GNU/Linux on the Dell Inspiron XPS
This page gives a quick overview of what I've done so far to make
GNU/Linux work on the Dell Inspiron XPS notebook.
Graphics: You have several choices:
- XFree86 4.3 does not natively support the Radeon Mobility
9700. It is possible to operate the notebook at 1600x1200 using the
VESA modes with no 2d or 3d acceleration. You have a black border on
both sides, since it won't do the full 1920x1200. The XF86 file sown
below needs to have the following change for use in this mode: change
Driver from "radeon" to "vesa" and Modes from "1920x1200" to
- The non-free XFree86 4.4 (no-charge download from
www.xfree86.org, but it is not a free software/open source
license anymore) supports the graphics card, and gives 2d (but
not 3d) acceleration. If you want it, here's the XF86Config file. It can probably be
cleaned up a bit, but works. You have the full 1920x1200
resolution of the LCD.
- The ATI proprietary drivers (which include 3d acceleration)
do not support the card, as of this writing, but probably will
within a few weeks.
- I have not tried the x.org drivers (I set up the notebook a
couple of days before they were released), but my impression
is they should work fine. They should be compatible with the
above XF86Config file.
Ethernet: The ethernet works out-of-the-box with the Broadcom
Tigon3 driver in the Linux kernel.
Sound Support: Works without problem through the kernel i8xx
support. I have not yet tried ALSA (which is superior).
Wireless: Neither of the wireless chipsets (TrueMobile
1300 and 1400) are supported under GNU/Linux. They are rumoured to
be supported through a proprietary Windows driver loader ($20 from
is a free driver
loader as well. I have tried neither, since both require use
of proprietary software.
USB: You can use all four USB ports under GNU/Linux
through the UHCI driver.
ACPI: I compiled it in. It is showing CPU temperature,
battery state, and whether or not it is plugged in. I haven't
gotten it to suspend yet. When I hit the suspend button, it tells
me 'button/sleep SBTN 00000080 00000003' and doesn't do anything
P4 3.4GHz, 512MB RAM, 80GB HD, 1920x1200 WUXGA display, 128MB
Radeon 9700 Mobility. Dell TrueMobile 1400 a/b/g wireless. DVD+RW.
Initial Impressions About the Notebook
Stability: Unimpressive so far. I don't think this is
platform-dependent. I have had the computer crash under Linux when
I went from line power to battery. I have seen it overheat and die
under Windows (here, the problem was that I had placed it on a
soft chair, and the ventilation system blows air from underneath,
so requires a hard surface, flat).
Noise level: Quite impressive. Very quiet most of the time --
much quieter than almost any desktop and most notebooks if it is
not doing anything to processor-intensive.
Monitor: Beautiful, 1920x1200, ultrawide viewing angle, very
good color reproduction. Sweet.
Sound System: Sounds very good -- an order of magnitude better
than any notebook I've seen, and better than the dinky powered
speakers most desktops come with. The sound quality is on-par with
the $70 Altec sound system one of my housemates has, although the
maximum volume is much lower. The maximum volume is loud enough
that I usually have to turn it down a bit when I'm watching movies
(louder than the really cheezy desktop speakers that come with
low-end computers these days).
Power management/battery life --
HAHAHAHAHA. Yeah. Right. Giant, heavy battery. I haven't timed it
yet, but I think it has like 45 minutes of battery life or
- My old i8100 had two bays, one of which could
hold either CD-ROM or battery, and the other could hold just a
battery. Here, there is one battery bay. As a result, even if you
get the spare battery, there is no way to get twice the battery
life, since you can't have two batteries in there, and I would
presume you can't swap batteries while running without an
outlet. You have to shut down, swap batteries, and reboot.
- No "plain" quick-snap cover. I bought this as an engineering
workstation, not a gaming machine. I'd like one in black or gray.
I think the cover comes off, but I haven't tried removing it yet.
The manual has no instruction on removing the quick-snap cover.
- Took a month toand a half to come -- much longer than even the
estimated ship date.
- I hate the feel of the keyboard -- gives me RSI. I might
have added a thin numeric keypad too -- there's about 1" room on
each side of the kayboard.