Installing Linux and Windows 2000 on the Dell Inspiron 8000

AuthorJoël Wijngaarde   Release: 0.6


This document is highly based upon the document written by Nicolai Langfeldt. He wrote a guide on how to install Linux on a DeLL Inspiron 5000. I highly encourage to read the document he wrote to get a better understanding on the concepts of installing Linux on Laptops.

In my case it was very important to install both Linux and Windows. The ceavat to this configuration is getting the hibernation partition to work. Hibernation means your system dumps its memory on the harddisk when you put your system to hibernate. Then, when you start your system the next time, it wil go back to its exact old state.

I tried to make this a step by step guide. So, in theory, this means that you can start at the top and read to the bottom while at the same time you will configure your laptop. But, nevertheless, I encourage you to read the whole document and the document mentioned above before starting to configure your laptop.

If you will only install Linux, you can go directly to the Installing Redhat 7.0 section. Which should save you about 1 minute reading time.

Disclaimer: Performing the procedure outlined on this page is at your own risk. The author provides no guarantees, warranties or any liability with respect to any damages or loss of data or any other harm resulting from performing any of the procedures outlined on this webpage.

My Configuration

Partitioning Your System

I could not find a document telling me which tool I had to use to create a hibernation partition for my system. Reading the other Inspiron documents I decided to try the phdisk tool. Unfortunately I chose the wrong one (Murphy's Law). The right tool to use is called mks2d.exe which is available from the Dell support site.

Go to the dell support page and search for the following file: rh7s2d.exe using the file search tool. This file contains a diskimage which contains, among other files, the mks2d.exe tool necessary to create the hibernation partition for your linux system.

Do not create the partition yet! First install Windows, read on!

Installing Windows

Insert the CD and start installing the software. To get the hibernation partition working you should create only one partition during Windows setup. This, because, when creating multiple partitions, Windows will use your whole disk as an extended partition. Hibernation or Suspend-To-Disk needs a primary partition to work.

Later on when you're finished installing windows and after you created the hibernation partition you can use windows to make all other partitions including Linux.

Creating the Suspend-To-Disk partition

Insert the disk created earlier with the mks2d.exe tool. It will start to fire up FreeDOS. After FreeDOS has been loaded run the mks2d.exe command. This tool will automatically create your Suspend-To-Disk partition.

After you created the Suspend-To-Disk partition you can create the linux partitions, see next section.

Installing RedHat 7.0

I first tried to install RedHat 7.0 from an FTP site. Unfortunately due to problems with PCMCIA initialization I could not get this to work. After burning a CD image I installed RedHat by CD (keep the PCMICIA problem in mind, we will fix this later on).

Insert the bootdisk and type expert vga=2 at the prompt. The vga=2 option makes sure you can use the graphical installation method with your laptop screen.

Choose all options to install your system the way you like. In order for X to function properly select the ATI Rage 128 Mobility XFree driver. It was automatically selected when I installed the system.

Make sure you also install the kernel-sources rpm, we will need this in a later stage for the pcmcia-cs fix. And do create the boot disk.

Important Note: When you want the Suspend-To-Disk to work with your laptop you have to make sure to not install linux on the MBR (Master Boot Record). If you do so, your system cannot come out of hibernation.

Installing the Bootselector

Use the tool bootpart to install Linux in the NT Bootloader. I use the NT bootloader instead of LILO because LILO does not allow me to use the Suspend To Disk feature of my Laptop as mentioned above.

Go to the Windows dos prompt and execute the following command:

C:\> BOOTPART 5 C:\BOOTSECT.LNX "Linux Operating System"

The number 5 is the partition number on which the Linux root partition resides. This number is given when you just type BOOTPART.

Booting Linux for the first time

When booting for the first time I received a kernel panic when starting the PCMCIA services. This did not really surprise me since I experimented similar when trying to install using ftp.

To bypass this issue go into interactive startup by pressing 'i' when prompted. Allow all services to startup except pcmcia. This will boot your Linux system.


After reading Nicolai Langfeldt's document I decided to install a newer pcmcia package. To do this go to sourceforge and fetch the latest pcmcia-cs package.
Now build and install this package:

# tar xvfz pcmcia-cs-3.1.23.tar.gz
# make config
[Say 'Y' to "Include PnP BIOS resource checking"]
# make all
# make install

Reboot your Linux system and PCMCIA will work!

Enabling the 3Com network card

The 3Com card works direct. Define your network card and of you go!

XFree 4.0.1 and 1400 x 1050

We have the great screen, so we want to use it! XFree does not support the 1400x1050 resolution out of the box. We need to add a modeline to get it to work. I'm not an XFree wizard, but I found the following config file on the web. Edit your /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 file to include or follow the link above.

Section "Monitor"
        Identifier    "Monitor0"
        VendorName    "Monitor Vendor"
        ModelName     "Monitor Model"
        VertRefresh   40-110
        HorizSync     28-90
        Option        "DPMS"
        Modeline      "1400x1050" 107.85 1400 1450 1500 1999 1050 1058 1070 1150

Section "Screen"
        DefaultDepth  24
        Identifier    "Screen0"
        Device        "Card0"
        Monitor       "Monitor0"
        DefaultFbBpp  24
        SubSection "Display"
                Depth     24
                Modes     "1400x1050"

Speeding up the Hardrive * UPDATED *

Test the speed of your harddrive using the command 'hdparm -T -t /dev/hda'. When you get a speed lower then 5 MB/sec your drive is not using DMA. DMA makes the drive 2 to 3 times faster.

Amod Dani wrote me telling that it is not necessary to recompile the kernel to get DMA working. The only thing you need to do is add the following line to one of your startup scripts, probably /etc/rc.d/rc.local:

/sbin/hdparm -d 1 /dev/hda

A better way is suggested to me by Pierre Thibaudeau, he explained me that the following line would increase the speed of the harddrive even more:

/sbin/hdparm -A 1 -d 1 -m 16 -c 1 /dev/hda

This can also be achieved in Redhat 7 by uncommenting the following lines in your /etc/sysconfig/harddisks file:

Getting sound to work * NEW *

To get the Meastro 3 sound chip working on your RedHat 7 laptop you need to get the ALSA sound drivers. You can get these drivers from the alsa project page. You need to get the driver, library and utils package.