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Mint user - which laptop / HP problem

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March 7, 2012 7:35:41 AM

Hello everybody,

some time ago I bought myself HP 4320s laptop. Linux Mint (although, using another distro is not problem but I prefer Ubuntu flavor distros ) is my primary OS on all my machines, but it's not a good choice for that one. Laptop comes with SLED Linux but no upgrades and HP's support is also not a very good one. I installed Mint but it has problems with touchpad (I think it's called ClickPad on my HP), battery life (I can not achieve battery life of more than 1 hour) and wireless (except on SLED and OpenSUSE, wireless is almost unusable - it works for a while and then disconnects, loses signal, ...). Installing OpenSUSE makes things a little better - touchpad works, except double tap on touchpad which does not act like left click, which annoys me but I can live with that, wireless works rather fine, but battery time is still crappy. Not being able to work more than 1 hour with fully charged battery (and yes, it's like that since beginning - laptop is old less than 1 year) is really bad. So, I have few questions:

1. Does anyone have some tips for making things work better on this laptop; preferably with Ubuntu/Mint (making wireless and touchpad works, and also, making battery last a bit longer)?

2. If there's no luck for me with Ubuntu/Mint, does anyone know how to make battery lasts longer using OpenSUSE? Also, how to configure touchpad under OpenSUSE to take double tap as left click?

3. Which laptop to buy to be sure it'll work with Ubuntu/Mint well? Is there some up-to-date compatibility list?

4. Have anyone tried Asus N55SF under Ubuntu/Mint (Core i7, 8 GB RAM, 750 GB HDD)? Is it any good? Do you have any other recommendation for laptop which will be used with Ubuntu/Mint? Maybe some of Dell Vostro models?

Thanks in advance,
lexman
March 9, 2012 3:16:52 AM

lexman said:
Hello everybody,

some time ago I bought myself HP 4320s laptop. Linux Mint (although, using another distro is not problem but I prefer Ubuntu flavor distros ) is my primary OS on all my machines, but it's not a good choice for that one. Laptop comes with SLED Linux but no upgrades and HP's support is also not a very good one. I installed Mint but it has problems with touchpad (I think it's called ClickPad on my HP), battery life (I can not achieve battery life of more than 1 hour) and wireless (except on SLED and OpenSUSE, wireless is almost unusable - it works for a while and then disconnects, loses signal, ...). Installing OpenSUSE makes things a little better - touchpad works, except double tap on touchpad which does not act like left click, which annoys me but I can live with that, wireless works rather fine, but battery time is still crappy. Not being able to work more than 1 hour with fully charged battery (and yes, it's like that since beginning - laptop is old less than 1 year) is really bad. So, I have few questions:

1. Does anyone have some tips for making things work better on this laptop; preferably with Ubuntu/Mint (making wireless and touchpad works, and also, making battery last a bit longer)?

One of the things you need to make sure is happening is that the system is aware of the power management aspects of the laptop, importantly the LCD dimming (usually a configuration in the desktop manager's power or graphics settings, refer to your DE's documentation) and the processor speed throttling, which can be checked with one of a handful of tools. Additionally, you may want to look into battery monitoring tools or power use monitoring tools to try to get an idea of where the power is being used on your system, again, there are many good tools out there to help you find the culprits.

As for the wireless, do you happen to know what wireless chipset your laptop has in it? If not, post the results of running the following in a terminal: lspci (you may need to prefix it with sudo or otherwise run it as root)
lexman said:

2. If there's no luck for me with Ubuntu/Mint, does anyone know how to make battery lasts longer using OpenSUSE? Also, how to configure touchpad under OpenSUSE to take double tap as left click?

Power management is something that can be used on any distro, it's simply a matter of what the distro preppers have included in terms of kernel config options and software installed to interact with those kernel options.

As for the touchpad issue, it seems like you need to install some configuration sw and change the settings (since they changed the default behavior for some reason)

lexman said:

3. Which laptop to buy to be sure it'll work with Ubuntu/Mint well? Is there some up-to-date compatibility list?

With this question, the only real way to be sure is to do some homework before purchasing the laptop: check to make sure the hardware that you can't change is compatible and when you can select hardware, check to see which of the options are supported by Linux. Generally speaking, Lenovo/IBM have had a pretty good track record, as does Dell (all used to sell some select models with Linux preinstalled on it)

lexman said:

4. Have anyone tried Asus N55SF under Ubuntu/Mint (Core i7, 8 GB RAM, 750 GB HDD)? Is it any good? Do you have any other recommendation for laptop which will be used with Ubuntu/Mint? Maybe some of Dell Vostro models?

A quick initial googling seems to indicate that the laptop is pretty well supported, only issue you may come across is the USB3 controller prevent suspending on some kernels, if both are important to you, it is a problem that can be worked around (I would recommend just building your own kernel from the latest 3.2 sources)
lexman said:

Thanks in advance,
lexman

No problem, welcome to our little corner of the forums.
March 9, 2012 5:43:44 AM

bmouring said:
One of the things you need to make sure is happening is that the system is aware of the power management aspects of the laptop, importantly the LCD dimming (usually a configuration in the desktop manager's power or graphics settings, refer to your DE's documentation) and the processor speed throttling, which can be checked with one of a handful of tools. Additionally, you may want to look into battery monitoring tools or power use monitoring tools to try to get an idea of where the power is being used on your system, again, there are many good tools out there to help you find the culprits.

Well, I'll obviously have to check on that a little bit more. Yesterday I tried booting Ubuntu 12.04 beta 1. Right click on clickpad didn't work (although double tapping in lower right corner usually acted like right click), and wireless worked OK (for about one hour Ubuntu was running on it). But battery lasted that one hour and that is it. One think I noticed is that LCD dimming was present every time I left my laptop unused for some time (rather short time), so that's OK. I didn't check on processor speed throttling, but sure will. However, when I clicked on battery icon in and opened box with battery/power info I noticed following 2 lines:

Energy when full: 26.3 Wh
Energy design: 26.3 Wh

However, that shouldn't be correct; according to laptop specs, full battery should be of 47 Wh. How is that possible? Is there some good tool which will verify this (26.3 Wh) information? And I should say that even I bought laptop a year ago (actually, a bit less, about 8-9 month ago) since this things bugged me I haven't used it a lot; I used it few weeks last summer while on vacations rather heavily, and after that only occasionally.

bmouring said:
As for the wireless, do you happen to know what wireless chipset your laptop has in it? If not, post the results of running the following in a terminal: lspci (you may need to prefix it with sudo or otherwise run it as root)

Laptop is using Ralink RT3090, sorry for not saying that in my first post.

bmouring said:
Power management is something that can be used on any distro, it's simply a matter of what the distro preppers have included in terms of kernel config options and software installed to interact with those kernel options.

As for the touchpad issue, it seems like you need to install some configuration sw and change the settings (since they changed the default behavior for some reason)

I'll certainly try, there's nothing to loose :) .

bmouring said:
With this question, the only real way to be sure is to do some homework before purchasing the laptop: check to make sure the hardware that you can't change is compatible and when you can select hardware, check to see which of the options are supported by Linux. Generally speaking, Lenovo/IBM have had a pretty good track record, as does Dell (all used to sell some select models with Linux preinstalled on it)

A quick initial googling seems to indicate that the laptop is pretty well supported, only issue you may come across is the USB3 controller prevent suspending on some kernels, if both are important to you, it is a problem that can be worked around (I would recommend just building your own kernel from the latest 3.2 sources)

You're definitely right about doing my homework. However, since this laptop was sold with Suse Linux, I presumed it works under Linux like a charm. But, it looks it doesn't. Also, problem is that this particular laptop comes with different chips in different models (i.e. some models of HP ProBook 4320s laptop comes with Broadcom's WiFi chip which, apparently, works out of box under Linux). And you can't tell which chips are in laptop before you actually purchase it. But I guess that next time I'll be a bit more careful. Or, at least, I'll try to be :) 

Thanks a lot for your answers.

Regards,
lexman
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March 10, 2012 2:54:17 AM

Hmm, in regards to the battery, it may just be a defective battery or some sort of damage issue, as I recall the tools will use drain rates over a number of discharge cycles to attempt to calculate the actual effective battery capacity. Did you ever do deep discharges on this battery (i.e. let the battery drain to the point that the laptop powers off). Granted, the battery system has measures in place to prevent serious damage when deep-discharging, it nonetheless damages the battery's capacity.[1]

As for the wireless, it seems that that chipset is supported by the venerable RT2800PCI driver (at least in 3.0+ kernels), which RaLink has a pretty good track record of Linux support (I had one of their USB wifi dongles a while back for playing around with things like providing free wifi at airports), when you see this issues pop up, you should check the kernel logs to see if the driver is complaining about something or other, which is likely the case (I do enjoy that, when there is some issue, Linux will usually tell you aout it, you just need to know where to look). Again, you may just want to give a new kernel a spin to see if there have been general improvements in the driver (that way you don't have to wait for updates to be backported, which may never happen). [2]

Honestly, you certainly can't be faulted for thinking that a laptop that came with Linux installed on it would be well-supported, and it really should, but these days I only really trust HP servers and higher-ender printers, and even then they aren't my first choice.

[1] http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/everyday-tech/lith...
[2] http://www.art0.org/linux/fixing-ralink-3090-wireless-p...
March 10, 2012 10:42:06 AM

bmouring said:
Hmm, in regards to the battery, it may just be a defective battery or some sort of damage issue, as I recall the tools will use drain rates over a number of discharge cycles to attempt to calculate the actual effective battery capacity. Did you ever do deep discharges on this battery (i.e. let the battery drain to the point that the laptop powers off). Granted, the battery system has measures in place to prevent serious damage when deep-discharging, it nonetheless damages the battery's capacity.[1]

I usually do deep discharge. I actually bought this laptop (among other things) to be able to work outside house for a few hours (when on vacations, weekends, ...). I know this model is not known for best possible battery, but according to few articles on different forums, it should last for 2.5 - 3 hours which is fine.
Looking for a new battery, I found this one on ebay. This one is 9 cell so iz should last much longer than current one. What do you (or anyone else) think about buying laptop battery on ebay? Is it safe? In local shops here in Croatia I can't buy 9 cell battery; they only have 6 cell batteries and they cost more then 60$, so this one looks like a good purchase.
bmouring said:
As for the wireless, it seems that that chipset is supported by the venerable RT2800PCI driver (at least in 3.0+ kernels), which RaLink has a pretty good track record of Linux support (I had one of their USB wifi dongles a while back for playing around with things like providing free wifi at airports), when you see this issues pop up, you should check the kernel logs to see if the driver is complaining about something or other, which is likely the case (I do enjoy that, when there is some issue, Linux will usually tell you aout it, you just need to know where to look). Again, you may just want to give a new kernel a spin to see if there have been general improvements in the driver (that way you don't have to wait for updates to be backported, which may never happen). [2]

Hmmm, maybe that might explain why WiFi on Ubuntu 12.04 beta 1 live worked fine for a few hours I was testing it :) . And that's a good news :) .

Once again, thanks for helping me.

And one more thing. In a 2 months I'll maybe really be in position to buy another laptop (my wife might need one like this with Windows on it so I could buy myself another one). Does anyone have recommendation for any particular laptop model. I'd like something that is not very heavy (don't have to be ultrabook, let's say up to approx. 2.5 kg), with Sandy Bridge processor, and with battery which in normal load lasts more than 3 hours (the more - the better :) ). And... I should be able to use it outside, so glossy screen is not an option. Sorry, for bugging, but if anyone have some first hand experience with a model which matches what I just described - please tell.

Regards,
lexman
March 10, 2012 10:52:03 AM

I would wait until you see Ivy Bridge notebooks. Longer battery life or lighter, take your pick :) .
March 12, 2012 6:20:15 AM

I have purchased a replacement notebook battery for my laptop, not from eBay, but from a clearly-not-manufacturer-original source, and I have not had any issues with it but I certainly would say that you take a bit of a risk when doing so in terms of reliability and actual battery performance. As I mentioned, it seems to work fine, but the capacity is note really all that great (which speaks to the misrepresentation of battery performance angle I mentioned), but seeing as how I usually have the thing plugged in, it doesn't bother me too much. Considering the cost difference and my usage patterns, I would make the same choice again, but it's up to you and your situation.
March 12, 2012 8:30:36 AM

Well, I'll guess I'll try with replacement battery. However, there's one more thing regarding that - when looking around web genuine batteries usually declares voltage of 11.1V (sometimes 10.8V), and replacement batteries 10.8V. Is it safe to buy 10.8V battery?
March 16, 2012 3:32:42 AM

Speaking as an electrical engineer, I know that they certainly design the circuitry that accepts the battery voltage and current to assume a relatively high level of unpredictability (differing batteries, aging, current charge state of the battery), so .3 volts is not going to make a difference (and, in all likelyhood, when fully charged or nearing empty, it's not going to be that voltage anyway)
March 16, 2012 7:34:42 AM

bmouring said:
Speaking as an electrical engineer, I know that they certainly design the circuitry that accepts the battery voltage and current to assume a relatively high level of unpredictability (differing batteries, aging, current charge state of the battery), so .3 volts is not going to make a difference (and, in all likelyhood, when fully charged or nearing empty, it's not going to be that voltage anyway)


Thanks a lot. I'm waiting for a battery to come (ordered on ebay), hope everything it will be OK. Thanks for helping!
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