Strange mSATA SSD behaviour on Dell Latitude E7240

One of our Dell Latitude E7240 exhibited strange mSATA SSD behaviour. Disk requests didn’t complete on time. This computer ran the A13 firmware.

The case was eventually solved by upgrading to the A21 firmware executed from an USB stick as the mSATA SSD was unreliable at this point. Apparently, the A18 firmware corrected some mSATA port settings. Also, this was a good opportunity to rid us of Intel’s SA-00075.

This isn’t the first case where disk behaviour suddenly changes to the worst on Latitude E-series laptops, only to be rectified by a firmware upgrade.

Loose camera connector in Dell Latitude E5540

A colleague came into my office claiming the camera in his Dell Latitude E5540 didn’t work. Here’s a link to the Dell Latitude E5540 Owner’s Manual.

After a bit of troubleshooting, I removed the display bezel. Lo and behold, the camera connector was halfway out of its socket. Once I pressed the connector into place, the camera immediately started working. But only after a few seconds the connector dislodged again, and Skype/Windows didn’t detect any camera.

I removed the display, rearranged the camera’s flat cable to lessen the stress, and reconnected the connector. As I began to fasten the display, the camera lost its connection again. Apparently, the socket is slightly too wide or the connector is slightly too narrow, or maybe both, and they slip easily apart.

I removed the display again. I reconnected the camera connector one final time and applied a drop of super glue of the kind I use for security markings. While the glue dried, the camera kept working. After 10 minutes or so, I reattached the display and the display bezel, and the camera was still working. Successful surgery!

Dell Latitude E7240 and Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260

Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 fails to notify Windows 7 when the SSID changes. The result is that the wireless interface retains the previous and possibly invalid IP addresses and other settings. The latest driver, A11, only a few days old, isn’t helpful at all.

I usually avoid installing Intel’s own utility for managing wireless connections, as I feel this should be left in the capable hands of the operating system and the driver. Maybe I should think twice about that.

The current solution is to manually force Windows into releasing and renewing the IP addresses after switching to a different SSID.

@echo off

ipconfig /release
ipconfig /release6

ipconfig /renew
ipconfig /renew6

Dell Latitude E6430 and the firmware setting for Optimus video

A Dell Latitude E6430 had Windows 7 reinstalled this August, and the firmware was upgraded along to revision A15. Somehow the firmware setting for Optimus video got disabled and I regrettably missed the change.

Today, while upgrading the firmware to revision A16, I spotted the disabled Optimus video setting. Thus, I enabled the setting, and now both the Intel HD Graphics 4000 and the nVidia NVS 5300M graphics cards show up in Computer Management. Just remember to install the Intel HD Graphics 4000 driver prior to installing the nVidia NVS 5300M driver.

Hopefully, all stability issues we’ve seen lately should now be resolved.

I began to question if the firmware update process is always able to restore every setting. The moral of this story is to verify the firmware settings after each upgrade.

FreeBSD VT aka newcons in base/head

Update 2015-01-05:

I was more or less forced to adopt VT, UTF-8, KMS, and DRM2 when I upgraded my laptop from stable/9 to stable/10 in the time between Christmas of 2014 and New Year of 2015. My laptop, a Dell Latitude D531 of mid-2007 design, is equipped with the AMD/ATI Radeon X1270 GPU. What an awesome beast back in 2007/8! :P

Adding the two lines below to /boot/loader.conf, lets me watch the transition from a 80×25 text mode console, to a 80×30 graphics mode console, to a 210×65 graphics mode console, as the bootstrap firmware, the VGA driver, and subsequently, the KMS driver does their magic.


The VT console with the proper KMS driver truly rivals the old sc console in terms of geometry, UTF-8 capability, and speed.

Now, if only the former and latter were true for FreeBSD VMs running inside VirtualBox, which are still forced to run the VT console with the VGA driver or in the old text mode.

Update 2014-08-27:

I compiled and installed r270452 of base/head the other day, and the VT console is faster than ever before in VirtualBox 4.3.12. I imagine the speedups are similar on real hardware.

The VT console can’t compete with the old sc console in terms of speed, but, making room for a new line on a screen full of text, is considerably faster now than earlier this year.

Setting hw.vga.textmode="1" in /boot/loader.conf is even faster if you don’t need doublewidth characters. However, you may feel comfortably with the 30 lines of text provided by the graphical mode.

It’s nice to see the sc and the VT code being merged, making it possible to have both consoles compiled in the kernel for base/stable/10 and base/head. Only one of them may be active at a time, so set your /boot/loader.conf accordingly:

kern.vty="vt" for the VT console, or, kern.vty="sc" for the old sc console.

For last couple of days I’ve been playing with base/head and the VT kernel. It’s refreshing to finally be able to put Unicode with the UTF-8 encoding to use on the console. The console speed, at least when run in VirtualBox 4.3.6, reminds me of the console of the Sun SPARCstation IPCs I used to manage before they all died some years ago. I’ll see if I can find some idle equipment at work that’s not too old and see if the console speed is any different on real hardware. Anyway, this newcons business surely is a step in the right direction.

F2 key not working on your Dell Latitude E6530? Try the F12 key and select BIOS Setup instead

A brand new Dell Latitude E6530 found its way to my office to be prepared for use for one of my coworkers. I was surprised to learn that the F2 key doesn’t allow you to enter the BIOS Setup. The computer simply freezes and the screen remains black. Just moments prior the firmware showed in the upper right corner a promise to enter the BIOS Setup. How rude.

I remembered there is a way to access the BIOS Setup from the boot menu provided by F12 key. Lo and behold, the BIOS Setup is available through this route.

It turns out this computer is running the A11 version of the System BIOS firmware and this version is a bit buggy, so watch out. Hopefully this issue will be resolved by the time A12 is available.

By the way, how come the S.M.A.R.T. feature is turned off by default in the BIOS Settings?

Addendum 2013-08-23

Revision A12 of the System BIOS firmware for Latitude E6530 is available. The aforementioned problem with the F2 key has been removed.