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Obsolete: Linux on Laptops

Linux on Laptops - pieces of advice and other bits related to running Linux on Laptop/Notebook computers.

Various bits and pieces about running Linux on notebook computers are collected in this place. This information relates to the old models and old Debian distributions. Nowadays, with distros like Ubuntu everything should work right out of the box.

Compaq Armada 1520

For those suffering of Compaq Armada 1520 with the Cirrus CL-GD7548 chipset I have the /etc/X11/XF86Config file that got me to the heights of 800x600 at 16 bpp :-) I do not remember any more where I found those parameters so unfortunately I cannot properly attribute them. I am completely chipset-illiterate myself.

If you are using svgalib copy the corresponding lines from XF86Config to the /etc/vga/libvga.config and that should help. See the comments inside both files for explanations on what lines are necessary.

Remark:I do not have that computer any longer so most probably I wouldn't be able to answer detailed questions about it.

Compaq Armada 1598DT

This Armada is a bit better in the sense you can run XF86Setup and be left with a working setup. However, when you have 2MB of video memory it does not want to run in 1024x768 with 16 bpp. The problem is XF86Setup specifies a very high value for dot-clock in this mode. Just put it down a bit and it should work. Here is my /etc/X11/XF86Config for this model.

Enjoy the 1024x768 and 16 bpp simultaneously! :-)

Armada 1598DT has a very unpleasant feature: sometimes the sound board stops working after you had booted to Windows and came back to Linux. I guess Windows screws up some part of the board big time. The procedure to reset the board is simple:

  1. Enter BIOS setup and disable the sound board
  2. Boot to Linux
  3. Shutdown Linux and enter BIOS setup again
  4. Enable the sound board
  5. Boot to Linux

(Of course, the Linux kernel must be configured properly first - Sound Blaster, IO base 220, IRQ 5, DMA 1 and 5.)

You can read the complete mail I received from Stephane Brot with this tip. Thanks a lot, Stephane!

Sony Vaio PCG-SR31K

A very nice laptop, the screen is very precise and nice to look at. I managed to find the right settings for X Windows easily (only took a couple of months). I do not remember what was the problem initially, but here you can read the XF86Config file and figure it out for yourself.

A bigger problem was installing the Debian Linux. PCG-SR31K will boot from the CD-ROM that is connected using a PCMCIA card but will not recognize this CD-ROM during the early installation so it cannot be used to install the base system. The laptop does not have a floppy disk (you have to buy it separately), so this is not an option either. Finally, I simply copied all necessary files from the CD-ROM to the Windows partition and used the installation from a local hard drive for the base system after booting from CD-ROM. After that, things get easier if you have a copy of kernel and PCMCIA drivers on the same hard drive. Simply compile and install a new kernel plus the PCMCIA drivers, connect the Ethernet or CD-ROM and off you go.

The above notes were written for Debian and manual config. As I now use Ubuntu on this machine, the install process has become much more straightforward. The computer would not install with the "standard" Ubuntu desktop install disk but it installs just fine with the "Alternative Install" disk. So all you need to do is get the "Alternative" of the current Ubuntu and it should install completely on autopilot.

Last revision: March 12, 2012