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Panasonic Toughbook W7

These are very nice devices. One of the key purposes for me about the notebook is that it is supposed to be light, and relatively rugged. I use them for travelling, stuffing the notebook into a pocket on my carryon suitcase, and it gets a bit of a beating there. The metal case, and the overall shock resistant design make them worth the high price. While most notebooks have problems that the keyboard rubs on the screen when closed, leaving an imprint of the keys on the screen, I never had the least problem with my Panasonic W2– I hope this one lives up those high standards. The W7 is not the fastests of machines (1.2GHz but with a core 2 Duo) but it comes with a 6700wHr
battery which is claimed to last “up to” 7 hr.

The Panasonic CF-W7 offers (almost) full support for Linux. The only problem is the
initial installation process, detailed below, and the graphics (eg running googleearth)

Introduction

I bought a Tooughbook W7 because of the good experience I had with the Toughbook W2. When the hard disk failed, I bought a W7 only to find that I could not get beyond booting the kernel in the install disk from Mandriva, the Linux distro I use. I simply got a blank screen but the computer was not dead. Wehn I booted a version of MCNLinux (based on Mandriva 2007.1) I again got the blank screen right after kernel loading, but after a while an X screen appeared. This led me to suspect that the problem was the computer's handling of the VGA boot screen.

After some floundering ( when I almost returned the computer) I read the kernel Documentation/svga.txt file in the kernel source and figured out how to get around the problem.

This guide is intended to provide you details on how well this laptop works with Linux and which modules you need to configure. For details on how to actually install and configure the required modules have a look at our guides section for distribution specific instructions.

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Specifications

NamePanasonic Toughbook W7
ProcessorIntel Core 2 Duo
Screen12.1“ XGA
RAM1GB to 2GB
HDD120GB
Optical DriveDVD+-RW
GraphicsIntel Graphics GM965/GL960 Graphics Controller
NetworkMarvell PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet, Intel 4965AG 802.11bgn wireless, Bluetooth

Linux Compatibility

DeviceCompatibilityComments
ProcessorOK
ScreenOKExcept on installation. See below
HDDOK
Optical DriveOK
GraphicsCan be OK Bugs in driver and mesa. See below
SoundNot Tested
EthernetOK
WirelessOK
Bluetooth? Shows up in dmesg, but I do not know how to use it
56K ModemNot Tested
USBSeems OKPlugged in flash drive and mounted it successfully
Card ReaderOK Mount /dev/mmcblk0p1 somewhere Does not show up in MCC storage media
PCMCIANot Tested

Notes

The main problem with this system is the graphics. On installation, the mandriva installer uses an unsupported graphics mode, and withing X there are two problems– on starting X you can have random crashes, and if you run googleearth the system will lock up completely. All three of these are solveable.

Installation: The problem is that the graphics does not support the usual vga=788 option which at least Mandriva chooses as their default option. You need to use one of the VGA BIOS modes. I chose the simplest 80×25 VGA which is vga=3840 (0x0F00) which worked fine.

In Mandriva 2008.1 and 2009.0, when the initial spash screen comes up with the variety of choices: Boot from Hard Drive; Install Mandriva …; Recover..; Memory Test; you need to hit Esc. It will ask you if you want to use the Text screen. Answer Yes (or choose the Text over the Graphics.) You are now presented with the boot: prompt (from lilo which is used by the installer) Type in

  
  boot: linux vga=3840

The system will now boot and you can continue to install the Operating system.
Alternatively you can type

  boot: linux vga=ask

Follow the directions to get a list of the possible modes. I used the first one 0x0F00 (menu item 0 on mine.) others might work, and might not. None of the VESA modes worked for me, but all of the VGA modes did.

There are two sets of bugs in the graphics/X for this system. The first symptom is that when one starts up X, occasionally the system will completely freeze up, necessitating the power switch to get out. This is due to a fault in the xf86-video-intel driver. It requires the 2.6.0 driver (xf86-video-intel-2.6.0). As of Jan 15 2009 , Mandriva 2009.1 contains the 2.5.99 driver, which needs an extra patch. Unfortunately the 2.6.0 driver also contains another patch which is incompatible in compilation. xf86-video-intel-2.6.0/src/i810_lvcs.c needs the two lines

   if (edid_mon->det_mon[i].type >= DS_VENDOR && j == -1)
   j=i;

need to be commented out. DS_VENDOR is not defined.

There is also another bug which makes X crash completely when googleearth is run. This is fixed by installing updated mesa and drm libraries. Eg, I installed
mesa-7.3*
libmesa*-7.3*
libxorg-x11-devel-7.3
libdrm*2.4.3*
from 2009.1 cooker. What the minimum necessary to resolve the bug I do not know. I got mine working.

Without the above two fixes, X startup randomly crashes during the start up (I got about 1 out of 3 crashing) and googleearth does not work at all.

On Jan 17, Mandriva cooker has the driver 2.6.0, and mesa 7.3 and drm is 2.4.4 so should work

This still leaves one minor bug in running googleearth, that some of the icons ( the bed for hotels, the central target icon which appears on zooming in) sometimes display simply as white squares. Most resolve themselves eventually but sometimes they do not.

The other weirdness of my installation was toward the end when setting up the various options. Choosing Network→Wireless the only option I was presented with was ndiswrapper, which I had no idea how to use since I do not know where Vista hides the driver for the wireless card. However it is irrelevant since after cancelling this, I discovered that Mandriva had installed the iwlbgn driver (into /etc/modprobe.conf) which certainly works with the Intel 4965 wireless card.

I have not tried the Bluetooth or the PCMCIA slot yet to see if they work. I have no PCMCIA card.
For the SD card, mine came up on /dev/mmcblk0* list of devices, and mounting /dev/mmcblk0p1 somewhere allowed me to read the contents of my SD card from my camera.

Bluetooth shows up in dmesg where it looks like it is recognized, but I have no idea how to set it up.

Summary

Except for that installation problem, this machine has done everything in Linux I have asked it to do.
I will try to test some of the other features and report back here.


Discussion

Dave, 2012/11/26 22:36

Everything seems to work smoothly with Linuxmint 13 MATE, except the speakers won't shut off when headphones are plugged in.

x51, 2012/01/21 14:02

sound card doesn't working.

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panasonic_toughbook_w7.txt · Last modified: 2010/10/11 14:02 (external edit)
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