Saturday, September 27, 2008

zenwalk 5.2 in Toshiba Satellite (L305D-S5869)

These were on-sale recently (9/25) at Fry's and seemed like a good deal although it's understood the Linux factor might be difficult with ATI video and so on. Still for $400:

15.4 WXGA
AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core
1024 MB PC6400 SDRAM
Radeon 3100HD (RS780) w/VGA out
Atheros AR5007EG (wifi)
Realtek RTL8102E (ethernet)
Realtek ALC268 (sound)
120GB 5400 RPM SATA 2.5"
3xUSB 2.0
No bluetooth or videocamera

Booted into pre-installed Windows Vista first. The return policy is 15 days for laptops and specifies software and hardware must remain unmodified. After verification of hardware features, I blew out the unbelievably bloaty factory load, dropped in a boot disk, formatted, and mke2fs /dev/sda1. Nice.

Slackware 12.0

I had a Slack 12.0 DVD gathering dust available and Slackware is my favorite. However, errors appeared on installation and it seemed an extensive parameter set was required to tame them:
#boot nosmp noapic irqpoll
To me, these problems meant that, if I continued with the Slack install on the newer hardware, I might be compiling and patching over the weekend, or that I should download and burn Slack 12.1 and begin there. I also had a copy of Slackware-based Zenwalk (formerly Minislack) 5.2 which possessed a newer kernel and a supposedly candy-coated installation process. Choices.

Zenwalk 5.2

Installed smoothly with only irqpoll needed as a parameter.

Atheros AR242x 64 (5007 chipset)
The instructions here were helpful for understanding this newer card. Zenwalk provides ath5k, but it wasn't going well. The Madwifi site has information on ath5k here, and it appears the ath5k module will eventually be effective. Currently however, the steps which worked were:

1. in /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist, blacklist the "ath5k" module
2. reboot and lsmod - make sure the ath5k is gone
3. download madwifi-hal- , or the newest one there, make, and install.
4. reboot again and lsmod
5. iwconfig ath0

WEP is trivial, merely need the two iwconfig commands "essid" and "key restricted" to make it work. WPA, on the other hand, is a separate post. It only took 10 minutes to configure, but the description is too long for this overview. If one has a distro which requires kernel modification for WPA, the process becomes longer. This site seems to explain it t I'm also currently building a chart for easier understanding based on this site.

screen brightness and gamma
The default settings for screen brightness and backlighting install maxed at 100%, and the Fn buttons don't seem to work except in Windows - battery life, screen life, eyestrain. Without going into X, one has command-line control over the brightness. Look in /proc/acpi/video/VGA/LCD/brightness to see the possible brightness settings for the card, such as 25, 50, 75%, and so on. I like 25%, so:
#echo -n 25 > /proc/acpi/video/VGA/LCD/brightness
It appears we cannot change the backlighting outside of X, though I haven't researched. Once in X however, open a terminal and select any number between 0.00 and 1.0 for gamma, eg:
xgamma -gamma 0.75

Realtek ALC268 Sound
Some duplicate alsamixer settings were seen. For example, alsamixer showed two microphone capture bars when only one channel was connected. I went to the Realtek downloads site, clicked a link there to the "HD Audio Codec Driver", and agreed to licensing language. After download and unpacking, it turned out this was the latest release of ALSA, so it basically installs the latest ALSA, but apparently with a newer HD driver. The alsamixer showed proper inputs following this ALSA update. and so, after setting levels, it was time for # alsactl store.

Radeon 3100HD RS780MC
Initially, Zenwalk loaded the vesa driver in /etc/xorg.conf, providing resolutions of 800x600. Common sense and #gtf seemed to indicate higher resolutions were available. In /etc/xorg.conf, I replaced "vesa" with, alternately, "ati", "radeon", and "radeonhd"; these did nothing but break X. I then relented for the proprietary driver "fglrx" described on most blogs as bloaty and slow, but operational. The driver was avialable here by selecting the Linux x86_64 -> Radeon -> ATI Radeon HD 3xxx Series and pressing "go". One note about installing this - I received checksum errors when I attemped to install it with #. ati*; I had to explicitly invoke bash #bash ati*. However, following this installation, I simply replaced "vesa" with "fglrx" in the Device section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf, rebooted, and everything worked. With the vesa-fglrx swap, the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file looks like this:
Section "Device"
Identifier "Videocard1"
VendorName "ATI Technologies Inc"
BoardName "Video device"
Driver "fglrx"
BusID "PCI:1:5:0"
Option "RenderAccel" "true"
Adjustments to the fglrx module "Options" can come some other weekend; resolution and display appear sharp currently.

additional fglrx considerations for the Radeon 3100HD R5780MC
The fglrx driver, although supplied by Radeon, does appear to have significant Googleland complaints for slowness. For me, it renders well, but very slowly: I'm experience update lines even scrolling through a simple text page on Mousepad, etc. So, it appears something either a)very inefficient, or b)very underpowered, is taking place in terms of memory usage with the fglrx driver. From Google, it appears there are a few things to investigate: 1) does flglrx load as a module? (lsmod |grep fglrx). Mine does not appear in lsmod, and this apparently means xorg.conf loads a substandard fglrx_drv.ko module. Lsmod failed to locate this module either. Odd. 2) Settings in /etc/X11/xorg.conf for the fglrx driver, under "Options" may be important. 3)Settings (don't know syntax or location) for whether the ATI card uses SIDEPORT mode (card uses its own memory),UMA mode (card shares system memory), or another unnamed mode where it uses a mix of SIDEPORT and UMA. One thing for sure, a lifesaver in these forum boards is fglrxinfo or fglrxinfo -v:
# fglrxinfo
display: :0.0 screen: 0
OpenGL vendor string: Mesa project:
OpenGL renderer string: Mesa GLX Indirect
OpenGL version string: 1.4 (2.1 Mesa 7.0.3)

glxinfo is also important. On my system, glx is not enabled, though this may be a different problem than the overall slowness of screen panning and scrolling that I'm experiencing. A good forum thread for these issues is here, not for solutions but for the many aspects of the problem.

netpkg repos
Each time zenwalk is released, the repositories update to the most current release so that, if one needs a certain package, they generally have to update the rest of their system to be in sync with it. Suppose I like my release and just want to keep it into perpetuity. As long as 1) I have the installation disk 2) have netpkg'ed all the programs from that release I want (they download to /var/packages), and 3) have downloaded a copy of PACKAGES.TXT.gz, I can point netpkg to /var/packages and use the older release. A couple of simple modifications are required with two configuration files since netpkg doesn't inherently recognize URLs of the type "file:///". This link describes the changes to the two files, /usr/libexec/netpkg-functions and /etc/netpkg.config files, which I repeat here.
  • /usr/libexec/netpkg-functions, at or about line 144:

  • if [ $( echo "$url" | egrep -e "ftp:.*|http:.*|file:.*" ) ]; then
  • or about line 205:

  • if [ ! "$(echo $mirror | egrep 'http://|ftp://|file://')" ] ; then
  • /etc/netpkg.conf add another line such as

  • Internet_mirror = file:///var/packages
    Put a copy of PACKAGES.TXT.gz into /var/packages, and you've got a self-contained distribution.

    unsolved: multiple instantiation of mplayer, thunar, etc
    Perhaps because of multiple processors, there's currently a problem when using DVD's. Multiple instances of related applications appear, eg 2 x MPlayer or 2 x Thunar. Working around this by disabling automatic HAL events for the time being. Manually opening one instance of the application for now.


    Adam said...

    My Toshiba Satellite is a L305D-S5881, but these two use the same Atheros AR242x wireless chipset, and here is what I did to get mine working with minimal command line work:

    sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-intrepid-generic

    After above install completes, reboot, then open up the Hardware Drivers manager (jockey-gtk or jockey-kde) and disable "Support for Atheros 802.11 wireless LAN cards" and make sure that "Support for 5xxx series of Atheros 802.11 wireless LAN cards" is enabled then reboot. You may need to reboot to see both drivers in the Hardware Drivers manager.

    Adam said...

    Have you tweaked your Radeon 3100? If so, could you post your XORG.CONF?

    xbasket said...

    Yeah Adam, I appreciate your input about wireless. That should help someone. As I described it above, I've been able to make wpa-supplicant connections without any glitches so I just never changed anything.

    About the ATI/Radeon chip: I added tweaks which appear to have hardware rendering speeds, or at least much faster rendering: I'll post about that tonight with my xorg.conf somewhere in there. --ciao