Dell Vostro 1500

Recently I bought a Dell Vostro 1500 notebook, at first there were two problems: the left and right bottom corners were more bright than the rest of the screen and the hard disk made this “clicking” sounds as also reported on the Dell Ideastorm website, see this and this page. Apparently it is still not clear what the problem is. I’ve had my third hard disk (first a Samsung, after this two times a ToshibaFujitsu) and it is still not resolved.

Other than that (and maybe the glossy screen of which I’m not really a huge fan) it is a great laptop, supported very well by Linux (and Fedora 9). I ordered mine with Intel 965 video and Intel 4965 802.11n wireless to avoid problems with binary drivers or needing to play with NDISwrapper.

Everything just works, although the quirks for HAL needed to be updated to include some lines for the Vostro to make resume from suspend work without needing to switch VT’s, but they are already in hal-info git so it’s just a matter of time before they end up in Fedora I guess. Update (May 26): it is included in an update (hal-info) for Fedora 9.

To my surprise even the web cam, sound card and the card reader work out of the box. Accelerated X with Compiz work without problems, although sometimes some artifacts are visible but I guess that will be resolved in time, it’s not disturbing at all.

Hopefully Dell can fix this hard disk problem soon because *that* is annoying.

Update: I just received the 4th hard disk from Dell, this time a Western Digital WD2500BEVS. I’ll try this thing soon, very curious. So that makes three different hard disks so far:

  1. Samsung HM250JI
  2. Fujitsu MHY2250B
  3. Western Digital WD2500BEVS
  4. Hitachi HTS542525K9SA00

Also this Western Digital disk doesn’t solve the problem unfortunately. Dell will contact me tomorrow in search for another solution. I wonder what that can be 🙂

The fourth hard disk (in the list) is actually installed in the complete new laptop I got from Dell, the problem remains the same (clicking and rapidly increasing Load_Cycle_Count). It’s probably safe to say by now that the problem is not related to the used hard disk.

So a small recap of what happened until now (27th of May):

  • I ordered a laptop @ Dell
  • The screen is broken (the bottom 5mm of screen is clearly not well lit, more bright while corners are more dark then the rest of the screen). Also the hard disk makes these clicking sounds…
  • Dell comes and replaces the screen and the hard disk
  • The screen is better now, only has a dead pixel.
  • Dell replaces hard disk again and screen as well. I end up with a good screen! Still, the hard disk is not OK.
  • Dell sends me a new hard disk by UPS. I replace the hard disk, problem still not solved.
  • Dell sends me a complete new laptop. This one still has the hard disk problems and I end up with the broken screen again in the same way as the first laptop I got.

I’m getting a bit tired 😉

Update (May 27th): after calling Dell today and being on the phone for nearly an hour they agreed to take back the laptop and give me a refund. I guess that will close this time wasting chapter. Hopefully they’ll refund soon so I can look for something else to buy. Maybe this time around I’ll spend some more to get a decent machine 😉

Update (June 4th): today I received the money back from Dell 🙂

Asus Pundit-R, Windows, Linux

I happen to have a Asus Pundit-R (with integrated ATI IGP 9100 chip set) which has some problems on different operating systems. Windows XP seems to work best (that is, all hardware is supported without big issues).

Vista

Windows Vista doesn’t really work on this system. Unless you don’t mind using the default VGA driver. There is no ATI IGP 9100 video driver for Vista available. This is a pity because the system is surely fast enough. I’ve tried installing it once, I don’t remember whether the network card worked or not.

Update: according to the Vista upgrade advisor (I ran that in XP) everything works except the VGA stuff. As it is not possible to upgrade the video card in the Pundit as I read somewhere you’ll always be stuck with the standard VGA driver and no Aero.

Update: this is the report generated by the Vista upgrade advisor. Only the video device is not supported, the rest is! Before installing it is wise to download the Vista driver for the 3com network card (see update below at XP section) to be able to use Windows Update to automatically download the rest of the drivers (i.e. ATI SMbus & Sound) and of course Vista SP1.

XP

XP works, but there are some serious driver issues. Nothing works on the default install. No video, no network, no sound. AMD makes it hard to find XP drivers for this chipset, but they are available, you just have to look at the Windows 2000 driver download page.

  1. Go to Windows 2000 professional
  2. Select Integrated/Motherboard
  3. Select Radeon 9100 IGP
  4. Download and install the GART, Display and South Bridge driver

This still won’t give you sound or network support though. The only way I managed to get these to work was by using the original CD that came with the Pundit. The Asus website offers a “Lan.rar” file which doesn’t really contain drivers for the Pundit-R but are actually Realtek drivers which are of course of no use on the Pundit-R. The sound drivers on the website are a 20MB file, a bit too much crap included I guess. There is however a directory included in the ZIP file SMAXWDM/W2K_XP which included Windows 2000 drivers that apparently also work in XP. I used those to install the audio driver instead of using the included setup.

The PCI ID for the network card is 10B7:9202. This is listed as a “3Com 3C920B-EMB-WNM Integrated Fast Ethernet Controller”. It seems impossible to find drivers for this thing. The driver from the CD is “el90xbc5.sys”. Looking for this online doesn’t really look promising. It is down loadable after registration on some sites (which I didn’t try, so it might all be fake). So I’ve uploaded the driver here for you to download (rename the .odt to .zip and then unzip it).

Update: In the Windows Update catalog you can find the Vista driver for the 3com device which also seems to work in Windows XP. It’s a newer version than the one shown above. You need Internet Explorer to access the catalog. Search for “3com etherlink” and choose any of them, they are all the same driver just for different cards).

Linux

Fedora used to work great, but the latest versions (Fedora 9 prerelease, Fedora 8 update kernels) has issues with the integrated SATA controller (it won’t use DMA). This however does not seem to be a problem in Ubuntu 8.04 where it undoubtedly got fixed in some ugly way. The rest works out of the box with the exception of the card reader. Even Compiz works great 😉 There is however still a USB(2.0) problem left. It seems impossible to get this to work in a reliable way. Copying small files is not a problem, but with bigger files (especially to the device) it seems to break rather easily.

Update: In Windows XP this seems to be solved by just slowing down the file transfer to barely faster than USB1 speeds.

Update: In Vista this is exactly the same problem as in Linux. Only, the error handling is a little bit better. It gives an error and then resumes at a lower speed apparently. This is for reading from the USB device, writing to it makes Windows hang and Explorer crash. Too bad. Seems like a hardware issue.