Installing Gentoo on the Dell XPS15 ... hopefully it'll be a better low-power setup than ubuntu/win7

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April 11, 2011

Updated April 26, 2011

I’ve been trying off and on for a few weeks, as I have free time with work and family (now with two kids), to install Gentoo on my Dell XPS15 laptop. Until recently, I had gotten the OS installed, including grub, in a tri-boot Gentoo/Ubuntu 10.10/Windows 7 configuration, and Gentoo was smart enough to start in text mode with the framebuffer on, so I got a full 1920x1080 with small text, and very little running in terms of services.

And while I’ve decided to install KDE on it (and finally got it working thanks to several tutorials I’ll mention another time), I plan to keep the Gentoo setup mostly text-only as much as possible so it can be a (hopefully) very low-power setup. Even though I have the extended 9-cell battery, I’m curious whether I can maintain a full day of coding in vim, browsing in elinks, and using my phone for Email while at Google IO in May, without needing to swap the battery for the spare 9-cell.

There weren’t many gotchas when it came to getting Gentoo installed, however it’s important to note that with the i5 processor, just about everything inside the laptop is Intel-based (wireless, bluetooth, framebuffer graphics, etc), and having the Intel/Nvidia ‘hybrid’ graphics was challenge enough in Ubuntu to tell it not to run nvidia drivers.

Here are some placeholders for where I’ll post my necessary configurations for anyone else attempting a Gentoo install on a similar rig:

  • /usr/src/linux/.config
  • /etc/X11/xorg.conf
  • /etc/make.conf
  • /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
  • /etc/conf.d/net.wlan0

For what it’s worth, WPA_supplicant works great for tethering from my Android phone, although I do need to issue an /etc/init.d/net.wlan0 restart whenever I need to switch wifi. Kind of a pain. I’ll have to see if there’s some auto-detection scheme to detect and change to another wifi setup if available. Obviously this is easy enough in KDE/etc, but I haven’t found an easy way to do this via cmdline when in text mode.