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Linux on a Dell Inspiron 3700/7000/7500

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Method 1: Modified Mach64 X Server
The current stock X server now supports the ATI Rage LT Pro and Mobility chipsets natively, but not all Dell LCDs will work with that one straight "out of the box". Specifically, the 1400x1050 LCD needs some modifications. Thanks to Panu Outinen, the 1400x1050 now works as well using a patched X server below (1280x1024 users -- see Method 4 if this one fails). In addition, I modified the code so that APM will no longer hang the machine. You will want to download all the files in the following steps before you begin. The modified X server also includes the DGA extensions which will allow you to run VMware in full screen mode.

Here are the steps:

  1. When you install Linux, install it using TEXT mode and not via a graphic user interface. Install X for your system as normal. Choose the stock XF86_Mach64 server (i.e. ATI Rage Pro). For other questions (such as monitor frequencies), select any value; we will be overwriting this file later. Do not probe the card for clock information and do not test it if asked.
  2. Locate the XF86Config file which was generated. On Debian systems, it is stored in /etc/X11/XF86Config. Some distributions use /etc/XF86Config. If you can't find yours, you can use the command
    find / -name XF86Config -print
    to locate the file.
  3. Replace the generated XF86Config file on your system with the one stored here. The default resolution is 1024x768 and the default color depth is is 16bpp color. If you want to operate in [slower] 24bpp instead, you need to edit the file and change the line "Depth 16" to "Depth 24". If you need a different resolution other than 1024x768, go to the end of the file and uncomment the appropriate resolution line. Don't forget to comment out the existing 1024x768 entry. (Note to 1400x1050 users: leave the Depth at 16 until everything is working)
  4. Make sure the XF86Config file has the right kind of linefeeds in it. Especially if you downloaded the file in Windows, you must perform this step. You can do this by running "dos2unix /etc/X11/XF86Config" (if your XF86Config file is stored somewhere else, use the right path instead). If your system does not have the dos2unix program and you get a "command not found" error, you can use tr instead by typing
    tr -d \\015 < /etc/X11/XF86Config > /etc/X11/;
    mv /etc/X11/ /etc/X11/XF86Config
    Modify the path to reflect the location of your XF86Config file if necessary.
  5. Locate your XF86_Mach64 binary. The XF86_Mach64 server is usually located in /usr/X11R6/bin, but it will vary with distributions. Again, if you can't find yours, use the find command "find / -name XF86_Mach64 -print".
  6. Download the modified 3.3.6 libc6 X binary, XMa64-3.3.6-steveh.tar.gz (If you would like to build your own X server, here is the patch file). Untar this file using the command
    tar -xzvf XMa64-3.3.6-steveh.tar.gz
    If you are using a libc5 system (i.e. Redhat 5.2), download the modified 3.3.5 libc5 X binary, XMa64-3.3.5-steveh.libc5.tar.gz, instead (libc5 binary courtesy of Mark Sibenac <>). If someone would like to build a libc5 binary of X 3.3.6 with the diff above applied, please send me a copy so that I may put it here.
  7. Replace your system's XF86_Mach64 binary that you located with the new one. For example, if you determined that your X binary resides in /usr/X11R6/bin, then you type
    cp XF86_Mach64 /usr/X11R6/bin
  8. Make sure the new downloaded binary is executable: "chmod 755 /usr/X11R6/bin/XF86_Mach64" (replace /usr/X11R6/bin with the correct path if necessary).
  9. Read this step carefully. If you have a any LCD screen besides the 1400x1050 one, you probably should not use a vga= line in your /etc/lilo.conf file. This is assuming that you are using the X server provided in this method. If you use vga=, you will get lots of flicker on your screen. On the other hand, if you have the 1400x1050 LCD, you should use vga=791 in /etc/lilo.conf (you can add the line anywhere you want, but it is probably best to put it right after the label= line of the linux kernel you are using. If you prefer 1280x1024 resolution for the console, you may use vga=794 instead of 791. I don't recommend 24 bit consoles, but if you insist, other possible options are 792 or 795. When you reboot, you should see a small 1x1 inch penguin on your screen. If you do not see this small penguin at the top left or right of your screen, then you have not sucessfully performed this step. It most likely means that your kernel does not support framebuffers. In that case, try using vga=2 instead. Using this method, you won't see the penguin but X may work. If you're still having problems, then you should build a kernel that has framebuffers enabled, or you can follow the instructions in method #2 to use a prebuilt kernel. Oh yeah, don't forget to rerun /sbin/lilo after modifing your /etc/lilo.conf file or else changes will not take effect on the next reboot. Do you need instructions on how to modify lilo.conf? See Using Vi To Edit lilo.conf.
  10. If this method worked for you, please support this page by registering with Ebates. It costs you nothing and by signing up they will donate 10 meals to the World Food Program. And even better, you will get up to 25% cash back off purchases from well-known online stores including Barnes&Noble, Dell, Disney Store, eToys,, Toys R Us, and many others. If you would just take a few minutes to register in exchange for the help provided by this page, I would really appreciate it.

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