Linux 2006 on the Acer Travelmate 243XC
The Acer Travelmate
243XC is part of the Travelmate 240/250 series and thereby I expect
this information to be at least partially applying to other variations
of the model family.
hardware resources are as follows:
- Intel Celeron (Pentium 4 based) 2.5 GHz processor (128 KB L2
- Acer (Phoenix) BIOS, "Yuhina", most recent version is 1.15
- 256 MB DDR-RAM module
- Hitachi 30 GB UltraATA/100 HDD
- Intel 82855 GM integrated graphics controller (16 MB dedicated
shared memory, up to 64 MB dynamically)
- 24x/24x/26x Matsushita UJDA740 DVD/CD-RW combo drive
- Synaptics touch pad with 2 buttons and 2-axis pad
- Realtek RTL-8139 10/100 MBit Ethernet controller
- Texas Instruments PCI1520 PCMCIA controller
- Intel 82801DBM chipset
- Agere Systems AC'97 v.92 modem
- Crystal (Cirrus Logic) AC'97 audio controller
- Fast IrDA port
- 4 USB 2.0 ports
- 2 PCMCIA ports
- Ethernet port
- Headphone jack
- Microphone jack
- Parallel port
- VGA port (outgoing only) for external monitor
- 85 keys slim keyboard
- 6 special keys (Mail, WWW, 2 Custom, Bluetooth and Wireless)
- Power key
- 14 Fn keys
- 16 keys numblock
- 14.1" TFT Screen, 1024x768 native resolution
shouldn't be a problem. You can access the Laptop's BIOS by pressing F2
during the Acer splash screen after powering on to change the boot
order. However, make sure you configure the X11 server
at the end of the configuration because else the startup will fail at
your first boot.
If you missed to
configure it, switch to a console (Alt+F1-F6), login as root and run drakconf. Configure the X11
server in the "Display" category and exit. Afterwards, run service dm restart.
The good thing is
that everything is already in a usable state, thereby with very little
effort it is possible to get a full-featured Linux environment on this
machine, what makes it deserve to be called "compatible" ;).
might want to dig a bit more to get certain features to work. I'll go
through the hardware and give you my recommendations as well as
harddrake's default setup for the card already gives us hardware
accelerated 3D using DRI, so at least we won't have to take care of
You can safely
choose 1024x768 in 24-bit color as your desktop resolution. You can
also set the framebuffer mode to 1024x768 at 15-bit in /etc/lilo.conf.
Just change vga=***
You can also use MCC.
However, it took
me some time to figure out how to enable output on the external monitor.
controller will provide two PCI devices for output. Usually, the first
one is the internal screen and the second one the external screen. But
actually, the first one is the "default" screen. That means that when
you power on the laptop with an external monitor plugged in, it will
become the default device and the PCI devices' roles will switch.
recommend you to unplug the external monitor whenever you turn on the
laptop or reboot; else you would have to reconfigure every time.
Since I'm not a
friend dual desktop setups but only use the external monitor as a
mirror of my current desktop to watch movies or play games, I don't
care for different resolutions/refresh rates but more about video
second head would be used to clone the output of the first head. But
this would disable double buffering, direct rendering and XVideo on the
second head. Using one head for both outputs prevents this and works
just as fine, but you won't be able to switch to a dual desktop layout
anymore (heh, I don't care).
To fully clone
the output to the external monitor, add a MonitorLayout line to the
default device in the /etc/X11/xorg.conf:
VendorName "Intel Corp."
BoardName "Intel 85x"
Option "MonitorLayout" "CRT,LFP+CRT"
this also works around the bug of having to switch to the console and
back after a suspend-to-RAM/disk.
automatically choose the snd-intel8x0
module, which is perfect for our needs. Also, since Mandriva Linux 10.2
plugin will be enabled by default, so ALSA apps will make use of a
software mixer. Unfortunately, this doesn't work with applications that
use OSS, e.g. Skype or older games.
You can use the aoss wrapper script to route an OSS application's audio
through ALSA. Just install aoss (sudo urpmi aoss)
and launch applications like this:
This would be aoss skype
for Skype, aoss
kphone for K-Phone, and so forth.
Sometimes this will fail with a segmentation fault or you'll only get
noise (i.e. in Unreal Tournament). You could try updating your alsa-oss
package to see if the application you want to run is supported by now,
or use another wrapper tool. artsdsp and
will route the output to the Arts or ESD sound server, but the latency
and CPU usage is really bad. There's also soundwrapper,
which will route to whatever sound server is currently in use (useful
if you switch between KDE and Gnome). Oh, make sure you have enabled
full-duplex in the sound server of your choice if you want to use it
with Skype or another application where capturing is required.
There's also the rather new jack2oss
which will route to the Jack sound server, but I haven't tried it yet.
I use Jack for other things though, so I know that if you want to use
it like this OSS->Jack->ALSA/dmix, you'll have to have Jack
output at 48000 Hz, 16-bit, and a fragment size of 1024 frames. That's
because Jack hates the ALSA default device and prefers HW: jacks.
moreover resuming your Laptop sure looks cool - if it works. I
will skip the telling you how dangerous the suspend feature is in it's
current development state and just tell you what it will take to work.
First, yo need
some -multimedia kernel. For our CPU (which is Pentium 4 based), I
recommend the kernel-multimedia-i686-up-4GB,
even should you have less RAM ;) because it's compiled with -march=i686
instead of -march=i586 as the other kernels are. The multimedia
kernel also contains some additonal low-latency patches from which many
multimedia applications or games benefit.
Now install the suspend-script package (sudo urpmi
You can now suspend to disc with the command:
suspend to RAM with the command:
or moreover KDE's ACPI helper's suspend to RAM seems to work, but
suspend to disk will crash the ethernet controller's IRQ. I recommend
you to only use pmsuspend2.
You might notice that after resuming from suspend state, the X server
might only show garbage. This can be fixed by either switching to a
console and then back to the X display, or by modifying the /etc/X11/xorg.conf
file as I mentioned in the "Graphics" section previously.
This laptop has a variety of special
keys, and it took me a long time to figure out how to use them although
the solution is so simple! I tried KDE's keyboard layouts + KHotKeys
and lineakd with the default configuration for one of the Travelmates,
but nothing worked.
Now, I finally found out that there actually is a driver for the
special keys on Acer laptops. This and lineakd will do the job.
First get the tarball from the author's site: http://www.informatik.hu-berlin.de/~tauber/acerhk/
The driver version I used as of writing this was 0.5.30. To install it
you will need to have a C compiler installed (like gcc
the kernel source. Install both with urpmi and return here (note the
kernel source's name will be kernel-source
for the stock kernel and kernel-multimedia-source
for the multimedia kernel and so forth - you can also use stripped
Download and extract the tarball:
Change to the source directory and read
the README, exit with the q key and start compiling:
If the make command fails you are
either missing the right kernel source or gcc.
Now gzip the module and copy it to the other kernel modules:
acerhk.ko.gz /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/char/
Update module dependencies and load the
sudo depmod -a
The driver should be loaded and working
now, but of course you have to make sure:
Now that we are certain that everything
is fine, we will arrange that the module is loaded every time you start
in your favourite text editor and add the line acerhk
/etc/modprobe.preload: kernel modules to load at boot time.
This file should contain the names of kernel modules that are
to be loaded at boot time, one per line. Comments begin with
a `#', and everything on the line after them are ignored.
this file is for module-init-tools (kernel 2.5 and above) ONLY
for old kernel use /etc/modules
Now that this is done, let's install
lineakd and klineakdconfig to actually start using our special keys!
sudo urpmi lineakd
We will load the Travelmate 240's
default lineak preset before running klineakconfig:
Now configure all the special keys you
like. Personally, my favourites are the volume control keys. But how
do, you ask?
Install the alsa-tools
package and you can use amixer
mute/unmute the sound as well as change the volume level.
You can modify your ~/.lineak/lineakd.conf or use klineakconfig and set
the keys to the appropriate commands:
amixer set Master 10%-
amixer set Master togglemute
= amixer set Master 10%+
Now, another key I like is the Mail key. In case you ever took the
opportunity to boot into your preinstalled OS before wiping the
harddrive, you might have had the chance to check out the nice Mail
Checker that comes with Acer's Laptop Manager. I can't live without a
mail checker - my favourite one is KShowMail (mail-notification for
Gnome isn't bad, too!). And you can even get it to activate the LED of
your Mail key! Now, isn't that worth the effort ^^
Configure your mail checker to execute the following command when you
get new mail:
echo on >>
And configure lineakd to stop the LED again and start your E-Mail
reader of choice. I use Thunderbird in this example of my lineakd.conf:
Mail = echo off
>> /proc/driver/acerhk/led &&
I know you like it :)
No tinkering required, works with
cdrecord/cdrdao/K3b and Nero Linux, and others too I suppose.
Works out of the box using Xorg's synaptics
I tried to get this to work in LE2005
but failed. I recently tried again because I wanted to use LIRC but I
yet lack to find someone who got IrDA to work on his Acer laptop. Weird
thing is, there's more information on how to get a selfmade one to work.
Work out of the box, no tinkering
If you want to boot from an external USB storage media, make sure that
legacy emulation is enabled in the BIOS. Otherwise you have to place
the /boot partition on the internal harddrive and make sure that the
usbstorage module is available at boot time (compiling it into the
kernel wouldn't be a bad idea), else the kernel won't be able to mount
the root filesystem. I didn't try this in a long time, last time was
Mandriva 10.1. Possible that the module is now built into the kernel by
Ok this is it for now. In case some question is bugging you or you have
some secrets you want to share with me, send mail to email@example.com
or catch me on ICQ,
UIN is 289135008.
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