phdru.name / notebooks
|Russian version of the text.||Listed on TuxMobil.org|
I have bought a notebook, well, a laptop, MaxSelect Mission A330.
MaxSelect is a trademark of a Moscow computer shop Atlantic Computers.
I was trying to find a balance between Linux compatibility, power, weight and price. This balance I found in exchange for a bit lower quality. Four worst drawbacks of this model are: 1) it's too hot; 2) display could be better; 3) there are no RS-232 and LPT ports; 4) speakers are of low notebook quality. I do not consider the absence of 3D on videocard a weakness - I don't need 3D; but those who need should take this into account.
In other aspects I am satisfied with the notebook. It is powerful enough, silent and not too heavy. Also I am glad I've found a computer shop that officially supports Linux. MaxSelect produces its own distribution based on ALT Linux Compact. There is a specialist in the shop that knows Linux, hardware compatibility issues and MaxSelect products; I spent a few hours consulting about notebook models, and I got more answers than asked questions!
I am not totally satisfied with the service. Some of emails to email@example.com went unanswered. They promised me a newer version of their distribution based on Linux kernel 2.6.12, but I didn't find the disk in the box, and my email with questions when and where can I get the disk was unanswered too. After I've bought the computer I found the hard disk was partitioned in a very weird way - 20 Gigabytes with XFS and 60 G with FAT32. The WiFi card is Intel PRO/Wireless 2200 B/G but the only wifi driver on the disk was Mad WiFi. So I decided to drop the installed system altogether and install Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 from my CD set.
It is the first computer I installed Debian 3.1 from scratch (I upgraded all my other computers from Debian 3.0 using dselect and aptitude) so I could try the famous new Debian Installer. Well, I found I kinda like the program. The Installer recognized all hardware (except for video card) and installed all drivers except for ipw2200 which is so non-free that even in the non-free section of the Debian archive there is only a source code downloader but not the driver nor firmware. It seems I bought a slightly wrong wifi adapter - I should spent more time trying to find an adapter with more free driver and firmware.
Below is a table with detailed description of the hardware, drivers and other software. Links provided for software that is not in the Debian distribution.
Upd. I have upgraded to Debain 4. Works fine.
|Hardware subsystem||Device||Driver (kernel module)||Control program (daemon)||Comments|
|Processor and motherboard||Processor: Sempron 2600+ (Athlon XP-M)||powernow_k8||cpufreqd||Works fine. Linux kernel recognizes the processor as 1604.278 MHz, 3170.30 BogoMIPS; powernow-k8 recognizes it as AMD Athlon 64 / Opteron. When the external power goes down cpufreqd lowers frequency down to 800 MHz.|
|Chipset: VIA K8N800 + VT835||VIA VT82xx||Works fine.|
|ACPI||acpi||acpid||Works fine. I setup Suspend-to-RAM (ACPI S3 state) using information from /usr/src/linux/Documentation/power/video.txt and http://www.linux.com/article.pl?sid=06/05/24/1716222. The most complex part was to restore video; the only way to do it on the laptop is to run real-mode BIOS code using vbetool; the good new is that it works and does its job well. See my suspend script. On Debian 4 I use uswsusp package, see s2ram.|
|RAM: 1 G||Works fine.|
|Disk storage||Hard disk: 80 G, ATA, UDMA 100||Works fine.|
|ATAPI DVD+CDRW||ide_cd||Works fine, both reading and burning.|
|Multimedia||Video adapter: VIA/S3G UniChrome IGP||VESA, via||Console, X Windows||Works fine in VESA mode. Uses 64 M from main RAM. There are drivers at ViaArena and at unichrome.sf.net; a driver is included in XFree86 4.4 and the latest Xorg; (Debian 3.1 installs XFree 4.3). Drivers from ViaArena don't work for me. But I don't need them actually - I'm satisfied with vesa mode, even watching DVD and MPEG-4/AVI is fast enough. In Debian 4 works with via driver in Xorg.|
|Screen 15", 4:3, XGA (1024*768)||Console, X Windows||Works fine. On closing the lid the backlight is turned off, and there is a Fn-key to turn it on/off. There are connectors for an external monitor and S-Video; there is a Fn-key to choose a video output device; I haven't tried them yet.|
|Audio: AC'97 Realtec||ALSA: snd_via82xx, OSS: via82xx_audio||ALSA, OSS||Works fine.|
|Communication||Ethernet 10/100||via_rhine||Works fine.|
|Wi-Fi b/g||ipw2200||iwconfig, hotplug (for automagically loading firmware)||The driver is not free, it is not even a part of Debian non-free in 3.1. Download the driver and firmware from ipw2200.sf.net. Works mostly ok. In Debian 4 driver ipw2200 is a part of the distribution, but you still has to download and unpack firmware.|
|Modem: VIA3058 Modem Codec 97 on Intel 537 EA chipset, 56K, V.90/V.92||snd_via82xx_modem, or slamr, or Intel537||slmodemd||I haven't tried it yet. Debian 3.1 has source code for slmodem. I downloaded fresh versions of slmodem and Intel537EA; Intel537EA failed to compile with kernel 2.6.12; slmodem compiled and loaded.|
|4*USB 2.0||ehci_hcd, uhci_hcd||Works fine. All four connectors are too close to each other, that may led to problems with a big device barring a few connectors at once; I recommend to use an external USB hub with a long cord.|
|PCMCIA Type II, CardBus||pcmcia, yenta_socket||pcmcia-cs||I haven't tried it yet. The kernel spits a lot of messages like:
kernel: cs: pcmcia_socket0: unable to apply power.
last message repeated 8 times
kernel: PCMCIA: socket f6ef582c: *** DANGER *** unable to remove socket power
At the page kernel.org/pcmcia there is a piece of advice to reserve the high memory range; it helps: I have 1 gigabyte of RAM, so I need to reserve memory from 0x3c000000 to 0x40000000: reserve=0x3c000000,0x4000000.
|Keyboard: 88 keys||Console, X Windows||Works fine. Standard notebook keyboard with Fn key; the Fn key controls wifi radio (turns on/off), speakers volume, screen brightness, backlight (on/off). The keyboard is good enough; the only two inconvenient points are: Home/End/PgUp/PgDn are at the right edge, Ins and Del keys are too small.|
|Touchpad: SynPS2||psmouse, xfree86-driver-synaptics (xserver-xorg-input-synaptics in Debian 4)||Console, X Windows||Works fine. Two-buttons touchpad with acceleration, horizontal and
vertical scrolling; it recognizes one-finger tap as the left button click,
and two-fingers tap as two buttons. There is a driver in Debian; I changed
defaults in /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 a bit:
Option "MaxDoubleTapTime" "80"
Option "VertScrollDelta" "250"
Option "HorizScrollDelta" "300"
Without the driver it emulates a PS/2 mouse.
ACPI reports battery will last for 2 hours; it really lasts for 2 hours 15 minutes. Full charge takes 4 hours.
The supplied external AC/DC power adapter is small and light; it can be used for voltage from 120V to 250V; on either sides of the adapter there are cords for about 1.5 meters length. Builtin cooler is very quiet (especially compared with my desktop monster), though not completely silent; it's powerful enough to cool the processor down to 50-60°C even during hot summer (70-80°C under very heavy procesor load like transcoding video).
Weight 2,7 kg. Size 326*277*36 mm. Price $1000. Warranty 2 years. Documentation states that Li-Ion battery can lasts for at least 600 charge/discharge cycles.
Comparison with my other computers:
|Computer||Processor||Frequency, MHz||BogoMIPS||Disk, RPM||PyStone benchmarks||Compiles kernel 2.6.18 with modules, min||Encode a DVD to an AVI1||Comments|
|Notebook||AMD Sempron 2600+||1600||3200||5400||26500||10||
|Max load average: 2.6;
Max temperature: 74C even with an external fan;
Swap used: no.
|Desktop||AMD Athlon XP 1600+||1400||2760||7200||22800||12||
|Max load average: 4.6;
max temperature: 74C;
swap used: 8 megabytes.
|Desktop||AMD Athlon64 3200+||2000||4000||7200||34700||7||1.5 hours||Max load average: 4.5;
Max temperature: 45C;
Swap used: 8 megabytes.
After a year the grey color is slightly peeled under the right arm but is not changed in other places. Symbols on the keyboard still are in good shape. Some keys in the keyboard started to fall in; I replaced the keyboard for $40.
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