Installing Linux on Dell Inspiron Mini 1012

I got a Dell Inspiron Mini 1012 recently just to use as a machine to distro-hop. I tried Live CDs of many distributions and following are my observations. Since there’s no CD or DVD drive in the Mini 1012, I used Windows, UNetbootin, and a Patriot Razzo USB thumb drive to create my installation media.

PCLinuxOS 2010

I downloaded the GNOME and KDE versions. All buttons worked in the KDE version, including brightness and audio keys. Wireless was detected automatically and I was able to connect to my home wireless network without problems. The only problem was that audio was too low, even after maximizing the audio level. Thinking it might be an issue with KDE, I ran the GNOME version.

In GNOME all keys worked except the audio keys. Audio itself was very good, unlike in KDE. But no matter what I tried I could not get the audio keys to work. Again, wireless worked out of the box and I was even able to watch videos in You Tube without having to install Flash. But because of the problems with either too low audio or the audio keys not working, I decided to skip PCLinuxOS.

gNewSense

I was aware that gNewSense provides free software only and would not work with hardware devices requiring proprietary drivers. I still gave it a shot. As I had expected, wireless did not work and I found no option to actually get it to work. Kudos to the project for sticking to their principles but I do need to use wireless. All keys, such as brightness and audio worked out of the box. I had to skip it because of the wireless issue.

Linux Mint

I downloaded Linux Mint 9, based on Ubuntu. All keys worked but wireless would not work. Since I have read in many places that Mint is supposed to be a friendlier version of Ubuntu I was a little disappointed. So I just left it at that.

Peppermint Linux

This is, I believe, based on Linux Mint. It had the same issue with wireless card not working. I skipped it for the same reason.

openSUSE

I downloaded the 11.2 version but when booting I got an error message saying Could not find kernel image: gfxboot. A little searching showed (Could not find kernel image: gfxboot) that the issue is with using UNetbootin to create the installer on a USB drive. I didn’t feel inclined to follow the official method and so skipped it.

Mandriva

I tried to get Mandriva to boot but it would get stuck on a splash screen of some sort. I searched around a bit but did not find a solid way to solve the problem. The result: skip it.

Ubuntu

Since Dell has been working with Ubuntu I expected it to work flawlessly. So instead of playing around with the Live CD I just went in there and started installing Ubuntu 10.04. The first thing that impressed me was during disk partitioning it recognized the original Windows installation and prepared a plan to keep it while installing Ubuntu. Once I booted for the first time I was shown a message saying there was a proprietary driver available for my wireless card. I installed it and everything worked from. All keys were working as expected. I kept it around for a few days and then decided to move on.

Fedora

Soon after I installed Ubuntu Fedora 13 was released. I booted its Live CD and found the same repeated problem: wireless card would not work. I searched around and found a solution: install RPM Fusion repo and then follow the instructions of How To: Wireless LAN with Broadcom BCM4312 in Fedora 11. This basically involved running the following command and then re-booting the machine: sudo yum install broadcom-wl wl-kmod.

During installation Fedora also found the Windows and Ubuntu partitions and allowed me to install over Ubuntu while keeping Windows intact.

I installed Flash using the instructions at Fedora 11 Flash. And from there You Tube videos started working. All keys worked out of the box; there were no issues with audio either.

Conclusion

As of this writing I am happily running Fedora 13 on my Dell Mini 1012. Although I tried a lot of distributions, I didn’t spend as much time trying to get them to work on this machine as I did with Ubuntu and Fedora. For this reason I would give all of them a try sometime in the future. Ubuntu has a netbook remix which I tried as well, I prefer the simple GNOME with just one bar at the top to better utilize my netbook’s screen space. If you have the same or similar netbook please share your experience with distro-hopping on it (if any) and which distro you are happily running these days.

lspci Output

I ran lspci and following is the output.

00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation N10 Family DMI Bridge
00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation N10 Family Integrated Graphics Controller
00:02.1 Display controller: Intel Corporation N10 Family Integrated Graphics Controller
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation N10/ICH 7 Family High Definition Audio Controller (rev 02)
00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation N10/ICH 7 Family PCI Express Port 1 (rev 02)
00:1c.1 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation N10/ICH 7 Family PCI Express Port 2 (rev 02)
00:1d.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation N10/ICH7 Family USB UHCI Controller #1 (rev 02)
00:1d.1 USB Controller: Intel Corporation N10/ICH 7 Family USB UHCI Controller #2 (rev 02)
00:1d.2 USB Controller: Intel Corporation N10/ICH 7 Family USB UHCI Controller #3 (rev 02)
00:1d.3 USB Controller: Intel Corporation N10/ICH 7 Family USB UHCI Controller #4 (rev 02)
00:1d.7 USB Controller: Intel Corporation N10/ICH 7 Family USB2 EHCI Controller (rev 02)
00:1e.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge (rev e2)
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation NM10 Family LPC Controller (rev 02)
00:1f.2 SATA controller: Intel Corporation N10/ICH7 Family SATA AHCI Controller (rev 02)
00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corporation N10/ICH 7 Family SMBus Controller (rev 02)
05:00.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8101E/RTL8102E PCI Express Fast Ethernet controller (rev 02)
07:00.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4312 802.11b/g LP-PHY (rev 01)

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3 Responses to Installing Linux on Dell Inspiron Mini 1012

  1. Isthmus says:

    Hi Codeghar. I just bought a 1012 and enjoyed reading your article. I’ve been testing Mint 9 and the issue you were having is the same as you had with Ubuntu. You are supposed to update your hardware drivers. After install everything should work perfectly out-of-the-box, except the wifi driver that has to be enabled from “Hardware drivers”. There are two options, ‘b43′ and ‘broadcom-STA’. You want the broadcom-STA option. Peppermint is fixed in the same way.

    As an aside, have you tried testing Elive on your 1012. I think this might be the perfect distro for this machine, but I’m stuck with a graphical system error on the live boot. I was wondering if someone with more experience than I might be interested in giving this one a shot and see if it works, and what workaround you found.

  2. hs says:

    Ah see I didn’t know I had to go to “hardware drivers” for it. I did wonder why Ubuntu was able to detect and install but not Mint and Peppermint. Thanks for the tip. I haven’t tried Elive but one of these days …

  3. hs says:

    Once I ran updates on Fedora, it broke my wireless. The reason was that a new kernel did not have a corresponding wireless module in the RPM Fusion repository. I had always been concerned about this scenario: using multiple repositories to get the basic functionality working. I could not wait for third-party repositories to catch up. Therefore, I switched to Ubuntu. So far, I have had no complaints.

    I do like Fedora a lot. Until I have a machine which can be supported by free software alone, I will have to use Ubuntu. Of course, Fedora in a virtual machine is always an option.

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