Installing Arch Linux on a Dell Vostro 1500

2014-04-16

Notice from 2015: Although I don't use Arch anymore, last time I had to install it it didn't have these problems anymore, except the wifi card problem.

This is for future reference and also for other users that may run into trouble with this, here's how you can fix these issues. It's likely you don't even own a Vostro 1500 though, this thing is like 7 or 8 years old (2007).

Anyway, here are the issues we're gonna cover and how to fix them:

The wifi card

All right. So this seems to be a sort of popular problem on Linux, I even have this problem on Windows XP.

OK so let's do the basics first. Make sure this is the problem you're having. There are plenty of guides out there on the internet on how to fix this but I am gonna share a solution with you that works offline, which has been a lot of the time I install a distro because Ethernet is scarce for me, if only I had a long Ethernet cable... I have a 2 meter one, which sadly isn't enough so I gotta sit on the floor while installing. Which you know, is OK, just a little bit uncomfortable.

Of course the way to do ths is get the necessary stuff while you have the precious internet. Find the necessary firmware somewhere on the internet OR download the AUR package for this, b43-firmware. I've done it with only the first, I thought I would need it so I downloaded the second but in the end I didn't need it thankfully.

So this is just the solution I have, of course when you've installed Arch you would mount the USB with the AUR/firmware and install it. The copy of the firmware I have has instructions but I can't seem to find where I got it from. The AUR you'll just have to know how to install AUR packages.

I think I also had to blacklist the bcma module. Maybe, the blacklist line is there but I'm not entirely sure if it's necessary.

The backlight issues

All right. So this one completely baffled me when I came across it because I couldn't figure out what the problem was and there was some intense Googleing happening. Not to mention I could barely see anything on the screen because it was really dark.

So the problem seems to be because of wrong priorities when loading the stuff that manages backlighting. As explained in this bug report for Debian(?).

What I tried there had worked so here's how I fixed the issue, the process or solution may not be exactly the same for you.

Add acpi_backlight=vendor to the bootloader's kernel line, which is managed by whatever bootloader you have, I use Syslinux so that was quite painless. And blacklist the dell-laptop module.

The whole reason that works and stuff is explained in that bug report so read it if you're interested, or not if you're not interested.

All right, I hope that helps. This will certainly save me hours in the future, I hope.