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Ubuntu Natty Narwhal (11.04) on DELL Inspiron 14R (N4110)

June 22, 2011

Although ubuntu.com only lists Inspiron 14R working with pre-installed Ubuntu 10.10 (x86), I’ve been waiting too long to buy a new laptop, so I sucked it up and got it. There was no option to get Ubuntu pre-installed on dell.com, so I went with Windows 7 Home Premium, which will still be useful as a second OS for when things just don’t work. I happened to chip in on the “free” XBox offer for students, so my basic intel core i5 hardware configuration may differ from the regular basic, but here are all the specs:

  • 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i5-2410M processor 2.30 GHz with Turbo Boost 2.0 up to 2.90 GHz
  • 14.0″ High Definition (720p) LED Display with TrueLife™
  • 4GB Single Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz
  • 500GB SATA hard drive (7200RPM)
  • Intel HD Graphics/HD Graphics 3000 with up to 1.6GB Dynamic Video Memory
  • 8X Tray Load CD/DVD Burner (Dual Layer DVD+/-R Drive)
  • Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 1030, 1×2 bgn + Bluetooth
  • 48 WHr 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
  • Integrated 1.0 mega pixel widescreen HD Webcam

Nothing fancy, but overall, I don’t think I need anything extra. I’m not planning to do any gaming and the Intel graphics card should offer best compatibility. The other option was the Nvidia Optimus card, which DOES NOT work with Ubuntu.

Naturally, I wiped the hard drive and reinstalled a fresh copy of Windows 7 followed with Ubuntu Natty Narwhal (11.04).

First, I tried installing from a flash drive, which is a breeze to set up. I could not boot Ubuntu Live when using the flash drive in the USB port on the far right. Turns out that’s the USB 3.0 port (hence the SS written next to the port). Switching ports to the one on the close left made things work properly. I did not try the eSATA/USB port, so can’t comment on whether that works.

Ubuntu live worked like a charm. There were no apparent problems and the wireless adapter functioned without a hitch.

BTW, if you plan on installing Windows to dual-boot with Ubuntu, it’s probably the best idea to pre-format your hard drive in Ubuntu live. If you let Windows 7 partition your hard drive, no matter how you select the partitions, it will create 1 additional partition for essential system files. This is not entirely necessary, but it does have its uses (take a look at the discussion here). It is mostly used for system recovery purposes where you would normally have to boot from Windows 7 DVD to fix the problems (at least that was my understanding of it). The downside to this, is that the partition will use up one of your 4 primary partitions. That’s not a huge problem with most newer operating systems (for Windows starting with Vista), since they can be installed on logical partitions. Nevertheless, I’d like to keep my options open. Preformatting the hard drive will make Windows 7 install into the partition you indicate without the additional SYSTEM partition.

I like being flexible, which means I want to use LVM for my Ubuntu installation. Unfortunately, LVM cannot be configured during the standard Ubuntu installation and I had to use the Ubuntu alternate installation CD. This does not have a nice GUI, but is fairly intuitive. The problem is that I could not get Ubuntu alternate installer to load from the flash drive, no matter what port I tried. I could get to the first menu after booting, but selecting the Install Ubuntu onto Hard Drive option did not do anything. I think this was probably the problem with Pendrivelinux.com Universal USB Installer, since they seem to generate their own boot menu. This may get fixed in the near future, but if it doesn’t, burning the ISO onto a CD and booting from that, worked fine in my case.

Ubuntu installed without a problem and I’ve been using it for the past 4 days. I haven’t had any hardware related issues yet, but I still have to test the bluetooth, hybernation (sleep works fine), and CD/DVD burning. Everything else seems to just work. The multimedia keys (screen brightness, wireless on/off, volume, etc.) are recognized and function properly. I have not toyed around with the touch pad to make it recognize multi-touch actions, but I don’t particularly care about them and wouldn’t mind if they didn’t work. Touch pad scrolling works fine though. Webcam and mic are working as well.

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From → Linux

5 Comments
  1. hello permalink

    Did you install 32 bit or 64 bit. I have same computer but it seems to not work with 64 bit version. I have graphics related issues. E.g if I boot it without any graphics setting then the fan continuously runs. If i configure ati graphics card then the 3D acceleration does not seem to work. Is your fine as quiet as in windows 7, or how did you configure.

    • I installed the 64 bit version and 3D acceleration works fine without any further configuration. Note that I have the Intel HD Graphics 3000. I don’t recall seeing an ATI graphics option available on 14R. I do remember an NVIDIA Optimus card being an option and as far as I know those do not work with Ubuntu.

      • Lie permalink

        @Aurimas: some N4110 has two graphic cards, the integrated Intel one for power saving mode, and the dedicated ATi for when running graphic intensive apps, and can be switched using VGA Switcheroo. For example when I do lspci in my N4110, I get:


        00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation 2nd Generation Core Processor Family Integrated Graphics Controller (rev 09)

        01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: ATI Technologies Inc NI Whistler [AMD Radeon HD 6600M Series] (rev ff)

        Installing 64-bit Ubuntu, I haven’t been able to get the ATi card working, although Intel card works flawlessly out of the box. Both cards can do 3D acceleration, although I would presume that the dedicated ATi would do it better than integrated Intel.

        I had a love-hate relationship with the USB3.0 port in the laptop; on one hand several devices does not work with it (my harddisk occasionally refuses to automount on the USB 3.0 port), on the other hand, the USB 3.0 port works as a powered USB port when the laptop is off, so you can use it to charge your mobile phone or other devices without leaving the laptop on.

    • Lie permalink

      @hello: In my case with the fan issue, run this command on startup:

      sudo sh -c “echo \”OFF\” > /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch”

      the fan should switch slow down in a few seconds, and battery life improves significantly.

      • Lie permalink

        WordPress ruined the double quote above, try this:

        sudo sh -c "echo \"OFF\" > /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch"

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