Dell Dimension E521 with Linux

I bought a Dimension E521n to replace my server last week. I previously built a system myself with an AMD Duron Processor and an add on IDE Controller so I could load it up with hard drives for a file server. The only downside to this was that the fan I bought for this server I built was loud…REALLY loud. When we moved to a different apartment this past year we lost our spare room (office) and the computer went into my bedroom.  Needless to say, it’s LOUD at night when sleeping.

To replace this loud server I bought the E521-n series so Microsoft didn’t get any of my money. For those of you who don’t know, the N series desktops from Dell come with no operating system. Dell also claims that these computers are ‘ready for Linux’…but there are some problems associated with them. I was able to get ClarkConnect back on my server and pop in the IDE Controller PCI card (E521’s are completely SATA) after solving a couple of problems.

First and foremost, you have to make sure your E521 is running BIOS version 1.1.4 (Released January 2007). If you don’t, you’ll have USB problems all over the place. Second, when booting Linux, add the boot parameter acpi=noirq. If you can’t pass this parameter to your kernel you may need to completely turn off acpi using the ‘noacpi‘ parameter. The only downside to this is that your fan will run continuously and cause a bit more noise than it should.

When installing ClarkConnect 4.0, there is a routine for adding parameters to the kernel before GRUB writes to the MBR. I used this to pass the acpi=noirq parameter and after booting everything worked. Without passing this parameter, I received Kernel panics.

It’s also been reported that some kernels cannot find the broadcom module for the onboard LAN device. With ClarkConnect, this wasn’t a problem. I’ve heard that the Fedora Xen kernel has problems with this.

I’m going to list some links here for your reference that helped me in my quest:

ClarkConnect
Dell E521 and Linux Wiki Page
Yet Another Linux Blog and the USB Problem
Hardware Support for E521 N Series @ Ubuntu Forums

Hope this information helps someone with their problems! For those of you running Ubuntu, you’ll have to add ‘noapic irqpoll pci=routeirq’ to your boot parameters to get things rocking.

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devnet has been a project manager for a Fortune 500 company, a Unix administrator, a Technical Writer, and a System Analyst during his 10 years working with Technology.

  • http://linux-blog.org/index.php?/archives/211-Dell-E521-and-PCLinuxOS-2007-Final.html Yet Another Linux Blog

    It’s been a process of elimination to get my Dell E521 working. Previous workarounds with
    boot options didn’t work…so I had to use a combination of boot options to get things working nice and stable.I
    powered up the PCLinuxOS 2007 Final L

  • Jorden

    I’ve had more problems with this e521, beside the mentioned ones.
    They’re all fixed only since today (!), after almost a year. The problem is with the e521 shipped with the ati radeon x1300 video card. Only a very old driver worked until the latest propietary driver from ati. The version in-between caused X to startup and freeze with a black screen. The old driver worked, but had the infamous xv-extention bug causing X to crash when an application used xv. Also fgl_glxgears only showed correct animation when the EnablePrivateBackZ was turned on, causing apps like Blender.org not to work with its drop-down menus.
    All this seemed to be fixed with the
    latest ati driver. Not tested xv extensively, and not tested newer ALSA (yes, also the onboard sound hardly worked), but all other problems are solved as you configure your system as mentioned in this topic.