New Laptop

I've been looking for a new laptop. I finally found one, Dell had a sale on their Studio 15 line. This is a Core i5 laptop with all the niftyness I wanted. I also purchased a new 320GB hard-drive for it. Why? So I could put the Dell supplied one, with its pre-built Win7 install, into a baggie for later use if I so chose, and so I could get openSUSE onto it without mucking about with resizing partitions and all that crapola.

I did what I could to make sure the components were Linux compatible (Intel wireless not Dell, that kind of thing), but some things just don't work out. This is a brand new laptop with a brand new processor/chipset/GPU architecture, so I planned on having at least one thing require several hours of hacking to get working. This is the price you pay for desktop-linux on brand spanking new hardware. I, at least, am willing to pay it.

And pay I am. I installed OpenSUSE pretty simply, or at least it started there. It got to the first reboot and got a black screen of nothingness. Watching post it was pretty clearly a kernel video handling problem. Some quick googling identified the problem:

OpenSUSE 11.2 uses the 2.6.31 kernel. This laptop uses an intel 4500MHD GPU. Support for which was introduced in 2.6.32, and greatly refined in 2.6.33. What's more, it uses Kernel Mode Setting Direct Rendering Management, support for which was introduced in 2.6.32. All this means is that 2.6.31 simply can't support this video GPU at anything like reasonable speeds.

OpenSUSE 11.3 (currently in a very buggy Milestone 3 release, soon to be M4) has a 2.6.33 series kernel. But I don't want to be buggy. So...

Time to compile a kernel!

Because I've done it before (a LOT), kernel compiles do not scare me. They take time, and generally require multiple runs to get right, so you just have to plan for time to get it right. So I booted to the OpenSUSE 11.2 Rescue System, followed these instructions, and got into my (still half installed) file-system. I plugged it into wired ethernet because that's hella easier to set up from command-line, and used yast to grab the kernel-dev environment. Then downloaded 2.6.33 from I had to grab the /proc/config.gz from a working x86_64 system, so I pulled the one from my 11.2 install here at work, threw it into the kernel-source directory, ran 'make oldconfig', answered a bajillion questions, and tada. make bzImage; make modules; make modules_install ; make install ; mkinitrd -k vmlinuz-2.6.33 -i initrd-2.6.33, and a bit of Yast GRUB work to make certain Grub was set up right, and reboot.

Most of the way there. I had to add this line to /etc/modprobe.d/99-local:

options i915 modeset=1

Which got me enough graphics to finish the openSUSE install, and get me to a desktop. I don't yet know how stable it is, haven't had time to battletest it. I probably need updated software for full stability. I did get it up long enough this morning to find out that the wireless driver needs attention; dmesg suggested it had trouble loading firmware. So that's tonight's task.

Update: Getting the wireless to work involved downloading firmware for the 6000 from here, dropping the files into /lib/firmware, and rebooting. Dead easy. Now, Suspend doesn't work for some reason. That might be intractable, though.