Installing Linux on the Averatec AV3220H1

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I bought my Averatec 3200 Series laptop a few days ago and have had (so far) limited success installing Linux on it. As of today I have it multi-booting between Windows XP, Debian Sarge, Fedora Core 1, and Gentoo 2004.1.

Updated (June 2006). Debian, Fedora and Gentoo are long since gone. I replaced the harddrive a few weeks ago with a hand-me-down 60GB from another laptop. Now I have more room to get things the way I want them. As of now, June 9, it is a dual boot machine between Windows XP Home and Kubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake). I really like kubuntu. Aside from the minor gotchas listed below, it is a very easy distro to install, configure, and use. I think I'll continue using it for a while...


Contents

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Technical Specifications (From the side of the box):

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Model:3200 Series
Part Number:AV3220H1-01
Processor:Mobile AMD Athlon XP-M 2000+
Display:12.1" XGA Color TFT (1024x768)
Memory:256MB DDR333
Hard Drive:40GB
Optical Drive:Combo DVD+CD-RW
Comm.:Integrated 54Mbps 802.11g WLAN
Integrated 10/100 Network
Integrated 56K Data/Fax Modem
Battery:High Capacity Smart Lithium Ion
Software:Microsoft Windows XP Home
Microsoft Works 7.0
Norton Antivirus
CyberLink DVD Solution
Warranty:Limited 1 Year Parts and Labor

Components

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Processor:1.526GHz Athlon XP-M 2000+
Memory:256MB DDR333
Hard Drive:Model IC25N040ATMR04-0
Ethernet:10/100 Rhine-II (Via VT6102)
Wireless:Broadcom BCM94306
Modem:Via Tech, Intel 537 (AC97)
USB:USB 2.0 (3 separate controllers)
Graphics:S3 UniChrome chipset
Mouse:Touch pad supports:
Single tap (Left Button)
Double tap (Left Button)
Long Dragging
Hor/Ver Scrolling
Sound:Via VT82xx AC97 Adio Controller

The Notebook

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So far I am pretty impressed with this notebook. It weighs just over four pounds, plays DVD's and writes CD's. Those were the three main things I was looking for in a notebook computer. Oh, and it costs under $1,000.00 (US).

Now, for the stuff I don't like about it.

  1. I've only been using it a few days but the battery life I am experiencing is closer to 2 hours than to the 3+ hours advertised.
  2. It has three USB ports, but they are all located on the front of the right hand side - right in front of the DVD drive. Any cords plugged into the USB ports get in the way when opening the DVD drawer.
  3. Sound quality seems kind of flat. This isn't really a problem for me because I'm not using the computer for watching DVDs or listening to music. Also, I haven't tried it with external speakers.
  4. So far the modem does not appear to work under Linux. http://www.linmodems.org/ pointed me to the scanModem utility, which then pointed me to slmdm-2.7.14. After installing and loading this module kppp sees and successfully queries the modem. However, I don't have a phone line to test it so I have no idea if the modem really works.

Setup

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I started by shrinking the size of the Windows XP partition from the full 40GB down to 8GB. To do this I booted from a rescue cd and used 'ntfsresize' and 'fdisk' to shrink the partition. Since this was a new computer (and I had the OEM recovery CDs) I wasn't worried about destroying my data. The resize was successfull. Incidently, the restore CDs use Ghost to automatically restore the hard drive to its original state - It overwrites the partition table and any partitions that have been created.

Another bit of advice: The User's Manual says to run the fan calibration utility from BIOS. That makes a huge difference! I was a bit annoyed at how loud the cooling fan was, and the computer seemed awfully warm to the touch. After I ran the fan calibration utility (Takes about 15 minutes) it is much quiter and feels cooler.

I also ran the battery calibration utility. I don't know yet if this has a significant impact on the battery life. I will try to test it out in the next few days.


Fedora Core 1

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The installation went smoothly except for the following:

Video Card - It did not detect the S3 graphics card, so I went with the recommended VESA compatible device.

USB controller - I downloaded and compiled the 2.4.26 kernel to fix the USB problem.

Sound card - For some reason during initial setup when it asks to test the sound card, it fails. If I immediately run the test again I can hear the test sound. It appears to work fine after that.


Debian (Sarge)

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Sarge had the same issues as Fedora above. Installation went smoothly except the machine locked up at one point. I rebooted and it continued the installation without any further problems.


Fedora Core 2 (Test 2)

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Fedora Core 2 installation was great. The installation program even detected and let me use my USB mouse during the install. However X fails to start, complaining that the "VGA BIOS image is wrong! Checksum = 5342a9." This appears to be a problem with XFree86 4.4, and the unichrome driver.

Since XFree86 4.4RC3 is installed by default, I decided to see if upgrading might fix the error. Running 'up2date -fi --nosig kernel' then 'up2date -u --nosig' seems to be upgrading all of the installed packages.

I installed Core 2 again today (April 25, 2004). This time it boots into Xwindows without problems, but locks up when trying to shutdown from Xwindows or change to a virtual console (<Ctr>+<Alt>+F1).


SuSE 9

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SuSE install ran fine without errors. However, like Fedora Core 2, it would not boot. I didn't bother to investigate further.


Gentoo 2004.1

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Wow. This was my first experience with Gentoo. I did a stage 3 install from cdrom (Install CD and Packages CD). It was a very long and tedious install, but I sat next to another computer and had easy access to the Gentoo Install instructions. Every thing went pretty smooth until it came time to setup X. The instructions called for running /usr/X11R6/bin/xf86config to generate an XF86Config file. After trying, and failing a half dozen times I finally figured out that running /usr/X11R6/bin/X -configure auto-magically probes the hardware and sets up a fairly decent configuration file.

After installing X, KDE, OpenOffice.org, and compilig a custom 2.6.5 kernel, I am pretty impressed with how stable Gentoo is. It's very slow at installing software, but (almost) everything that gets installed is custom compiled for that specific machine.


Kubuntu 6.06 LTS

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Kubuntu 6.06 is the first new OS I've installed on this laptop in a while. Networking failed on both the Live CD boot and after installation to the hard drive. DHCP would receive proper network settings during boot and I could ping both the loopback and the local IP on eth0. Beyond that, networking was dead. Attempting to do 'sudo ifdown eth0' and 'sudo ifup eth0' would freeze the system. After several reboots and some googling I found that disabling ACPI (Via 'acpi=off' boot option) fixes the problem. And compiling a vanilla kernel may fix the problem, though I don't feel like compiling right now. After installation, add the 'acpi=off' option to the boot line in /boot/grub/menu.lst.

The install program recommends using at least 2GB for the / partition. I recommend using 2GB for /, 2-4GB for /usr, and 1-2GB for /var. /usr uses 1.3GB after install so you should have a separate partition for it or increase the / partition to allow for future growth.

More to come as I play with Kubuntu. So far I like it.

I just setup wireless. That was a breeze thanks to nickm's guide. It was written for ubuntu, so some of the instructions differ slightly. Use Adept (under System) to install packages and Wireless Assistant (under Internet) to configure the adapter. Don't forget to reboot when he says. I played for several minutes trying to connect to a signal before I finally decided to reboot. After reboot it connected without any problems.


Configuring the Wireless Network Card

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Warning!! This section is outdated. The 2.4.x kernel does not support this adapter. There is a kernel patch available at www.prism54.org that claims to support it but I didn't have any luck with it. I ended up installing ndiswrapper and using the Windows XP driver installed on the Windows partition. The installation instructions are straight forward. The only problem is configuring the device. It seems that each linux distribution handles network device configurations differently.

The prism54 driver is included in the 2.6.5 kernel, but it still doesn't detect the wireless adapter. Again, I ended up installing ndiswrapper and using the Windows XP driver installed on the Windows partition.


Configuring the Video Card

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X does not support the S3 Unichrome (KN400) card directly, but it works great with the standard vesa driver. ViaArena has a driver that supports Redhat 7.1-9.0, Mandrake 8.2&9.0, and SuSE 8.1. But, only if you are running on the original kernel. I might play with it and see if it can be modified to work with Fedora Core 1.

The external video port is on by default and can be switched off via software. In Windows XP, <Fn>+<F5> will switch between LCD, External, and LCD+External. <Fn>+<F3> will blank the LCD if you are currently in LCD+External mode. Warning! In Linux these hot keys freeze the system!


Configuring the Modem

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I don't have a modem so I have no idea if it works. Linmodems.org pointed me to the scanModem utility, which then pointed me to slmdm-2.7.14. After installing and loading this module kppp sees and successfully queries the modem. However, since I don't have a phone line, I can't test it to see if it really works.


Configuring Power Management

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I don't know much about this yet. So far I have found out the following:


Output from 'lspci'

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00:00.0 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc.: Unknown device 3205
00:01.0 PCI bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc.: Unknown device b198
00:09.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation: Unknown device 4320 (rev 03)
00:0a.0 CardBus bridge: O2 Micro, Inc. OZ6912 Cardbus Controller (rev 20)
00:10.0 USB Controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. USB (rev 80)
00:10.1 USB Controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. USB (rev 80)
00:10.2 USB Controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. USB (rev 80)
00:10.3 USB Controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. USB 2.0 (rev 82)
00:11.0 ISA bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT8235 ISA Bridge
00:11.1 IDE interface: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT82C586/B/686A/B PIPC Bus Master IDE (rev 06)
00:11.5 Multimedia audio controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT8233 AC97 Audio Controller (rev 50)
00:11.6 Communication controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. Intel 537 [AC97 Modem] (rev 80)
00:12.0 Ethernet controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT6102 [Rhine-II] (rev 74)
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: VIA Technologies, Inc.: Unknown device 7205 (rev 01)

My '.config' I used to compile 2.4.26 and 2.6.5 kernels

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These are the .config files I've used to recompile my kernels. I won't guarantee that everything in them is correct, but I have used them to compile working kernels.

linux-2.4.26/.config
linux-2.6.5/.config

Copyright 2004, Brian Baker

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