RedHat 9.0 on the Inspiron 8500

Machine specs

I'm specifying only the main cards to reduce clutter.

Graphics card: ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 Working
Ethernet card: Broadcom 4401 Working
Wireless card: Dell TrueMobile 1300 Wireless LAN Not working


Installed from the CDs, without a hitch. The graphics card was detected correctly, although the screen was not. I chose "Dell Laptop Panel 1600x1200", and that has worked just fine for me though I suspect my actual resolution is lower.

I installed the Windows fonts from my previous Linux laptop as follows:

Getting the built-in network card, a BroadCom 4401, to work was a bit more involved, but I finally succeeded. The procedure was as follows:

  1. Download and install the kernel-source-2.4.20 package.
  2. Download the driver sources from the ASUS web site or
  3. Unpack, go into the directory where the Linux sources are and give the command 'make', which builds the driver.
  4. Copy bcm4400.o into /lib/modules/2.4.20-8/kernel/drivers/net
  5. Give the command insmod bcm4400, and lo and behold, it worked!
  6. Edited /etc/modules.conf to make it load on boot.

I then discovered that the built-in Dell TrueMobile 1300 Wireless LAN PCI card is also troublesome. It appears to be based on the Broadcom BCM4306/BCM2050 chipset, according to reports. No luck so far on finding drivers for either of these.

The machine freezes every now and then when there is heavy disk activity, which is really annoying. I've been told that turning on DMA with the hdparm command will solve this, but that didn't work for me:

[root@localhost src]# hdparm -d1 -m 16 /dev/hda
 setting multcount to 16
 setting using_dma to 1 (on)
 HDIO_SET_DMA failed: Operation not permitted
 multcount    = 16 (on)
 using_dma    =  0 (off)

The solution for me was to use the kernel patches found on Graeme Wilford's excellent page. I installed kernel-sources-2.4.20-9, applied the patches with patch -p1 I8500..., installed the kernel configuration found on that page, and compiled. Result: DMA now works fine.

Thanks to help from Stephen N. Floor I managed to get the volume keys to work. The trick was to do as follows:

  1. Use the xev program to find the keycodes for the volume keys. In my case they turned out to be 174 (lower) and 176 (raise).
  2. Ran the commands xmodmap -e "keycode 174 = XF86AudioLowerVolume" and xmodmap -e "keycode 176 = XF86AudioRaiseVolume" to map the buttons to the right key symbols.
  3. Configured the Sawfish window manager to run the command aumix -c-5 on lower and aumix -c+5 on raise.
  4. Tried it, and it worked.
  5. Put the commands into .xsession to make this permanent.

Not yet sure how to do the mute button, since it needs to run a different command depending on whether the speaker is muted or not. I may have to write a little script to get it to work.

Remaining issues:

Files for download

I'm providing some files for download here in the hope that it will make life easier for people:

Lars Marius Garshol,, 2003-04-24.