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Big Buck Hunter

Fc2 Writeup

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Having just completed my first Fedora Core 2 installation, I thought that I may share my experiences with readers about the current state of linux distrobutions, and the issues surrounding the usage of GNU/Linux for desktop computers.

The journey begins with my friend Ira. Ira runs a pressure washing business and is about as computer illiterate as they come. He picked up a Toshiba Satelite 1805-S247 from CompUSA on special and uses it for web browsing, quickbooks, and documents (word/excel). This was the 8th time in 2 years that he has brought his Spyware/virus infected XP based PC to me for a wipe and reinstall. Despite the installation of NAV and Adaware, Ira has a knack for picking up these critters, and rendering his laptop useless.

Giving into temptation, I spoke to him about linux. I demonstrated the OS and capabilities on a few of my boxes (all gentoo) and persuaded him to try it out for a few weeks. I didn't go into the entire GNU vs.OSS discussion, nor the meaning of free software. Just a presentation of Gnome, Mozilla, and OOffice, and what they could do for him.

I chose FC2 for a number of reasons, the main one is that I did not like the network config GUI of Mandrake. I'll write about that some other time. Red Hat has always been well supported, and works well as a beginners linux. The configuration tabs in Gnome are clear and to the point, and I rather enjoy the lack of wizards.

The installation was a breeze. Booted from the CD, appended "acpi=true" to the boot string, and off we went. The GUI installer worked perfectly. I created an "ira" user and set the password to to same password as root (to make it easy on him), set the network to DHCP, and left the display settings at the default (1024x768 @ 24bpp). The first boot went without a hitch. FC boots a little slower then my Gentoo install, but I chalk that up to it being a laptop installation. I logged in and all was well.

Overall, the installation and general operation of FC2 worked flawlessly. Having to append the kernel string on the boot CD isn't documented all that well (at all!), but experience often makes up for lack of proper documentation. FC isn't really a laptop distrobution anyway, so the oversight is forgivable.

I am now going to present the down side of running FC2 on this laptop. Hopefully the comments below will be taken constructively by the FC team, and will be helpful in the continued development of the distrobution. Some comments may simply be a reflection of my ignorance.

1: Power managment

Before the installation, I upgraded the BIOS of the Tochiba to ver 2.01 of their ACPI BIOS. It was easy enough to find on the web, and even had a list of erratum that it fixed. Seeing how it was an ACPI BIOS and a 2.6 kernel, I chose to use ACPI modules rather than APM modules. This may have been a mistake.

First off, the Gnome battery taskbar applet defaults to "apm -s" for it's sleep command. This can be changed, but it would have been nice for it to detect this automatically. The applet does indicate the remaining charge, and whether the laptop is plugged in or not.

I do an lsmod to see if ACPI is running. Both the Toshiba and the ASUS ACPI modules have been loaded. Strange, but I am fine with that. I decide to test standby modes. I open a terminal and go to /sys/power. I then 'echo -n "disk" > state'. I get an access denied, so I su and try it. Nada. Nothing happens. I then try a "echo -n "mem" > state'. The laptop successfully suspends to RAM and all looks well. I try to wake it with the keyboard, but no luck (no wake options in the BIOS either). I close the lid and open it but no luck. I finally hit the power button and the computer comes back to life. eth0 re-establishes a connection, and Gnome/X pop up on the screen. FC then immediately goes into the shutdown process and the machine finally turns off. Scratching my head, I tried a couple different things, but was unable to get the laptop to wake back up without inniting 0 immediately afterward.

I found a Toshiba package on the web for power managment, but it appears to be geared towards the 2.4 kernel. Even with toshiba support compiled into the kernel or loaded as a module, it would tell me that it was unable to find the toshiba module. Closing the lid only result in the display being deactivated, and standby mode does not appear to be instanciated after the 15 minutes of inactivity that I set in the BIOS.

At this point, I have totally given up on power managment for this laptop in FC2.

2: The laptop won't reboot

When issuing a reboot command (via shutdown, reboot, or within gnome) the laptop will init 0, and bring the system down, but it does not actually reboot the system. Th power button must be held for 5 seconds to power down the system. I suspect that this ais a BIOS deficiency, and the problem is well documented on the web for the 1805 and any linux distro. The system can be succesfully shut down with "shutdown -h now" though, and the Gnome shutdown works.

3: Using HDPARM, it appears that FC2 does not default to or autodetect 32 bit transfers capabilities and does not unmask the IRQ. While I may not fully understand the stability and preformance implications of these two flags accross all IDE chipsets, enabling these two options certainly increases the performance of this particular laptop without causing any particulay stability issues (ALI chipset btw)

4: Audio works, but the mixer is confusing.

ALSA detects one sounnd card, OSS detects a different sound card. The mixer has numerous sliders for functionality that the sound card does not have (it has a line out, a mic in, a SPDIF, and a volume wheel) There are about 22 faders with names like "post-amp out", "pre-amp in", "modem" and such. Half the sliders don't even move.

5: Support

Ira has Bridged/static DSL via earthlink. He didn't have any of the information needed to connect so we gave the support line a call. The 1st part was automated with a dial-a-menu. The final menu, to my personal amazment, said the following,

"For Windows, dial 1. For MacOS, dial 2. For all other OS's, such as Linux, dial 3"

I was shocked. Too good to be true... I was then transfered promptly to a gentleman in india who barely spoke english (HAHAHAHA!!!). I did manage to obtain the IP, mask, gw, and DNS info I needed to get IRA connected to the net. While earthlink does not officially support linux, they say that they do support the basic network settings that would be required of any alternative OS. This was far more than I expecting, and we've all had to "pretend" we've been sitting in front of windows on a support line, just to get answers to these fundamental questions.

6: Red Hat Update Mirrors

FC guys... Please put your mirrors into the RHN client by default. Not only is the master server slow, but the slowness causes the client to lock up.

If you have made it this far, I would like to thank you for reading. I hope that this has been informative and helpful for those of you attempting Linux installations on personal laptops.

Thank you for your time,

Frank Russo

Side note. I am currently emerging OO, so I do not have access to a spell checker. I hope that no one takes offense to my lack of writing ability. Questions and comments are welcome.

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2:  The laptop won't reboot

When issuing a reboot command (via shutdown, reboot, or within gnome) the laptop will init 0, and bring the system down, but it does not actually reboot the system.  Th power button must be held for 5 seconds to power down the system.  I suspect that this ais a BIOS deficiency, and the problem is well documented on the web for the 1805 and any linux distro.  The system can be succesfully shut down with "shutdown -h now" though, and the Gnome shutdown works.

First off, very through review of Fedora2 on Toshiba Laptop and ACPI. IMHO, I still thinks the need to tweak the modules/config files on the Linux would cause the first time user Linux user to get frustrated (meaning Ira if he had to configure the system himself).

Just thought to point out it's init 6 that reboot the system, init 0 simply powers it off. On second thought I think you meant shutdown when you type in the reboot.

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2:  The laptop won't reboot

When issuing a reboot command (via shutdown, reboot, or within gnome) the laptop will init 0, and bring the system down, but it does not actually reboot the system.  Th power button must be held for 5 seconds to power down the system.  I suspect that this ais a BIOS deficiency, and the problem is well documented on the web for the 1805 and any linux distro.  The system can be succesfully shut down with "shutdown -h now" though, and the Gnome shutdown works.

First off, very through review of Fedora2 on Toshiba Laptop and ACPI. IMHO, I still thinks the need to tweak the modules/config files on the Linux would cause the first time user Linux user to get frustrated (meaning Ira if he had to configure the system himself).

Just thought to point out it's init 6 that reboot the system, init 0 simply powers it off. On second thought I think you meant shutdown when you type in the reboot.

You are correct, init 6 is what I meant. When you init 6, linux brings down the system, but fails to kick the system over (acutally reboot) and leaves it in a state where there is no power to the display, but the CPU fan is still going and the prw led is still lit.. Init 0 brings the system totally down., and powers off the laptop successfully.

Thank you for your time,

Frank Russo

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