Fedora Core 5, the Good and the Bad

Since the Dell laptop I started using a year or so ago has Nvidia graphic hardware, I’ve been following the status of xorg nv driver a bit more than I used to. At present, no 3D acceleration support for Nvidia hardware is available for free software users. I learned today that there’s now a project working on DRI support for Nvidia hardware. It’s called project nouveau. The feature matrix is a bit sparse but it’s good to see some work being done here. It would be great to finally have 3D support for Nvidia cards in xorg.

That’s the good Nvidia news. The bad news is that there seems to be an nv driver bug in the version that shipped with Fedora Core 5. It’s causing problems for a number of folks (including me). Hopefully some fixes will be coming along soon.

In my previous blog entry I was complaining about the horrible Linux CD writing software called X-CD Roast. I was pleased to find it wasn’t needed in Fedora Core 5. All I have to do to burn a CD of an ISO image now is right click on the CD and select “Write to Disc”.

Linux on the Dell Inspiron 8600

Since I last posted about this, I’ve received my new hard drive and now have Fedora Linux installed on the notebook. A suprising number of things actually worked right out of the box. I’ve been slowly getting the other bits and pieces of hardware working as I have time. This process has been made easier by others who have already documented the process. One of the best sources of info is the Fedora on a Dell website.

As it turned out, the driver for the NVidia GeForce is included with Fedora and the display worked at least in a low resolution mode immediately. With some minor tweaking, it is now working at the full 1920 x 1200 resolution. The missing piece of the puzzle was the lack of a monitor type for the Dell LCD 1920 x 1200 display. This looks like it would be trivial to patch but I can’t tell yet if the thing needing the patch is X or the display configuration program in Gnome. If anyone knows, please email me, I’d happily submit a patch so this worked for the next person who tries it. There is apparently also a non-free, binary-only driver for the NVidia that is a bit faster but I don’t plan on using the video for anything important enough to make it worth switching to a proprietary driver. I’m quite happy with the nv driver.

The sound hardware and ethernet hardware worked with no changes needed at all. The battery monitor and CPU speed controls also worked without needing to do anything special. The CD/DVD hardware worked as well, though I needed to download some extra packages in order to view movies on DVD. Intel offers a GPL’d 2200 BG WiFi driver (though the firmware itself is still proprietary). It seems to work fine with the exception of monitor mode which apparently isn’t quite functional yet. I also added the latest version of Network Manager so I can switch seamlessly between wired and wireless connections. It’s working very well too so far.

So what’s left to tinker with? I’d like to get gi8k set up so I can monitor fan speed and CPU temperature. Also, I haven’t had time to get the suspend to RAM or disk functions working yet, so I have to manually shut down before closing the notebook. And finally I picked up a little USB to serial adapter at Frys, the BAFO BF-810, because I frequently have to interface with microcontrollers that use a serial port (the 8600 doesn’t have any old-style serial ports). I’m hoping it will work without any special tweaking but you never know. Overall, I’m quite happy so far with how well my Dell Inspiron 8600 is working with Linux.