"
Here I have changed wvlan_cs to orinoco_cs.


The PCMCIA-stuff in the 2.4-kernel works. But I had to change the PCIC definition in /etc/default/pcmcia from i82365 to yenta_socket.

Currently I have converted and am using teh external pcmcia_cs package for pcmcia support.


Suspending to memory works ok but I haven't bothered setting up suspend to disk yet. I have received reports that the linux APIC support does not work with this machine (it freezes). I run without APIC support in the kernel and have no problems.


Xfree 4.1 and later has support for the ATI Radeon LY so nowdays there are no problems here.


I currently use the support for i810_audio in the kernel. This works just fine.

Volume control buttons

With some hacking I got the volume-control buttons (Fn+PageUp/Down) to work. First install the i8kutils package. Then get the source to this package. The source contains a newer version of the file i8k.c than what is included in the 2.4.16 kernel. Copy the new i8k.c to .../kernel-source-2.4.19/drivers/char/i8k.c, enable Dell Inspiron 8000 Support as a module and rebuild your kernel.

Once the i8k module is installed it is possible to read the status of the volume-keys (it is also possible to get the serial number of the machine in /proc/i8k). The actual volume control is done by the i8kbuttons daemon. I had to write a start-script to this one and place it in /etc/init.d/i8kbuttons and create links to it from /etc/rc[01].d/K22i8kbuttons and /etc/rc[23456].d/S22i8kbuttons.


It turned out that I had to make some changes to be able to use the cd-writer. I had to enable SCSI-support (as module) in the kernel. Add append="hdc=ide-scsi" to /etc/lilo.conf And make sure the links /dev/dvd, /dev/cdrom and /dev/cdrw exists and points to scd0. You might have to run MAKEDEV sg scd in the /dev directory as well if /dev/scd0 does nto already exist. I am now able to burn CD's at 8x.


I haven't tested the USB-stuff yet but the kernel seems to recognize it.


I got email from some people who said that the drivers at might work. I tries them and was able to talk to the modem, but I also managed to lock the machine. I will probably make more tests.


Revision history

Last modified 2007-04-21 17:59:49 by MaF.