Aug
3
2010

Dell Inspiron and Ubuntu Woes

Recently my cousin bought a new laptop – Dell Inspiron 14r with Windows 7 Home Basic x64.It has 4GB of RAM, Intel Core i3 processor and 500GB Hard disk.

My cousin wanted Ubuntu on her laptop.So I went to her house thinking that I will be able install Ubuntu in 15 min.Unfortunately installing Ubuntu on a Dell Inspiron 14r was challenge.It took almost 3 hours fix all issues.Read on on find out why I took 3 hours just to install Ubuntu on a Dell Laptop

By default, the hard disk is partitioned into 3 primary partitions. The 1st partition is the Hidden System Reserved Partition and is about 86MB.The 2nd partition is also hidden and is about 10GB.This partition is the Dell Local Safe Partition. It contains the factory image which can be used to restore the laptop to its original state. This feature can be accessed by pressing the F8 key immediately after switching on the laptop. The third partition is the C drive and is about 440GB.This partition is visible and can be explored through Windows. This partition contains the operating system, program files and user data. I still don’t know why companies like Dell ship computers with only one usable partition. It would be nice to at least have a C and a D drive for the users to use.

To install Ubuntu, I had to free up some space on the hard disk. These are the steps I followed to shrink the C drive, create a D Drive and free up some space for Ubuntu

Resizing or Shrinking C Drive in Windows 7

  1. Start-Right Click on-Computer-Manage
  2. Computer Management – Disk Management.
  3. Right click on the C drive – Shrink.
  4. Follow the on screen instructions to shrink the C Drive. I managed to shrink the C drive from 440GB to 210GB
  5. In the remaining free space of about 230GB I created an Extended Partition.

Since my cousin wanted to store her data in a separate partition I created a 100GB Logical Drive in the Extended Partition and formatted this as NTFS. This partition became the D Drive in Windows Explorer. Now about 130GB of space was unallocated and I planned install Ubuntu in this space.

Downloading and Installing Ubuntu

I downloaded Ubuntu 10.04 from Ubuntu.com. I used Universal USB Installer to create a bootable USB drive from the downloaded Ubuntu iso file. Here I used my Transcend Jet flash 1GB USB Drive.  I restarted the laptop and pressed F12 to enter the Boot Selection Menu. Here I selected the USB and I booted into the Live Desktop of Ubuntu 10.04.I double clicked on the “Install Ubuntu” icon on the Desktop and I was presented with the 7 Step Installer. Here I just followed the on screen instructions. However at the Partition Management Step I selected the “Use Large Contiguous Free Space”. This option used the 136GB of unallocated space in the extended partition to install Ubuntu. Installation was very fast and took less than 15 minutes to install Ubuntu. Now I rebooted and I got the plain Grub2 Menu with the menu entries to load Ubuntu, Windows, Memtest and some Recovery Options.

There were TWO MAJOR PROBLEMS after installing Ubuntu in Dell Inspiron 14r

  1. Both the Ethernet and Wireless Hardware were not detected by Ubuntu
  2. Downloading a file in Windows and rebooting resulted in Grub2 Menu Blackout. The boot menu never showed up.

I will start with how I solved the second problem. The first thing I did was boot from the Ubuntu USB and reinstall Grub2 I followed the steps given here https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Grub2#Reinstalling%20from%20LiveCD

But that did not help. I got an error and on rebooting the boot menu never showed up.

So I booted from the Windows 7 DVD and did a startup repair to restore the Windows 7 MBR. Now I could at least boot into Windows. Now I reinstalled Ubuntu. The grub2 menu showed up, but once I downloaded something in Windows the Grub2 Menu would disappear. This was driving me crazy. I still don’t why the grub2 menu disappeared after downloading a file in Windows.

After thinking for some I got an idea. Instead of using Grub2 as the bootloader why not use Grub4Dos?

Booting Ubuntu from Grub4dos

Read this Install Grub4dos to your hard disk to install Grub4Dos.
There are two ways of booting Ubuntu from Grub4dos.
This is the code you need to enter in your menu.lst add an entry to load grub2 menu from Grub4dos.

  1. Loading the Grub2 menu from Grub4dos and then loading Ubuntu.
    title Ubuntu (Grub2 Menu)
    find --set-root --ignore-floppies --ignore-cd /boot/grub/core.img
    kernel   /boot/grub/core.img
  2. Directly loading Ubuntu from Grub4dos
    title Ubuntu 10.04
    find --set-root /boot/grub/grub.cfg
    kernel  /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.32-22-generic root=UUID=1cfd9508-88d6-4e11-aa86-2093e86588e5 ro   quiet splash
    initrd  /boot/initrd.img-2.6.32-22-generic

Actual entries to load Ubuntu can be found at /boot/grub/grub.cfg in Ubuntu. You will have something like

menuentry "Ubuntu, linux 2.6.32-22-generic" {
linux   /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.32-22-generic root=UUID=b02e1934-12dd-418a ro  quiet splash vga800
initrd  /boot/initrd.img-2.6.32-22-generic
}

Copy the two lines starting with linux and initrd to your grub4Dos menu.lst and replace linux with kernel.

The final menu.lst looks like this

color white/blue  black/light-gray
timeout 10
default 0

title Windows 7
find --set-root --ignore-floppies --ignore-cd /bootmgr
chainloader /bootmgr

title Ubuntu 10.04
find --set-root /boot/grub/grub.cfg
kernel   /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.32-22-generic root=UUID=1cfd9508-88d6-4e11-aa86-2093e86588e5 ro   quiet splash
initrd   /boot/initrd.img-2.6.32-22-generic

title Ubuntu (Grub2 Menu)
find --set-root --ignore-floppies --ignore-cd /boot/grub/core.img
kernel   /boot/grub/core.img

It was worth the effort installing and configuring Grub4Dos.It worked perfectly(even after downloading files in Windows)

Installing Wired Ethernet Drivers for Dell Inspiron in Ubuntu

For this I found instruction at http://ubuntuforums.org/showpost.php?p=9446984&postcount=6

Go to http://linuxwireless.org/download/compat-wireless-2.6 and download the file named “compat-wireless-2.6.tar.bz2” .Save it to your desktop. Then run these commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install build-essential
cd ~/Desktop
tar -xjvf compat-wireless-2.6.tar.bz2
cd compat-wireless*
scripts/driver-select atl1c
make
sudo make install

Then reboot. Hopefully your ethernet will work automatically after reboot.If not run:

sudo modprobe atl1c

Once your wired ethernet is working you can download and install the Broadcom Wireless Drivers to activate Wireless Network in Ubuntu. I got a message at the top right of the screen in Ubuntu to install restricted Drivers.This installed the Broadcom wireless drivers for the Dell Inspiron laptop.

For more information read this entire thread at Ubuntuforums http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=9435755

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6 Comments + Add Comment

  • i bought my inspiron 2 days a go, and found out the exactly same problems.. i think Dell should do something to support linux better.. :( thx anyway for the links :D

  • Thank you very much, i just received my DELL inspiron, and i became doubtful of installing ubuntu because i found 3 primary partitions. So i think i will use WUBI installer to put unbuntu.

  • Hi all,
    I have purchased my dell inspiron with i3 processor and i am trying to install fedora 7 in that,i tried 3 times it is showing successful but when i start my laptop it get hanged in not able to start linux in GUI or command mode,i have windows-7 pre-installed.can any one suggest what to do.
    Thanks

    • Do you get a menu to select between Windows and Fedora?

    • Fedora 7 on a Core i3?. Why don’t you use Fedora 12, 13 or (comming soon) 14?

  • Hi
    I too ve faced a similar problem like this. After installing Ubuntu, once i try to restart the system the boot loader does not list the instsalled Operating system. It simply shows the option to “Repair windows”. I ve left with no other choices other than repairing which eventually removes the partiion in which I ve installed Ubuntu. I am not able to log into Ubuntu.

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