Linux Mint 7 on a Dell Mini (with working video/resolution)

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Linux Mint 7 on a Dell Mini (with working video/resolution)

Postby lee8oi on Sun Aug 23, 2009 9:19 pm

I recently had the joy of trying out one of Dell's Mini 12 Laptops. Those of you who have tried installing linux on them may have felt the sarcasm when I said 'joy'. They are actually not bad little internet systems. You can watch streaming videos, play with the webcam, check your email, tend to your financials, etc,etc,etc... My girlfriend loves it (course thats because I took the liberty of going through the frustrating stuff for her). Stats wise the system has An intel Atom(TM) CPU Z520 processor, 1gb ram, no disk drive. and intel video( lspci says 'Intel corporation system controller hub (SCH Poulsbo) Graphics Controller (rev 07)'. Poulsbo apparently is used in a number of the mini's, AspireOne, and netbooks for video). 3D is not really something this little guy is designed to handle well. But with correct screen resolution, and normal video performance it works fine. Pretty much like I said...its mainly a good Internet system.

When I got it out of the box it had Ubuntu 8.04 LTS on it with some dell modifications. This was probably the last release with decently working Poulsbo support before the 'intel video depression' began. It was nice. had a neat home interface setup with quick access to the favorite programs. But everything felt quite out of date. On top of that I really wanted to have Mint on there for the woman cuz she likes it better then Ubuntu :O) So I'm gonna get right to it.

There was a number of steps I had to take to get everything running including the fresh install of Mint 7. First of all I skipped the external usb drive when I ordered the Mini so I had to make a Live USB drive. That was actually pretty easy in linux. All I had to do was get Unetbootin. Easy way to do it in Linux is open a terminal and copy and paste the following code(might have to right click and select 'paste')
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Once you have saved that file to your hard drive you have to enable execute permissions using:
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chmod +x unetbootin-linux-356

Assuming you already have the Linux Mint 7 iso image downloaded on your computer, and you have already mounted your usb drive, you can start unetbootin by typing the following:
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That should ask for you password and open a dialog. You can see you have a few options for how you want to setup your usb drive. The One I'm using is the second one 'Diskimage' click the button to the right of the text entry box you can browse for your Mint 7 image and click 'open'. Make sure your usb drive's mount dir shows in the 'drive:' box then click ok. within a few minutes you should have a flash drive ready to go. plug that into your Mini, and reboot.
When the computer first boots up you'll have to hit 12, or whatever button gets you to the "boot menu" and select "removable media". After the grub menu you should see a normal boot of Mint 7.

Heres where I won't hold your hand. Installation of Mint 7 is up to you. But I do recommend letting Mint use the whole disk, and automatically partition. If you know what you are doing you should create a swap partition(1.5gb seems sufficient) this I gather helps avoid a problem or two when using hibernate function. Also helps to have /home on a separate partition but its up to you. being tight on resources with this laptop you might prefer to put it all on one partition. Either way. We'll move on when you have a fresh install of Mint 7 all loaded up.

The first thing I like to do after the first boot is open MintUpdate and install all available updates. This Helps us make sure all the latest packages are installed as many new fixes have come available recently.

The webcam, wireless, bluetooth, sound(after turning up all the mixers), all worked fine out of the box. but the screen resolution wasn't quite right. In the webcam video I looked alot wider then usual making me feel fat, and the video seemed alittle sluggish. So I set out to find the problem. Found it. I guess Poulsbo is to blame here. This seems to be the case in Aspire ones, and netbooks too. So there was some extra work to do.

The drivers I needed were definitly not available in the repos we have in Mint so I had to add to the list. So open the sources list using:
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sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

Then we'll add these repositories at the end of the file.
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deb jaunty main
deb-src jaunty main

Now the job of importing the keys. Actually this is Simplified by a bit of code that can be reused for other keys as well (thanks to jack w ). Just copy and paste the following into the terminal:
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for i in `sudo aptitude update 2>&1 | grep NO_PUBKEY | awk '{print $NF;}'`; do sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys $i; done

With the keys imported you should see no errors when you run:
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sudo apt-get update

With that out of the way, now all we have to do is install a couple packages for the poulsbo support in xorg, and the psb kernel modules. Accomplish this using:
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sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-psb psb-kernel-source

Now without messing around just do reboot right from the terminal:
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sudo reboot

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sudo shutdown -r now

If an update to a later version crashes the graphics driver, just keep booting to the desktop (select the Run one time session with low graphics option) then run the following commands in the terminal:

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sudo apt-get remove psb-kernel-source

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sudo apt-get install psb-kernel-source

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sudo shutdown -r now

As I understand its not a good idea to use --reinstall option as it may crash your session. so stick to the 'remove' and 'install' method above.

After all that. When you load up the system Everything should work great. Resolution set right. Everything lookin normal. Aside from the 3D effects not enabling the system should be as useable as any other normal linux system. Honestly the Mini's are not built for playing the big games or doing big 3D work. They are mainly good portable internet systems.

If you have done all this and video looks better but still seems sluggish...theres more fixes you can try. Although you should only attempt them if you are comfortable editing system configuration files like xorg.conf, etc. You can find these fixes on the AspireOne - Community Ubuntu Documentation page at

The one that I tried, and seen small improvement from was the fix in the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. Before you try it make a backup of the file just in case:
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sudo cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.bak

Then open the conf file using:
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sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

then find the "Device" section. and add the options so that it looks like this:
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Section "Device"
        Identifier      "Configured Video Device"
        Option          "IgnoreACPI"
        Option          "AccelMethod" "exa"
        Option          "MigrationHeuristic" "greedy"
        Option          "NoDDC"

Then Log off, and login again. Or reboot if you prefer. See if theres much improvement there. Try the other fixes at your own risk. Hopefully after going through all this you find yourself a useful linux system. Add your personal touches, themes, backgrounds. Make it a mini to remember.
I like to add 'cheese', 'gnome-games', and 'kdegames' packages to complete the feel of things. If yer still not bought the wrong laptop...get a different one, and remember that lesson if someone you know is thinking about getting one. Honestly the Mini 12 does what we need it to. And is still happily serving us every day. The bluetooth mouse is fun, turn it on and mess with the cursor while someones using the laptop lol. We have the other laptops if we want to game or do video editing n such. So no big deal...Anyways you made it this far. Congratulations. I'm gonna conclude this how-to before I start rambling on. Enjoy your Minty Mini :O)
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