It is a basic computer sold with a Linux distribution called Linpus.
The good news is that you can check quickly all the devices are supported: webcam, Wi-Fi, sound, etc.
On the other hand, you are logged in by default with the root user, and the desktop is very... "bling bling".
Not a big deal since I planned to install a fresh Debian unstable 64bit on this computer (I was happy to discover the Celeron 550 is compatible with 64bit instructions).
However I faced some issues during the installation/configuration that I am going to highlight in this post.
I started with the current Debian network installer "debian-40r3-amd64-netinst.iso".
Unfortunately, the tg3 network driver which is needed by the laptop was removed from this kernel by Debian due to a firmware issue.
I had to download a recent testing version in order to start the network installation: http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/daily-builds/daily/current/.
2. Fan control
Quickly during the installation, I experienced some nasty shutdowns.
I realized the laptop was quite hot, and after some search on Google, I found this thread full of people having the same problem.
From what I understand, the Acer's CPU fan is not controlled by the hardware, but by a software polling the temperature. This is a stupid approach... but you have to deal with it.
Since there is no such software by default, the CPU gets very hot and shutdowns to avoid overheating.
I managed to do a minimal installation, and I installed this script to adjust the CPU fan speed.
Kudos for finding which values to write in some specific memory address to control the fan speed!
I am curious to see how the original distribution (Linpus) handled this... if I have some time to loose maybe I will reinstall it with the backup CD to check.
Anyway, after this little problem, I was able to upgrade to unstable and install all my favorite packages
3. Intel X3100
I don't know yet why, but the fonts where not showing up in Xorg.
Again, Google was my friend, and several people reported the same issue.
The fix was to enabled the framebuffer at boot time (vga=792 for me)...
I don't understand exactly why since Xorg is using the Intel driver and not the framebuffer. I suppose there is some kind of bug and there must be a nicer fix.
With the i915 module, the 3D is working fine and the performance seems correct for small games.
4. New kernel
In order to have the Wi-Fi and webcam working, I had to compile a new kernel with third party drivers.
Here are the some options I enabled for my kernel:
- CONFIG_TIGON3 for the network card.
- CONFIG_SENSORS_CORETEMP for the Intel temperature sensors (needed by acer_fancontrol).
- CONFIG_VIDEO_DEV for Video For Linux support, needed by the webcam driver.
- CONFIG_DRM_I915 for the graphic acceleration under Xorg.
- CONFIG_FB_VISA for framebuffer, since I was unlucky with the CONFIG_FB_INTEL...
- CONFIG_FRAMEBUFFER_CONSOLE and CONFIG_LOGO because it is nicer
- CONFIG_SND_HDA_INTEL for sound support.
There are many ways to have the Wi-Fi card working:
- ndiswrapper 32/64 bit
- patched madwifi 32/64 bit
The ndiswrapper way is not the nicest, so I used a patched madwifi version following this thread.
This will give you native 64bit Wi-Fi support, so you can connect to a WEP network.
For WPA support, you will have to install/configure wpa_supplicant.
For the webcam, just download the official uvcvideo driver and install it:
apt-get install subversion
svn checkout svn://svn.berlios.de/linux-uvc/linux-uvc/trunk uvc
Now that everything is working, I am quite happy with this laptop!
Of course, for this price, you don't have a very powerful computer, but it is enough for my needs: coding, web browsing, reading emails, watching videos and playing small games...
I also tried the Ubuntu 8.04 amd64 Live CD, and the support was quite good: only Wi-Fi was not working out of the box.
However the system still shutdowns due to the Acer fan issue, you have to use the same hack.
As you can see in this post, the Ubuntu community is quite active, which was helpful to find solutions also working for Debian