Installation notes for Debian 9 Stretch onto Dell Mini 1012

When I first attempted to get Linux installed on my Dell Mini 1012, the fist boot into the operating system went perfectly. I was able to install some firmware and update some packages. However, when I went to reboot and boot after the first boot I discovered that the system would no longer boot fully. After trying the verbose boot and hunting around on the internet for some time I found the answer. Turns out there is a bug with the Dell keyboard backlight service on this machine. Since the keyboard back light does not exist (though I really wished it did)

When you first get your system installed, run this command first before doing anything else if it will let you. If you have installed your system already and are searching for an answer (like I did.) the next best solution is to boot from the installation media as rescue, chroot into the partition (execute command as /dev/sdxx from the rescue menu) and enter the below command (as root of course):

systemctl mask systemd-backlight@leds\:dell\:\:kbd_backlight.service

I chose the XFCE window manager, because I figured the stock one would be too graphic intensive for such a little machine. I did try MATE which locked up completely when trying to load, even if I pulled up the utility that allows me to select software compositing or even none at all. Trying both settings didn’t get me anywhere. I even tried Cinnamon, and nothing really seemed to work for me like XFCE does. With that being said, I cannot drag any windows around with this stupid touchpad mouse.

It is a truly terrible design. I was informed by a friend that the palm rest off the Inspiron 1018 fits with a little bit of dremel modification, so I have ordered up one of those and am waiting for that to come in this week along with my SSD which should be everything that I need for optimal battery life.

To get the broadcom card to play nice, I had to install the firmware-b43-installer and add b43.allhwsupport=1 to the kernel boot arguements. After that all broadcom issues were suppressed during startup.

This particular machine that I have was one that I have sorted of restored to fully functional. I replaced both the battery pack and cracked screen bezel with new units. Since this thing is fanless, and with an SSD is in place I hope to find battery life optimized. I was able to disassemble one battery pack already, and hope to rebuild one with some high quality cells in hopes it lasts a long while.

One really annoying problem that some some reading and figuring out is the resume from suspend issue I was having with XFCE. Basically what would happen is if the laptop would go to sleep (S3 State) and wake back up I would be able to type my credentials at the login screen but then am presented with a blank screen instead of my XFCE session resuming like it was supposed to. I had a blinking cursor on the top left corner of the screen, and could access the text consoles at TTY2, 3 etc by using the CTRL + ALT + F2 method. At that point I just logged in and killed the process for xfce-session at which point X would die and relaunch, and after logging back in I was able to continue with my workflow normally, albiet losing whatever I had open at the time.

So turns out there is some kind of bug with the light-locker package and that is what is causing this. This was taken care of easily with apt-get remove light-locker. It took a while to figure that out! LOL

All in all, I am quite pleased with Linux on this little atom machine. I would REALLY like to have an ARM CPU Linux laptop that is the size of the  mini. I can’t imagine how much more awesome battery life would be then!

The battery on this does last about 5 hours, but I’ll be honest here… I am *extremely* spoiled with my thinkpad that has the battery slice in it. A single sitting can yield something like 13 hours of continuous use battery life, but that is with 180WH in batteries LOL.

I have been tossing around the idea of printing a battery slice out for this machine, to extend the battery life indefinitely. A battery slice in this foot print should easily hold 12, or even up to 18 cells. That would make for one hell of an aftermarket battery!

I hope that you enjoyed my blurb and notes on this wonderful little machine. It worked out really good having this as I don’t need to lug around a large laptop all the time. This seems to fufill my needs. Stay tuned for more!

Mechanique' Extraordinaire