Ubuntu Feisty and the Dell Latitude C600

Ubuntu works amazingly well with this trusty old Dell model. There are, however, two pains in the ass – one for each cheek.

  • The mouse freezes briefly all the time
  • The display resolution is incorrect by default

Firstly – the mouse freezes. Linux has a component called “powernowd” which throttles up and down the CPU depending on the requirement – you can see it working by adding the “CPU frequency scaling monitor” to the Gnome taskbar. You’ll notice the the mouse freezes occur when the CPU changes speed – how annoying! (I suspect the whole system freezes for a moment rather than just the mouse, but the mouse is what you’ll notice.) As far as I can tell, there’s no way to fix this functionality so it works and doesn’t freeze, so you’ll need to uninstall powernowd to get the computer working smoothly.

  • Open up the terminal
  • Type “sudo aptitude remove powernowd”
  • Say goodbye to some of your battery life and some very cool functionality.

Secondly, if you have one of the wonderful high resolution displays (1400×1080), it won’t work correctly. It’s pretty easy to fix.

  • Boot into the horrible looking wrong resolution
  • Crack open a terminal
  • Type “sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf”

Add the Sync / Refresh lines into the Monitor section so it looks like this:

Section "Monitor"
Identifier "Generic Monitor"
Option "DPMS"
HorizSync 28-70
VertRefresh 43-60

Then add the full resolution into each of the modes, so they all look like this:

SubSection "Display"
Depth 24
Modes "1400x1050" "1280x1024" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"

That’s it – now save and reboot, and you should be working in full resolution. Hurrah!


23 responses to “Ubuntu Feisty and the Dell Latitude C600”

  1. You have saved my life ! – I have been tearing my hair out for the past 2 days searching blogs etc and the two issues I used to have have dissappeared – thankyou I am know running Ubuntu on my Dell C600 latitude – I have recycled and old machine ! – cheers again Jonathan

  2. You saved another life! – I tried fedora first and noway to change the resolution from 800×600. Then tried Ubuntu, still the same. I have played xorg.conf for a while. no luck for a right combination until I saw your recipe. Thanks again.

  3. Thanks for the tip of the mouse, freeze was really annoying ! But it work well like I’d with Debian, thanks a lot !

  4. Simon K

    Thank you so much for posting this! I just installed Ubuntu (over something like Arch) because I expected this to happen and figured I’d have a solution.

  5. Bruno G

    Thanks for this tip !

    Any hint on how to activate hardware graphics acceleration ?

  6. Hi Bruno,

    The Feisty Fawn includes a manager for closed manufacturer video drivers – however, on running it, it reports that no manufacturer drivers are required. I tried the compositing engine anyway, and the machine just couldn’t take it.

    I’m not sure I’d recommend running 3d accelerated apps on a machine this crusty.


  7. Bruno G

    Yes but 3d worked very well under Windows. I hope we’ll see improvements for the driver in the future…

  8. Thanks a lot, it works great (well the second time it did). If you are like me and have problem with following clearly written directions and end up with the XServer not starting, see the link.


  9. Thanks, I finally got Xubuntu running probably on my sisters the old laptop.

    By the way, I had some problems booting from livecd, it suddenly froze and wrote:
    buffer I/O error on device fd0, logical block 0
    (In terminal 1)

    Given some time it booted fine, but it took about 5 min. The solution is to disable the floppydrive in BIOS, setting it to “restart only” see this thread if anyone has similar issues:

  10. your mouse freeze fix saved me a TON of headaches! i’ve installed/reinstalled several distros to no avail, and am glad i can stick to xubuntu now, thanks to you!

  11. But the fom “Depth 24” to “Depth 16” and the driver to “r128” (Driver “r128”) and use 1024×768 than you get the 100% out from the card (OpenGL and Direct3D) all hardware rendering! You cant use Beryl or Compiz (GLX) but theres a way to enable them google for “rage 128 compiz” you need to double buffer the ati.c file or somethink it helped me! Long time C600 and Ubuntu USER! =D

  12. The mouse you can look in xorg.conf
    google for it it helps and the cpu can get hot use i8kfan http://www.diefer.de/i8kfan/index.html

  13. I tried to install Ubuntu 7.10 and Suse Pro 9.3 on a laptop (Dell Latitude C610 with 256 Mb). Both distro’s failed but I succeeded with Ubuntu after I decided to devide the HD on my own. Just leaving a few 100 MB free. I also did connected a external mouse to the laptop. After I did both Ubuntu 7.10 installed without any problems.

  14. Thank You….. U sooooooo Helpfull…..

  15. Randommantus

    Here too. Thank you. That pause sucks, Ubuntu distro should get it fixed as until I looked in the /syslog I had no idea what this pausing was all about!

  16. I tried loading Ubuntu 7.10 on a Dell Lattitude C600 last night but struggled. The problems seem similar to those described by Shahid but not exactly. The mouse seems to have a mind of its own and drifts off screen. Only occasionally is it available to me as the user and even then I seem to be fighting the machine. As far as the display, the home gnome screen is displayed but the bottom inch or so of the screen and 3/4 of the left inch of the screen are distorted. Seems like a driver issue. Can you comment on whether these are the same as the issues described in this post?

  17. @doc:

    I have the same issue with the screen display. I haven’t installed completely, only run from disk. Tried Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Xbuntu (7.10) — same result. I will try installing completely to see what happens. If that doesn’t work, will most likely download 8.4 and see if the driver issue is the same in that install. However, if anyone has some insight into how this can be fixed, i would love to know…thanks….

  18. just a followup…well, after a full install of Xubuntu 7.10 the screen display issue i was getting when running from the cd is not present. Looks like the display issues only present themselves when running from the cd…

  19. During the installation, if you want to remove the 1″ black line in the botton of the screen, you can try to do the followings:
    1) change the screen resolution to 800X600 (the black line disappear)
    2) resize again the screen to 1024X768 and now the black botton line will disappear an you can continue to reinstall 7.10.

  20. Thanks a lot. I had been struggling with this for quite a while (Ubuntu v8.04). Following your instructions (and creating the nonexistent SubSection under the Screen Section) it finally worked!

  21. This simple display fix is great. Thanks.

    Now this aged animal (850mHz, 256mRam, 40gB disk) runs 8.10 just fine, so long as you´re a bit patient. DVDś run well on Movie Player, Firefox with its plugins works fine.

    I´ll admit that taxing the beast with too many applications at once will slow it to the speed of a tree, so do be patient.


  22. thanks! seems so simple! I will try it on Ubuntu 9.10

  23. I had tried to load Ubuntu on the C600 and had the severe mouse drift issue that other users incurred. I was able to get around this by disabling the touchpad in the Dell Bios. This allowed me to complete the install. Everything was running pretty well except for the graphics resolution issue. I tried to fix this following the instructions above with the xorg.conf file. However this seemed to be a blank file. I inserted the commands and saved the file. On reboot, my system locked at the Ubuntu splash screen. could I have been looking in the wrong place for the xorg.conf file? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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