Upgraded my Dell D630 to 4GB RAM

That was quick:

  • Order placed with Crucial yesterday afternoon around 1.30pm for 2 sticks of 2GB RAM.
  • UPS guy called this morning at 11.30am with RAM.
  • Dell D630 laptop upgraded to 4GB RAM with the help of this tutorial. Only took about 20 minutes, although unscrewing and removing the keyboard was a bit nerve wrecking.
  • Rebooted and found that Linux only found 3.5GB of the RAM but fixing that is simple:

    # apt-get install linux-headers-server linux-image-server linux-server

  • Reboot and I see 4GB RAM. Should make running Firefox and Bibble Pro 5 a lot less painful. Both memory hogs.

4GB of DDR2 RAM only cost me about 50 Euro. I’m sure I have a receipt for 8MB of SDRAM I bought years ago. Cost me 100 quid then. So, 4GB of RAM back then would have cost a small fortune.



Edit: the server kernel has terrible video performance (unsurprisingly), I’ve gone back to the desktop kernel and will recompile it when that 500MB of RAM becomes a real necessity (or I move to a 64 bit version of Ubuntu).

HOWTO: Ubuntu desktop visual effects on Dell D630

The Dell Latitude D630 comes with a number of different video cards but if you use the Intel chipset you may be frustrated when trying to activate the visual effects eye candy of Compiz:

Ubuntu Visual Effects

Checking either of the lower two options brings up this alert saying, “Desktop effects could not be enabled”.

Ubuntu Visual Effects

I didn’t bother trying to fix it for ages and put it down to using Ubuntu on exotic hardware. Fortunately it’s simple to get working. I just needed to install the xGL server:

# aptitude install xserver-xgl
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
Reading extended state information
Initializing package states... Done
Building tag database... Done
The following NEW packages will be automatically installed:
  libglitz-glx1 libglitz1
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  libglitz-glx1 libglitz1 xserver-xgl
0 packages upgraded, 3 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 0B/1843kB of archives. After unpacking 4854kB will be used.
Do you want to continue? [Y/n/?]

Once I logged out (and rebooted, for some reason my external monitor doesn’t always “catch” when I restart X) and back in again xGL was loaded and I was able to enable desktop visual effects. Despite my misgivings about using an embedded graphics chip it actually works really well. Windows bounced around, bent out of shape and did lots of nice animation stuff.

Then I removed the whole lot by uninstalling the xserver-xgl package again. Why? Unfortunately it conflicts with other openGL apps. In a toss up between fancy desktop effects and decent SDLMame performance, SDLMame wins hands down. It’s nice to know the visual effects work though!

Ubuntu WiFi problems on the Dell D630 laptop

Wireless networking was always a bit patchy for me on my Dell Latitude D630 while running Ubuntu Gutsy version of Linux. It would work fine for ages and then freeze up suddenly, requiring a hard reboot to get things working (Apache would become unkillable, I guess because it was attached to the broken Wireless networking driver.) Problems always showed up when I transferred large amounts of data between Linux and my Macbook. Files copied fine for a few minutes and then the whole house of cards would collapse. Crash! Boom!

The first time I looked for a solution nothing turned up, but eventually I went searching again, and after digging into all sorts of forums and websites I found the simpe solution on the Dell Linux Wiki:

Create a file called /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-ipw3945 and add:

blacklist ipw3945

Add to /etc/modules:


Reboot after doing that and all will be fine in the world again! I haven’t had any networking issues since replacing the ipw3945 driver with the iwl3945 one!

Ubuntu Gutsy on the Dell Latitude D630

I previously documented my problems with Ubuntu and the DVD in the D630 but the upgrade to Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy From Feisty went almost painlessly.

ubuntu 710 upgrade

All the packages downloaded and installed through the nice GUI front end. I was able to work away while they downloaded and for most of the time during install too, but when I rebooted I found that sound wasn’t working! I found this solution but I didn’t want to compile a kernel again. That’s so 90’s and this is 2007! Instead I checked my grub menu.lst and found there was an older 2.6.20 kernel listed there. A quick reboot later and sound works again, and it’s even louder! WiFi never stopped working thankfully but if you’re having problems, the page above explains what you need to install to get it working.

I haven’t tried the eye candy features yet, but so far the system feels springier and lighter, even with the old kernel. Let’s hope it stays that way!

Bah. GIMP 2.4rc3 broke a lot of the Script-fu scripts I use. I read about this somewhere. Time to get my hands dirty in my lomo plugin for starters.

Nice! Gthumb supports RAW images although it takes ages to initially process them initially.

Ubuntu Linux on Dell D630: the DVD

Getting the DVD drive working in Ubuntu Feisty on my Dell D630 laptop was one of the tasks that eluded me until a few minutes ago when I went searching again and found the solution.

At first I tried this and used the ide-generic driver. Linux recognised the drive, but as the page above says, it doesn’t give you any DMA modes. I tried the Bourne Supremacy, just to see if anything would happen, but Totem just sat there and the system became sluggish while the CD made some whirring noises. That’s a sure sign that DMA isn’t working!

That wasn’t going to be satisfactory, so I kept searching. This page and some of the Ubuntu forums suggest loading the “piix” and “ata_piix” modules. I tried to modprobe them without luck, but when I added “piix” to my /etc/modules and rebooted my DVD drive was found!

DMA is now enabled and everything works ok. Even got the film to play in Mplayer and it was very smooth.

# hdparm -i /dev/hda


Model=TSSTcorp DVD+/-RW TS-L632D, FwRev=DE04, SerialNo=
Config={ Fixed Removeable DTR10Mbs nonMagnetic }
RawCHS=0/0/0, TrkSize=0, SectSize=0, ECCbytes=0
BuffType=unknown, BuffSize=0kB, MaxMultSect=0
(maybe): CurCHS=0/0/0, CurSects=0, LBA=yes, LBAsects=0
IORDY=on/off, tPIO={min:227,w/IORDY:120}, tDMA={min:120,rec:120}
PIO modes: pio0 pio1 pio2 pio3 pio4
DMA modes: mdma0 mdma1 mdma2
UDMA modes: udma0 udma1 *udma2

# hdparm /dev/hda

IO_support = 1 (32-bit)
unmaskirq = 1 (on)
using_dma = 1 (on)
keepsettings = 1 (on)
readonly = 0 (off)
readahead = 256 (on)