Raspbian Stretch on DELL E4310 Laptop

by R. S. Doiel 2017-12-18

Today I bought a used Dell E4310 laptop. The E4310 is an “old model” now but certainly not vintage yet. It has a nice keyboard and reasonable screen size and resolution. I bought it as a writing machine. I mostly write in Markdown or Fountain depending on what I am writing these days.

Getting the laptop setup

The machine came with a minimal bootable Windows 7 CD and an blank internal drive. Windows 7 installed fine but was missing the network drivers for WiFi. I had previously copied the new Raspbian Stretch ISO to a USB drive. While the E4310 didn’t support booting from the USB drive Windows 7 does make it easy to write to a DVRW. After digging around and finding a blank disc I could write to it was a couple of mouse clicks and a bit of waiting and I had new bootable Raspbian Stretch CD.

Booting from the Raspbian Stretch CD worked like a charm. I selected the graphical install which worked well though initially the trackpad wasn’t visible so I just used keyboard navigation to setup the install. After the installation was complete and I rebooted without the install disc everything worked except the internal WiFi adapter.

I had several WiFi dongles that I use with my Raspberry Pis so I borrowed one and with that was able to run the usual sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade.

While waiting for the updates I did a little web searching and found what I needed to know on the Debian Wiki (see https://wiki.debian.org/iwlwifi?action=show&redirect=iwlagn). Following the instructions for Debian 9 “Stretch”

    sudo vi /etc/apt/sources.list.d/non-free.list 
    # adding the deb source line from the web page
    sudo apt update && sudo apt install fireware-iwlwifi
    sudo modprobe -r iwlwifi; sudo modprobe iwlwifi
    sudo shutdown -r now

After that everything came up fine.

First Impressions

First, I like Raspbian Pixel. It was fun on my Pi but on an Intel box with 4Gig RAM it is wicked fast. Pixel is currently my favorite flavor of Debian GNU/Linux. It is simple, minimal with a consistent UI for an X based system. Quite lovely.

If you’ve got an old laptop you’d like to breath some life into Raspbian Stretch is the way to go.

steps for my install process