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Mitch Davis (linlap at afork.com)
This is a guide to running Linux with the Toshiba Satellite Pro A100 laptop, model PSAA3A-00Q00S.
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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|Name||Toshiba Satellite Pro A100|
|Processor||Intel Celeron-M 360 1.4GHz|
|RAM||256MB DDR2-533 (two slots, one free)|
|HDD||40GB SATA 5400rpm|
|Optical Drive||Reads all DVDs, writes CDs|
|Graphics||ATI Radeon Xpress 200M (shared mem)|
|Network||10/100 Ethernet (Realtek RTL8139), Atheros 802.11g Wireless|
|Other||4 x USB2.0, 1 x Firewire, no IrDA, serial or parallel)|
|Graphics||Yes||Use the radeon module|
|Wireless||Yes||Use the Madwifi module|
|56K Modem||Not Tested|
I (Mitch) evaluated this laptop in a shop with Ubuntu 6.06 on CD. Because there's only 256M of memory, the CD went seek-crazy. I copied Ubuntu onto a 1G USB memory and made a custom boot CD. That helped a fair bit.
Notable successes with stock Ubuntu are the video, and the wireless (courtesy of the Madwifi modules). Things that didn't work were the special function keys, sound (I couldn't hear it under Ubuntu) and I couldn't try power management (ie, suspend and resume).
The display is BIG and bright and had no faulty pixels, but unfortunately has an extremely glossy finish. Expect to be delighted with the brightness and contrast, but annoyed by reflections of your surroundings and its susceptibility to fingerprints.
The keyboard has a great feel, spoiled only by the tilde (~) being next to the space bar, the lack of a right-hand control key, and the swapping of Ins/Del with the Windows/Menu keys.
Because of the success with Ubuntu, I bought one.
I tried to installed Redhat Fedora Core 5 on the machine. This was unsuccessful because the leap into X would result in a screen of garbage, despite all the kernel options I could think of. I ended up doing a text-based install.
Once the install was done, I set about getting X to work. I had exactly the same problem as during install - a screen of garbage. I tried both the “ati” and “radeon” drivers in /etc/X11/xorg.conf, and tried to make the settings as close to the Ubuntu CD as possible. Nothing I tried would work. The machine hadn't locked up, since it's possible to restore to text mode using presaved video settings and the vbetool program, but that doesn't get me X (:cry:).
I next tried the ATI proprietary module. Because I only install software via RPM, I installed it from livna.org.
A note with the ATI module - it has to match your kernel version. If it doesn't, X still displays but you miss out on the acceleration.
With X working, I set about on power management, and I am in a WORLD OF PAIN. Battery time and level reporting works, as does CPU throttling (nearly useless), internal temperature and fan cut-in temp. As far as power management goes, EVERYTHING ELSE is broken.
First I tried suspend to RAM (ACPI S3). This appears to work (the machine goes to sleep and the power LED changes colour) but it's not possible to resume it - the laptop wakes up, the hard disk light stays hard on, but nothing more ever happens. It's necessary to remove both the AC and the battery to revert to normal.
Someone suggested it's because the power management on the SATA disk is not being done, but the problem still happens with Tejun Heo's latest libata patches. Tejun's patches are supposed to add proper spin-up and spin-down to the SATA chip.
To try and rule out it being a SATA problem, I set up an initial ramdisk. This way, the disk is never touched or needed. Also, there are no modules loaded. Sadly, the S3 suspend-to-RAM problem still occurs, and is a major annoyance.
In order to hibernate, I tried suspend2 via Matthias Hensler's precompiled suspend2 for FC5 RPMs. Suspending initially had problems with the “atomic copy” phase, which Nigel “suspend2” Cunningham told me was most likely because the I/O completion interrupt from the hard disk wasn't getting through. I tried with the initial ramdisk, but I had the same problem.
After a lot of messing around, I finally found that adding “noapic” to the kernel command line allows suspend2 to work. The problem then is that the RTL8139 network card stops working! I did some more digging and found that adding “acpi=noirq” gets the network card working again. So to get suspend2 to work, add “noapic acpi=noirq” to the kernel command line.
The fan is quiet, but doesn't seem to step its speed like other laptop fans, even under heavy load. It's apparently either on or off, and it's just about always on, even with no processes taking CPU.
The BIOS reports the processor is capable of four power states - C0 (running), C1, C2 and C3. Apparently C3 is the one where the CPU is most idle. According to /proc/acpi/processor/CPU0/power, C0, C1 and C2 are all working ok (most of the time in C2) but C3 is never entered. Docs I found on the internet indicate this is often caused by a device causing bus master traffic, but this happens even with the initial ramdisk. Without C3, I expect power consumption to stay high.
I have experimented with the ACPI CPU throttling. It seems to make little difference to current consumption, but also greatly affects apparent machine
responsiveness (:neutral:). The Linux ACPI docs say throttling should be used for thermal protection rather than extending battery life, and from what I've observed, I'd agree.
I am about to start looking at ACPI “P” states, which are profiles which trade off speed against battery life, and different thermal management strategies depending on whether it's on AC power or not.
I bought two extra large-capacity batteries, and I'm impressed with the performance - two hours even with the terrible power management problems.
The console reports a fair number of messages to do with unhandled ACPI events. Some are regarding the real-time clock, and I suspect others are generated when the reported battery percentage changes. Not sure yet. They seem harmless.
At the moment, the power button commands an orderly shutdown. I'd like it to trigger suspend2, but I haven't worked out how to do that. I'd also like to find out how to get the Fn special keys working, as well as use the closing of the lid.
I have yet to work how how to control the backlight. Since this is a major consumer of power, I think it's pretty important. The modules that exist for Toshiba laptops seem not to work on this model motherboard (apparently an ATI SB-450 “Goldfish”).
In my opinion, the machine is SLOOOOW, even on AC power and with 1GB DDR2 533 RAM. For example, compiling the 2.6.17 kernel took nearly three hours. I'm pretty sure the 6yo 700MHz laptop this Toshiba is replacing is faster, although I haven't yet done a same-software test.
On the Sony, I used to be able to use hdparm to spin down the internal IDE disk, both manually and on a timeout. Neither seems to work on the SATA disk, although I haven't tried the SCSI equivalent sdparm program yet. Disk access seems no faster than my old Sony.
The status LEDs aren't really visible when the lid is closed, unless you look at the laptop from the front. There are two disk LEDs but I've never seen the right-most one light up, even when the CD/DVD drive is in use.
I haven't yet tried the VGA output, or the TV-out.
I haven't yet tried the wireless card under Fedora (works under Ubuntu) although I'm told the Madwifi modules work ok.
The internal speakers work under Fedora, but they aren't loud enough, even with both the software volume and the front-of-case volume turned up full. For some reason most of the sound comes from the right speaker, but I suspect this is software.
Ethernet works fine, although under Fedora, cable plugins and removal are not noticed, so IP address aquistion only works automatically if the cable is in at boot time.
An external Firewire hard disk worked fine.
If power management can be made to work well, it would be a very nice machine for the money. Meanwhile, my journey of pain continues.