The release candidate for Hardy Heron runs ok on this machine. See below for the few extra pointers needed to get it set up.
In case you have found this page, presumably through a search engine query, you will probably know that this particular laptop has had rather a bit more than its fair share of trouble running GNU/Linux. Nonetheless I’ve been happily running Ubuntu 5.10, 6.06, and 7.04 on it – well, maybe not always happily: a bad choice of video driver at some point ran the chipset pretty warm. I wondered why the battery ran down so quickly, but when after a week the coating on the palm rest came peeling off I realised something was wrong… it’s still working though. It looks awful, and it’s been in service with power supply problems, but it’s alive. That is, I have no excuse to get something else…
Until now I had always left the stock installation of Win XP available as a second boot option, because I needed it for presentations (external video), and to run Suunto Training Manager. This time I decided that I didn’t need the Suunto nonsense anymore and that I should just bite the bullet and struggle until the external VGA works.
So… a clean install using the AMD64 release candidate disc. I used the alternate installer because I wanted to play with LUKS encryption (more on this in the next few days, I hope), and found that it really only needs very little “help” to run despite this particularly bad choice of hardware.
Here’s what you need to do extra:
- Before attempting the install, download the Windows XP drivers for the Broadcom wifi card (my machine has a bcm4318 rev02 chip) from Hewlett-Packard. That seems the most logical place to get them… The exe file HP provides is a bit inconvenient, but it’s actually really just a cab archive. So get cabextract, too (this link gets you an official package for hardy, to be used at bullet point three).
- At the installer boot menu, hit F6 and add “fb=false noapic nolapic” to the kernel options. Actually the latter two are optional since the newer kernels seem to detect the buggy APIC by themselves. You do need to disable the frame buffer or the installer will just give you a blank screen (just to repeat: I’m using the alternate installer).
- After installation, log into your fresh system and install ndiswrapper-common and ndiswrapper-utils, which are both on the install disc (perfect!) under pool/main/n/ndiswrapper. So install cabextract, unpack the HP driver archive, and install it with something like “sudo ndiswrapper -i bcmwl5.inf” (and of course don’t take my word for it, read man ndiswrapper!). Almost done: now you need to do what this guy says. Actually, on my machine there was no b44 or b43legacy driver so in my case I reduced the script to three lines: remove the b43 module, remove the ssb module (don’t know what that’s for, to be honest), plug in the ndiswrapper module.
- That’s it. Really, that’s it!! With just the disabled frame buffer and the ndiswrapper wifi everything seems to work. I don’t have hardware accelerated graphics but if I cared I wouldn’t have had this laptop (and probably I could install the ATi proprietary driver). I still have to check the external VGA. The other significant stuff runs just fine: wifi reception is perfect, suspend and hibernate work, the volume and screen brightness buttons… and the CPU fan seems to spin up properly even after a hibernation.
I’m not being cynical here: I’m seriously happy that it’s now so simple to get this buggy hardware running the latest and greatest software. Will save me some money for some time to come.
Why ndiswrapper, you ask? I tried the new b43 driver too (if you still want to try it: you’ll find an error message on tty1 that tells you where to get the right version of the firmware), and while the b43 driver does recognise the wifi card, it never lets me connect to a network. I thought this might be due to the combination with Bluetooth, so I disabled that in the BIOS, but still had no luck with it. Oh well, ndiswrapper is a very decent solution until I’ve earned me a laptop with proper driver support (Dell anyone?).
edit: I just hooked up a monitor, and the external VGA works, out of the box! You don’t even need to restart X for it. I’m really not going to bother with the proprietary ATi driver now. This is so cool. I think I’ll wake up a house mate to share the joy… oh wait, working VGA-out was never a problem on most Windows setups, so uh, maybe they won’t understand :P