Somebody has been praying for me; I can sense it as a storm of pounding love falling from Heaven. I love you all, too.
I gave it an honest shot; I struggled mightily and did not prevail with CentOS on this laptop. It’s a Dell Studio 1535, a cheaper version of their fancy multimedia laptops. CentOS currently has no good way of providing the drivers for Broadcom 4322 chipsets. You can’t even build the drivers from source code; it fouls out and there are no current patches that help.
And I deeply feared it was another Windows brick, but I managed to make Debian 8 work. This thing comes with the Radeon HD 3400 series video chipset. The only thing that did work properly was the ethernet adaptor, and that was marginal. So I got the KDE desktop installed because I need to show folks what that interface looks like. It’s the shortest distance from Windows in terms of making adjustments and the only full-service desktop that tends to work. However, the KDE developers have whined about the Intel video chipsets and haven’t bothered to simply work out the problems, so they act as if Intel is responsible for solving it. Silly developers. So the Radeon was a good thing, but the visuals really sucked until I got the “non-free” Radeon firmware installed. The big inclusive non-free firmware package also included the full-speed ethernet drivers for Tigon gigabit chips.
Once I got the b43 firmware installer and b43-fwcutter packages installed, the scripts downloaded the raw firmware and got it all sliced, diced and put into place. Now wifi works. What’s really cool is backlighting on the keyboard. What isn’t cool is how Debian’s kernels consistently fail to reactivate the networking drivers coming out of suspend and hibernate. But it works if you remember to disconnect all network interfaces before suspending or hibernating.
The only other significant issue is the Alps2 Glidepoint touchpad acts like it’s beat up pretty bad. This is a used machine, not a refurb, so I’m guessing the previous owner(s) were brutal with the touchpad. It works well enough.
The other odd feature is that instead of a sliding tray, the optical media reader/writer is a slot with an automated grab and eject function. There are two different buttons for making it spit the disk out. There are ports galore on this thing for two types of SD cards, and the BIOS tells me there’s a built-in broadband cell modem, but Linux can’t see it. Not that I have any notion of trying to pay the whopping charges for such a service, but it’s an unexpected feature. It also does WAP, but I can’t imagine wanting to use that. Bluetooth is enough weirdness, thank you, but you have to specifically add the KDE support for it (“bluedevil” is the package name).
At any rate, this is my new flagship. I offered the newer Dell Inspiron to my wife and she gladly accepted on the condition that I restore my Win7 experiment on it. So shall it be. Meanwhile, the Kiln of the Soul computer tech support ministry forges ahead into the future.