Ubuntu 8.10, Dell D630, fan issues and screen repaints issues

On the day of Ubunut 8.10 I’ve upgraded my work laptop (Dell D630) to Ubuntu 8.10. I’ve previously ran my home desktop on the release candidates and saw that all is well so I didn’t expect any specific issues with the upgrade.

After finishing the upgrade successfully I’ve encountered 2 problems.

The first was with the computer fan. It was workin on and off in full steam in 4 seconds cycles. Really annoying. A quick search in the Ubuntu forums led to this post saying I should upgrade to the latest BIOS version (A13 – at least at the time of writing this post).

Upgrading to the latest BIOS stopped the fan from cycling to full speed and full stop but it was still running a bit too much even when the computer was rather idle.

There was another post in the forums that suggested to go back to the older Nvidia drivers (version 173) instead of using the version which ships with Ubuntu 8.10 (177).

That managed to solve the fan issues for now as well as fix some strange repaint problems I was seeing when working with TwinView and extending my screen to another external monitor.

Thought it might help others who face these problems.

Solution (sort of): Mic problems with Skype on Dell D630 and Ubuntu 7.10 (gutsy gibbon)

If you are using Skype on Ubuntu 7.10 (Gusty Gibbon) on a Dell D630 and have the “famous” internal microphone problems due to the HD-Intel chipset, I’ve found a simple solution, sort of. Plantronics .Audio 470

I recently bought a Plantronics .Audio 470 headset at Best Buy for $50. Its a nice headset with good sound quality and a good mic that is also fold-able for good portability.

That headset also comes with a USB adapter which allows you to basically get a USB based sound card so you can use that headset with machines without a sound card (or a problematic sound card/chipset…).

It seems that Ubuntu works well with that adapter. Ubuntu recognizes it as another sound device, as if you have another sound card attached. I attached it, run Skype and configured Skype to use that newly found sound device for incoming and outgoing voice chats and it just worked.

I managed to call people, they heard me well and everything was fine.

The only downside was that it works only in mono, for some reason, so I only heard sound on the left side (when its hooked to another Linux machine that doesn’t have a mic problem or a Windows or Mac machines the headset is working in stereo UPDATE: It seems that there were two devices, one was stereo and one was mono. When I switched to the second one I started hearing in stereo :-) ). It’s still better than nothing and if you have a headset with only one left speaker you won’t even notice it ;-)

Israeli Shortage in High End Laptops

At Yedda (my day job) we recently ordered 3 new laptops.

Our spec was very specific (that’s how we are ;-) ):

  • Core Duo 2 running on at least 2Ghz
  • 2Gb of RAM
  • 100Gb or more hard drive
  • WXGA+ screen (1440×960 resolution)
  • 14.1″ screen
  • Non shared memory video card
  • DVD burner

The reason we want 14.1″ screens is due to size and weight (some of us, not me, rides on bikes and/or motorcycles to get to the YeddaHQ). We also wanted as high resolution as possible and the WXGA+ seems very good.

Up until now we mostly used Thinkpads so we obviously checked out the new T61.

Aside from the fact that it was a bit costly (which we were willing to accept) there were no T61 machines in Israel with WXGA+ or with a Core Duo 2 running on at least 2Ghz or the machines had an integrated shared memory video card (which is a big no no!).

We checked out the Dell D630 which also had the same configuration, got good reviews and was surprisingly ~$500 cheaper. The only problem was that it had to be specially ordered for us since Dell Israel doesn’t work the same way it works in the USA. Dell Israel brings a certain set of models to Israel and Israelis don’t get the pleasure of having a specific Dell machine built just for them.

Luckily we ordered 3 machines and our supplier was willing to place a special order at Dell UK for us.

The original estimated delivery time was 3 weeks (work weeks, not calendar weeks) which ended up today.

As you can figure out from the title, the machines will not arrive today. It seems that there is a shortage in Israel not just in Dell high end laptops but in other brands as well and I’ve heard people getting a delivery date for December.

The official explanation for the delay in shipment of our Dell machines was that there is a delay in LCD screens in the UK and that’s why the machines are sitting there screen-less waiting for us.

The current expected delivery date out of the UK is the 25th of September. I guess we will just have to wait.