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Installing Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) on a Dell Studio 17

Last updated: September 29, 2009.

The Dell Studio 17 is reportedly the successor to the Inspiron, though I have not been able to verify this. Dell's current line of Inspirons do not include models with 17 inch screens. Thus the Studio 17 line is evidently new even in this. The model I've configured with Ubuntu 9.04 has the high-res display: WUXGA, or 1920x1200 pixels. My advice is try running the Ubuntu install disk in demo mode if you can't track down the details of the hardware you want configured in your model.

When I did this, I quickly verified that my hardware configuration runs Ubuntu right out of the box, with one important caveat (discussed under unresolved issues below). The display configured with max resolution without any tweaking. The primary key to this was the graphics card: the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator, 4500MHD, plus Ubuntu's hardware detection software. I'm sure the ATI graphics card works fine with the 32 bit version of the O/S, but I didn't want to chance it with the 64 bit version.

Function keys work as advertised. Suspend and hybernate work well without further configuration. (In fact, suspend works just by closing the lid, and the laptop can be reactivated by reopening the lid no matter how suspend state is entered.) The built-in Intel wifi minipci card works without the need to fiddle with extra drivers or to use NDIS wrapper. (Ubuntu 8.04 was helpful in configuring a Broadcom43xx card on my previous laptop, but I had stability problems. The Windows driver that came with my laptop was not supported by the firmware cutter, and the version Ubuntu downloaded worked, but didn't work perfectly.) The one area where I needed to do something extra was in configuring DVD playback. Enough has been written about this elsewhere and does not relate directly to the Dell hardware. Suffice it to say that most distributions, Ubuntu included, will not do this for you due to digital rights management issues (DRM). Given the right software, the playback works flawlessly, and it was not difficult to get a configuration, based on XINE, that did just that. If you want to go with a Blue Ray configuration, you need to look elsewhere.

General Hardware Specifications of the Dell Studio 17 (as configured):

Hardware Components
Status under Linux
Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T6600 (2.20GHz/800Mhz FSB/2MB cache) Works No special procedure required during installation.
17.0" Hi res glossy widescreen Display (1920x1200) Works Selected automatically
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD Works Selected automatically
4GB Shared Dual DDR2 at 800 MHz, 2DIMMs Works No special procedure required during installation
320 GB SATA Hard Drive Works No special procedure required during installation
No Floppy Drive (external available)    
Intel 5300 Ultimate-N Half Mini-Card (3x3) Works No special procedure required during installation
Broadcom NetLink BCM5784M Gigabit Ethernet PCIe Works No special procedure required during installation
No Internal 56k Modem    
8X Slot Load CD/DVD Burner (Dual Layer DVD+/-R Drive) Works No special procedure required during installation
No WiMax card (though I have had success with USB under Ubuntu)   (Ubuntu automatically configures most USB WiMax devices now)
Dell Wireless 370 Bluetooth (internal) Appears to work I have yet to get it to do much with my iPhone
Soudblaster X-Fi hi-def audio Works

No special procedure required.

Integrated 2.0M pixel webcam Works

No special procedure required. Tested with Skype 2.0.

This laptop is operating under Kernel version 2.6.28-13-generic.

Basic Installation of Ubuntu 9.04:
Setting up additional features for Ubuntu
Unresolved issues.
Configuration Files
More Specific Information. Specific stuff such as:

Configuring the hard disk using the parted (partition editor) utility from the CD demo:

Ubuntu offers to create a linux partion for you along side of Windows/Vista. I recommend you don't waste time with this. The default is to create a minimal partition to support Ubuntu. What you likely to want to do with a 320GB drive is use approximately half for Ubuntu. You can call up the parted utility (I recommend using the GUI version, gparted) under the demo and ask it to shrink the main Windows partition. This will take a long time. Go for a long walk, read a book or catch up on that shout-em-up you always meant to find time to see. This is unavoidable if you want to run a dual-boot system. You may get slightly shorter times with shrink-wrapped disk partitioning software, but not much shorter, not enough to justify the extra cash. Bear in mind, of course, that this step entails some risk. Make sure your vital data is fully backed up before attempting it. Once you create enough space, I recommend at least 30GB for the /usr partition. You may also want to have a separate /boot partition. 256MB should be more than enough. 4GB is a lot of RAM for Linux, even by today's standards, so a 4GB swap partition should be sufficient. (This is the size I have, and hybernate works just fine with it.) Other partitions can be selected for /home and some place to store large amounts of data, such as ISO's or video.

Contact Information

Skype has no problem finding the camera, and video worked fine. For some reason, I had to twiddle with the sound configuration (under the GNOME System/Preferences menu) to get it to work. Skype Test Call is invaluable here. You may not have this issue.

I have no complaints about the hardware or Ubuntu Jaunty. None. After using it for a few weeks I have never had a crash, either of the system or of a program. Skype is probably the most intensive test since it involves video from the camera and to the display, as well as high traffic over the Internet. You may notice occasional jerkiness in full screen mode. That's about it. Of course, if your looking for exceptional gaming performance you may need to go elsewhere.

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