Friday, June 3, 2011

Debian on Laptops - 2011 experience Dell Inspiron

It's fast :)

Boot time is less that 30 seconds. Program startup times are impressive :)

As with all manual installs*, I expect to make a few observations, and have one or two niggles.

This install of Debian Squeeze is no different.

*If your hardware has a GNU / Linux recovery cd, and has a distribution tailored exactly to your hardware, then you should have fewer / no niggles.

( My Dell Inspiron 1525 does have a GNU / Linux recovery cd, however I want a brand new 2011 system instead of the default system )

Wireless and GB - this one is enough to put off a noob:

cfg80211: Calling CRDA for country: US

Above appears in /var/log/dmesg and is not strictly correct*

However that did not stop my wireless from connecting fine at home using WPA2

Wicd does a good job of managing wireless, however I needed a little manual intervention to get the wireless detection going:

...manually entering wlan0 into the box marked 'Wireless interface' was all that was needed :)

Channel 6 seems popular in the UK and this is not barred by having CRDA set to US.

*If you want to tinker and try and make your crda setting correct (GB, NL, or whatever), then you should maybe install the iw package.
Plenty of writeups available by websearching regarding changing crda.
Those writeups might suggest compiling iw yourself, however the package is in Debian Squeeze, so seems sensible to use that precompiled version

What follows next are a result of reading /var/log/dmesg - something most users will [rightly?] not bother with.

Entries in here (dmesg) are naturally a little chatty, which is why some distributions choose to hide this output during bootup.

dmesg says Calgary: detecting Calgary via BIOS EBDA area:

Nothing other than a chatty dmesg here.

Calgary is, apparently, a piece of hardware that appear in some blade systems.

Do desktop installs get installed on blade systems? They sure do.
Thin client computing, and splitting of resources between light base and datacentre, is today a workable solution in plenty of UK businesses.

Your kernel / hardware detection is just checking if it is present.

When you share kernels between different form factors, say Desktop, Tablet, smartphone, Server you have two choices:

  1. Tailor the build to each individual segment 
  2. Rely more on detection routines 

Ubuntu has recently decided to roll it's netbook edition into the main Ubuntu edition.
This I suspect is a direct result of the cost (and 'marketing' complexity) of having different editions.

Windows next year will have a small piece of the smartphone and tablet market. If the company opts for kernels tailored, to each individual segment, then the company will have similar considerations to that just mentioned.

dmesg says Driver 'pcspkr' is already registered, aborting...

In most cases this is just chatter.

If however you are without a pc beep, and really want the beep in terminal (and elsewhere), then debian bug #604197 is worth a read.

I have the opposite position, wanting no beeps whatsoever, which inspired the article here.

Notes and Further Reading:

In the next version of Debian (due for release in 2013) there is a package named crda, which should do a better job than simply basing crda zone on the main market, for the wireless hardware, detected in your machine.

  • Question #252354 about Calgary hardware detection messages
               [ ]
  • Package crda in Debian Testing (Wheezy) [ ]
  • Really want pc beep bug #604197 [ ]

Having wireless-tools package installed on my machine, I was able to issue the command:

iwlist wlan0 channel

...and obtain a list of wireless channels which would be detected by my wireless setup. 32 channels showed up in that list (based on crda US), and in case you are interested, channels 6, 10, 11, 12, 13 are in that channel list.

It would be theoretically possible (but not very considerate) of me, to now change my router to use a US channel, simply because I could, and the laptop might detect that signal.

If your crda zone is being set as 'default' and you are missing the channels that you need, then here are a couple of links that might be worth a read:

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