As this Laptop was originally sold with Ubuntu 8.04, Justification exists to keep this page.

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Status

For installation, as of Ubuntu 11.10, (and possibly earlier) the Desktop ISO put onto liveUSB fails to load, This may have something to do with the unusual half-mini pci express ssd not being detected properly.

As some of these shipped with 4gb halfminipcie ssd storage, one may need to use the alternate-cd image for installation, as the desktop version will say there is not enough disk space, but there really is(was)

Also, everything after the 8.04 that came with your mini, you will need a wired connection to the internet to get the broadcom wifi working, as this is not included on the LiveCD.

The Ubuntu 10.04 LTS version was the last version that had innovative screen space saving features.

  • 10.10 on have unity by default. It is possible to run Kubuntu, but one must not simply uninstall plasma-netbook, one must know some shell fu(with the livecd) to get to system settings and switch the workspace-behavior--workspace--type to desktop to be able to do anything with the livecd.

IMPORTANT: If you are having hardware issues, please contact Dell directly.

Useful links

Specifications and documentation

Bug reporting and answers tracker

Forums and mailing lists

Tips & Tricks

Installing Ubuntu Hardy Heron (8.04.1) on the Dell Mini 9

This section documents installing Ubuntu Hardy 8.04.1 onto a Dell Mini 9.

CD Install or DVD recovery

The device doesn't come with a CD/DVD drive, so you will need to attach a USB one to the unit, and place your Ubuntu install CD in the drive. To boot from the CD ROM, press 0 during the initial boot screen (where it shows the Inspiron Logo) and choose the CD ROM drive from the drop-down menu.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix install

An installer for Ubuntu Netbook Remix 8.04.1 is now available as a binary image that can be put on a USB stick or on a CD-ROM to install it on any Atom-based netbooks, including the Dell Mini 9. This is especially useful if you want to run an LPIA-optimized version of Ubuntu. UNR install instructions are available on its wiki page.

System recovery with a DVD ISO

A system recovery DVD comes with Ubuntu factory-installed systems performs a full wipe of the system and installs Ubuntu 8.04.1. This is not suitable for dual boot configurations if you already have WinXP on your system, and requires and external CD-ROM driver to be attached to a USB port.

The official recovery image was available at Dell Support - apparently Dell has removed it as it included commercial codecs and LinDVD which can't be resditributed for free. As an alternative, consider using Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

Ubuntu 8.04.1 install

If you try and install the vanilla 8.04 CD, the CD will try to boot, however it will quickly drop out to a Busybox prompt telling you there is a modprobe problem. This doesn't happen on the updated 8.04.1

You can choose either the Try Ubuntu method or the Install Ubuntu method. The OS installs just as you would expect with Ubuntu. If you have never installed Ubuntu, a page with general install instructions can be found at HowtoForge.

Kubuntu (KDE 4.1) install

I've found the KDE 4 interface to be beter with the 1024x600 screen resolution, Gnome is a great interface, but using packages such as Gimp and Evolution don't scale down corectly, so clicking on next and cancel buttons can be a bit of guesswork.

The KDE 4.1 version of Kubuntu can be downloaded from here,

http://www.kubuntu.org/getkubuntu/download

like Ubuntu, we are looking to use the 8.04.1 release of Kubuntu, you will also need to choose the option marked

Kubuntu 8.04 KDE4 Remix - Featuring the cutting edge KDE 4 with community support only

Boot from the CD, and install the complete OS, reboot when the installation is complete.

This part of the install can also be done, with the downloaded ISO, and the information found on Install from USB Stick

However to get the wifi to work, you will need to run

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Then reboot the PC, alternatively, the Ethernet port should work fine.

Updating the packages

Once rebooted, the default Kubuntu 4.1 install isn't the prettiest one, however we can ensure things are a lot more streamlined, by installing the additional packages from the Launchpad repositories.

Open the Konsole app and enter the command

sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

and add the line

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/kubuntu-members-kde4/ubuntu hardy main

to the end of the list, save the file, and exit

Update the repository

sudo apt-get update

Once the update has complete, you will need to update some packages.

sudo apt-get install kubuntu-kde4-desktop kdeplasma-addons amarok-kde4 and kontact-kde4 kate-kde4 kmail-kde4'''

I've installed a few extra packages from the norm, the Amarok 2 is still flaky at time of writing, let all these packages install and reboot the PC, the login screen might still look a bit strange, compared to the rest of the layout, which should now have the more up to date backdrop.

Open Konsole again, and type

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

With this done, not only is the interface more streamlined, applications and dialog boxes which would normally open larger than the screen size will become scalable.

Install all the updates, and reboot. You should now have a cleaner looking system, to get the soundcard working, following the above instructions, for fixing the soundcard.

Additional Packages

Some additional packages which you may wish to install, in order to make KDE 4.1 just that little more "appealing" are

  • kpowersave - provides a system tray icon displaying remaining power

  • kscreensaver-kde4 - provides screen savers

  • GTK-QT

To improve the look of GTK (Gnome) apps, use the gtk-qt-engine-kde4 ackage, which makes the apps look a little more slick.

sudo apt-get install gtk-qt-engine-kde4
  • LANCELOT

If you're not a fan of th new KDE menu, thats ok, its a plasmoid, and cna be change easily, using Lancelot as you've already added the necessary repostory, this can be installed quickly, (From Konsole)

sudo apt-get install plasmoid-lancelot

Then add the new Widget on the Deskbar plasmoid.

  • Cairo-Dock

Cairo-Dock is an animated application launch bar for the desktop comparable to Mac OS X's Dock, or Rocket Dock (for those of you who come from Windows).

It is compatible with Compiz-Fusion, Beryl, Compiz, and also Xcompmgr, but it can run without a composite manager (with fake transparency). Cairo-Dock can run under GNOME, KDE, and XFCE.

More information about Cairo-Dock can be found here

  • Change the Login Screen back to GDM

  • Usplash change

KDE 4 will change the USplash (graphical boot and shutdown) theme to Kubuntu. Run these two commands to switch back to the Ubuntu theme, the first will prompt you to select the theme you want:

sudo update-alternatives --config usplash-artwork.so
sudo update-initramfs -u

Knows issues and usage notes for all Mini 9 systems

Making changes to the keyboard layout permanent

Connecting via Broadband mobile services

Connecting via dialup / modem to the Internet

The Mini 9 doesn't have an internal modem. Connecting via dialup requires an external USB phone modem.

Special keys

With the new BIOS A01 the keys F11 and F12 have been remapped:

  • F11 -> Fn+Z

  • F12 -> Fn+X

F12

On the Dell Mini 9, you will notice a message at boot time proposing among other options to press F12 for boot options. There is no F12 key on the Mini9, however pressing "0" will have the same result.

F11

The F11 key commonly used to switch applications to full-screen mode does not physically exist on the Mini 9 keyboard. It has been mapped to the "Windows" key, also called "Super" key in some utilities.

Bluetooth / WiFi switch

The Function + "2" keys combination will cycle through enabling Bluetooth and wireless capabilities.

Upgrading the BIOS

As of Jan. 5 2009 it is not recommended to apply any BIOS upgrades unless they are specifically approved for Ubuntu (ie any BIOS upgrades available from the Dell website).

The only BIOS recommended update for the Dell Mini 9 as of Jan 5 2009 is version A01, which is the BIOS version installed on Ubuntu models currently shipped by Dell. Many users report positive results with the A04 BIOS.

There is no known mechanism for doing this update from Linux at this time. See this answer in Launchpad for explanations of DOS-based methods for performing BIOS updates.

Interface Changes

  • FONT SIZES

The default font sizes are very large, you may want to edit the font sizes in the System > Preferences section, to about 8, keep the fonts however as changing them can make the system look a little strange.

Performing system updates

Use a wired connection to fully update your system. Once this connection is established, install all the required updates by going to System > Administration > Update manager and reboot the computer.

Known issues and usage notes for Ubuntu factory-installed Mini 9 systems

Connecting to a wireless router

If you are having issues with wifi or can't seem to have it recognized, make sure your system is fully updated. Here is a checklist of possible wireless problems causes:

  • On some systems disabling the restricted wifi drivers (by going to System Administration > Hardware drivers)and re-enabling them may be necessary.

  • If you single click on the network manager icon (the two monitor icon) on the right hand top corner, you only see Wired Network and Manual configuration, this means you will need to check if the "Enable automatic mode" is checked and if the the wireless mode is enabled. For more details, please proceed with the next two work arounds.
  • The FN-2 (Function + "2") combination of keys will cycle between enabling wireless and bluetooth modes. Press Fn-2 and wait a few seconds before clicking on the Network Manager icon, see if any network are listed.
  • If access points are listed, you need to click on the one you have access to (you will be asked for the corresponding password or encryption key). In public Internet cafes such information is provided at the counter.
  • If your wifi is properly recognized but you are not detecting any access points, try this:
    1. Go to System > Administration > Network

    2. Click the Unlock button

    3. Highlight Wireless connection with a single click

    4. Click on Properties

    5. Ensure Enable automatic mode is checked. Click OK

    6. Close all network preferences windows
    7. Wait 15 to 60 seconds
    8. Click the Network Manager icon in GNOME panel, access point(s) should appear
  • If you are sure about the wireless password and having difficulty connecting to your wireless router
    1. Try logging into your router and changing your wireless encryption to "TKIP & AES" or "TKIP/AES" not "TKIP" or "AES". (note: please confirm if this works -komputes)

    2. Try changing your wireless security settings from "WEP 128-bit Passphrase" to "WEP 64/128-bit Hex".

Unverified information

Also see this thread on the Ubuntu Forums for more information.

If you are having issues where the PC locks up soon after attaching to your wifi hub, this may be a conflict with the ACPID, to disable this on startup

  • Ubuntu -> System -> Administrator - > Services

  • Click on unlock, enter you password
  • Scroll down, untick Power Management (acpid)

Battery not charging

A recent bug report indicates that enabling airplane mode interferes with the battery being able to charge again. If you enabled this by mistake or otherwise, it may be the cause of the problem.

To disable the airplane mode doesn't require installing any additional application. Follow these steps:

  1. Start the Airplane mode application
    • if you're using the Classic Desktop, go to System > Preferences > Airplane mode

    • if you're using the Dell Desktop, click on the Ubuntu logo on the top leftmost par of the screen, then go to System > Preferences > Airplane mode

  2. Go to the "Airplane Mode" tab and click "Disable Airplane Mode"

If you can confirm this work around please comment Bug #302924 accordingly.

If you do not have Aircraft Manager installed but your battery will not charge, try booting to LiveUsb. That jogged mine back to functioning normally.

Booting into Recovery mode

If you have an original Dell Mini 9 with Ubuntu pre-installed, you may have a hard time entering the GRUB menu as the default delay is zero. This is particularly problematic if you're trying to reset your password using the passwd command.

You can enter the recovery mode following these steps:

  1. Boot the mini 9 while pressing ESC every second
  2. When you see the "MBR 2FA:" prompt or similar, the boot process is stopped.
  3. Press ENTER and ESC very fast one after the other.
  4. You should then see the GRUB menu. Using the up and down arrows, highlight the second option and press ENTER to boot into recovery mode.

1 GB RAM limitation, system crashes

As shipped, early versions of the Mini9 could not support 2GB of memory. This problem is fixed in the latest kernel update in the dell-mini archive. Update the kernel with apt-get or aptitude to get 2GB memory support. The expected kernel version is 2.6.24-19-lpia (or later).

Adding more memory than you ordered from Dell has been reported to cause system crashes. This issue also appears to be resolved by the latest kernel.

Smaller disk space than expected

Some early Mini 9 systems shipped with Ubuntu pre-installed may report smaller disk space than expected (ie. 4GB instead of 8GB or 16GB). The "missing" space is on the system, but remains unformatted. This has been resolved in later factory installed systems as well as in an update at the Dell Mini repositories. Perform all updates and it should be resolved.

Making a backup of your recovery media

  • On a Windows system, you can use the free, GPL Infrarecorder software. Insert your optical media and choose "Read Media", follow the prompts.

Sound

Microphone problems

On early factory-installed Ubuntu systems this may be necessary to properly enable microphone functionality:

  1. Start a terminal window
  2. Type alsamixer

  3. Select Capture (tab)

  4. Right arrow to Capture, up arrow until its at a reasonable level

  5. rightarrow to Input Source, up arrow to select Front Mic

Low Speaker Volume

If you have low volume on the sound and microphone is working fine, double click on the speaker icons on the right hand top corner. When the windows open, make sure the Master, PCM and Speaker volume are turned up. If it is already turned up, please go to File> Change Device, make sure the HDA Intel (Alsa mixer) is selected. If not, please select it and make sure the Master, PCM and Speaker volume are turned up.

Installing Skype

Skype is distributing an i386 build of their program. This is fine for most desktop machines, but for a netbook using Intel Atom and an lpia kernel instead of i386, you will need to install Skype via the command line instead of the graphical interface. This is true of many Debian packages which are not available through the Ubuntu repositories.

To do this, download Skype for Ubuntu to your home directory. Then open a terminal (Application > Accessories > Terminal) and run the following command to install Skype:

Note: Please make sure that you moved the package to your home directory and that the package name matches.

  •  sudo dpkg -i --force-architecture skype-debian_2.0.0.72-1_i386.deb

Login Problems

Some people have experienced trouble logging in to their Mini-9.

The requirements to a successful login is a proper set of credentials (username and password) as well as the user's home directory.

If you are having trouble logging in you can do one of three things:

  1. Reset your current password
  2. Repair the current user
  3. Create a new user

Either solution will involve booting into Recovery Mode. Do this now (see below if your system came with Ubuntu pre-installed).

Once the boot sequence ends, you will be at a prompt similar to:

root@machine:~#

Resetting your password

See: FAQ#311: I can't login or upgrade without my password. How can I reset my password ?

Repair the current user

Repairing the current user implies fulfilling the requirements stated above (proper credentials and home directory).

Note that this refers to the user that was set up when you first got your Mini.

Confirming the home directory
The home directory for the user is /home/username (replace "username" with the actual user's username; ex: /home/james). You need to confirm that it exists. Do so like this:

ls -l /home

If it's not there, create it and give it the proper permissions. Again, as an example, we are using the username "james":

mkdir /home/james
chown james:james /home/james

You can then resume normal booting by typing CTRL-D (hold down the Ctrl key while pressing the D key) or typing exit followed by ENTER.

Create a new user

Instead of repairing the existing user you can create a fresh new user and then deal with automatic login.

Create a new user
Type in the following command to create the user and grant him administrator rights. As an example, we will use the username "john":

adduser john
adduser john admin

You will be asked a series of questions. The only one you need to answer is for the password. You can safely press Enter for all the others. Note that the password will not be visible on the screen. You will be prompted to enter the password correctly twice.

You can optionally confirm the user's home directory was created using the procedure described above.

Re-configuring automatic login
By default, the Ubuntu pre-installed Mini-9 is shipped to allow the initially created user to log in automatically (no username and password dialog when starting the computer). One consequence of this when creating a new user is that the system will continue to try to automatically log in with the old user. We therefore need to tell the system to use the newly created user.

Make backups of a file and determine what user the system is currently trying to log in automatically:

cd /etc/gdm
mv gdm.conf gdm.conf.bak
grep AutomaticLogin= gdm.conf.bak | cut -d = -f 2

If the last command doesn't output anything meaningful (i.e. it doesn't look like a username or there is no output at all) then do not continue with this method. Here, let's pretend the command gave us an ouput of "mike". So we want to tell the system to use the new user "john" instead of the old user "mike":

sed -e 's/mike/john/' gdm.conf.bak > gdm.conf

You can confirm your work with:

grep AutomaticLogin= gdm.conf | cut -d = -f 2

You can then resume normal booting by typing CTRL-D (hold down the Ctrl key while pressing the D key) or typing exit followed by ENTER.

Known issues and usage notes for Ubuntu vanilla installs

Enabling sound

If your Mini9 is not a factory-installed Ubuntu system or if you re-installed using vanilla Ubuntu media, this is how to enable sound:

  • From the command prompt:

    sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base
  • Add this line to the end:

    options snd-hda-intel model=dell
  • Save the file and exit.
  • Reboot the computer.
  • Once the computer is booted, double-click on the sound icon in the toolbar.
  • Increase the speaker volume.

Compiz

Works fine after the updates.

Webcam

Works after all updates applied.

DellMini9 (last edited 2012-01-06 08:08:56 by alpeterson)