Dell Inspiron2500 meets Mandrake Linux

A Quick Guide To Installing Windows & Mandrake 8.2 on a Dell Inspiron 2500 Laptop


Matthew J Fletcher


01st May 2002


version 1.0.


Before You Start

Please backup any 'really important' files from your windows system, such as important documents, names & email address, maybe even your old emails, and anything else that would cause real problems if you lose them. The best way to do this is to burn them to a CD,. floppy's just are not safe enough.

The next thing is to create a windows boot floppy, this is only easy with win98 or NT, for other operating systems u will need to download one from the super net. (google search for windows boot floppies), then follow the instructions on that website for writing the floppy image to disk (its normally automatic).

Preparing Windows for Co-Habitation

9GB of disk space is just not that much anymore, and one thing both Windows and Linux have in common is a liking of free disk space. To this end it would be a good idea to un-install any windows applications that are just hanging around, you can do this most cleanly by using the Add/Remove applications program from the control panel (Settings).

When this is complete you need to de-fragment your hard drive, its best to do this by booting in safe mode, (by pressing F8 on early boot), then run scandisk, then run defrag.

Installing Mandrake Linux 8.2 (mdk82)

Grasp your mdk82 dvd (or first cd) firmly and place it in the drive and power on the machine, the mdk82 installer will then startup. I will only cover important elements of the installation, as Mandrake have done a very good job in making the installation easy.

Disk Partitioning

This can look worrying but its not,.. click on the disk (probably called /mnt/windows by diskdrake) and select resize, then select the new size normally the disk should be 50/50 windows/linux.

You should now have some empty space, click on it and select 'create', then for 'filesystem type' choose 'linux swap' and create a partition about 2x the size of your ram (swap is Linux virtual memory). Next you need to create a normal disk area, but first you can do something a bit special.

If you want a fully 128bit encrypted filesystem for your homespace you can !, the drawback is that u have to type quite long password on every bootup but your data will be 100% secure, i.e only governments will be able to find what love letters you have been writing and to whom. To do this click on the remaining free space and then 'create', then select the size of the filesystem (i would recommend putting your home directory on here, so 1GB of space is a good bet), for the filesystem type the default is ok (ext3), the mount point should be (and type this in) '/home'. Then clock on options, and select 'encrypted', you then need to enter a long password (over 20 chars), then click ok.

However if your not paranoid (and why not ?), then you don't need that because Linux is very secure anyhow. Just create a part ion to fill all the remaining space, filesystem ext3 (the default) and everything else the default, then click on ok, then default. Yes you do want all this written to the partition table.

Package / Application Selection / Install

Just select what u want, if you want to do development on this box (well laptop), i would recommend all the stuff except Scientific/Mail-Groupware-News/Firewall-Router/DNS-NIS/Other-Graphical Desktops.

Now you can select some of the individual applications, click on the button on the left (it looks like a pile of paper with a blue arrow), this will show you the full list of available packages. There are some applications that are very useful that Mandrake deemed not to be installed by default, here are some of my favorites.

Say yes to any questions you get about dependencies, and yes to questions about servers being installed (we will deal with them later).

Now, go and make a drink, the install will take a while.

User Configuration (or Whats My Name Again)

Make sure you remember your root password, you are screwed without it !!!!!!, then add a user (you) and press done, don't take the option of automaticly logging in one user, its a security nightmare.

Network Configuration

Click on the modem (dialup) and go through with minimal options, just so that you can get through the procedure (unless you happen to know all that stuff of by heart), you can fill all that stuff in later.

Sound & Printers

The Inspiron 2500 uses the basic but good AC97 driver, it should be autoconfigured, if not then skip it as its not worth messing around with now, you can always play with 'harddrake' later.

For the printer configuration now would be a good time to plug in your printer (if you have it handy, if not you can configure it later), your using a 'local printer' and then select yours from the list. You can print a test page if needed, but its generally not.

Service Configuration

(see generic post install fiddling section 2)

Bootloader & Bootdisks

Just use the defaults for the bootloader, a graphical lilo will be just super (and will allow you to mess around to your hearts content later). Do create a boot disk, its very important, or you may have to do the install again if everything goes a bit wrong.

XFree86 (display configuration)

This should be auto detected, the Inspiron 2500 as the Intel815 graphics chipset, not the most advanced ever (by a long way) but still a respectable chip as long as your don't want Quake. Choose the correct colour depth and resolution for your LCD. Its important that LCD (i.e laptop ones) are operated at the correct resolution as they have a native (sweet spot) that they function best at. This should be documented in the manual. Or you could just choose the resolution that Windows normally operates in. And yes its a very good idea to setup your computer to boot automaticly into X (unless you know what your doing).

Ok But What Now ?

Well, your machine will have rebooted and should be starting up Mandrake Linux, it may take a while (more so if you haven't switched of all the unneeded services). The graphical login should appear, so login and start to have some fun, but not for to long because there is still some stuff to be done (see next pages).

mdk82 Specific Post Install Fiddling

Intel 815 Graphics Not Working

Sometimes XFree86 does not work on i815 chipsets after upgrade. This is because Devfs restores dangling symlinks from the upgrade. The solution is to add "alias /dev/misc/agpgart agpgart" to the /etc/modules.devfs file. Now XFree86 (4.2.0 and 3.3.6) will work properly.

Accessing Windows Files

Linux can read (and write to), windows disks, if you remember from the installation the Windows part of the drive as called '/mnt/windows', this is actually a directory that the windows drive has been mounted under (just accept it, you don't need to know why). So if you open a explorer (by clicking on the 'Home' icon) and then going to '/mnt/windows' you will be able to see all your windows stuff.

Booting into Windows

Two possible things happen now, firstly is that you have a nice graphical operating systems chooser, (just use the up/down keys to select then press enter), the other is not quite so nice. It seems that Mandrake does not quite setup lilo (the Operating system chooser / bootloader) correctly, all you will see is a very basic LILO 22.2 prompt. Pressing the TAB key will show you a list of possible operating systems to boot (basically Linux or Windows), type 'windows' to boot into windows, or just press enter to boot linux (linux will boot automagicly after a few seconds).

Its not very nice looking though is it ?, we can do better. But thats another story, however you can read all about it from a page on my website at (

Generic Post Install Fiddling

The Linux kernel was based on Unix, Unix is a server operating system, this means that there are a number of things that can be done to optimize your new operating system for running on a laptop.

  1. First thing is to reduce the number of disk intensive 'cron' tasks, which are basically the same as windows 'scheduled tasks', so do this open a shell (click on the start menu, then goto terminals then click on 'shell'). A new shell (or terminal) window will now open, to administer background tasks you need to be logged on as the 'root' (the Unix name for an NT Administrator). To do this type 'su root' and then give the root password when asked. Now type the following commands to change hourly and daily tasks to only be run weekly. 'cp /etc/cron.hourly/* /etc/cron.daily/* /etc/cron.weekly/' this will copy all the hourly and daily tasks to the weekly folder, almost certainly there will be some overlap so if you get (file already exists overwrite y/n ?) just type 'y' and carry on.

  2. The second thing should be to switch of as many running process as possible, just after installation there will be a huge number of useless programs running in the background, most of which can to switched of, if your not a server or an uber user. From a terminal window type 'drackxservices', it will ask for the root password, when this is loaded you can see a huge list of possible and running tasks, you can go down the list and switch most of them off (by un-clicking the on boot option), except (and this is a big accept), the following.

If you want to know what these do (and you should) then click the info button to find out.

Inspiron 2500 Post Install Fiddling

Here we have some more advanced stuff that is not really required, however it may be useful, passably.

Direct Access Keys
The keycodes (visible with xev) are 129...132 for the four "direct access" keys and 174 and 176 for volume down and up, respectively. The only task is now how to tell your applications to use these keys. I have mapped them to F13...F18 by adding the following lines to my ~/.Xmodmap file:

  keycode 129 = F13
  keycode 130 = F14
  keycode 131 = F15
  keycode 132 = F16
  keycode 174 = F17
  keycode 176 = F18

CPU - Battery

The battery has a life of 400 recharges and you have 3 hours of autonomy. To recharge 1 hour with the laptop turned off, 2,5 hours turned on. The CPU is optimized by BIOS/motherboard, you can verify this thing at the boot: the speed detected by the Linux kernel changes from 697Mhz (with battery) to 897Mhz (electric alimentation).