Gnu was my Dell Inspiron Mini 9. This page details getting Debian working on this machine, which comes pre-loaded with Ubuntu.

(These days, I have a different box named GNU that is a Lenovo laptop. Used as the house's MPD server.)


The Debian installer can be booted from USB stick, or the network. I installed Debian lenny rc1 from USB stick.

The wireless card doesn't work during the installation; use an ethernet cable.

My Mini 9 has a 32 gb SSD. I partitioned it in just one partition, covering the entire disk. I chose to use ext2, rather than ext3, to avoid waste of space and unnecessary write wear to the SSD. No swap partition.

Note that there is a small FAT partition with some Dell tools on it. I blew this away, but backed up a copy of /dev/hda1 to my USB stick first, in case I needed it later.

Card reader

A nasty suprise is that if the installed system is booted with a SDHC card in the card reader, the kernel locks up early in boot, when udev is running. Ejecting the card works around this and it otherwise works ok. The SDHC card works after boot.

(This problem occurs with the 2.6.26 kernel; I did not see it with the 2.6.24 Ubuntu kernel shipped on the laptop, and it also seems to be fixed by 2.6.27.)


The Broadcom BCM4312 in this laptop is not supported by the b43 kernel module yet. The only option is hand-installing the wl driver from Broadcom, or possibly using ndiswrapper.

The Debian forums have a topic with details.

I got tired of keeping this annoying non-free out of kernel driver working, and spent $30 on a Intel Wifi Link 5300, which is supported properly by the kernel.


The sound card is fully supported, with working mixers, volume hotkeys, etc, with one problem: No audible sound!

This can be fixed by putting the following in /etc/modprobe.d/sound.conf, and then rmmod snd_hda_intel; modprobe snd_hda_intel:

alias snd-card-0 snd-hda-intel
options snd-hda-intel index=0 model=dell


The touchpad is a synaptics touchpad, and edge scrolling works, etc. However, two finger tapping is not supported for some reason, making it hard to paste since the two mouse buttons have to be clicked to simulate a middle button.

(This problem also exists in the default Ubuntu load.)


Missing the tilde and backquote keys? Here is a way to get them back, along with pipe and backslash.

# Disable caps lock. (Ignore error if already disabled.)
xmodmap -e 'remove Lock = Caps_Lock' 2>/dev/null || true
# Make caps lock into a new ` and ~ key:
xmodmap -e 'keycode 66 = grave asciitilde'
xset r 66 
# Make right shift into a new | and \ key:
xmodmap -e 'keycode 62 = bar backslash'


The display brightness hotkeys don't quite work; brightness is changed, but it doesn't go up or down, instead jumping around. Almost as if two things are fighting over them.

The gnome brightness applet does work, as does xbacklight.

If the brightness is set to a low level, it will periodically jump back up to brighter. The cause of this seems to be that reading /sys/class/backlight/acpi_video0/actual_brightness causes the brightness value to increase by 5 whenever it's under 15. Workaround: Set desired brightness, then rmmod video.

Both problems were fixed by upgrading the BIOS from version A00 to version A04.


Resuming from sleep seems to fail if a SDHC card is inserted. I also observed this corrupt the contents of the card once.

(This problem also exists in the default Ubuntu load.)

With 2.6.27, this problem does not occur. However, it will still hang going to sleep if the SDHC card is mounted. I have worked around this by writing a pm-utils script that unmounts the card on suspend and remounts it on resume.


Seems to work, no devices to check.