Installing Linux (Ubuntu 12.04) on a Dell Inspiron 1521

I use a Linux emulator at work, but I’ve never actually installed the OS on a physical machine. But now that my new computer has rendered my old computer redundant I figured I would remedy that deficiency and turn my spare laptop into a dedicated Linux wonderland.

For the most part the install went smoothly but there were two big issues that I thought I would document for anyone else trying to install Ubuntu 12.04 on a Dell Inspiron 1521.

Enabling Wireless Networking

Ubuntu 12.04 didn’t recognize my built-in wireless at first. There were no options to turn on wireless or scan for networks or anything.

The easiest way to fix this is to run the “Additional Drivers” program that comes with Ubuntu. In fact, Ubuntu will probably prompt you to run this program the first time you start your system.

The only trick here is that “Additional Drivers” won’t work without an Internet connection, and at this point the wireless still doesn’t work. Fortunately, wired networking does work so all you have to do is grab an Ethernet cable and physically plug your computer into your network.

Once you are physically connected to the Internet you can run “Additional Drivers” which should automatically find the software Ubuntu needs to enable and run your wireless. At that point you can ditch the cabling and reconnect to your network via wireless.

Ubuntu Endlessly Loops While Trying To Wake Up From Suspend

Normal laptop behavior says that the computer should conserve power by going into suspend mode when the user folds the screen down and then waking up when the user opens it back up. But when I tried this I found Ubuntu 12.04 getting stuck in a loop where it would try to wake up, flash some text across the screen, briefly cut power to the screen and then start all over. This doesn’t happen every time, but still often enough to be a nuisance.

Update: I originally thought this problem was somehow tied to having wireless networking active, but after further testing the computer seems to have the same chance of hanging versus properly suspending regardless of whether wireless is active or not. The problem is rare enough that I can currently live with it but I hope to find the real cause of and solution to this problem in the near future.