Install log for Linux OpenSUSE 10.3 (64 bits) on a Compal IFL 90 PM2


Important Note

I do not take responsability for any problem that occurs in your system. Use this information at your own risk.

Introduction

Some weeks ago I started to look for a laptop to replace my old PIV desktop running FC7. Obviously, Linux support was a major concern.

The Compal IFL 90 offered very decent specs for an attractive price. As a bonus, it would allow me to avoid paying for a Vista license that I would never use. It is hard to find a laptop sold without it around here :P

I spent a lot of time on the web investigating this issues. I found several reports of problems on getting Linux to work on this platform. To tell the truth I was a bit scared with the work I had ahead. There are reported problems of installers that will not work at all (not recognizing the DVD drive correctly), others must be installed in text mode, or with several hacks, etc.


I use Fedora Core at work (and at home) so that was my natural first option. I tried the Fedora Core 7 DVD 64bits but had the problem stated above. The installer did not find the DVD drive. I tried the “all-generic-ide” hack but with no success. There are other reported "work-arounds" that might work.


Some years ago I used SuSE in colege. It was a very good distro then. Having heard of the release of OpenSuSE 10.3 I decided to give it a try. I downloaded the 10.3 64 bits DVD. I have to say that it was amazing how well things worked. I installed the KDE desktop (an option in the installer). The installation went smoothly without any workaround or hack.


This document intends to help you know what you can expect from OpenSuSE 10.3 in this particular laptop. It is not supposed to be a detailed installation log.

References

Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon installation on a Compal IFL 90

In my investigations, this was the most complete site I could find. It has lots of information and was extremely useful to me (especially regarding the sound card issues but not only). So my thanks to the author.

Hardware description

Here goes the description of the Compal configuration I bought:


Compal IFL 90 PM2 Barebone

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2 Ghz (T7500) “Santa Rosa” FSB 800Mhz

Chipset Intel 965+ICH8M

Wireless:Intel 4965AGN

Ram: 2GB 667 Mhz

Nvidia 8600 GT 512 Dedicated Ram

Hard-drive: 250GB 5400rpm

Screen: 15.4" WXGA+ Glare Type TFT 1440 x 900

No turbo memory as the machine is to be used with Linux only. No Vista here :)


What will work out of the box

Graphics with correct resolution (but no 3D acceleration)

Touchpad

Keyboard

Wireless interface

Ethernet interface

Bluetooth

Hibernation to disc

USB ports

CD / DVD burning (tried using k3b in raw mode)


What will will not work out-of-the-box but it easly solved:

Nvidia 3D acceleration

External VGA plug (for an external monitor)

Sound card is detected but no sound is played (in the speakers or phones)

Web Cam
Hibernation to ram
Card reader

What I still can't get to work:

Fingerprint reader (I think that this is currently not supported...)

Untested

Built-in Modem
Firewire port

Procedure to get 3D acceleration (and external VGA monitor)

In order to enable the 3D support, the latest Nvidia driver must be installed. For this you can use the 1 click install feature. However, after this procedure I could not get the google earth to work. It would crash at start-up with a signal 11.


So I downloaded the installer directly from the NVidia site. It did not find any pre-compiled version of the driver from my kernel so it had to compile it.

If you do this make sure you have installed the following packages (from the installation DVD):
- gcc
- make
- kernel sources

(Note: some packages more maybe needed depending on what you have installed)

After this, google earth worked fine. And running the glxgears test gave me a +/- 6000 fps.

To configure an external monitor (or projector) use the nvidia-settings utility and configure it as a clone view.

Procedure to get sound to work

This was the harder problem to solve. But now it is not that complicated ;)


The symptom I experienced was that the sound card was correctly detected by YAST but no sound was played through the speakers or through the headphones output.

I followed the procedure reported here.


The OpenSUSE 10.3 ships with the latest stable version of alsa (1.0.14). There seems to be a problem with the HDA-intel (ICH8M chiptset). The latest available version from the OpenSUSE “testing” repository was 1.0.15 RC1. I tried that but with no success.


In order to get the sound to work I downloaded the 1.0.15RC3 from the alsa site compiled it and installed it on the system.


Then, in YAST -> System -> Audio edited the configuration and set the model = “toshiba”. Restart the sound server and you should have sound.


Important Update 18/10/2007: Meanwhile the alsa project released a new stable version 1.0.15. Just upgrade and then set your model to "toshiba" and everything shall work.

To test the sound you can use:
# speaker-test -c2 -Ddefault -twav

The laptop's built-in microphones will also work but the sound is too noisy. Make sure you have your mic levels and boosts high in the sound mixer.


Sound applications hanging problem:

I had a strange problem with all sound applications. They would play for a few seconds and then hang and become unresponsive. After several hours of googling and trying things, I discovered that disabling the kde sound server would solve the problem. The problem has something to do with the sound card sharing by different applications.

You can also keep it enable but check the 'Activate network sound' in the kcontrol sound configuration. This seems to work fine.

Procedure to get suspend (to ram) to work:

After install, the kpowersave suspend action did not work well. Searching the net I found the s2ram software contained in the suspend package (search in the OpenSuse site and install it through the 1-click feature).

After that, the following command (as root) will correctly suspend the laptop to ram:
s2ram -f -a3

I found an article that explains how to integrate the s2ram with the kpowersave but I still had no success: Anyway, here it is!


Update 2008/02/06: A very nice contribuition from Dr. Rainer Kaluscha:


"To get suspend to RAM to work from kpowersave I had to configure pm-utils instead of powersave. I added:


S2RAM_OPTS="-f -a 3"


to /etc/pm/config.d/config to make pm-utils use "s2ram -f"


However, it took me some time to find out that /etc/powersave isn't used anymore for config files in OpenSuSE 10.3.


I'm using the nvidia display driver so I also added Option "NvAGP" "1" in xorg.conf (http://en.opensuse.org/NVidia_Suspend_HOWTO).
Now suspend to RAM works fine. "

Procedure to get the web cam to work

Just go to the OpenSuSE site and use the 1 click install to get uvcvideo package. Tested in kopete , works fine.

Procedure to get the Card Reader to work

I followed the instructions in this site and the card reader worked fine.

I did the first two commands and the kde immediately recognized the sd card that I had in the reader.

/sbin/setpci -s <your device> CA=57
/sbin/setpci -s <your device> CB=02

Note on 64 bits choice

You should keep in mind that you will have some problems with the 64 bits Linux distros. Of course you can run 32 bits binaries but sometimes problems can still occur because the libraries needed by a 32 bits program will not be installed (of course you can always install both 64bits and 32bits versions of the libraries).

One good example is the flash plugin for firefox. To the date there is still no 64 bits version of the flash plugin and so, you cannot directly install it in your 64 bits firefox. Anyway, there are solutions reported in the web on how to solve this. And that goes beyond the scope of this document. The most obvious one is to install a 32 bits firefox.

Other problems that I had (regarding the 32 bits versus 64 bits issues): Skype, Eclipse Europa (Java IDE), Lightzone (raw editor). All this problems are easily solved.

Final Words

Hope that this report is useful to you. The Compal IFL 90 is a great machine that comes with a very interesting price tag. If your intention is to use Linux in it, maybe this report can be of help.

If you need to contact me, do so here:

tiago[dot]estima[at]gmail[dot]com


Here is the link to my homepage (about photography):
http://estima.home.sapo.pt/

Last Update 2007-10-17
Linux On Laptops