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Dell Inspiron 6000d
Components: Other Categories

James F. Carter <>, 2005-03-30

Case ABS plastic, metalflake decoration
Keyboard 87 keys (in the US)
Multimedia Keys Seven on front of case
Sound AC'97 via intel8x0 (Sigma Tel C-Major Audio)
USB Devices Tested external mouse, joystick, flash storage, USB 2.0 CD
IEEE 1394 (Firewire) Tested external disc
Bundled Software Windows XP Home SP2 and friends
Not on Machine IRDA, parallel port

Component Details: Other Categories


Though not a device in the traditional sense, the case of a laptop is very important to its function and to user acceptance. The Inspiron 6000d's case is made of ABS plastic, with a metal-flake silver color on the lid, around the keyboard (including the touchpad), and around the display, in a style made popular by the recent Apple Powerbook. The lid and the keyboard deck have a border of white. The bottom half of the machine, and the keys, are black. Artists and professional industrial designers may quibble, but I think the machine is quite handsome. You can buy ($35) a snap-on cover for the lid in a selection of colors. I worry that the cover might come off or the grabbers might break.

External dimensions are:
Dimension Inches Centimeters Comment
Height 1.75 4.5 Counting the feet
Width 14 35.6
Depth 10.5 26.7 Minus power connector

The power connector plugs in straight to the rear, and is 2 inches (5 cm) long; this is how close the machine could be backed up to an obstruction.

The lid latch is horizontally sliding with two hooks. This arrangement is clearly more secure and probably more durable than the single metal hook on the Inspiron 4100.

While I have not completely stripped my machine, I can see the internal construction when components are removed. Interior ribs seem thinner than I would use if designing the case. I've never had a problem with fragility of two previous Dell laptops, and I'm sure Dell has had to pay for damaged cases under the warranty and the service contracts, so they know what they can get away with. But I would be happier if 100 grams of additional plastic were strategically placed around the interior.

The system's mass varies slightly with the accessories. Mine is 3.3 Kg or 7.2 lb. A review described the Inspiron 4100 as the SUV of laptops, and while the 6000d is slightly lighter it definitely does not qualify for the thin and light category, for which you should try the Inspiron 600m or 700m. As a male with a backpack I do not find the machine burdensome to carry, but if there is any doubt, you should physically handle a laptop of this general size, before buying, and try carrying it in the kind of bag you expect to use regularly. For an improvised mass comparison, a US gallon of water, milk, etc. weighs 8 lb.


The Inspiron 6000 has a standard keyboard with 87 keys (in the US). The alphanumeric keys are full-sized, but there is no separate numeric keypad as on the DEC LK-201 and imitations by other vendors. The function keys and editing keys are about half-height on the top row. The right side of the keyboard can function as a numeric pad if you engage numlock. Key feel is crisp, more so than on the Inspiron 4100. In other words, the springs on the keys are a little stronger, but no so much as to be hard to push down, and there is negative resistance so the key doesn't move until you reach a threshold, but then it drops all the way down.

The keys are toward the rear of the deck, so the front part could act as a palm rest. This ergonomic style was originated by Apple.

My one complaint about the keyboard is that sometimes it rattles against the edge of the deck. This effect comes and goes, and the optical disc, which is just under the place that rattles, may be involved.

Multimedia keys

Along the front edge of the case are seven illuminated buttons. They act just like regular keyboard keys. In X-Windows they produce these keycodes, none of which of course have any keysyms. I have heard of a daemon that monitors the X clickstream and runs scripts when particular keycodes come in, e.g. to adjust the sound or start or stop video playback. But I don't actually have it set up. Natively, neither the multimedia keys nor Fn-PageUp/Down can be used to adjust the volume in Linux; you will need to use a proper mixer.
Key Keycode
Sound Off 160
Sound Quiet 174
Sound Loud 176
Play/Pause 162
Rewind 144
Skip 153
Halt 164

Sound card

Sigma Tel C-Major Audio, type 9751. It's an AC'97 type chip and uses the integrated controller from the Intel ICH6M (915PM) chipset. The Linux driver is snd_intel8x0. Internal speakers and headphones work both on Linux and Windows. (Microphone input is possible but was not tested.) Using xmms and Windows Media Player respectively, it could play audio CDs, and browser plugins for audio were working. Comparing to other laptop speakers, the Inspiron's speakers are pretty good, but for an audiophile experience you should use headphones.

USB Devices

There are four USB ports, two in back and two on the right side. There are four UHCI controllers (full speed) and one EHCI controller (high speed), which can work through any of the ports. I didn't do real speed tests on USB, but it's expected that actual data transfers are way slower than the theoretical maximum, listed in this table:
Standard speed 2 MHz
Full speed 12 MHz
High speed (2.0) 480 MHz

External keyboard and/or mouse

A Microsoft USB Intellimouse Explorer worked without problems once xorg.conf was set up for dual mouse operation. Here is my X-Windows configuration file (xorg.conf). See the second mouse section.

USB joystick

A Microsoft Sidewinder Precision 2 Joystick operated without problems in Windows (using the Control Panel tester) and Linux (using js_demo from FlightGear). Unfortunately, for actually playing FlightGear I'll have to wait for direct rendering support of the ATI Radeon M300.

USB storage device

With no drama, Linux was able to mount and use the Lexar Jumpdrive Elite 512MB (flash RAM) as /dev/sdb (device) and /dev/sdb1 (mountable partition) using subfs. However, the Swissbit Victorinox (a Swiss Army Knife with USB storage :-) could not be mounted. It seems to have some strange partitions set up, which confused something. Fortunately it's not mine; it belongs to a friend.

USB 2.0 external CD-RW

Reading 1e8 bytes from the block device went at 2.29e6 bytes/sec (15X) whereas a recursive grep of an entire CD, 6.64e8 bytes, took 181 seconds or 3.66e6 bytes/sec (24X). This is on a drive rated for 40X reading. I don't know if the drive was overrated, or if the complex USB protocol took a long time between faster data block transfers. Even so, these data transfers were 9x or 15x (respectively) faster than standard USB, or 1.5x or 2.4x faster than full speed, proving that USB 2.0 was in use. All four USB ports were tested and each performed similarly.

You need to unmount the disc before unplugging the USB cable, even for readonly media. The eject /dev/sr0 command will do this as well as ejecting the media from the drive. The hotplug system is not as idiotproof as Windows if you forget -- I gave myself a kernel panic when I unplugged with the device mounted, and then tried to unmount it manually.

IEEE 1394 (Firewire)

I tested an external disc drive, a 41 GB Maxtor E040L0 in a Speedzter enclosure. A MD5 checksum of a big Windows ghost image, 9.84e8 bytes, took 42.4 secs elapsed (60% CPU utilization), for 2.32e7 byte/sec (1.85e8 bit/sec), 46% of the theoretical bandwidth of 400 Mbaud. This performance is excellent, and could have been limited by the disc (compare to the Fujitsu drive on the laptop).

All steps of mounting and unmounting the drive were handled successfully by hotplug and subfs. I only had to plug it in, and yank the plug. 32 seconds from plugin to being mounted; 11 seconds from unplug to being officially gone. Windows might be a little faster, but not a lot. The experience was similar with the USB flash memory.

Bundled Software

Here's what comes with the machine, if the least expensive options are taken.

Windows XP Home version dated 2002, Service Pack 2
Corel Word Perfect Productivity Pack
McAfee Anti Virus (Trial Subscription)
Intuit QuickBooks (Trial Edition)
CyberLink PowerDVD 5.3.1012
Sonic RecordNow 7.3 LE
Various Dell utilities and diagnostics

My very first move was to shrink the Windows partition and install SuSE Linux v9.2. Dell ghosts a pristine image of Windows XP Home (service pack 2) onto the machine, but the end user will need to run Windows Update to get security patches since the service pack, of which there were 16 when I got my machine. Equally, a new Linux installation should receive accumulated security patches.

Dell provides a small partition of diagnostics. You should preserve this if at all possible. Here is how to run them. There's also what they call the System Restore Partition, which has installation media in case you trash your O.S. (They used to give you a CD of Windows; now (2006) you have to pay for it -- recommended.) It takes 3.5 GB, and did not survive my repartitioning.

Devices that aren't on the machine

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