Well I decided to try an alternate driver for the synaptic trackpad in this Inspiron 1501. I removed the xorg-x11-drv-synaptics.x86_64 driver that was on the system and installed tpconfig.i386. During boot a message was given about some fatal error that had something to do with a ps/2 port. Now I had no trackpad. No way to control the mouse.
This led to the problem of not being able to control the network manager to connect to the wireless network so I could reinstall the synaptics driver. I couldn't connect with an ethernet cable either because I didn't know how to control the network manager and I don't know the shell command to give to connect. So I got a $10 usb optical mouse and it works perfectly. It was at this time that I learned from the previous owner of the laptop that the trackpad was not working properly under Windows Vista either so I suspect a hardware problem (he described the exact same problem behavior).
Just to be clear I left the synaptics driver uninstalled since the trackpad doesn't work properly. I also went ahead and removed the broadcom-wl driver since the internal wireless only comes on ocassionally. The Ralink rt2870 usb wireless adapter I am using works fine. Installation was as simple as yum install rt2870. I intend to install a compatible internal Intel wireless card soon. I will post about how that goes.
That leaves me with Fedora 10 x86_64 runing great on my Dell Inspiron 1501.