Linux on Acer Travelmate 353TEV


Contents

  Configuration
  Unresolved Problems (APM, Modem, SmartCard, Dual-Headed X11, IrOBEX, ...)
  Resolved Problems (Partitioning, TouchPad, Strange Crashes, IDE DMA)
  Quirks and Things to Avoid (Console Font Loading, ...)
  Things that Worked (X11, Mouse, Sound, LAN, VGA-Out, PCMCIA, IrDA, USB, Parallel),
  Unchecked Things Believed to Work (FireWire, Serial)
  Details (lspci, cat /proc/cpuinfo, lsmod)
  References

Recommendation

To conclude before you start reading: I do recommend this notebook to Linux users. However, not all features are supported (especially Modem and APM), so check that your favourite devices work. Furthermore, in order to make the notebook run smoothly, some work is necessary and some quirks still remain.

You already know that the Travelmate 353TEV notebook is a very neat thing with a lot of nice features, otherwise you'd probably not look at this page now, so I'll tell you the bad things concerning Linux on this machine first.

Yet before that, the configuration details:


Configuration

I used ReiserFS for all partitions and highly advise you to do so, too. Some crashes I think are unavoidable, especially during the early setup phase, and when you run out of battery, so you will be pleased when ReiserFS is fast in revive your disk from a crash.

Note: The notebook is very similar to its predecessors; I compared the output of lspci to other pages and it was identical. So information from pages about the Travelmate 352, 351 and 350 is probably also valuable. See the references section.

Note: Suspend/Standby obviously worked in the 340 series, but seems to be broken in the 350 series. Just in case you are still hoping...


Unresolved Problems

APM Suspend/Standby/Hibernate

I tried very hard to get this working, but the machine crashes after a resume from suspend or standby. I had to disable the lid switch in the Linux Kernel setup (enable the switch `Ignore USER_SUSPEND' in the General Setup sub-menu) to prevent unnecessary crashes when the lid is closed. Unfortunately, it cannot be disabled in the BIOS.

I also tried the software hibernate (suspend to disk), but it crashes by rebooting directly after resume when X was running during suspend (even when switching to the text console (e.g. with chvt 1). In text mode, it works fine, though.

In total, I absolutely found no way to make use of these nice APM features.

Because I had problems with the console fonts, too, I highly suspect the graphics interface to be the source of this problem. A vague suspicion concerns problems with the hard disk, which is said to not re-awake from suspend. But these suspicions do not change the fact that APM suspend/standby and software hibernate all crash on wake-up, unfortunately.

Hack: I improved the boot and shut down procedure to be fast. The machine now shuts down in 10 seconds and has an xdm prompt just 35 seconds after switching it on. That's quite ok, I think.

Modem

Unsupported, unfortunately. I haven't tried the Lucent drivers, but they don't work (as said by the pages about the Travelmate 35x) The modem is a Lucent Winmodem AMR.

I saw a hint here telling me the following about the modem used in this notebook which seems to be the same as in the 524TXV:

Although the 524TXV has a Lucent modem much like all the other Acer notebooks it is not the same kind of Winmodem for which a driver is available from Lucent. First, it uses a new interface (AMR = Audio Modem Riser) that is neither PCI nor ISA and is promoted by Intel to eventually integrate Audio and Modem services with a single DSP component. Therefore the modem does not show up with either lspci or pnpdump. As far as I understand Linux does not support AMR. Furthermore, according to information from Lucent the modem is a soft modem with a LU97 chipset lacking a DSP as in the ubiquitous Lucent Winmodem found in many other notebooks. So even if Linux could talk to the modem there would still be no driver available. The only solution is to get a PCMCIA modem card.

This is sad information.

Solution: Buy a PCMCIA modem that works. I first bought some bad no-name product which turned out to be a Lucent Winmodem. There are drivers for that (search for Linmodem, Winmodem and ltmodem) but these do not support the hardware as a PCMCIA device. You have to set the base address and IRQ yourself. Theoretically, there is a chance that it works then, but I did not succeed. So I returned that card.

I bought another card implementing a full modem and I think I can recommend it. It's a D-Link DM-560 modem card. All the other models of this series (D*-560*) seem to be directly supported by pcmcia-cs and the latest Kernel modules.

SmartCard

The SmartCard reader is unsupported, but I do not need it anyway.

IrDA with IrOBEX

I tried to use both the C-Obex and the PyOBEX packages to access my mobile phone's address book, but I was unable to make them work.

Dual-Headed X11

It seems that Windows can drive the graphics adapter with different images on an external monitor and on the internal one. I did not find out how to configure this with X11. The man page says there need to be two PCI devices for this. But there is only one.

NOTE: The external monitor does work! It simply has the same contents as the LCD, so this might be considered a minor flaw.

Hot-Pluggability of DVD/FD combo

When you boot with the device attached, everything works fine. You can happily detach it (with a bit of hdparm magic as described here in the section CD) and re-attach it. No problems.

But if you did not boot with a connected DVD, it will not work. I tried a lot of Kernel switches for IDE1 telling it that device hdc is there, is a cdrom, is at ports X, irq Y, etc. Z, and that it should not probe for it. But still -- the DVD is not detected. I got the Kernel as far as really trying to find it by resetting the second IDE bus, but it did not help. The device is currently not hot-pluggable but only hot-unpluggable and hot-repluggable.

I first suspected that it is the same with the parallel/serial port connector, but it is not. The parallel ports are usable if they where not connected during boot time. At least that is very nice.

Additional Mouse Buttons

The middle mouse button is important for X but I did not find a way to get the additional mouse buttons work that the touch pad has. Also, I could not re-assign the left mouse button as the middle one and use the touch pad itself as the left button, because they are treated absolutely the same.

I used showkeys -s to see that the buttons are also not mapped to the keyboard.

Screen Blanking

I did not yet manage to make X switch off the back light for power saving. I tried xset dpms force off and the like without any success.

It has to be switched off manually by pressing FN+F6 or by closing the lid. It is switched back on automatically in both cases.


Resolved Problems

Repartitioning

The device I got was equipped with a hard disk that was 20 GB instead of 10GB, which I decided was a good thing. However, when I wanted to use FIPS to re-partition the Windows ME partition, it said something about inconsistencies wrt. sector counts and refused to work.

Solution 1: I reinstalled Windows. It was a very fast thing to do, just about ten minutes thanks to Norton Ghost that the installation CD uses. Lucky enough, the installation CD asks for the size of the primary partition. A second, unused partition D: allocates the rest of the disk. That drive D: was taken from Windows and instead the space was used for installing Linux.

Solution 2: When installing a new IDE drive of 40 GB some months ago, I did not install Windows at all. :-)

TouchPad

It is important to know that the touch pad, a PS/2 mouse compatible device, goes totally haywire under X after running Windows before. The same effect was reported for the Travelmate 524TXV.

Solution: In the installation phase, either avoid graphics modes (or otherwise, my Suse's Yast2 crashed in graphics mode) or switch off and on the computer, which seems to reset the mouse properly. Then it should work.

After the Linux installation is complete, a soft reset can be performed using the Synaptics TouchPad tool tpconfig. I included the reset in boot.local.

Strange Crashes

I experienced unpredictable crashes with the Suse kernel. First I thought it was because the machine overheats, but it happened regardless of the temperature.

Potential Solution: I installed the (then) latest Linux Kernel 2.4.7 instead of Suse's privately patched 2.4.4-4something. I hope it is fixed now, the machine did not crash without reason so far.

Update: The above potential solution was no real solution. The device kept on crashing from time to time. What helped was installing a new IDE drive (a did that after having the laptop same two years or so), installing the newest Linux kernel (2.4.21) and disabling swapping.

I did all this at once, so I am not sure which of these helped. Probably the drive electronics was broken. It was strange to get a 20 GB drive instead of a 10 GB drive in the first place...

IDE DMA Mode

At first, the IDE adapter refused to use DMA with the normal kernel.

Solution: You have to enable ALI15x3 support in the kernel as this page explains. hdparm -tT /dev/hda now reports:

/dev/hda:
 Timing buffer-cache reads:   128 MB in  2.34 seconds = 54.70 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads:  64 MB in  4.02 seconds = 15.92 MB/sec

Which is perfect for me.

Untested: Maybe the IDE driver reported about here works even better. It is available from acer here.


Quirks: Things to Avoid

Crashes: Console

The notebook crashes when the console is fiddled with in some ways when you are running X. E.g. loading the console font under X immediately freezes the machine leaving nice patterns on the top of the screen.

Yast2 sometimes does this without notifying you before.

Video Output Switch

The key combination FN+F5 only works in text mode, not under X.

I also ran into this when trying to ask for an encrypted partition's pass phrase just after X login. The script for this set up the tty which it thought was in text mode. Removing the commands from the script helped.

DVD Playback

Using xine, DVD playback works under Linux, but video throughput is extremely poor (maybe 2 frames per second). The X11 Trident driver switched on write-combining by itself already. Maybe it can be tuned.

Remaining Time of Battery Power

xapm is not able to estimate the time until the battery will run out of power. You are given the percentage only.


Things that Worked

The following things worked out of the box after installing Suse Linux 7.2:

X11: XFree 4.0.1

Just a few notes, although everything worked out of the box.

For the LCD-only mode and no fancy VGAOut orgy, 4 MB of Video RAM are enough in the BIOS settings.

  • Mouse (automatically set, no need for changes). The two additional mouse buttons in the middle are not usable (yet). The imps/2 protocol does not work.

    Section "InputDevice"
      Driver        "mouse"
      Identifier    "Mouse[1]"
      Option        "Device"        "/dev/psaux"
      Option        "Emulate3Buttons"       "on"
      Option        "Name"          "AutoDetected"
      Option        "Protocol"      "ps/2"
      Option        "Vendor"        "AutoDetected"
    EndSection
  • Display (automatically set, no need for changes)

    Section "Device"
      BoardName     "AutoDetected"
      Driver        "trident"
      Identifier    "Device[0]"
      Option        "dpms"
      VendorName    "AutoDetected"
    EndSection

X reports the chipset to be a Trident CyberBlade/DSTN/Ai1.

Sound

I simply chose `use the default' during installation.

  • Alsa Driver: snd-card-ali5451
    OR

  • Kernel OSS driver: trident (Ali Audio Accelerated)

I verified that the sound on/off key (FN+F8) and the attenuation keys (FN+Arrow Up, FN+Arrow Down) generate key codes. These may be mapped to programs. I did not yet do so, though.

LAN

Automatically set, no need for changes. DHCP worked.

  • Driver: eepro100

Mouse

Well, so and so. It speaks Synaptics PS/2 version of the protocol. That is quite compatible with a PS/2 mouse, so X works out of the box, but the extension buttons are unavailable. Furthermore, sometimes under X the hot spot of the mouse suddenly jumps some pixels to the left, so that it is not where you see the pointer on the screen. This is very weird. It does not happen frequently, though.

A mouse on the extension PS/2 port also works but switches off the touch pad.

An additional USB mouse can be used together with the touchpad using GPM. Read about that here.

Read this, too.

The synps2 protocol did not work for me. After using that protocol, the mouse went mad again, and had to be reset as described before. I learned that this is due to a problem in the early 2.4.x kernels (a fix is described here).

Better yet, you can use a newer kernel (>= 2.4.9), which basically has the patch applied and sets the default in such a way that the mouse works by default. I have to check that, though, but the source code of the corresponding file in the Kernel looks perfect.

VGA

I had hoped I could configure two screens under X, but there is only one PCI device, so probably not. It seems that that's quite usual for notebooks.

PCMCIA

For use with the kernel 2.4.7 PCMCIA drivers, the SuSE configure script /etc/init.d/pcmcia had to be modified to contain the following line at the beginning to specify the driver module:

PCMCIA=yenta_socket

If you use the separate pcmcia-cs package, the line must be:

PCMCIA=i82365

This is because the 2.4.7 native driver with the same name only handles ISA cards.

After that, PCMCIA worked (I tried both ways: Kernel and separate package).

When I tried to use a wireless LAN card, I only needed to change on character in the config file to get access (DHCP was automatically used). In /etc/pcmcia/network.opts:

DHCP="y"

IrDA

  • Checked that the IrDA port talks to my Nokia 8210 mobile phone. irdadump reveals that the phone is seen by the computer.

  • pppd worked using the wvdial package. I could log into another machine via the IR-connected phone.

Normal speed works, the IrDA port appears as a normal serial device. You can attach it with irattach and the SuSE rc-script does that.

I think even FIR might be available since there is a module in the 2.4.7 kernel (ali-ircc) that loads fine and detects a chipset it knows (TFDS6000). I did not try very hard, but I could not use the modem with that driver, though. irdadump also was quiet with that driver loaded. So I don't know whether it can be made to work.

FIR is not very important for the modem connection, though.

USB

The usb-ohci driver was used automatically and does not complain. It happily reports an Ali M5237 USB. Furthermore, when I plug in a USB mouse, usbmgr detects it and loads the appropriate driver.

For using both the touch pad and the USB mouse at the same time under X, you can use gpm in repeater mode:

gpm -t ps2 -m /dev/psaux -M -t ps2 -m /dev/usbmouse0 -R

A digital camera works at the USB-port, too. It appears as a new SCSI storage device that can be mounted then. Very easy. To make it automount, I used murasaki.

Parallel Ports

The ports need an additional cable that is plugged into a big connector on the backside of the Laptop. There seems to be no active parts in this cable since in contrast to the DVD combo, this works even if connected after boot. I tested it with an Atmel AVR Programmer and it worked.

Additional Keys and E-Mail LED


Originally, I wrote this: The five additional keys on top of the keyboard do not create key codes. They seem to be unusable under Linux, which is very unfortunate since a keyboard cannot have enough special keys.

I used showkeys -s to see that no key code is generated for any of these keys.

Furthermore, the nice LED built into one of the keys to indicate email is not available. This would also be neat.


But now, Davide Guerri has written a patch to make the keys and the LED accessible and Leif Jensen has it on his page and helped to improve it. It is here.

Thanks a lot!


Unchecked Things Believed to Work

I did not yet change the configuration, but drivers for the following things were installed that did not complain about problems.

Firewire

The ieee1394 module can be inserted with modprobe and does not say anything (in particular, it does not complain). The driver module ohci1394 then happily detects the hardware. That's all I tested.

Serial ports

The serial ports are probably working just like the parallel parts.

Will the device numbering change when the serial port is connected? Will IrDA serial still be ttyS0? I think not, but who knows.


Details

lspci

00:00.0 Host bridge: Acer Laboratories Inc. [ALi] M1621 (rev 01)
00:01.0 PCI bridge: Acer Laboratories Inc. [ALi] M5247 (rev 01)
00:06.0 Multimedia audio controller: Acer Laboratories Inc. [ALi]: Unknown device 5451 (rev 01)
00:07.0 ISA bridge: Acer Laboratories Inc. [ALi] M1533 PCI to ISA Bridge [Aladdin IV]
00:0a.0 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation 82557 [Ethernet Pro 100] (rev 08)
00:0b.0 FireWire (IEEE 1394): Texas Instruments: Unknown device 8021 (rev 02)
00:10.0 IDE interface: Acer Laboratories Inc. [ALi] M5229 IDE (rev c3)
00:11.0 Bridge: Acer Laboratories Inc. [ALi] M7101 PMU
00:13.0 CardBus bridge: O2 Micro, Inc. OZ6933 Cardbus Controller (rev 02)
00:13.1 CardBus bridge: O2 Micro, Inc. OZ6933 Cardbus Controller (rev 02)
00:14.0 USB Controller: Acer Laboratories Inc. [ALi] M5237 USB (rev 03)
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: Trident Microsystems: Unknown device 8620 (rev 5d)

cat /proc/cpuinfo

processor        : 0
vendor_id        : GenuineIntel
cpu family       : 6
model            : 8
model name       : Pentium III (Coppermine)
stepping         : 6
cpu MHz          : 797.048
cache size       : 256 KB
fdiv_bug         : no
hlt_bug          : no
f00f_bug         : no
coma_bug         : no
fpu              : yes
fpu_exception    : yes
cpuid level      : 2
wp               : yes
flags            : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 mmx fxsr sse
bogomips         : 1589.24

lsmod

Module                  Size  Used by
ohci1394               17584   0  (unused)
ieee1394               21344   0  [ohci1394]
ds                      6608   2
yenta_socket            8816   2
pcmcia_core            38400   0  [ds yenta_socket]
irtty                   5648   2  (autoclean)
irda                   87104   1  (autoclean) [irtty]
eepro100               16240   1  (autoclean)
snd-card-ali5451       12928   0
snd-pcm                31712   0  [snd-card-ali5451]
snd-timer               8720   0  [snd-pcm]
snd-ac97-codec         25056   0  [snd-card-ali5451]
snd-mixer              24352   0  [snd-card-ali5451 snd-ac97-codec]
snd                    35568   1  [snd-card-ali5451 snd-pcm snd-timer snd-ac97-codec snd-mixer]
soundcore               3824   0  [snd]
ppp_generic            14288   0  (unused)
serial                 44176   1  (autoclean)
isa-pnp                28176   0  (autoclean) [serial]
unix                   15072  43  (autoclean)


I Hope this helps! Have fun.

    Henrik


Disclaimer: This is an unofficial page that has nothing to do with Acer. You cannot blame me for anything that explodes.

Legal Stuff: All disputes shall be settled by Saarbrücken City Court, Germany.

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October 28th, 2007
Comments? Suggestions? Corrections? You can drop me a line.
zpentrabvagiktu@theiling.de
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