Installing Ubuntu Linux on an Everex StepNote SA2053T Laptop

In July 2007, I decided to purchase a new computer for my business. Here are the considerations that went into my decision:

  • Mobility: I wanted to be able to use the new computer away from my office, for presentations and remote work. This meant that I wanted a light-weight laptop, with a long battery life, large enough that the keyboard and screen were what I considered to be usable. I decided a 12 inch screen size was the best trade-off between weight and usability, for me.
  • LAMP in the Office: Since much of my work is web programming using LAMP technologies (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP or Perl), I wanted to have a computer in my office that I could use for web development and testing (rather than uploading to my web hosting account). This meant that I would need to install some version of Linux on my computer. For testing purposes, I would still need to have Windows available (and several browsers), but since I had another computer available in the office running Windows, I decided not to make the LAMP computer a dual-boot machine.
  • Price: When you own your own business, price is always a consideration. I wanted to end up with a computer that had recent, quality components and good performance, while paying as little as possible.

Given these considerations, I researched the available computers, read reviews on several sites, and ended up finding a really good price on an Everex StepNote SA2053T laptop. I brought it back to my office, installed the battery, plugged it in, and the adventure began. Since it wasn't straightforward to get the laptop working with Linux, I decided to write this article to describe the process. The article is pretty long and fairly technical, but I hope it will be useful to anyone who wants to install Linux on this model of laptop, or any other laptop with similar hardware components. Contents:

You may also be interested in seeing the Ubuntu testing report I submitted on this laptop.

One more note: This laptop is apparently not manufactured by Everex, and there are some other manufacturers that sell the same or similar laptops under different names. So, I believe that much of this article applies to the following types of laptops (I can't be certain, but it appears so); some may have slightly different components:

  • Averatec 2460
  • Everex Stepnote SA2050
  • Everex Stepnote SA2050T
  • Everex StepNote SA2052T
  • Everex StepNote SA2053T
  • Philips Freevents x52
  • Philips Freevents x53
  • Philips Freevents x54
  • Philips Freevents x55
  • Philips Freevents x56
  • Philips Freevents x59
  • Twinhead Stylebook H12Y

Summary and Thoughts

Overall, I would have to say that getting Linux to run on this particular laptop in July of 2007 was not easy -- it should be a bit better now, but you still cannot expect everything on the computer to "just work".

The process made me appreciate the complexity of the hardware inside the computers most of us normally take for granted. There are many different graphics cards, wireless cards, and other components built into computers (and especially laptops); almost none of the functionality of the chips these components contain is standardized. This means that someone has to write a "driver" program for all of the components that appear in your laptop. The component manufacturers generally create drivers for Windows, but not many of them have been interested in supplying information (or better yet, open-source driver code) to the people working on Linux. So, the Linux crew has taken on the huge task of trying to support every piece of hardware you might have in your computer. They've done an amazing job, but not everything on the laptop I purchased works well with Linux, and lots of what I did get working required some effort to figure out.

If you are considering purchasing a laptop to use with Linux, and want to avoid problems, my advice would be to find one that is known to work well ahead of time. Another possibility is to purchase a laptop with some version of Linux pre-installed; there are now at least 20 vendors selling such laptops. Here are some sources for finding reports, advice, and pre-installed Linux computers:

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Initial Installation

The first step in setting up a Linux laptop is to pick a Linux distribution, obtain an installation disk, and install. While you might expect this to be the easiest step, on this particular laptop, it wasn't. We tried current (as of July 2007) versions of Ubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva, Knoppix, Sabayon, DSL, and SimplyMepis; none of them would get past the kernel booting stage [see Update below, though!]. We also tried some older versions of Fedora that my partner (a Linux enthusiast, and Linux systems administrator) had, but they suffered the same fate. Turning on verbose output, we found that the boot process was hanging in the step where it tried to load the "8139too" kernel module, which is the driver for the Ethernet card in this laptop. Later on, we found out that loading the "sdhci" module, which is the driver for the SD/MMC card reader, also caused the kernel to hang.

After an extensive Internet search, and trying various boot options that worked on other laptops (but not for me), we finally came across this web site about installing Linux on an Averatec 2460 laptop. Not only did the author (Arne Fitzenreiter of Germany) have the same problem as me, but he provided an alternate install disk for download, which worked. Since the site provided an Ubuntu 7.04 "Feisty Fawn" install disk, that is the distribution I chose. Arne has continued to work on fixing the issues with Linux on this laptop, and as of February 2011, is still providing instructions for installing and booting on his web site. Thanks, Arne!

Update: As of April 2008, you can also install Ubuntu Linux using a disk provided by Ubuntu. In version 8.04 of Ubuntu, the Ubuntu folks changed the way they compiled the kernel (which fixed the 8139too module problem), the Debian folks added some installation options (which allowed you to "blacklist" the sdhci module during installation), and the Ubuntu folks put the installation option on their "alternate" installation CD. Together they made it possible to install Ubuntu on this laptop. As of February 2011, Arne (see above) figured out another way to install that doesn't involve blacklisting the SDHCI -- here are the steps (in February 2011, I used them to reinstall Ubuntu, so I know that they actually work with Ubuntu 10.10 anyway):

  • Obtain a copy of the "Alternate Desktop CD" for Ubuntu 8.04 or a later version.
  • Boot into the CD, and select a language.
  • Press F6, escape to close the pop-up window, and add
    reserve=0xFFB00000,0x100000
    to the prompt, before the word "quiet".
  • Complete the installation process

Disk Partitions:

When I did my initial installation, I made custom partitions as follows during the install:

  • Boot partition (/boot) -- 500 MB
  • Swap partition (2 GB = 2x RAM)
  • 3 OS partitions, 10 GB each -- one to use, two for backups/testing (/, /alt, /alt2)
  • Rest of disk (/opt)

For my second installation, I decided that I wanted to have a Windows dual boot machine. So I started by installing Windows from the Everex recovery disk, which reformatted the entire hard drive. Then I inserted the Ubuntu alternate CD (see above), and in the "partition disks" section of the installation, resized the Windows partition to be 30 GB, leaving about 70 GB for Linux. I created a partition for /boot and let Ubuntu create one for swap space. The rest I did as above, but using the Logical Volume Manager instead of making them hard partitions.

Other Kernels/Distributions:

If you want to compile a different kernel that will load on this laptop, or use a different distribution, there are two things you need to do. We've verified that making these two changes allows the kernel to load, and that not doing them causes the system to hang so badly that alt-sysreq does not even work, requiring a hard reboot, with kernel versions 2.6.20, 2.6.22, 2.6.23, and 2.6.24. These changes should be applicable to any distribution of Linux, since it is a kernel problem:

  • In the build Configure menu, set up the "8139too" module so it uses only PIO access, and disable MMIO access (CONFIG_8139TOO_PIO=y; if you use the config menu, you can find this under Device Drivers / Network Device Support / Ethernet (10 or 100Mbit), and then scroll down and find the RealTek 8139, and make sure it says "Use PIO instead of MMIO"). Note that as of Ubuntu 8.04, this is now the default for the Ubuntu kernel configuration.
  • Prevent the "sdhci" module (which are supposed to run the card reader) from loading (either remove CONFIG_MMC_SDHCI from the kernel config, or use the Ubuntu "blacklist" to prevent the module from loading). If you are running a 2.6.27 or later kernel, you will also need to remove the sdhci_pci module. Or you might be able to use the "reserve" boot option (see above).
  • Arne Fitzenreiter has created a kernel patch that fixes both of these issues. So, as an alternative to both of the steps above, you can download the patch from this bug report, patch your kernel source, and compile the kernel. I have tested it on the 2.6.27.7 version of the kernel, and it works fine -- the SD card reader even works!

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Upgrading to New Ubuntu Versions

Upgrade to Ubuntu 7.10

In October 2007, Ubuntu released version 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon", to replace 7.04 "Feisty Fawn". In hopes of being able to use a dual-head extended monitor system, I decided to upgrade. Here are the steps I took, beyond the suggestions on the Gutsy Upgrade page. Probably not all of them were necessary, since the upgrade ended up going fine, but I wanted to know I could revert to Feisty if I needed to. Here is what I did:

  • Used rsync to make a copy of the / partition in the /alt partition, and made sure I could boot into it. I did the same with /alt2. This meant I had two working, bootable Feisty installations, just in case something went wrong -- one to save for later, and one to try different installation methods on.
  • Made backups of my entire system.
  • Saved the output of dpkg -l to a file (this gives a list of all currently-installed packages on the system).
  • Un-mounted the /boot, /alt, and /alt2 disk partitions, as well as my external backup drive, to ensure that the upgrade didn't overwrite anything on them. I made a /boot area on my / partition, and copied in everything formerly in /boot, so that the install could put things there and not complain.
  • Ran the Update Manager. First I had to update a few Feisty packages (I had been avoiding updating the kernels, since I cannot use standard kernels anyway). Then it gave me the option to upgrade to Gutsy, which I did.
  • The upgrade took several hours. Unfortunately, there were several places where it asked me questions, so I had to keep checking on it. I declined to have a few customize config files updated, but let the upgrade revise some config files.
  • Did some testing. Most everything, with a few exceptions, worked the same in Gutsy as it did in Feisty. Exceptions are noted below.
  • Rebuilt the wireless drivers (see below).

Upgrade to Ubuntu 8.04

In April 2008, Ubuntu released version 8.04 "Hardy Heron", to replace 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon". This upgrade was exciting, because (as noted above) for the first time, I was able to use the linux kernel that came with the distribution. So I was a little less cautious during the upgrade. Here is what I did:

  • Used rsync to make a copy of the / partition in the /alt partition, and made sure I could boot into it. This meant I had a working, bootable Gutsy installation, just in case something went wrong.
  • Made backups of my entire system.
  • Ran the Update Manager. It gave me the option to upgrade to 8.04, which I did.
  • The upgrade took several hours. Unfortunately, there were several places where it asked me questions, so I had to keep checking on it. I declined to have a few customize config files updated, but let the upgrade revise some config files. Be sure to keep your "blacklist" file, so that the "sdhci" module is still blacklisted, unless you are using the "reserve" boot option (see above)!

Upgrade to Ubuntu 8.10

The upgrade to Ubuntu 8.10 "Intrepid Ibex" was mostly uneventful, except that I didn't realize I also needed to blacklist the "sdhci_pci" module. If you are using the automatic upgrade process (see 8.04 section above), be sure to add a line that says

blacklist sdhci_pci
to your /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist file, before running the upgrade. Then make sure when you are prompted, you keep your old blacklist file rather than letting Ubuntu replace it.

One note: The Linux kernel version 2.6.27 (which is used in Ubuntu 8.10) has some issues with suspend (sleep) on this laptop. It appears to be a kernel issue rather than an Ubuntu issue, though I am not absolutely sure about that. It is annoying, because you can't suspend and resume successfully on this laptop using this kernel version. I have filed a bug about it, so you can read the bug report if you are interested.

Upgrade to Ubuntu 10.10

I recently started over with a clean install on this computer of Ubuntu 10.10. I had a couple of minor display issues:

  • Emacs was producing unreadable windows with strange overtype characters. I was able to fix this by choosing a different font at the command line. The default one is not working, but the 9x15 font is OK.
  • My external monitor was not working right at its highest resolution -- it had the whole screen shifted to the left, so I couldn't see the left-most part of the screen, and there was a black area on the right side. This went away when I went through the monitor menu and chose "auto-configure" on one of the screens. Very odd!

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Post-Install Issues and Resolutions

After installing Linux, much of the laptop worked fine, but there were a few issues that I noticed immediately, and some more that the Ubuntu laptop testing procedures uncovered. Some of the issues were resolved quickly; others required a lot of trial and error, and extensive web searching; a few remain unresolved.

Here is a short list of things that worked fine after the initial Ubuntu 7.04 install (the Laptop Testing Page I created has more details on some of the tests):

  • Built-in keyboard and basic touch-pad mouse functionality
  • Data DVD read/write, Data CD read/write, playing music CD via headphones or built-in speakers, volume controls
  • USB: This worked fine with a USB mouse, a USB flash storage device, USB HP PSC 750 printer/scanner, USB Canon digital camera, USB external card reader, and a PS/2 keyboard/mouse with USB adapter
  • Suspend, hibernate (both restore without trouble in Feisty; after upgrading to Gutsy, hibernate no longer works, and suspend frequently gives error messages, though it seems to work; it's all fine again in Hardy)
  • Wired Ethernet connection

The following sections give details of things that didn't work perfectly initially, telling how I eventually resolved them (if I was able to), and other things I tried that didn't work to resolve the issues. I have left out details of basic Linux commands, basic Linux knowledge, how to install and remove software on Ubuntu (apt-get), how to run commands in a terminal, how to make shell scripts, how to download source code and read instructions to get it to compile, and how to edit files. If you lack knowledge of these things, a good place to start is the Ubuntu Documentation Home Page. Also note that most of the commands shown below have to be run as root (or prefaced with "sudo").

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Display and Graphics

This laptop has a wide screen that supports 1280x800 maximum resolution. However, after installation the maximum screen resolution available through the System / Preferences / Screen Resolution menu item was 1024x768, and all of the available resolutions had the wrong aspect ratio (i.e. they were not wide-screen resolutions). I also wanted to be able to use an external monitor for two purposes: (a) to extend the desktop ("dual head") across both screens, and (b) to mirror the desktop (e.g. to do a presentation with a projector).

To solve the resolution problem in Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty, there are two solutions I know of:

  1. Install the "915resolution" package (apt-get install 915resolution). This package hacks the Intel graphics card bios (temporarily) to overwrite its internal resolutions. With this solution, I could set up dual-head operation by modifying the xorg.conf file, and using Xinerama (there are various guides for this on the Internet -- search for "xinerama xorg.conf dual-head", or try this guide). However, this solution had a couple of problems:
    • Mirroring the laptop onto a non-wide-screen monitor didn't work well (the left edge of the screen was cut off, making it unusable for presentations).
    • The display-related hotkeys (the function keys that are supposed to blank the monitor, switch between internal and external display, and adjust brightness) irreversibly turn off the display (both internal and external), necessitating a hard reboot.
    • To get things to display on the external monitor, if it hadn't been connected before, you have to completely reboot (not just restart X-Windows by typing ctrl-alt-backspace).
  2. Install the intel X-windows video driver, in place of the default i810 driver (apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-intel; you will also want to remove 915resolution if you previously installed it, and you can go back to the i810 driver with apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-i810). This is a new driver for Intel graphics cards, and it supports multiple screen resolutions. The brightness hotkeys work, although the other display hot keys don't seem to have any effect. You can connect an external monitor and just restart X, without rebooting, to make it display. A few difficulties with this solution:
    • When a non-wide-screen external monitor is connected at X startup time as a mirror, only non-wide-screen resolutions are offered, and the laptop screen is cut off at the bottom. This is OK for doing a presentation, however, as the audience would have the full display. Disconnecting the external monitor and restarting X gives you back the laptop-correct display.
    • Xinerama does not work with this driver, so setting up dual head would require getting the development version (1.2) of the "xRandR" x-windows extension, but it won't work with the version of X-Windows in Feisty.

After upgrading to Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy, which has xRandR 1.2, dual-head works fine on the intel driver. However, the screen resolution problem of wide-screen vs. non-wide-screen still applies. I am probably going to get a wide-screen monitor; I might also see if I can find out how to fix the monitor resolution issues, because they might be fixable. See this page on the Debian wiki for information about how to use xRandR to set up monitors. I found it to be the most complete reference, but there is an error on the page: in the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file, to tell X-windows to have a large virtual size, you need to put in

Virtual width height
not
Virtual width x height
Also, the height has a maximum of 2048 pixels on this laptop.

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Wireless

Update for Ubuntu 8.04 and later versions

As of Ubuntu 8.04, the wireless card works fine with the new "rt73usb" driver that comes with the kernel, and the Network Manager application that comes with the Gnome desktop. So none of the notes below are necessary -- just make sure (using lsmod) that the only "rt73" driver that is being loaded is called "rt73usb", and you should be fine.

What type of card do I have?

When I first installed Ubuntu, I was able to plug in an Ethernet card and connect to the Internet with no problem. However, the wireless card did not work so well -- I attempted to configure it through the Network Manager application, but although the Network Manager could scan for and locate wireless access points, it was never able to connect to any of them, using either open access or WEP authentication. I also tried some other network management and diagnostic tools, such as wifi-radar, but nothing gave me anything very useful, or allowed me to connect to a wireless router.

I next tried a whole series of steps I found on the Internet, under the mistaken impression that I had a Broadcom BCM4318 wireless card (which was on the Everex page for this laptop). These included loading the bcm43xx kernel module, the bcm43xx-fwcutter application (which was supposed to extract information from the card's firmware), and ndiswrapper. None of these helped.

Then I realized that I actually have a wireless card that is on an internal USB hub, called the "RT2571WF", and based on a Ralink RT73 chip. This was on a different specifications page on the Everex web site -- apparently they changed manufacturing to this chip at some point, and not all the documentation had been updated. So, I started over with trying to find a working driver.

Drivers

The Ubuntu installer sets this wireless card up with the "rt73usb" driver. This driver wasn't working in Ubuntu 7.04, so I had to blacklist that module to prevent it from being loaded (add it to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist).

Then I had to find a driver that worked. The two main drivers out there for this chip are the Ralink-provided driver (the company actually supports Linux, and has provided open-source drivers), and the one from Serial Monkey (an open-source project working on a new and improved Ralink wireless driver that will support several chips). Both could be downloaded, built, and installed from source, following instructions in their README files. Note that you might have to chmod and fromdos the Ralink files after extracting the archives. Also note that as of the 2.6.23 version of the Linux kernel, the Serial Monkey driver is included in the kernel.

Both drivers compiled under the 2.6.20 kernel. To get the Serial Monkey driver working, I had to have the full kernel source configured, present, compiled, and currently running. The Ralink driver compilation was not quite that picky. I currently prefer the Serial Monkey driver; see below for details.

Using the Ralink Driver

The Ralink driver works, but it has a few issues. First, it doesn't work well with the Network Manager application (Network manager doesn't recognize the device correctly, and I had to reboot every time I wanted to switch wireless networks or switch from wired to wireless). The Ralink driver also doesn't support scanning for wireless access points, at least not with any utility that I have found, and the RUtilT utility provided by Serial Monkey does not work with the Ralink driver either. So, to use the Ralink driver, you need to remove the Network Manager (apt-get remove network-manager), and manage your network connections with shell scripts.

If you want to build some scripts of your own for the Ralink driver, rather than using the SerialMonkey driver (much easier, see below), here is the procedure I was using to connect to a wireless network, before I got the Serial Monkey driver and RUtilT working (commands are in parentheses where appropriate):

  1. Figure out the SSID for the wireless access point (ask someone who is working in your vicinity, if you are at a coffee shop or library).
  2. Edit the /etc/Wireless/RT73STA/rt73sta.dat file, putting in the SSID information (and passwords, if you need them). There is documentation on what to put in that file in the README file that comes with the RT73 driver source code; it's pretty straightforward. The driver source also comes with provide a sample file.
  3. Unload and reload the rt73 kernel module (rmmod rt73; modprobe rt73). This will cause the rt73sta.dat file to be re-read. You might also be able to do this through iwconfig commands, but I am not sure about that.
  4. Bring your wired Ethernet interface down (ifconfig eth0 down). Bring the wireless interface up (ifconfig rausb0 up).
  5. Assuming you are using DHCP to obtain an Internet address, run the DHCP client command (dhclient rausb0).

If you want to switch back to wired Ethernet, it's a bit simpler (assuming your /etc/network/interfaces file has the information for the wired Ethernet network in it): just bring the wireless interface down (ifconfig rausb0 down), and then bring the Ethernet interface up (ifconfig eth0 up). Try "man interfaces" to get information on what to put in the /etc/network/interfaces file. The one Ubuntu sets up for you by default is also likely to work.

Using the Serial Monkey Driver

Once I got the Serial Monkey driver to compile correctly, I found it worked much better than the Ralink driver. You'll still need to get rid of the Network Manager, and do some scripting to bring down the wired-ethernet driver, load the rt73 module, and bring up the wireless interface (this was called wlan1 for me under Feisty). But Serial Monkey supplies an interactive GUI-based utility called RUtilT, which will scan and connect to wireless access points, so it's a lot easier to use than the Ralink driver. (You can get the source for RUtilT from the same web site as the driver source, see above.) Note that you need to run RUtilT as root, if you want to use DHCP -- the built-in RUtilT utility for acting as root did not work for me.

After updating to Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy, I found that the Network Manager had been reinstalled. Also, the wireless interface for some reason was called wlan0 instead of wlan1. But other than that, the Serial Monkey driver and RUtilT work fine under Gutsy, with the 2.6.20 kernel I was using before. I also compiled the 2.6.23 kernel, booted into it, then downloaded the most up-to-date source code for the Serial Monkey rt73 driver, and it compiled, installed, and worked fine. I didn't have to re-compile the RUtilT utility -- the one I had seems to be just fine under Gutsy with the 2.6.23 kernel.

When I upgraded to the 2.6.24 kernel, things were not so good. First off, things have changed a bit: the Serial Monkey drivers are now included in the kernel source. So, first I updated my kernel configuration to compile those drivers, and tried to use the new "rt73usb" module. Although this module works with the command-line network configuration tools (ifconfig, iwconfig, and iwlist), it doesn't seem to work with either the Network Manager or the RutilT utility (Network Manager doesn't seem to talk to it at all or offer any hope of scanning, connecting, etc.; RutilT hangs when I try to scan for wireless channels, making it impossible to connect to them, and it has to be killed with a "kill -9" command. This is in spite of upgrading to the latest RutilT utility). I also tried compiling the latest source for the legacy rt73 driver from the Serial Monkey web site (which I have been using since kernel version 2.6.20 without trouble), but the interface it generated couldn't even be brought up with the ifconfig command, so RutilT couldn't talk to it at all. So, it appears that I can use the rt73usb driver from the kernel source, but I'll have to use the command line utilities to connect to actual wireless access points. This is annoying, but not really fatal. I might eventually investigate whether there are other wireless scanning utilities that might work, but I haven't yet. Since the standard "sudo iwlist wlan0 scanning" command does work, probably GUI-based utilties would too.

Again, after updating to Ubuntu 8.04, everything works "out of the box" -- Network Manager and the "rt73usb" driver work together, and I can connect to open-access, WEP, and WPA wireless networks.

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Touchpad

The touchpad mouse on the laptop worked initially, in its basic operation. However, there were two minor issues: (a) I kept hitting the pad while typing, which acted as a mouse click, and often meant I had mistakenly clicked into a different window and was no longer typing where I meant to type, and (b) the scroll sections along the right and bottom edges didn't work.

The resolution of these two issues was pretty easy: All I had to do is to add the following line in the "Synaptics Touchpad" section of the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file, and the scrolling worked:

Option "SHMConfig" "on"

Then I downloaded the qsynaptics application, which allows me to turn off the tapping behavior whenever it gets annoying (apt-get install qsynaptics). It can either be run from the command line, or added to the menu system (I put it in the System / Preferences section of my Gnome desktop menus).

In Ubuntu 8.04 and later versions, qsynaptics is not available. However, all you have to do to manage the touchpad is to go to the System menu, and choose Preferences / Mouse. The touchpad tab controls these options.

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Card Reader

The card reader on this computer apparently should use the "sdhci" or "sdhci_pci" module (depending on the Linux kernel version) as a driver. However, when this module is loaded into the kernel on the laptop (which is the default in every distribution we tried, and prevented installation), the computer locks up (see Initial Installation section above). So, for now the card reader is not working (unless you patch and build your own kernel, see above).

An external USB card reader worked just fine when I plugged it in (it mounted as a "generic external storage device", automatically). Also, I can connect my digital camera to the laptop with its USB cable with no problem, and download the pictures.

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Modem

This laptop (like many others) is equipped with a "Win-Modem" internal modem, which is to say that on Windows operating systems, the modem works via software that uses the sound card to generate tones, and pipes the sound out the telephone jack. For more information, visit the Linmodems Support page.

The modem did not work initially -- software that tried to use the modem reported that there wasn't a recognized modem on the computer. After reading the Linmodems site, and trying their diagnostic tools, I downloaded the latest source code for the Smart Link Soft Modem driver (slmodemd), and attempted to compile it with ALSA support. Several software applications then recognized the modem, and they would engage the phone line, but none of them was actually able to dial out. I have not made time for further debugging yet, but it appears to me that the problem is in generating the sounds or getting them to the modem. Anyway, I do not really need the modem at this moment, so I'll probably look at it at some point again, but I am not sure when.

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Playing DVDs

For reasons related to Digital Rights Management and copyrights, Ubuntu does not distribute software capable of playing DVD movies on its install disk -- see the Ubuntu Restricted Formats page for more information. Following the instructions on that page, I installed the "Ubuntu Restricted Extras" and the libdvdcss2 package. I also switched to the "Xine" Movie Player (the default "Totem" player did not work for me, for some reason), and this allowed me to play DVD movies.

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Sound Recording

There is a known bug in Ubuntu 7.04's Gnome Sound Recorder -- it doesn't work. So I initially thought the microphone or sound card was not working, until I found the bug report. Then I downloaded the open-source Audacity package (apt-get install audacity), and it works fine, so I do know that the sound card is working fine. It did require connecting an external microphone (the jack is conveniently on the front of the case).

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System Specifications

Here is a detailed list of system specifications for my laptop. This list is compiled as a composite of information from the Everex web site and the output of commands such as "lspci -nn" and "lsusb" (for those who want the gory details):

  • Physical Dimensions: 11.7 inches x 8.4 inches x 1.4 inches. Weighs 3.8 pounds (with smaller battery, not counting AC adapter). In other units: 29.7 cm x 21.3 cm x 3.6 cm, 1.7 kg.
  • Processor: Intel Pentium Dual-Core T2080 (1MB Cache, 1.73 GHz)
  • Memory: 1 GB DDRII 533 SDRAM. Someone wrote to me to say he successfully expanded to 2 GB by replacing the memory card with a "Patriot 2GB 200-Pin DDR2 SO-DIMM DDR2 667". I have not personally tried it.
    00:00.0 Host bridge [0600]: Intel Corporation Mobile 945GM/PM/GMS/940GML and 945GT Express Memory Controller Hub [8086:27a0] (rev 03)
  • Power: 3-cell/2.2Ah battery and 6-cell/4.4Ah battery supplied, AC adapter. Battery life on larger battery is around 3 hours with wireless turned on.
  • Display/Graphics: 12.1 inch, 1280x800 monitor. Intel GMA 950 card, 224MB shared memory. VGA port for external monitor.
    00:02.0 VGA compatible controller [0300]: Intel Corporation Mobile 945GM/GMS/940GML Express Integrated Graphics Controller [8086:27a2] (rev 03)
    00:02.1 Display controller [0380]: Intel Corporation Mobile 945GM/GMS/940GML Express Integrated Graphics Controller [8086:27a6] (rev 03)
  • Audio: Realtek ALC262-VC-GR, built-in speakers, headphone jack, microphone jack
    00:1b.0 Audio device [0403]: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) High Definition Audio Controller [8086:27d8] (rev 02)
  • Hard Disk: 100 GB SATA, 5400 RPM
    00:1f.2 IDE interface [0101]: Intel Corporation 82801GBM/GHM (ICH7 Family) Serial ATA Storage Controller IDE [8086:27c4] (rev 02)
  • Optical Drive: 8x DVD+RW / 16x CD-RW / 24x CD-R
  • Ethernet: Realtek RTL8139, 10/100
    03:04.0 Ethernet controller [0200]: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL-8139/8139C/8139C+ [10ec:8139] (rev 10)
  • Wireless: Internal USB 802.11b/g wireless card, Ralink RT2571WF (RT73 chipset). Hard switch on front of computer to turn it off when not in use. Note that some of the specs on the Everex site say it is a Broadcom BCM4318KFBG, but this is incorrect, at least for the particular laptop I purchased (the USB device ID matches one given by Ralink in their driver documentation). The other spec sheet on the Everex site that says it is a Ralink card appears to be correct. lsusb output:
    Bus 005 Device 004: ID 0db0:6877 Micro Star International
  • Keyboard: 84-key with hotkeys
  • Touchpad Mouse: Synaptics touchpad with two buttons
  • Card Reader: O2 Micro MMC, SD, Memory Stick
    03:06.2 Generic system peripheral [0805]: O2 Micro, Inc. Integrated MMC/SD Controller [1217:7120] (rev 01)
    03:06.3 Mass storage controller [0180]: O2 Micro, Inc. Integrated MS/xD Controller [1217:7130] (rev 01)
  • Other I/O Ports: 3 USB ports, 1 Mini-FireWire (IEEE 1394), 1 PCI ExpressCard 54
    00:1c.0 PCI bridge [0604]: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 1 [8086:27d0] (rev 02)
    00:1c.1 PCI bridge [0604]: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 2 [8086:27d2] (rev 02)
    00:1d.0 USB Controller [0c03]: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI #1 [8086:27c8] (rev 02)
    00:1d.1 USB Controller [0c03]: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI #2 [8086:27c9] (rev 02)
    00:1d.2 USB Controller [0c03]: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI #3 [8086:27ca] (rev 02)
    00:1d.3 USB Controller [0c03]: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI #4 [8086:27cb] (rev 02)
    00:1d.7 USB Controller [0c03]: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB2 EHCI Controller [8086:27cc] (rev 02)
    00:1e.0 PCI bridge [0604]: Intel Corporation 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge [8086:2448] (rev e2)
    00:1f.0 ISA bridge [0601]: Intel Corporation 82801GBM (ICH7-M) LPC Interface Bridge [8086:27b9] (rev 02)
    00:1f.3 SMBus [0c05]: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) SMBus Controller [8086:27da] (rev 02)
    03:06.0 FireWire (IEEE 1394) [0c00]: O2 Micro, Inc. Firewire (IEEE 1394) [1217:00f7] (rev 02)

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Comments

installing ubuntu on everex laptop sa 2053t

Hi.
i've read your article on installing ubuntu on a evrex laptop..
i was not sure at that point, but now i'm decided..
please, could you give some hint? do you still have Ubuntu running on your everex machine?
i've just donloaded the last version of ubuntu, burnt a cd, but it doesnt work at all.

i've also tried to change the boot sequence, and make it boot from a usb memeory, but there's no that option..
i'd really appreciate any help.

Thanks!!!

Santiago Benvenuto

Yes, still running!

Hi Santiago,

Yes, I still have Ubuntu running on my Everex 2053T.

But you cannot just install from a standard Ubuntu install CD. There are instructions on how to get Ubuntu installed in the article above. I did it quite a while ago though, and since then have just been doing the upgrades from inside Ubuntu, so ... well, I hope the instructions work, but I haven't tried them lately.

Actually, it looks like this web site has updated instructions on how to install:
http://www.fitzenreiter.de/averatec/index-e.htm

That is Arne Fitzenreiter's site -- where I intially downloaded the install CD. So I would think he knows what he is talking about.

Good luck!
Jennifer

Thanks...

I tried Ubuntu on my home computer and loved it, so it was only natural for me wanting to add it to my laptop. At first I could not get it to install and ran into all the problems you had here on my Everex Stepnote, but that thanks to you and the page that you linked to, I was able to get it up and running in the course of 3 days on 10.04. I just wanted to say thanks for all your help and useful info on making an old laptop breath new life.

I do have a question also... What is the chance that I can use the same ideas to install 11 or 12 and get a fully functional Ubuntu? I was just wondering ifi you had tried this yet.

Thanks again,

Tony

Unsure...

I recently gave my Everex laptop to my sister (restored to factory defaults; i.e., Windows Vista), so I haven't tried to update to recent versions of Ubuntu.

However, in the years when I had the laptop, I was able to run the updates without much more trouble than on any other Ubuntu machines. There's a section in the article about some things to watch for if you do updates.

And you should also be able to install from the "alternate" CD as described in the article.

Good luck!
-- Jennifer