My new laptop Dell M4700

At the beginning of this year my old Dell XPS M1530 ended the warranty. After a few months trying to decide between a Lenovo and a Dell, I decided that for my work and also because of the great support they provide no matter in which part of Europe you are, I bought a Dell M4700. This was more or less right after I was at GUADEC and to be honest, since then it was quite a nightmare to make it work correctly in Linux.

The first distribution I tried in that moment was Fedora 17. I was working mostly. I needed the nvidia proprietary driver, ’cause nouveau didn’t work for my graphic card. Maybe too new at that time? This was ok, I installed the driver and it worked quite ok. What really pissed me off was that the touchpad didn’t work at all like a touchpad but like a normal mouse. The first thing that I did was to check if Ubuntu supported this laptop. In their web page it was saying that they did. (It was a lie) How you can support a laptop if it is not correctly working? Anyway after some more research I’ve found out that the touchpad in this laptop uses a new ALPS protocol not supported by the kernel.

In this post I could tell you all the insane things that I had to do to manage to finally get it working. But I will just put you here the steps that you have to follow in case that you are with a Fedora 17 or 18 and you have the same problem.

If the problems with the NVIDIA driver and the touchpad weren’t enough, a couple of weeks ago after some update in Fedora 18, I started to get hangs in my wireless connection. My first thought was, how is that possible? I am running Fedora 18 but with my custom Fedora 17 which has the touchpad working. Just this week after a post from Alberto Ruiz pointing me to the proprietary driver of Broadcom, I decided to install the broadcom-iwl package and now it is working as it never worked before.  Thanks again Alberto for opening my eyes.

And that’s it. Is this how Linux will conquer the world? Dunno, every time that I want to install Linux into a computer I always end up getting a lot of troubles. Unless we get something done at the respect we will really not reach all the normal people out there who just want to install an Operative System and work with it. To be honest I really encourage people to use the proprietary drivers if you are having these problems too.

Finally I want to thank Ben Gamari for the help provided on this touchpad topic and for reverse engineer the new Alps protocol.

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9 Responses to My new laptop Dell M4700

  1. Joseph says:

    > Is this how Linux will conquer the world? Dunno, every time that I want to install Linux into a computer I always end up getting a lot of troubles.

    My experience was exactly the opposite of yours, and I think the difference between our approaches is instructive.

    This is the story of how I got my new laptop working with Linux:

    Just last night, I received and unboxed my new laptop, plugged in the power (to ensure the battery got fully charged) and turned on the power. I entered in my name, username, password, time zone, and elected to encrypt my home directory. Then it completed setup for a few minutes (looks like it was copying files) and I logged in.

    Your approach: Buy a Dell or Lenovo computer designed for Windows and which only supports Windows. Try to get Linux to work on it. Essentially, you’re playing Systems Engineer to get Linux working on your computer instead of Dell, getting all the little different bits and pieces working 100% with the OS.

    My approach: You may have noticed the lack of an actual install step. This is because I bought a Gazelle from System76 which came pre-installed with Ubuntu. They do all the work of ensuring Linux works on the laptop 100% and I get to enjoy their hard work.

    Perhaps you should try buying from a Linux vendor next time?

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  2. Bastien says:

    broadcom-wl. You’re confusing with Intel’s “iwl” drivers.

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  3. Were you aware of this?
    http://content.dell.com/us/en/enterprise/d/campaigns/sputnik

    I’m contemplating to buy that laptop, because System76 and ZaReason don’t offer nice ultrabooks.

    I feel your pain a bit, with my current laptop I still face slightly higher power consumption and a fan which ramps up faster than when using Windows, and it was necessary to get a kernel bug fixed to get suspend working. But other than that Fedora works nicely on my laptop.

    But the manufacturers are the problem, not Linux if you ask me. Like Joseph I think the solution lies in buying laptops from manufacturers which support Linux.

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  4. Kurt says:

    This sounds like my story.

    A long time ago I bought a nice ATI All-in-wonder card. It was a 3D card with video/audio recording capabilities. A Linux-guru suggested me to buy ATI because the chipset was supported by the Kernel.

    It wasn’t.

    The chipset had a _single_ different number (out of a lot) in the serial… and that was enough to break the drivers.

    I googled. I found many users with the same problems. I subscribed to linux newsgroups about ATI drivers. I compiled and recompiled patches. In the end I made it “work”. It was accelerated but all the all-in-wonder features of the card were not working or bugged.

    If that was not enough, I received a Toshiba notebook as a gift. Different problems, same story. I managed to have it “somehow working” after a lot of time.

    Then I realized I was losing months “playing” with Linux. I was a student, I was learning… everything looked nerd and cool. But… hey, I was just not using my PC. I was “playing Systems Engineer” as Joseph said.

    So, when I “grew up” and I had some money to invest, I did what Joseph did… more or less. I bought my first Mac. For the first time I had an machine I could “work with” and not just “play with”.
    At that time a solution like Gazelle from System76 was not possible so I switched from Linux to OSX… maybe today I would have tried it.

    I used to like Linux. I feel like a rejected lover. I still use linux everyday, you know ;) , but I think it is always -almost- usable. Every time everything seems to be working, the next release will break something.
    That’s not a rant on Apple vs Linux vs OS/2 vs Win vs BeOS…. Everybody talks about UX, User Experience, today. This is my hope to have in the near future a real Linux USER Experience… not just a Sysadmin Experience or a Developer Experience. :)

    I like playing Systems Engineer. I just do not have time to do it anymore.

    PS) What scares me is that the reason behind all of this is not technical. If Linux is the proof a wonderful OS can be crowd-built, Linux is also the proof good management is the key to success. IMHO if Linux wants to exit from its niche in the consumer market it needs something more than Linus Torvalds and a bunch of distro companies. Hey… isn’t it spelled Android?

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  5. Kurt says:

    …and looks like I’m not the only one looking at Android UI as the last chance for Linux to say something on the Desktop: http://ignorethecode.net/blog/2012/11/18/touch_on_desktop/

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    • [Blocked by CFC] nacho says:

      To be honest I am really enjoying the user experience of GNOME. The fact that you would prefer Android over a normal linux desktop does not mean that you would not have the same problems with the hardware. As at the end of the day it is a linux kernel running with it. If the hardware companies do not make it easier and provide better support for linux we will still have the same problems. Another issue would be to have something like OSX, a company which build the hardware for a linux computer with really good drivers for it.

  6. Kurt says:

    That’s true… but with Android I do not refer to the UI only but to its ecosystem. I mean to see for the notebooks the same thing happening to smartphones: companies, Google first of all, shipping tested hw&sw altogether. In my opinion the only way to drive people away from Windows is to start from the mobile where MS has (now) very low visibility while Android is a standard. The problem is Google is probably the only company with some interest in dethroning Windows. Btw, what’s happening to chromebooks?

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    • nacho says:

      Well… I guess that they are too cloud based I guess. I totally agree about the fact that if we want a good linux machine somebody will have to stand up and provide a good hardware tested with linux. I don’t really care if it is android or a normal linux. There is also the issue that a really amount of people were using windows because of the games, maybe this will change now that Steam is really getting into the linux world… how knows :)

  7. Bruce Paul says:

    hii this is bruce. i am a regular user of your blog because it gives me an important information.
    ……
    animation notes

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