Upgrading Ubuntu on a Vostro 1500 laptop : Gutsy (7.10) to Hardy (8.04)

Previously, I have posted about my experiences installing and testing Ubuntu Gutsy (7.10) on my Dell Vostro 1500 laptop. Since I set it up, I’ve been happily using it every day. At the time everything generally went pretty smoothly, but being a fairly new piece of hardware, there were a few hiccups that required some hand editing of config files. The key piece of hardware that didn’t work was the integrated microphone – not essential for me, but nice to have.

I upgraded it to Ubuntu Hardy (8.04) a few months ago. These are my experiences, and a summary of what didn’t work under 7.10, but does under 8.04.

Painless, non-eventful

I used the standard System – Administration – Update Manager to do the upgrade. I chugged away, downloaded the new 8.04 packages and started upgrading. During the upgrade, I allowed the updater to replace my hand-modified /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base sound config file, since I figured that the improved version with 8.04 would be better than mine (read on … it was a good choice). The upgrade took around an hour or so to complete (from memory) … I did some reading by the computer while it worked, keeping an eye on it to answer the usual questions about replacing config files throughout the upgrade process. After it finished, I rebooted for good measure. Success  !

Hardware – improved support, some old tweaks

The integrated microphone now works when using the HDA Intel (Alsa mixer) device (detailed settings: using the volume control applet, under the Options tab I have the Digital Input Source set to Digital Mic 1. Obviously I also made sure that nothing is muted or turned down in the Recording tab as well).

I find that the sound device isn’t detect using the -rt (realtime, premption) series of kernels, but using the standard -generic series it works just fine (I’m currently using linux-image-2.6.24-19-generic).

Integrated webcam still works nicely with programs like Cheese, Ekiga and Skype. It’s doesn’t seem to work with some older programs that assume the camera device is at /dev/video, such as gqcam … (I guess that’s more of a symptom of these programs getting out of sync with a modern Ubuntu system … the point is that the camera is detected and works …).

The config changes required to prevent the Hitachi hard disk from making the scary head parking clicking sound (associated with a power saving bug) are still required. I kept the line “hdparm -B 255 /dev/sda” in /etc/rc.local (and in a file /etc/acpi/resume.d/99-stop-hitachi-madness.sh to deal with hibernate//resume) to prevent this.

Closing comments

I wrote this post then sort of forgot to publish it ( 😛 ), so it’s been sitting around unseen for ~ 3 months or more. I’m happy to say that my Vostro 1500 has been running smoothly with this setup; there aren’t any other serious tweaks that I can think of. Of course, Intrepid 8.10 is now out …. eventually I’ll probably updgrade to it, but I’m in no real hurry. Hardy 8.04 is a “long term support” (LTS) release, meaning Canonical will ensure it gets updates for 3 years. I’m working on the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” principle with this machine, and since that has worked out nicely, I think I’ll keep following it 🙂

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