Installing Ubuntu on a Dell Inspiron 530s Desktop

Just a few notes, to go along with my previous Linux/Ubuntu posts.

The PC in question, a Dell Inspiron 530S is a 2006 desktop with 3GB of RAM and a 250 GB hard drive, good enough to hold a whole lot of BitTorrent movies. I’m running Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) on an older, less powerful Dell laptop, and it works fine. I’m anxious to try out 9.10 (Karmic Koala) because its IM client, Empathy, supports voice over Gtalk. As 9.10 is still in Alpha, I don’t want to install it on this laptop, my primary computer at the moment. But the 530S is unclaimed for now.

With two Ubuntu installs behind me, I’ve found out that not all hardware is compatible and not all installs are seamless. I love Linux, but that’s been my experience. While the 530S is not being used, it seemed better to try a dual boot first, dedicating just 30GB to Linux. If that worked out well, then I could re-install right over the Windows OS.

Once again, the wireless network card was an issue. I’ve learned to install Linux while connected via an ethernet cable; if it has that internet connection, it can find drivers, etc. So, I installed Ubuntu fairly easily, but it couldn’t find the wireless network card, nor, of course, any wireless network connection (a requirement, in my view). Some Ubuntu Forum contributors said to try System –> Admin –> Hardware Drivers, to find a driver for the Broadcom 802.11g card. (BCM43xx). It found a driver, but repeatedly hung when trying to activate/install it. I even began the ndiswrapper process. But when I tried to install the driver again, it worked (unrelated, I think, to Windows driver tar.gz I had downloaded to my desktop). Not sure if a re-boot or two made the difference.

But, in short, eventually the System –> Admin –> Hardware Drivers process found a driver and activated it. Then the machine could see the wireless card and all the networks in the neighborhood, too. I clicked on my own wireless network, provided the WEP key, and was all set. I removed the ethernet cable, re-booted and, of course, the wireless connection was still present.

Now, I have to re-install, using the entire 250 GB and nuking Windows. Apparently to reformat the disk entirely is easier than trying to fiddle with the two partitions.


When I re-installed, using the entire HD, Ubuntu found the needed BCM43xx driver much more easily. I don’t know if the dual-boot installation contributed to the earlier difficulties, or not.

One thing seems clear: Installation with a live ethernet connection is a good idea. Not always necessary, but can make life a lot easier, if “Linux-unfriendly” wireless cards or other hardware are involved.