Installing Ubuntu Server on a Dell Inspiron 530

I recently purchased a cheapie Dell Inspiron 530 to use as a new local devbox with the intent of installing Fedora 7 on it (the machine came with Ubuntu Desktop pre-installed). Foolish me, I just assumed that if Ubuntu was compatible with the hardware, then Fedora surely would be as well. WRONG. Fedora was unable to detect/install both the SATA controller and the integrated ethernet port. After a few hours trying to get Fedora to install, I decided to give up and give Ubuntu Server a try. Of course it wasn’t easy, so here are some of my notes in getting Ubuntu Server installed onto the Dell Inspiron 530.

I wanted to keep it simple so I just installed all of the defaults presented by the installer, including the LAMP package. Everything installed fine, however, the Integrated Network card was not detected/installed, so here’s how to get it up and running by compiling and installing the driver.

  1. First we need to install some prerequisites that are required in order to compile the driver. Make sure your Ubuntu Server CD is in the CD drive and run the following:
    sudo apt-get install linux-headers-2.6.20-15-server
    sudo apt-get install gcc
  2. Download the ethernet driver from Intel. The one I used is e1000-7.6.5.tar.gz. If you can’t find it at Intel, just Google the filename and I’m sure you’ll be able to find it somewhere.
  3. Burn the driver to a CD, mount it on your Ubuntu machine, and copy it to a local dir:
    sudo mkdir /mnt/cdrom
    sudo mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/cdrom
    sudo cp /mnt/cdrom/e1000-7.6.5.tar.gz /usr/src
  4. Compile and install the driver:
    cd /usr/src
    tar xfvz e1000-7.6.5.tar.gz
    cd e1000-7.6.5/src
    sudo make install
    sudo modprobe e1000
  5. Now configure your network card:
    sudo vim /etc/network/interfaces and your file should look like this (substitute your IP of choice):
    # This file describes the network interfaces available on your system
    # and how to activate them. For more information, see interfaces(5).
    # The loopback network interface
    auto lo
    iface lo inet loopback
    # This is a list of hotpluggable network interfaces.
    # They will be activated automatically by the hotplug subsystem.
    mapping hotplug
    script grep
    map eth0
    # The primary network interface
    auto eth0
    iface eth0 inet static
  6. Setup your DNS servers:
    sudo vim /etc/resolv.conf and it should look like this (I am using OpenDNS here but you can substitute your own):
  7. Restart the network:
    sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart
  8. Upgrade your system for good measure:
    sudo apt-get upgrade

That should be enough to get your Ubuntu Server up and running on the Dell Inspiron 530 with full network connectivity. Once you’re up and running, here are some other tweaks I did, although some of these may be personal preference.

  1. I don’t like Ubuntu’s sudo setup (I prefer log in in as root when needed). Out of the box the root account is disabled and your default account is given admin rights to run commands via sudo. To get around this, simply reset root’s password:
    sudo passwd root
    Now you will be able to su - and log in as root directly.
  2. Install SSH
    sudo apt-get install ssh
  3. Disable root login to SSH:
    sudo vim /etc/ssh/sshd_config and set the following:
    PermitRootLogin no
  4. Change the MySQL root password:
    mysqladmin -u root password "newpassword"
  5. Enable Apache’s mod_rewrite:
    sudo a2enmod rewrite
    sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 force-reload
  6. Install some other useful goodies:
    sudo apt-get install vim
    sudo apt-get install php5-mcrypt
    sudo apt-get install php5-curl
    sudo apt-get install php5-gd
    sudo apt-get install php-pear
    sudo pear upgrade-all
    sudo pear install mdb2
    sudo pear install pear/MDB2#mysqli

Now playing: Apparat – Steinholz (Monolake Remix)
via FoxyTunes

9 responses to “Installing Ubuntu Server on a Dell Inspiron 530”

  1. Mathias says:

    Thank you for this howto. We have this “cheapie” in our office and ubuntu didn’t detect the network card. I’ll try this.

  2. Saïvann says:

    Worked for me, thanks!

  3. Ray says:

    I just had a similar situation with a Dell Inspiron 531 while attempting to install Ubuntu Server 6.06 LTS. The installer did not detect my integrated nVidia network adapter. I fooled around for a while trying to install a different network driver–without success. I also had to use the “noapic” option just to get the installer to start successfully. Not a very satisfying ordeal to say the least!

    So I decided to try Ubuntu Server 7.04 instead. Talk about “night and day”. It installed very smoothly! So I’d recommend that others in a similar consider 7.04.

  4. Kyle Stevens says:

    Thanks. This helped me to get my network back up. I can’t believe this is required. I’ve installed Ubuntu on a lot of computers, and almost all detect the network by default.

  5. Ubu Dale says:

    System: Dell Inspiron 530
    Ubuntu: 7.04 Feisty
    Install of Intel e1000 works firts time. But on reboot, the network is disabled again. The e1000 driver gets loaded and shows up in the lsmod list. No number of network restart or rmmod/modprobe sloves the problem. Physically removing the driver file and reinstalling brings the network up again. On reboot, same problem repeats. Anyone?

  6. js says:

    Ubu Dale,

    Did you set up /etc/network/interfaces (step 5 in part 1 above) to bring up your network on boot?

  7. Ubu Dale says:

    Thanks. I just did and it now works. My mistake.

  8. Nohacks says:

    I recently purchased a cheapie Dell Inspiron 530 as well.

    I can’t get any form of Linux to work on this machine. I called Dell too and they said it was never shipped with Linux on it in any form. Maybe the guy on the help line was mistaken.

    How did you get this running? I had to disconnect the Sata CDRom and use an external usb cdrom to even get it to boot. then during the install it fails the cdrom test. Very strange since it booted from the same cdrom it fails during the install..


  9. js says:

    @Nohacks: I never was able to get Fedora running on this machine. I just ended up sticking with Ubuntu because it worked. I’ve thought about trying a more recent Fedora to see if it would work (inevitably there have been improvements in the year+ since I originally wrote this article), but I have it working fine with Ubuntu and haven’t had the time or desire to experiment. Sounds like the Dell guy doesn’t know what he is talking about, I bought the Inspiron 530 with Ubuntu pre-installed. What flavors/versions of Linux have you tried to install?