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Dell M-60 compatibility problems - advice needed 
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Post # 282339
Post Dell M-60 compatibility problems - advice needed
I'm hoping that there might be someone out there who can help me solve a rather strange problem I'm having with Linux on two Dell M-60 laptops. One has an Nvidea QuardoFX-400 graphics board with 500 mb RAM, and the other an Nvidea QuadroFX-1000 board with 1 gig RAM. I obtained these two laptops recently and began trying to install Linux on them immediately, as I've done with hundreds of other PCs over the last decade. Unlike previous installs I couldn't get Linux to install on either of these two beasts with any distro - UNLESS - I install either Mepis Ver 8.0 or 8.5. I've Dled and tried dozens of other distros from Ubuntu to Mint, and many in between, but they all fail in various ways. The most common problem is badly garbled/mangled characters during boot/install. In many cases nonsensical patterns of pixels appear in various parts of the screen. In some cases icons are displayed correctly, but other bits and pieces of the desktop are garbled beyond usefulness. BTW, both laptops run fine with Win XP and Mepis 8 ! I've read many posts over the years where people have had problems installing Linux on certain Dell laptops, but this is my first such encounter. I seem to remember something about Linux display managers not falling back as they should on recent distros?? BTW, I've tried both KDE and Gnome desktops.
So, the question I looking for an answer to is: what separates Mepis 8.0 and Mepis 8.5 from the other distros, that would account for this problem?
I should add that I'm now running Mepis 8.5 on one, and so far all appears to be “normal” and install was easy. Any help solving this problem would be welcome as I've devoted countless days to looking for an answer – to no avail.


Fri Aug 19, 2011 8:50 pm
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Post # 282345
Post Re: Dell M-60 compatibility problems - advice needed
icnc wrote:
I should add that I'm now running Mepis 8.5 on one, and so far all appears to be “normal” and install was easy. Any help solving this problem would be welcome as I've devoted countless days to looking for an answer – to no avail.

Problem? What problem? :wink:

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Fri Aug 19, 2011 9:46 pm
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Post # 282348
Post Re: Dell M-60 compatibility problems - advice needed
I assume you jest Joany. As one who has been installing and running Linux for around a decade (or more) I see some kind of incompatibility issue at work here, and I'd like to know just what it is. I do (free) Linux installs for a number of locals (They don't all choose Mepis, BTW), so I can't afford to fluff-off such issues without knowing what's causing it. Lots of new problems seem to have evolved since KDE 4.0 and Gnome 3.0 were birthed - at least where older hardware is concerned. I'm sure that some developers out there know what the problem that I'm facing is and how to overcome it, since they wade through code all day, and I'm only a novice in such matters. I spend my time herding electrons (hardware) and webmastering. In addition, I'm sure that knowing what's going on here will be useful to others as well. I can't be the only one seeing this, and I expect that Mepis coders have the perfect background to spot the differences I mentioned between Mepis and the other distros. I guess I could ignore the elephant in my fridge, but I'd rather find out why it's there and how to control it.


Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:15 pm
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Post # 282350
Post Re: Dell M-60 compatibility problems - advice needed
icnc,

I'm a little confused about the ram specs you posted. Were those numbers for video ram, or system ram?

Mepis 11 will not run worth a darn with less than about 768MB system ram, while Mepis 8.0 and 8.5 (both Lenny-based) will.

Just food for thought.

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Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:51 pm
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Post # 282351
Post Re: Dell M-60 compatibility problems - advice needed
I was just pullin' your leg, because it seems that you already found the solution: Install MEPIS. To answer your question as to why you're having difficulty with other Linux distros, I would guess it's because those other distros don't provide compatible graphics drivers for your chipsets.

Searching the NVidia web site, your Quadro FX-1000 can use the 173.14.31 driver, but I don't even see a Linux driver listed for your Quadro FX-400. Bear in mind your M-60s are quite old, and with Linux you tend to run into incompatibility problems with both very old and very recent hardware. Newer kernels tend to drop support for older hardware, but MEPIS 8.0 and 8.5 use kernels that are several years old and so they may be better matched to your hardware. The reason WinXP runs well on those laptops is because the M-60 was designed to run WinXP, and Dell supplied all the necessary hardware drivers. If you tried installing Win7 on them, you wouldn't have much luck with that either.

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Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:01 pm
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Post # 282352
Post Re: Dell M-60 compatibility problems - advice needed
Good point on RAM DBeckett. About 99% of my installs are on older desktops, and most installs go OK with more than 512K, although as you say, they may not run WELL with less than a gig of RAM. I've never seen symptoms like this with any of the hundreds of installs I've done, although most were on older desktops - not Dell laptops. In my experience I would expect very different problems if RAM was the issue. At any rate these two M-60s have the same symptoms - even the one with 1 gig RAM. I understand what you're saying Joany, and to some extent I agree, but I install various distros on a LOT of PCs that are between 3-10 years old, and I've never seen symptoms like this. BTW, it looks to me like generic drivers for older stuff is (possibly) being unceremoniously dropped from install/live disks, which would be a pity, since for surfing and the usual stuff that most middle age (and older) people do, old PCs can usually be happily rejuvenated with Linux, as many in the community already know. I have an old farmer running a 7-8 year old desktop PC under Ubuntu 10.04, and it's FAR faster than many newer PCs that are clogged with certain "other" OS and the attendant garbage. He almost suffered whiplash the first time he used that old desktop after OS $$ was removed and Linux installed. LOL It now does all he wants/needs including his favorite pastime - Digikam. New PCs simply aren't needed by many people. If I read things correctly most distros have (or had) an automatic fall back mode that would reduce resolution during install and could use a generic driver that would work with almost anything (for install). I suspect that that's what's at fault here, but not sure. I did find Linux drivers for both video boards, but there's no way to install them when you can't even boot. Yes, I know about those laptops being built for windows, but in the hundreds of installs I've done in the past that's never been an issue (during install, at least). I do admit that most of my installs are desktops, however I've even installed KDE and Gnome distros on much older laptops with no major problems..... very old Compaqs, Thinkpads, etc etc. Of course, that was just before KDE 4 and Gnome 3 took over. All my recent installs (until now) have been desktops - old and new. BTW, an example of the non-mainstream stuff I successfully do, is the HP mini 1000 that I'm making this post on. It arrived with a trashed HD, so I made a bootable USB stick and it's running a full copy of my everyday OS, Ubuntu 10.04LTS – no HD in sight. Point is, that despite overcoming most obstacles thrown at me, this M-60 thing is a mystery.


Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:17 am
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Post # 282356
Post Re: Dell M-60 compatibility problems - advice needed
With the recent changes to the boot process it's not easy to use very old hardware. M11 can't even get to the boot screen on my experimental laptop, a 10 years old Compac Armada. But M8 and M8.5 is very usable on it.
Try antiX, it's made for old hardware.
Had kde4 running in an acceptable speed with only 256 MB RAM using antiX-M11.
Henry


Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:25 am
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Post # 282393
Post Re: Dell M-60 compatibility problems - advice needed
Thanks for confirming my suspicions Henry. Anti-X may be one that I didn't try - not sure after weeks of DLing and trying various distros until I was ready to scream. I'm sure I did try some of the less bloated alternatives to KDE and Gnome - just not sure which ones. After a few dozen it became a blur. I only stumbled on to the fact that Mepis worked (out of the box) after trying dozens of others. BTW, I like Mepis, but alas I'm still partial to Ubuntu. I've been busy on other projects for the last couple of years and didn't do as many installs as I had in the past - especially with old laptops. Before that I managed to find at least one distro that would work on just about any PC - laptop or desktop - for almost a decade. It was the proverbial "piece of cake". I was really happy with KDE 3.5, and even the older Gnome, but when KDE 4 and the new Gnome came along things seem to have gone to hades for those of us who enjoy reviving old boxes for people who don't need/want the latest bells and whistles. I get a "high" reviving an old box and seeing the owners eyes light up when he/she gets online for the first time in their lives without fighting a $$ OS. Most are in shock when they find that using the PC has suddenly become far easier, cheaper, and more secure. An even bigger shock is seeing the older, previously non-responsive box suddenly JUMP to life! My 76 year old farmer friend had been fighting XP and Vista since he bought his first laptop about 4 years ago (it now runs Ubuntu 10.x, BTW). He had spent all his time (and $$) trying to overcome the usual hassles involved with using $$ OS, so he was in utter disbelief when I installed Linux and he was suddenly able to (easily) do the things he had be trying to do for years. Saving a bundle of $$ didn't dull his enthusiasm either. Now he's "pushing" the Penguin too. In my recollection, distros started getting a lot more "finicky" (and less user friendly for the over 40 crowd - in general) about the time compiz came on the scene. It may seem a long time ago to younger people, but to those of us a little longer-in-the-tooth it seems very recent. By the looks of things your reply may indicative of what will follow. I was hoping that some guru coder would pop up with some magic-bullet-grade tricks to work around this mess ..... alas, maybe no such "tricks" exist. Personally I'd rather see more work being done on making Linux even more stable and universally compatible, as opposed to stuffing in more and more bells and whistles. I guess the younger crowd will accuse me of being and old fa**. So be it. There are lots of us old fa*** around, and I've been called worse. LOL


Last edited by icnc on Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Aug 20, 2011 3:28 pm
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Post # 282394
Post Re: Dell M-60 compatibility problems - advice needed
Sounds like antiX can be a good alternative for you. It's a Mepis spin-off, keeping a lot of good stuff but adapted for old computers. If you want kde, you have to install it. The default is icewm-Rox and fluxbox.
http://antix.mepis.org/index.php?title=Main_Page
And as you can see there is an antiX forum here.
Henry


Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:03 pm
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Post # 282397
Post Re: Dell M-60 compatibility problems - advice needed
I'll DL it and give it a try tonight Henry, thanks for the advice. I have tried it before, but it was eons ago, and nothing to do with this issue.
Unrelated: today I stumbled on a Dell dock for the M-60 (s), so that gives me a lil more incentive to try one more time. I was driving down the street today just as a woman placed a whole pile of PC stuff on the curb. My curiosity was too much, so I stopped to have a look. The pile included a WRT54G broadband WiFi router (in box), a Dell dock with cables, a fairly recent model HP flat bed scanner, a USB port extender, and unopened Win software, etc. It was too much of a temptation, and I just couldn't see letting it go to the dump, so I brought it all home. So far everything is working! The woman said that it was all a gift (to them), and that they "didn't know what to do with the stuff". So.....out to the curb - kaboom! I always give away such booty, and I already have most of it "adopted" out. BTW, the reason I was so hot to get the M-60s running on Linux is because one of them has 1920 x 1200 resolution with an Nvidea QuadroFX1000, 128K, 3D video card. The display is just tooooo perfect for a laptop. Of course it's not the fastest thing you can buy today (Pentium-M), but it's well suited to many simple 3D tasks like the CAD/CAM/CNC stuff I'm into. The plan was to setup dual boot, using XP for the one thing I can't find any Linux app for - namely CAM, for my CNC milling machine. I'm even considering setting up XP (for that one task) as a virtual machine under Linux, but that requires a working distro that I feel good about using. I'll report back if the upcoming try at Anti-X is successful. Thanks again for the advice.


Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:23 pm
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