TuxMobil: Linux with Laptops, PDAs, Mobile Phones and Portable Computers
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Introduction

I recently bought myself a new laptop, for university work. The laptop came with Microsoft's Windows XP pre-installed. After unpacking the machine I immediately started installing Linux. At least, I was planning to immediately install Linux.

Selecting a Distro

After leaving my parent's house to start living on my own, I didn't take all my CD's with me. (After all, what use is a CD when you have fast internet, I thought).
Big mistake, I found out the laptop didn't have a floppy drive, so my planned installation with a couple of floppies and a network connection to Slackware collapsed. So I went to the local bookstore, to see if there was a Linux magazine with a distro included. And yes, just that month Linux Format (from the UK) came with a real Slackware 8.1 DVD, bootable. I've been using Slackware for a while on the desktop, and like it a lot, so decided this was going to be my laptop distro as well.

Hardware Overview

Enough of that historical information, on with the installation. First of all, here's a list with system specifications of the MicroPoint Pacer (aka Jade 8060) laptop:

I'm not going to guide you trough the entire installtion, just tell you what I did to make it work (or not). So here's the story.

Video card

As my desktop computer contains a NVidia card (TNT2 M64), I didn't expect any problems with the video card installation. Just download the kernel en GLX modules from NVidia.com, compile (or RPM them), and install.

My screen is 1024x768, so that's the best resolution to let X use. You can use GL functionality, test it by running glxgears or TuxRacer.

GLXGears output, running in KDE with a lot of other apps running as well.

12161 frames in 5.0 seconds = 2432.200 FPS
14022 frames in 5.0 seconds = 2804.400 FPS
13972 frames in 5.0 seconds = 2794.400 FPS
14031 frames in 5.0 seconds = 2806.200 FPS
14024 frames in 5.0 seconds = 2804.800 FPS
13994 frames in 5.0 seconds = 2798.800 FPS

USB

USB works very good after recompiling the kernel, with USB support in modules, and support for human interface devices, so I can use my USB mouse. The laptop uses UHCI usb controllers, so load usb-uchi, usbcore, hid, input and mousedev, and the mouse should work.

Kernel config for HID and USB:

# USB Human Interface Devices (HID)
#
CONFIG_USB_HID=m
CONFIG_USB_HIDINPUT=y
CONFIG_USB_HIDDEV=y
# CONFIG_USB_KBD is not set
# CONFIG_USB_MOUSE is not set
...
CONFIG_USB_UHCI=m

A good note to place here, is about my MP3 mplayer that works with Linux now. The MPman F40 and F50 use MPLinuxman for this. Try it out (If you have an MPMan player :) )

Networking

Networking can be achieved using the standard Realtek 8139 card (wired lan) or the internal Intel 2011B card (wireless lan).

The Realtek cards works simply with the 8130too module (rtl8139 for 2.2.x), and works fine. A bigger problem was to install the wireless card. For WLAN cards you'll need some tools and modules, available here.

This package contains tools and modules for your wireless card (Prism2 based). After loading the correct module (PCI, PCMCIA, USB), you can use some 'iw*' tools to configure them:

iwconfig:

wlan0 IEEE 802.11-b ESSID:"non-spec"
Mode:Managed Frequency:2.422GHz Access Point: 44:44:44:44:44:44
Bit Rate:200kb/s
Link Quality:0/100 Signal level:81/100 Noise level:27/100
Rx invalid nwid:0 Rx invalid crypt:0 Rx invalid frag:0
Tx excessive retries:0 Invalid misc:0 Missed beacon:0

This shows some information about the card you have. You can use /etc/wlan.conf to configure options such as WEP, SSID's etc.

Power Management

The laptop specification sheet told me it should be fully ACPI compliant. Well, the stock Slackware 2.4.18 kernel came with APM, so I tried that first. Typing in 'apm' gave me a message indicating there was no battery present, and working on AC power. So much for APM

I tried APM with later kernels as well (.19, .20 and 21Pre3), but that didn't help. I suppose the BIOS doesn't do APM

So I started downloading some ACPI patches from the ACPI page, and patched 2.4.20 with ACPI. Everything enabled, and after a reboot, ACPI worked great! Battery status, CPU temperature, and lid status and stuff like that.
Unfortunately, along with ACPI came random freezes. After about 3 ours of working, the laptop would just freeze, no response on ping's or whatsoever. So, I thought it had to be ACPI that caused this.

I reconfigured 2.4.18 with ACPI, but now all parts as modules. After reboot, I only loaded the button module, so I could press the power button to suspend the laptop. And yes, succes at last. No more freezes, works great. At the moment I'm busy inserting ACPI modules one by one, waiting for freezes to see what part is the problem. (I suspect the processor module).

To do actual power management, I have a few options:

Infrared

Like USB, infra red works great. It uses some modules, a simple command, and some programs to actually use IR, just great. To use IR, compile your kernel with support for IRDA, after which these modules will be made:

To use the IRDA port, find out with which serial port address it's connected. In my case, on ttyS0, and I add this to my startup script:

irattach /dev/ttyS0 -s

Now the IR port is ready to use. You can run programs like irdadump to verify this. To tranfer files from and to Windows (9x,NT etc) machines, use a small tool called ircp.

And that should do it.

Audio

The laptop contains a simple Intel audio card, and works with Linux. The sound quality isn't super, but this is the same in Windows. To use the soundcard, make sure you have these modules compiled and inserted:

Misc

I didn't work with the parallel port yet, but I don't see any reason for it not to work. Same thing for the TV-out, which should be able to put your laptop screen on TV.

Something about working with the Pacer

Overall, it's a nice laptop to work with, not to heavy, fast hardware and enough memory. I use Fluxbox as windowmanager, but, with the 512 mb memory, Gnome 2 and KDE 3.x also work great.

Communicating with other students is done via mail, IM and IR. Mail works like normal of course, IM done via Gaim, and IR with ircp. I encountered some problems with ircp. While my laptop was in receive mode, a Windows XP machine could sometimes not send anything, because I 'denied access'.

Also, for my study, I need to work with SolidWorks, a CAD program. To do this, I installed VMWare 3.2, with Windows XP on it. This works quite fine, but needs a lot of memory and CPU power.

Battery life isn't really long. Even while the CPU is mostly in 1200 MHz mode, it doesn't hold for more than 2.5 hours before sending out a loud BEEP signal. Recharging is pretty fast, even with laptop on and working.

Here are some results of hdparm on the 20GB harddisk:

/dev/hda:
Timing buffer-cache reads:   128 MB in  0.37 seconds =345.95 MB/sec
Timing buffered disk reads:  64 MB in  3.31 seconds = 19.34 MB/sec
.
/dev/hda:
Timing buffer-cache reads:   128 MB in  0.36 seconds =355.56 MB/sec
Timing buffered disk reads:  64 MB in  3.03 seconds = 21.12 MB/sec

Proc Info

Some other things, nice to look at:

vendor_id       : GenuineIntel
cpu family      : 15
model           : 2
model name      : Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 Mobile CPU 1.70GHz
stepping        : 4
cpu MHz         : 1695.064
cache size      : 512 KB
fpu             : yes
fpu_exception   : yes
flags           : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 sep mtrr pge mca cmov
pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm
bogomips        : 3381.65

Problems

[Important] ACPI isn't stable
- Fixed by compiling ACPI as modules, not inserting processor mod.
[Important] Keyboard does weird sometimes
- No fix yet, maybe hardware problem
[--] Media keys above normal keyboard don't do anything :(
- No fix yet, but don't miss them
[Average] The Smartmedia reader doesn't work
- The builtin smartmedia card reader can't be used. I can't find any way to access it. (Not via USB storage, or SCSI).

This report is a courtesy to TuxMobil by Jos Thalen(http://home.student.utwente.nl/j.p.thalen/) , no rights reserved.



TuxMobil: Linux with Laptops, Notebooks, PDAs, Mobile Phones and Portable Computers


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