Debian on Laptops

math (math at sizone dotte org)

Acer Travelmate 602TER

update: May 12, 2004

Wow, been a long time since I updated this, and I saw my entry wasnt in anymore, so since I was resubmitting I thought I should update it.

XFree86: Supported out of the box with 4.x - in fact, it is even setup with the Rage Mobility chipset to properly detect the capabilities of the monitor connected to it - when I have it set to be on the external LCD monitor I use, it detects 1280x1024 and uses that. Not sure exactly how it does it, but it works well ;)

No idea on how to do dual head though :)

Hardrive noise/power saving: Using 2.4.22+ kernels with ext3 and setting noatime and commit=2400 (or more) in fstab options and also running noflushd set to 1 minute timeouts, and removing everything else (rwhod, even syslog for eg, or making sure syslog doesnt write -MARK-s to the logs, check syslog.conf(5) for details), most of the time the drive doesn't power up for over 30-40 minutes at a time. Make sure you ext3 the / partition as well, or ext2 will spin the hd up every 2-3 minutes. Great for power savings except my original battery now runs 20-30 min from 100% down to 70% and then suddenly goes to 5% and dies 2 min later :(.

Battery Life Hint: If you use your laptop on wallpower a lot, take out the battery. I was 99% on wall power with it for 3 years and the battery is dead now. Smart huh?

Sound: Same setup as below (I just keep makeing oldconfig with the kernel ;) - use aumix -m 0 to turn the mic off. :)

I am lazy so I never set apmd scripts up for resetting sound drivers - dont sleep (close lid) the laptop if sound is PLAYING, your sound drivers will wedge, and you'll need to rmmod and re-insmod (this is also why not to compile your sound driver right INTO the kernel, cuz then you cant reinit it easily. Use modules).

Request: If anyone knows how to make the laptop *NOT* sleep when the lid is closed, that would be great. I play mp3s out of it often and Id like to keep it closed for protection/carrying in backpack, etc. If you know, please email me math at sizone dotte org. Thanks.

That's it for now, this thing has been great over the last three years and I hope to keep it running forever ;)

update: Aug 30, 2001

Following advice on for the 602TER, I was able to get this going quite easily using the supplied XF86Config file. However, the font servers line is not correct for Debian from what I can tell. Instead, until you get xfs properly configured, put in raw FontPaths to all the fonts dirs in /usr/X11/lib/fonts. I did this and things worked fine (otherwise you get a _FontSomething error: Cant Connect -- I DID have xfs running and properly configured AFAIK, but this didnt help.) The video chip is a Mach 64 Rage Mobility M1 which is (obviously) served by the XF86_Mach64 server.

The display is 1024x768 32bpp - no point in choosing lower resolution as they merely use less of the screen. One other problem with the provided XF86Config file for debian installs is the mouse. /dev/mouse is usually a symlink to the proper device. I have been lazy and not recompiled a kernel yet to include ps/2 bus mouse in the kernel (cant see it detected in the dmesg from this stock Debian Potato-installed kernel). Recompiling would probably be best because gpm (mouse for text console) bugs me. If you are lazy like me and need things going fast before you can recompile, a quick fix is to install gpm and set /dev/mouse to be a symlink to gpmdata. Set the mouse type to be 'microsoft' (not PS/2) and everything works fine in XFree86.

Well, almost. One wierd thing is switching back to console. ctrl-alt-f1 seems to take either a long time or require repeated attempts to get it to switch, and only does sometimes. C-A-F2 is better, but still finicky. C-A-F3 works fine - switch to this first then to other consoles if required. C-A-F4 as finicky as F2. F5 and F6 are a bit dangerous as they are function keys to kill the backlight and switch to the external display. Hitting CTRL-ALT-F5/6 seems to activate these sometimes, and deactivating them doesnt always work. Once I got the display back on but now I was in text console mode and the display sync was 180 degrees out (ie the top of the frame was in the middle of the screen, kinda like when a projector is out of phase with film). Another time the X display came back very dim (I tried not to leave it like this too long in case in case it was damaging the display). At one point I had to kill X to get any display back and was dropped into text console (with the frame half way out of phase). Restarting X brought X up nice and fine, but console mode was still out of phase. Wierd stuff can happen - just beware. :) [Of course the readers knows to use Ctrl-Alt-F7 to get back to X from console.]

Despite what the other Acer602TER owner said, no problems with the touchpad after 'restarting' from Win98 directly to linux without a full power off, at least not with GPM running and gpmdata as the mouse device in XF86.

Here is my XF86Config file. (Ive seen alot of downloads for it recently, so please note it's rather old. You really want an Xfree86 4.x or later config -- see above for XF86 4.x details.)

Harddrive Poweroff
Havent figured it out yet, but the hardrive chatters periodically every 30 seconds or so even when its doing nothing. More when I figure out what it is. (Its not something syslogging, anyway.) This will probably eat a lot of battery when off of wall power.

Update: May 01
Installing noflushd seems to work well. However, the scripts that it installs need a fair bit of manual config. I just edited the init.d/noflushd script and set TIMEOUT=1 (its minutes), DISKS=/dev/hda and PARAMS="-v -n $TIMEOUT $DISKS". This works nicely - the way I use the laptop it often doesnt need the disk at all ever, and even if it does, it spins up in 1-2 seconds. Thats fine by me. Saves assloads of batteries. :) (Update: well, it still spins up every 2-3 minutes anyway. Grr!)

Its been so long since I fixed this all up good, lets see what I can remember. Just install the regular apm modules (after compiling kernel support for them) and away you go. (Oh also install the apmd package for debian). I think the scripts in the /etc/apm/event.d dir come with it (00hwclock and pcmcia), but I think I added the /etc/apm/resume.d/pump script myself which consists of:


killall -q -w -15 pump
sleep 2
killall -q -9 pump
/sbin/pump -i eth0
Only use this if you are using pump(8) to get your IP config over DHCP.

CD Writer
Again, so long since I got this going. Same deal as the other author said about the 602TER but let me elucidate in case his page vanishes: - kernel idescsi support into kernel - put append="hdc=ide-scsi" as a line by itself in the top of your lilo.conf file - to write CDs install the cdrecord package. Remember scsi device is 0,0,0. Note: If you are using cdrecord for -audio, like with most CD writers (afaik) you need to use -swab to get proper byte order. (I've encountered a number that dont require this and its trial and error to find out, so I'm saving you some coasters. :)

Wow. This was Really Fucking Hard (RFH) to get going. The Ess Solo 1 module (for that is the chip in the machine - cat /proc/pci to find out) requires the gameport.o module. I *THINK* this is from the INPUT_PCIGAME kernel .config line, but I am not sure. I got it all going with 2.4.9 kernel finally when I got that in place. Compiling esssolo1 into the kernel native caused compile errors. I went back to modules with PCIGAME on and it worked, but I suspect you'd be able to tell when you got things right by compiling PCIGAME and ESSSOLO1 native and seeing if the kernel compiles. This will save you the time of compile new kern+modules; install_modules; install_kernel; reboot; fail; sigh; repeat.

Remember to chown /dev/dsp and /dev/mixer such that you can use sound apps as user instead of root.

One problem with all this is that even with setting the record volume on the mic to lowest possible with xmix, the front mic on the edge is still on and recording noise - including the HD and fan (if its running) and especially my keystrokes. Quite annoying. If anyone figures out how to get the mic completely OFF then please email me (read above for email addr).

When installing debian, in the drivers section choose the eepro100 module. Works great.

Acer Travelmate 350TE

Mar 29, 2001 A very sexy laptop, nice and thin. Light too due to the detacheable CDRom/Floppy combo unit.

Debian works great on it, no problems. There were some notes mentioned on the page re the Acer 340T regarding a bit of advice before running FIPS - WinME seems to store some extra info in raw sectors at the end of the partition and its a good idea to somehow take an image of this before you run FIPS and then restore it later (unfortunately that page is down right now, so I cant be less vague).

For the 350TE, the videochipset under Windows ME is called a "Trident Cyberblade Ai1" and the driver file is called "trid8260.drv". There is no support from what I can tell under XFree86 3.3.6 for thie card, and the Accelerated-X people ( are not offering support for this at this time. XFree86 4.0.3 lists the Cyberblade Ai/1 as supported, but I did not get a chance to try it out.

I did not get a chance to try and get the WinModem working with the drivers for it.

I didnt have a chance to figure out how to configure it to accept the detacheable CDRom and Floppy unfortunately so it can be unplugged, but it works fine as /dev/fd0 and /dev/hdc (IIRC) if you leave it plugged in.

Network card is eepro100 compatible - use that module.