Linux-ize Your Notebook

As various Linux distributions continue to mature, the pathway to a successful Linux installation on a notebook becomes smoother and smoother, and easier to follow. In this how-to we take you step-by-step through the installation of current Fedora and SUSE Linux versions on a standard notebook PC.

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  1. Editor's Note: The intrepid authors of this article have been challenged to do another article in which they install Linux on a truly state-of-the-art notebook. They have accepted the challenge and the article will appear on MobilityGuru in the not too distant future.

    Without this "note" the whole article would be almost useless. Interesting but useless. :oops:

    I don't know why author didn't use 2 year old centrino and/or AMD. That would make much more sense.

    I think that those laptops would be best fitted for Linux. Getting old but still have juice (and they are long enough on market for Linux society to write drivers).

    I just hope that new article won't focus only on "state of the art" notebook. I believe that approach could also give wrong picture.
  2. Barry, thanks again for the review on the Killer Notebook's Executioner where we got the Mobility Guru Cutting Edge Notebook award for having the Core 2 Duo out with internal 108 Mbps wireless and 7900 GTX 512 MB!
  3. How can you leave out Ubuntu?

    My laptop isn't quite state of the art, but I've been running Ubuntu 6.06 since it's release and have been loving every minute of it. There were some issues with getting the wireless to work, but the ubuntu forums are great and it only took a couple posts to point me in the right direction.

    The only things that didn't just work out of the box were:

    Broadcom BCM4318 wireless
    - Kernel supported it, but needed ndiswrapper because Broadcom hasn't released drivers

    ATI 3D Acceleration
    - Just needed to install proprietary drivers because legally a free OS can't distribute them

    Media Card reader
    - Still haven't figured that one out, but possibly with a newer kernel
  4. I don't remember giving the Executioner an award. We'd be happy to consider doing so, but we need to test it. Send me email at and I'll tell you where to send an evaluation sample. We're currently testing a Eurocom with dual SLI.
  5. Nice article, it’s good to see Linux get some press time.

    I saw you were able to get suspend to disk functions working, good deal. My question is, were you able to get any other power saving features working such at CPU throttling, or hard drive spin down?

    I found there to be a variety of obstacles to battery conservation when I attempted this about three years ago. For example, if you are using a file system with journaling such as ext3, it is necessary to force the OS to only update the log every hour instead of every five minutes so the hard drive will not be woken up. Also, at the time, the ACPI kernel was still in beta, so getting the CPU to throttle down was also a challenge. And powering off peripherals not being used such as modems did not seem to be an option at all.

    I am hoping since then, there have been advances toward this end.
  6. Golgamesh:

    Spin down definitely was not a problem but I hadn't tinkered with CPU throttling. The Dell BIOS does a fair job of this and I wasn't sure how that might affect the OS during the trial run, but it is worth looking into.

    You're absolutely right about the journaling--there's always reason to keep disk writes to a minimum. You'd be surprised to see how polished the latest swsusp/suspend2 interfaces are especially where SUSE and Fedora are concerned. I haven't tried Ubuntu on a laptop yet but it appears to be a fine choice as well. I like the point you bring up about the modem, though I have no means of testing mine currently (no serviceable landline).

    Check out the suspend2 functionality if you really want a feel for what newer hibernation facilities are like. I'm impressed.
  7. boslink:

    Reason: a more recent laptop was not accessible to me at the time I wrote the article. However, you raise a good point and I intend to address this as well in the coming weeks.
  8. I thought the article was interesting. Just additional information. I have a Dell D600 and I installed Fedora 5 on it. I turned on all of the options during the install process.

    It works great with the exception of the wireless. I still have not gotten the OS to even see the DELL built in wireless card.

  9. last year i put fedoracore4 on a dell m700, what a night mare. i didnt even have sound, none of the dell linux drivers would work, it was horrible. however after reading this i may have to give FC5 a shot.
  10. Running Gentoo on my ASUS m6800Ne. Everything (that I want to use) works, CPU throttling, spindown, suspend-to-RAM (much quicker suspend and resume, worth the battery leaching to me), 3d graphics (ATI drivers still suck, maybe AMD will change this?), wireless.

    With a little persistence and avoiding certain products (do a little research first, biggest problems are some wireless chipsets and, again, ATI) it's not too bad getting everything working. Some laptops of course are better than others, mine was part of the "others" group.
  11. Barry,

    I thought you gave the Executioner the award by default since I trued to email you and it got bounced for 4 days then you said to contact you through Tom's on some link, and that obviously went no where.

    You really going to get the email this time? By the time you review the thing the Core 2 Duo's will be released completely negating the fact i have been selling Core 2 Duo systems for a month already!
  12. You mean email you like this?

    Giving you a shout out again. Hope I hear back from you this time. Let me know the specifics of where to send the unit, etc.

    And get the response of this:
    Hi. This is the qmail-send program at
    I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses.
    This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.


    The email you sent was considered unsolicited Spam and was not delivered!
    If you think this is an error or your email was trapped by accident, please forward this email to

    Which is a lot like my first email of this a month ago:

    Thank you for taking the time to schedule a review of my Killer Notebooks Executioner.

    I can have this notebook shipping to you by Monday July 24th.

    Could you please provide me with everything I need to send to you and the address to send it to.

    That after 3 days I was still getting:
    This message was created automatically by mail delivery software.

    A message that you sent has not yet been delivered to one or more of its recipients after 3 days.

    The message has not yet been delivered to the following addresses:


    domain name system error:
    domain can not be resolved temporarily

    No action is required on your part. Delivery attempts will continue for some time, and this warning may be repeated at intervals if the message remains undelivered. Eventually the mail delivery software will give up, and when that happens, the message will be returned to you.

    Then I posted this:
    I find this topic so funny as after being told by TH/MG they were reviewing my Killer Notebooks Executioner I can't get an email to them (it is bounced for 4 days and my server said, "Forget it". Then I am told to contact through Tom's forms page, and... nothing, no reply... just a tumbleweed rolling by.

    Maybe this article should have been called, "We rate end user interaction... and we're the pot calling the kettle black."

    Which you told me to contact you through some Toms form link. Then I posted about what a fiasco that was, and a bunch of other people said, they tried to contact you with a similar result.

    So I have an idea, how about you send me an email of what you need (which is right in my profile) and we can start a dialog.
  13. I have installed Linux on two different laptops. One on a old Presario 906us, the other on a Dell 8500.

    Despite its age, the Presario 906us is a bear to install. Many of the linux distro (Xandros, PCLinux, Damn Small Linux, etc) will lock up on boot up or exhibit some incompatibility. Even when I installed it successfully, the suspend just won't work. I install Ubuntu 6.06 and everything worked except for the wireless. I found instructions for building the W200 wireless module. The only downside is that I have to rebuild it again when ever I download kernal patches.

    I installed Mepis 3.4.3 on a friend's computer. Everything worked right away except for the ATI 9600 display card. The wireless configuration took a while to figure out. My friend wasn't quite up to configurating wireless using the commandline, so I tried to get her setup using kwifimanager. It took a while to figure out that you had to be root to get a list of wireless nodes in the area and that you can't click on the list items (you have to copy them down and then type it in).

    All in all everything works pretty well. Open Office even open most of the office docs, even though the interface is a bit different and is slower. The annoying part is that battery life is lower under linux even though I turn on the power saver (I recall it was because the power saver only control the cpu freq, not the cpu voltage). Certain multimedia like Flash 8 doesn't seemed to work.
  14. I run Gentoo 2006.0 on an older Gateway 600 notebook and it runs perfectly- everything from suspend to RAM and disk to the integrated ORiNOCO WLAN NIC. CPU throttling works perfectly too.
  15. Persistence is the key. My notebook thankfully had most everything come up and work when I first put Linux on it in 2004. There were a couple of issues, mostly with trying to get a PocketPC PDA to try to sync. I swapped the PocketPC for a Palm and everything works like a charm after the 2.6 kernel came out and fully supported my wireless card.
  16. One more thing. Battery life on Linux is not as good as under Windows because the cpufreq module only handle cpu throttling. There is a patch call Linux-PHC that handles voltage throttling. However, this is not in Ubuntu (as far as I can tell), though it is in Gentoo.
  17. Mmm, I think it does. My laptop does not have a hardware sensors monitoring chip, so I cannot tell the Vcore of the processor. But the frequency does scale, and according to Intel (my CPU is a Mobile Pentium 4-M) the voltage automatically gets reduced when the CPU is told to switch from full speed to idle speed. I also have a desktop with a much newer Athlon 64 X2 chip in it and the Cool 'n Quiet frequency scaling enabled via the powernow-K8 program. That machine does have hardware health monitoring and I know for a fact that the voltage does scale as well- 1.35V for 2.2 GHz, 1.3V for 2.0 GHz, 1.25 V for 1.8 GHz, and finally 1.10V for 1.0 GHz. The powernow-K8 module in the kernel is actually sourced directly from AMD and thus would scale voltages, whereas I am unsure of the origins of the speedstep-ich module that scales my laptop's processor. But my money is on that the P4M's voltage gets scaled too.

    I no longer dual-boot the laptop, but when I used to, the battery life seemed to be fairly similar between Linux and Windows.
  18. Need some quick help.

    The article mentions that wlan problems should be fixed with kernel 2.6.

    However, I just got a hp nx6310 notebook, with openSUSE 10.1, and the Broadcom 94311 a/b/g card just doesn't function.
    It doesn't even show up in the Hardware information tab of YaST.

    Should I try some windows-emulation or should I try to take it back for service once again (travelled two hours today just to find out they closed before closing time :roll: )? I can't take it apart as it would void the warranty.
    Help would be much appreciated.
    Thanks in advance!

    found a solution - might be useful for anyone who comes across this problem.
    In terminal, write /sbin/lspci - lists pci devices. There was broadcom 4311 at the end of the page listed as unknown device.
    Next step would be trying ndiswrapper (but at this point, I'm assembling an nlite xp rather...)
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