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Installing SUSE Linux 10.1 on an HP Compaq nc8430

Last updated: 6 July 2006

General Hardware Specifications of the HP Compaq nc8430:

Note that there are several versions of the nc8430, which differ in things such as clock speed, type of optical drive, etc. My configuration is Core Duo T2500, 1024MB, 80GB, DVD+-RW.

Note that I haven't had this machine long, and I haven't put too much effort into some of the features listed below; I'm not interested in smart cards, for example. I'm too busy to do major investigations, but reasonable requests for info or simple tests will be heeded.

Hardware Components
Status under Linux
Notes
Intel Core Duo T2500 Processor, 2.0 GHz Works Both CPU cores recognised; SMP Linux installed automatically
15.4" 1680 x 1050 TFT active matrix display Works See next item
ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 Video (256MB) Works With driver from ATI. OpenGL doesn't work - can't see how to enable it?
1GB DDRII SDRAM Works (Full memory reported by KInfoCentre)
80GB Serial ATA-150 Hard Drive Not tried Swapped out before Linux installation for...
Seagate Momentus 7200.1 100GB 7200RPM Serial ATA-150 Hard Drive Works No issues
Broadcom BCM5753 Gigabit Ethernet Works No issues
Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG WiFi Works After manual installation of package "ipw3945d" and reboot
Internal 56k Modem Not detected No surprise!
FireWire Not detected? I have nothing to try this with
Bluetooth Works Straight from the box! (Sent a file to the phone using KBluetooth)
DVDRW (+R double layer) Drive Works Reads OK; CD ripping OK; DVD-R written and read OK
4800 mAh Lithium-Ion Battery Works No issues
AD1981HD Sound Card (SB-compatible) Partial Works to headphone out only. Mute LED stays on. snd_hda_intel is loaded.
Integrated microphone Works Enable "capture" in KMix (not the mic inputs); the mixer settings seem a bit mixed up.
Integrated speakers See Sound Card
Headphone out Works No issues
SD Card reader Doesn't work with my SD card More info
Smart Card reader Not recognised
PCMCIA Not recognised?
Touchpad Works All 3 buttons OK
Pointing stick Works All 3 buttons OK
UK keyboard Works Pound, dollar, Euro, all OK
ACPI Power Management Largely works
  • Battery meter / notifications OK
  • Power button shuts down gracefully
  • "Suspend to RAM is not supported on your machine"
  • Suspend to disk works; but it might be faster to shut down and reboot!
USB Works Flash stick recognised and opened on insert; USB disks OK.

This laptop is operating under Kernel version 2.6.16.13-4-smp.

Note that this machine is certified as Linux-compatible by Novell, against Novell Linux Desktop 9 for x86, Powered by SUSE LINUX, and with some caveats.

General Impressions:

It's nice! This is my first HP, and so far I'm impressed. It's nicely slim and light (compared to my "old" 15.4" Toshiba A75), and the 1680x1050 display is fantastic!

Minor negatives: the keys are a little more stiff than I'm used to, but I guess I'll get used to it. The USB slots are on the sides, and closer to the front than I'd like; for example, with a wireless mouse, the tranceiver will be slightly in the way, whereas plugged into the back it would be less obtrusive. Likewise the headphone jack is right at the front on the right; you need a right-angle plug to avoid getting in the way of the mouse, and then the wire trails in front of the DVD drive drawer. Slightly annoying.

Overall, it's great, though. I like the hardware WiFi switch; the screen is great; and performance is excellent. (See below for more on performance.)

Basic Installation of SUSE Linux 10.1:

I've been a SUSE user for a long time; their stuff always seemed good and well-packaged, with good admin tools. I'm not sure their web support has prospered under Novell, but 10.1 (which I've been using for a while) looks pretty good. So, I'm sticking with SUSE 10.1 on the new machine, which is to replace my failed Toshiba (bad power connector, re-soldered several times, finally failed completely). I use a boxed distribution for convenience.

I decided from the beginning to swap out the hard drive for a slightly larger, and faster, one. Given this, the setup procedure I used was fairly involved:

and that was about it. I've noted elsewhere the adjustments I had to make after the install; basically installing a package for the WiFi and the ATI graphics driver.

Graphics Card

I initially got graphics working by setting the following parameters in the install:

but this only gave me 800x600 resolution. After the installation, I installed the driver from ATI, and got the full resolution working. There's a page by Toni with a link to the driver and some more info. Note that this was all before I got the software update run (see "SUSE Issues"); you may want to see how you get on with the update before doing this.

Performance:

I get the impression that the HP is faster than my old Toshiba, despite having a 2GHz CPU vs. 3.2GHz. (Sorry, no scientific benchmarks here, the Tosh is totally fried.) This is not down to the dual CPUs; in single-threaded tasks like fractal generation and mp3 encoding it seems to fly. I guess the Tosh had a good CPU but lousy support hardware - certainly lousy graphics hardware, the HP is way faster for Windoze games. Speaking of which, I'm seeing 20-25 FPS in Oblivion, playing in 1280x800 (ambitious, the setup recommented 1024x768) with grass off. This isn't like an ultra gaming machine, but the result is pretty smooth to my eye, and the picture quality is superb.

To be more scientific, here are the results of a benchmarking run. This data was produced under Linux using UnixBench 4.1.0, downloaded from the Linux Benchmarking Project. The index group of tests was used (the command was "./Run index").

TESTINDEX
Dhrystone 2 using register variables443.9
Double-Precision Whetstone265.2
Execl Throughput219.1
File Copy 1024 bufsize 2000 maxblocks623.7
File Copy 256 bufsize 500 maxblocks469.4
File Copy 4096 bufsize 8000 maxblocks1006.3
Pipe Throughput346.4
Process Creation544.1
Shell Scripts (8 concurrent)836.2
System Call Overhead299.9
FINAL SCORE452.4

Note that the benchmark isn't multi-CPU aware, and was run as a single copy, so these results don't accurately reflect the machine's capabilities. However, running the Dhrystone test manually, two copies ran about as fast as one.

SUSE Issues
Unresolved issues
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