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Aleph 0 Computing: Running OpenBSD on a Dell Inspiron 1000

This page is no longer being updated. Please visit Aleph 0 Computing for information on current projects.



One of many machines making up the original Aleph 0 Computing Project, “dave” was a Dell Inspiron 1000 (BIOS revision A08) laptop with a 2.2 GHz Intel Celeron processor running OpenBSD. It used OpenBSD up through version 3.9, and was used for testing and preparing customized builds of OpenBSD more than anything else. OpenBSD-interpreted specifications may be found in dave's dmesg; another document that may be useful to you is dave's xorg.conf. Further specifications and documentation are below.

This page is designed to include descriptions of (and, where available, workarounds for) unexpected behavior of the machine in general and of OpenBSD on the machine in particular. All of the below information at least tangentially applies to running OpenBSD on the Inspiron 1000, but may apply to other operating systems as well. Though the page is no longer being actively maintained, if there is information you would like to add, or for other comments, questions, or concerns, please feel free to email the author.


For this document, “problems” are things that don't work at all, or require a significant amount of effort to put into a barely-usable state. Some issues may be located instead under the below Usage section, especially tiny oddities or issues with relatively simple workarounds.


The major problem I have with dave (running OpenBSD 3.9) is kind of a big one: the APM (power management) does not work. This means dave's battery life is short, and some simple configuration has to be done to keep the kernel from panicking on boot. If you're seeing an error like this:

apm0 at bios0: Power Management spec V1.2
uvm_fault(0xd0554ca0, 0x4000, 0, 1) -> e
fatal page fault in supervisor mode
trap type 6 code 0 eip d02307ad cs 8 eflags 10046 cr2 469a cpl 0
panic: trap type 6, code=0, pc=d02307ad

The operating system has halted.
Please press any key to reboot.

when trying to boot, then you may have this problem as well. (The full dmesg of the panic doesn't shed much more light.) To even install OpenBSD, the following steps are necessary:

  1. At the boot> prompt, enter boot -c.
  2. At the resulting UKC> prompt, enter disable apm0; at the next, enter quit.

This disables kernel support for APM and keeps it from panicking. After the installation, you'll need to do the same thing for the first boot. Finally, you can do the following (similar) steps to prevent a repeat of the above on every boot:

$ /usr/sbin/config -e -o ./bsd-noapm /bsd
OpenBSD 3.7 (GENERIC) …
Enter 'help' for information
ukc> disable apm0
252 apm0 disabled
ukc> quit
Saving modified kernel.
$ su
# cp /bsd /bsd.orig
# mv ./bsd-noapm /bsd

(Note, however, that you'll have to repeat the above whenever you build a new kernel.)


This problem is currently filed as OpenBSD bug i386/5084: APM causes kernel panic on Dell Inspiron 1000; it was submitted on 22 April 2006 and is open as of this writing.

Fn Keys: Volume and Mute

dave includes a “Fn” button near the bottom left of the keyboard, useful for several additional hotkey functions (see Usage, below). I haven't yet found a way to get the volume or mute buttons to work under OpenBSD. That doesn't mean there isn't one, but I haven't put more than about 20 minutes into searching.


The modem built into dave is a SiS 7013 software modem or “winmodem”, which does not work under OpenBSD.

CD Audio

This machine doesn't seem to play audio CDs directly from disc, even when the audio is set up correctly. It's probably due to a lack of a digital audio connection from the drive to the sound chipset. Mounting the disc and playing the files works fine, as does copying the music to MP3 or Ogg.


There are some interesting “quirks” that don't behave exactly as I'd expect them to. All of the points in this section hold for OpenBSD, but have not been tested under any other operating system. This section also contains items on how to make the machine act more like you'd expect; many involve editing OpenBSD configuration files.

Screen Stretch

One of dave's more surprising features is the fact that, by default, any resolution is displayed full screen. This is in a stark contrast to my other Dell laptop, which displays the console fairly small in the middle of the screen with large borders—as I understand is common for LCD displays. This feature may actually be toggled with Fn-F5; it's documented in the Owner's Manual, but there's no informative icon on the F5 key to remind you of this fact.

System Beep

dave has a “System Beep” toggle key; hold down “Fn” and hit the F6 key (the one with the speaker with a B beside it). It has no funtion in the default OpenBSD setup, since the system speaker is off in the software. To turn it on:


(See mixerctl(1) for more on this and mixerctl.conf(5) for how to set it on system startup.)

To check to see if it's working, do Fn-F6 a couple of times; a higher-pitched tone means the system beep is enabled; no tone means it's disabled or your mixer still isn't set up right.


It works with a very small bit of configuration, though not quite the way Dell or the documentation suggests it will. By adding (or uncommenting) the line Option "ForceCRT1" in the xorg.conf file (as in dave's xorg.conf), you can enable the VGA out—but there's no way to turn it off. The Fn-F3 hotkey only seems to turn on or off the laptop's LCD, not cycle through all three possible states. docs suggest that the display should be automatically enabled if connected when starting X, but, while my external monitor does seem to get some signal in that case, no picture is displayed.

Numeric keypad

Dell's user guide claims that the Num Lock key in the upper right-hand corner of the keyboard allows a few keys on the right-hand side to behave just like the numeric keypad on a standard 101-key. In reality, it's a bit unusual: to use the “numeric keypad”, start by pressing the Num Lock key. (You'll note the indicator light illuminates.) To then, say, make hitting “i” enter “5”, also hold down the “Fn” key when hitting “i”. With Num Lock on, and the Fn key depressed, the entered stroke will be that on the bottom right corner of the key pressed. Instead of using the Num Lock key, if you like, holding down Shift and Fn at the same time will have the same effect.

To enter the stroke on the bottom center of the key (such as the arrows, Home, Insert, and so forth, depress the Fn key, but make sure Num Lock (and Shift) is off when hitting the key.

Finally, note that the PgUp, PgDn, Del, and Ins keys don't work as you might expect them to at the command prompt, at least in sh without special configuration. That's an issue with the OpenBSD setup, though—the non-keypad versions don't do it either, and they all work fine in vi.


The official documentation is a little sketchy on memory; some experimentation shows that what information is documented may not be entirely accurate.

Crucial's memory selector suggests adding a 256MB PC2700 module to this system. Since that's the most supported in the single removable memory slot, it's probably not a bad idea. Trouble is, it seems the integrated memory is only PC2100, hence the speed of both is set to 266MHz as opposed to the higher 333MHz in the PC2700. I'd therefore consider the fastest supported memory to be PC2100 (266MHz).

Along the same lines, note that it's hard-coded into the BIOS to use 32MB of this memory for the video card when the total system memory is 256MB; this automatically jumps to 64MB when the system memory is more.

Finally, the system officially supports adding up to another 256 MB, in addition to the 256MB built-in. This allows a maximum system memory of only 512MB, about 450 after the built-in video memory is taken away. Surprisingly, however, it seems that more RAM works just fine. On a lark, I placed a 512MB SODIMM into the machine; sure enough, it reports system memory of 768MB and “usable” memory of 702MB, and everything seems to test fine in Memtest86+ 1.65. Maybe one of these days I'll try to find a 1GB SODIMM I can try out.



ProcessorIntel Mobile Celeron 2.2 GHz
RAM768 MB DDR at 266MHz (256 MB integrated, one removable 512 MB PC2100 module)
Hard Disk30 GB
Optical DriveCD-RW/DVD-ROM
Video CardSiS M650 integrated using 64 MB shared memory
Display1024x768x24, 14.1in viewable, plus VGA out
AudioSiS 7012 AC97 (above documentation calls it an Analog Devices AD1981B), with integrated speakers and headphone and microphone jacks
NetworkingSiS 900 10/100BaseTX Ethernet jack
ModemSiS 7013 software modem
USB3 USB 2.0 on back
PCMCIATI PCI 1510 CardBus type I/II slot
Input deviceTouchpad
Weight6.2 lb

For more detailed specifications and recommended settings, see dave's dmesg and dave's xorg.conf.


  1. These documents were not created by me, but are the property of Dell. Assume that they are not in the public domain, but are rather copyrighted works with all rights reserved.