This page documents my experiences with Debian Linux on a Dell Latitude 2100 netbook computer.

Installation

Installing Debian Lenny with GRUB 2 and encrypted LVM works, until the first boot after installation. GRUB says "file not found" and goes to the rescue prompt. Typing "root" shows that GRUB thinks the boot file system is fat, but it's really ext2. This happens because of some bytes left over from Dell's factory installation. See Debian bug #514263 and Debian bug #505137. I booted from a grml USB stick, did mkfs.ext2 /dev/sda1, and reinstalled.

Next the boot got as far as "waiting for root file system" and eventually dropping to the initramfs busybox prompt. This was with the "targeted" initramfs. Trying the "generic" next.

Using generic, the same thing happens. For some reason, /dev/sdb is the Secure Digital slot after installation, but during installation sdb is the SSD. It is looking for the file system root in /dev/mapper though.

Gave up on Lenny, installed Debian squeeze with the same partitioning scheme, and it all worked the first time. (This was before squeeze became the stable release of Debian.)

The encryption passphrase at boot can be entered with the keyboard in the Dvorak layout; just install or dpkg-reconfigure console-data and set it to Dvorak.

I had to disable CPU throttling in /etc/laptop-mode/conf.d/cpufreq.conf because throttling caused the CPU to stay stuck at 800 MHz after going on battery, even after going back on AC power.

Wireless

My machine has an Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 according to lspci. The Debian squeeze instructions for iwlagn work.

My comment on an Ubuntu bug that might be related to a iwlagn power management problem I have on Debian squeeze: https://bugs.edge.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/network-manager/+bug/384924/comments/13

Disabling power management in /etc/laptop-mode/conf.d/wireless-iwl-power.conf makes iwlagn wireless performance much better. It was almost unusable with power management enabled.

Recovery with grml and encrypted LVM

Since this was DebianTesting, occasional breakage was expected. I encountered Debian bug #574350 on March 17, 2010. So here is how to boot from a grml USB stick, mount encrypted LVM volumes, and chroot to be able to do recovery work. Grub2LiveCdInstallGuide was helpful for this procedure. http://www.supergrubdisk.org/wiki/Howto_Fix_Grub might be another good resource.

  1. cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sda2 copernicus
  2. Start lvm2
  3. mount /dev/mapper/copernicus-root /mnt/sda2
  4. for fs in home tmp usr var; do mount /dev/mapper/copernicus-$fs /mnt/sda2/$fs; done
  5. mount LABEL=boot /mnt/sda2/boot
  6. for fs in dev proc sys; do mount --bind /$fs /mnt/sda2/$fs; done
  7. chroot /mnt/sda2
  8. su - root
  9. Do whatever recovery is necessary, such as dpkg-reconfigure grub-pc.