The new guy

I haven’t mentioned this yet, for reasons which I will discuss shortly.

That is a U.S.-model Inspiron 600m, which I acquired earlier this week and I have been playtesting since. It’s in lovely condition and runs like a champ, with a 1.4Ghz Celeron M, 768Mb, a 5400rpm 40Gb hard drive and an ATI Radeon Mobility FireGL 9000 running against a 1024×768 display.

It came to me after a series of mysterious lockups and freezes, all of which have disappeared since installing Ubuntu on it (the previous owner preferred Windows — an issue I have not pressed). The real debate now is whether or not this should replace the 8000 I have kept as top dog for the past three years or so.

As I see it, this is a faster, newer machine that works well and has a lot of amenities I wish were on the 8000 — things like USB 2.0, and a strong video card (even though this one has less memory). It runs nicely with Ubuntu and while I haven’t put Crux or Arch into place, I have confidence. And it’s a cleaner, lighter machine, which is appealing these days.

The downsides are rather hefty though. I like the modular drive in the 8000, which this one lacks. And technically it’s a smaller display and less video memory, which I should look down on.

But the biggest faults I can find right now are the network connections. As if a Broadcom 4318 wireless card wasn’t bad enough, it also has a 4401-based wired connector. This is the kind of hardware I usually try to avoid, just on scruples.

The wireless card is acceptable, what with fwcutter and the like at my disposal. But the irony of these two is that even with a clean Windows XP installation (something I tried as a troubleshooting measure for the previous owner) the wired connector was unusable. I tried the Windows drivers, the original Dell drivers, the updated Dell drivers and even the drivers off the Broadcom home page — and nothing would work.

Not that it matters much. I am leaning toward keeping this, and using it as the high-end compiler and distro test bed, much like what I do with the 8000 now. I’d be happier with a little more speed and different network hardware, but the verdict is still out. I have some time to think it over.

17 thoughts on “The new guy

  1. Guitar John

    I haven’t checked in for a while. And now, here you are using a high-endy, relatively fast computer with a default Ubuntu install.

    What is the world coming to. πŸ™„

    Seriously, these are good computers. Mine is a D610 with 1.86Ghz Pentium M, 1Gb, a 5400rpm 80Gb hard drive and an ATI Radeon Mobility X300 running against a 1024Γ—768 display.

    I buy used from a place that resells corporate laptops. Usually less that 3 years old, and usually about 20% the cost of a new one.

  2. leo_rockway

    I don’t get it. This is my wired card: 03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4401-B0 100Base-TX (rev 02)

    It works without any problem in gNewSense.

    Also, take a look at openfwwf, you might not need to use fwcutter.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      It’s possible that it’s suffering the problems Luke mentioned below; Windows recognizes the hardware, but every driver is turned away as incorrect. No big deal.

      In Linux the b44 module is inserted, but I haven’t actually used the wired connection with it, so I can’t say if it’s behaving or not. πŸ˜‰

  3. Luke Maciak

    Ah, the good old Inspiron 600m. I know this machine better than I could. It used to be the default model for the offsite employees at my workplace so I spent lot’s of time doing maintenance on these things.

    The ethernet card could be a motherboard issue. I had 2 or 3 of those machines that would constantly develop this problem. They would work for a year, and then start intermittently “lose” the ethernet card. It would be gone from the windows device manager. I would call Dell, they would replace the motherboard and it would work find for 6-7 months and then lose the card again. I would call them again, and they would replace the mobo once more.

    The other issue almost every single one of these things develops after couple of years in use is a DIMM socket problem. Either DIMM A or DIMM B goes on the fritz sometimes and the tale tale weird intermittent lockups that happen randomly – sometimes even while booting the OS.

    Memory testers usually don’t detect the problem because the machine simply crashes and freezes when it occurs taking down the mem-test application with it.

    So those would be the things to watch for.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Thanks for those tips. Those might explain a lot of what the previous owner was suffering, as well as some of the behavior I saw. I’ll keep watch over it for the next few weeks and see if it behaves. I like it, but I’m not so enthralled with the guts of it that I have to keep it.

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