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This is a guide to getting Linux running on the Panasonic Toughbook W8 laptop. The Toughbook W8 is great for running Linux, especially with Fedora 23. Earlier distributions require minor tweaking to get the sound card working through the speakers. The distribution I used was Fedora Core 23 (with notes on FC14, my original install), but other than the installation section, this document should help you get other distributions working as well. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of a subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation.
For a general discussion about this laptop you can visit the Panasonic Toughbook W8 page on LapWik.
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For full specifications see the Panasonic Toughbook W8 specifications page.
|Name||Panasonic Toughbook W8|
|Processor||Intel Core2 Duo Processor SU9300 : 1.2 GHz, 800MHz FSB, 3 MB On-Die L2 cache;|
|Screen||12.1“ XGA (1024×768)|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|RAM||Up to 4GB|
|Optical Drive||DVD Super Multi|
Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100
|Optical Drive||Yes||Reads CD's ok. Have not tested burning discs yet.|
|Sound||Yes||For speakers to work, you need to tweak the module options for distributions before FC23. See below|
|Bluetooth||Yes||Able to browse files on my cell phone|
|Card Reader||Yes||Successful reading 16Gb SDHC Card|
|Fingerprint Reader||Not Tested|
|Eco Mode||Partial||Only settable in Windows, but persists after reboot|
FC23 installs via Live USB easily. I upgraded from my previous installs. Pleasantly, the sound worked out of the box with no manual tweaking required.
FC16 installs normally on the W8 via the Live USB stick. Since I was upgrading from FC14, I didn't need to repartition (see FC14 installation section). You should make sure you put your home/data directory on a different partition to make upgrading easier. I did a fresh installation (preserving my previous home directory partition via the custom partition option), set up the users, installed the usual (see http://fedorafaq.org), and configured the sound module (see below). The new Gnome 3 interface works great on this laptop.
The W8 started up without a hitch from the FC14 Live via USB stick. Wireless LAN works without any hassles. If you want to boot from CD/DVD, please check out the DVD/CD Drive section below. I set up the laptop as a dual boot system. First, I resized the NTFS (Windows XP) partition to 60Gb using the ntfsresize utility (after backing up using ntfsclone to a USB hard drive). Next, I wanted to resize the partition itself. I tried using fdisk, but could not get the partition to start at the exact sector that the NTFS partition originally started at. Instead, I used gparted, which has a handy resize capability.
After resizing the partition, I ran the “Install to Hard Disk” utility. Unfortunately, the resulting installation did not work correctly and resulted in some kernel errors at boot up. Weird, since the Live USB seemed to work so well. For less installation hassle, I recommend that you install from the Fedora DVD and add the Fedora 14 Updates repository rather than install from the live CD. See the CD/DVD Drive section below regarding booting from CD/DVD. Be sure to connect your laptop to the network during installation to get the latest updates.
Since I had a partially installed Fedora system now, I decided to try a network install using the latest kernel and updates. I followed the Installing Without Media instructions and added the Fedora 14 and Fedora 14 Updates repositories in the install process. This way, you get the latest updates during your install. After going through the install process, the laptop booted into Linux with no difficulties.
After using the laptop a bit, I realized two things. First, the CD/DVD drive did not open when I pushed the open button. Second, there was no sound coming out of the speakers. I knew that these should work properly, since they worked when I booted into Windows. The next two sections describe how to get the CD drive to open and the speakers to work.
The CD drive is located at the lower right of the keyboard and should pop open when you push/slide the open button. The key here is going into the BIOS configuration (press F2 at the Panasonic screen) and setting the “Optical Drive Power” setting to “On” instead of “Off”. This way, the drive will be on continuously, allowing you to boot from the CD drive. Linux will also then recognize the drive and pop it open when you eject the CD.
The drive, however, does not open automatically when the laptop is turned off and you hit the switch. The only way to open it to insert a CD for booting is to use a paper clip or other suitably thin pin. Insert the pin into the “emergency open” hole underneath the laptop to the front of the CD location until it stops, then slide it to the left and the CD door will pop up easily.
Note: FC23 speaker sound works out of the box, with no sound card configuration tweaking.
Debugging the sound issues was a bit more challenging. I realized I could use head phones to hear the sound card output, but no sound came through the speaker. The W8 speakers are mono-output, but the headphone output is stereo. A quick internet search revealed that this problem is not unique to this brand and model of laptop. The cause of this non-operation is due to the fact that the same audio codec is used in desktop, laptops, and, apparently other portable devices. The default setting in the Linux module is the desktop setting, which means that the codec needs to be configured to “laptop” mode for it to work properly.
In general, you can find out what kind of sound card you're using via the /proc/asound/cards file, or by typing “aplay -l”. The specific codec may be found in /proc/asound/card0/codec*. In this case, we're running a hda-intel sound card with an Analog Devices AD1883 codec. You can find specific configuration in ALSA-Configuration.txt located in the ALSA distribution documentation.
To get the sound to come through the speaker, all you have to do is add a configuration file to /etc/modprobe.d. Create a file, /etc/modprobe.d/sound.conf and add the following line to it:
options snd-hda-intel model=laptop
Now, reboot the system and the sound should work! For other distributions, you may need to modify /etc/modprobe.conf instead. As a side note, in GNOME, the System→Preferences→Sound utility is very useful for testing the sound configuration.
Eco mode is a special mode that causes the battery to stop charging when it reaches 80% of full capacity. According to the documentation, this mode extends the over all life of the battery. As far as I know, the only way to toggle the Eco mode is through Windows. The setting is persistent, so once you set it in Windows, it will stay set. If we can find some documentation about how to set the Eco bit programmatically, it should be fairly simple to implement a driver or utility for it. If you're deciding whether or not to dual boot your system, this is one aspect to consider.
The Pansonic Toughbook W8 runs Linux 64-bit very smoothly. It is a welcome upgrade to the factory-installed operating system. FC23 installation via Live USB install went without a hitch and there was no need to tweak anything. The laptop itself is solidly built, is extremely light, and has a long battery life.