Continuing Saga – Dell E521 vs. Linux. Fight!

By now, I feel pretty punch drunk.  My Dell E521 has been kicking my beehind for quite a few days as I’ve tried to install PCLinuxOS 2007 Final.

I’ve used all the boot options in my arsenal and couldn’t stop it from freezing after 30 minutes.

I turned off ACPI, turned it on, turned on APM, turned it off.  Disabled every service I could possibly disable, then turned them on.  No matter what I did, it seemed that it always froze at the wrong time…that time being just after I blogged that I had solved the problem (see previous post).  Actually, can you just ignore that previous post? 😉

Thanks to a comment by reader jsnyder, I was told of an unreleased version of the Dell E521 BIOS (version 1.1.8).  After a BIOS flash, PCLinuxOS Final ran all weekend long without a single freezeup.  Go figure :)  Where can you get this unreleased BIOS from?  Why, it’s rather simple…the Dell public download ftp server of course!

Connect to:
Look for:  DME521-010108.EXE

Install and enjoy your Linux desktop not freezing!  Thanks again to jsnyder for pointing out that there was another version of the BIOS out there.  My PCLinuxOS 2007 E521 thanks you (as do I).  Hopefully, this will also help others out there that are having similar problems.

Dell E521 and PCLinuxOS 2007 Final

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 LiveCD and began the installation to disk. During the bootloader configuration I appended the following text to the end of my linux, failsafe, and framebuffer entry:

noacpi irqpoll pci=routeirq

From there, I saved, closed all programs and rebooted. Upon first boot I opened Synaptic and installed the PCLinuxOS .a64 Kernel which is optimized for 64 bit processors. I then opened up the PCLinuxOS Control Center yet again, went to the boot section and altered my grub bootloader again with the same information in the code above. I rebooted to make sure my changes worked.

When logging in this time, I opened Synaptic and installed the Nvidia 97xx drivers for my graphics card (Fata1ity 7600GT). After this installs you’re prompted to restart X and upon login…you should be presented with quite a stable and quick desktop.

Hopefully this works well for those of you out there that are using E521’s or E520’s as I believe they have the same mainboard (not sure though).

Speed Tweaking PCLinuxOS 2007 TR3

Using PCLinuxOS 2007 TR3 for the last few weeks, I’ve noticed VAST improvements over the .93a release. The most noticable of these is boot times. My boot time is absolutely amazing on this Dell E521n…it averages 30-40 seconds. That’s right. 30-40 SECONDS. I was floored the first time I booted after install. I thought I had done something wrong. I quickly rebooted and got out the stopwatch and recorded 32 seconds as my official time. I rebooted another 5-6 times and averaged in between 30-40 seconds each time and was closer to 30 on 8 out of 10 boots. Absolutely amazing.

Linux, with projects like upstart which is being considered for the next release of Ubuntu, are getting to the point now where boot times will drop considerably. This is welcome as far as I’m concerned…it allows you to get going right away with your business be it personal or other.

Once you’re logged in though…many people don’t touch the OS itself and instead leave it at the default settings. For most people this is ok…as not having something set to be optimized is ok and most distro rollers setup their distros so that they cause the least amount of problems for the most variety of hardware. For me, I like to mess around. I like to play. “I like the night life…I like to boogie

So without further silliness and introductional nonsense, I proudly present a bunch of data that I gathered from various sources (cited where possible) and a few tricks of my own that will allow most rpm based distros to tweak their way into improved performance. Since I did this specifically for the PCLinuxOS community though, I’ve titled the article accordingly. As it is, the article should work for most Fedora’s and Mandriva’s and possibly even OpenSuse.

Read more

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:

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.