Tag Archives: hardware

More on Debian on the Toshiba R500

Previously, I wrote about installing Debian GNU/Linux on the Toshiba Portege R500. Most of the information is still current, but I’m writing a follow up to address other things I got working and questions people have posed me.

Bluetooth Support

I still need to patch the kernel to get bluetooth support working. At the moment I am patching toshiba_acpi which then allows the various commands (see the previous article) such as the one for enabling bluetooth. Glibly talking about patching the kernel is of very little help for those that don’t know how, so for Pere who requested that, here’s a set of commands, executed as root which should make that simpler. Note, you might want to edit the file mentioned below for SD support too if you need it before doing this.

# Install the source for the kernel, and the debian package that makes
# compiling it easier
aptitude install linux-source-2.6.26 kernel-package
# Go get it and open it all up, you might need to change paths based on
# exactly what kernel is fetched
cd /usr/src/
bunzip2 linux-source-2.6.26.tar.bz2
tar xvf linux-source-2.6.26.tar
# Go to where the patch will be applied
cd linux_source-2.6.26/drivers/acpi/
# Changes paths as required obviously! Note there is a new patch for
# 2.6.26
patch -p0 < ~colin/Install/toshiba_acpi-dev_toshiba_test5-linux_2.6.26.patch
cd ../../
# Copy the current kernel config, it's a good guess and suitable for Debian stock kernels
cp /boot/config-2.6.26-1-amd64 .config
# Actually compile the kernel, could take a while!
make-kpkg --initrd kernel_image
# Install the .deb created in the directory above
dpkg -i ../linux-image-2.6.26_2.6.26-10.00.Custom_amd64.deb
# That should be it


Headphones can work with the main sound muted. If you double click on the mixer icon in Gnome, and go to edit -> preferences you will see a number of controls that can be turned on. You will see a switch for "Headphones". Enable that. This switch now appears in a tab, and you can select it. When you mute the "Front" you should still get sound in the headphones, and indeed, the rotary control on the side still works. If you're a command line kind of person, alsamixer will be your friend.

SD Card Support

SD card support didn't work out of the box for me. I had to patch yet another file. I say patch, but I just directly edited a file as per instructions I found elsewhere. Essentially I just edited drivers/mmc/core/core.c

	 * This delay must be at least 74 clock sizes, or 1 ms, or the
	 * time required to reach a stable voltage.
        /* mmc_delay(2); -- too small on R500 */

Suspend to RAM

Pere, who comments on the previous article, wrote that changing the contents (in my case creating) /etc/pm/config.d/config and entering
makes it all work. I agree! Thanks Pere.

Fingerprint Reader

These packages are still experimental, so if you don't know how to install them, well you probably shouldn't. I have installed them, but found their enclosed documentation to be inaccurate. I have tried various ways to configure PAM to support it, but none of them work really as I want them to. I might play with this again sometime.

That's it. My initial good feelings have been more than confirmed. It's a great laptop, and great with Debian. I did have to poke with some BIOS settings with toshset to solve the problems of the grub screen not appearing and xrandr working with a second display. Unfortunately I can't remember what I changed.

Playstation 3 80Gb

I had a PS1 and have a PS2. I’ve put off buying a PS3 for a while because they were so dear, the graphics seemed to be at the expense of game play, and because I missed the boat on backwards compatibility on the first model. Today I phoned a friend to ask about backwards compatibility and he told me it was all just software now. Ok, that’s not going to get any better, so I finally went out and bought a PS3. The big display box features prominent billing for the new dual shock controllers. You won’t notice, unless you turn the box round after you get handed one, that it says it no longer has any backwards compatibility with the PS2, not even software but rather absurdly, there is PS1 support. I think Sony have finally lost their minds, they seem to be on a campaign to progressively punish customers who weren’t early adopters. Whatever saving they made for this compromise probably wasn’t worth it, and if I’d read this before I purchased that might well have been the clinching point. Yes, I have a PS2, but I just took it out of place to make room for this beast. Now I need to find a home for both.

Next I began trying to set up a media server on my main Debian box, imladris. I first tried gmediaserver, but found that I could see all the files but the PS3 said “unsupported data” for all of them, then I tried mediatomb, and had the same problem, even after tweaking the config.xml file to add PS3 compatibility, and using the command line tool to import files. I finally found that by surfing to http://localhost:49152/ and adding the directory from that interface that it worked. Phew. This was a big reason for buying the PS3.

So I sat down to play Ratchett & Clank and was immediately told I hadn’t enough disk space. Absurd. I have 60+ Gb free and need 419 Mb. I find there’s a known bug that means I need to download a big file to get this to work. Doing that now.

First experience is a lot less positive than I hoped after such a long wait.


Another odd little thing, it took a very long time for 1+ Mb to download last night. Google suggests all sorts of things that make the wireless connection slow, but here’s the thing, I’m using a wired connection, since my wifi doesn’t quite reach the corner the PS3 is in. Odd.

Nokia N95

Just before we went on our family holiday, I went with Karen to look at new phones for me and for her. Karen liked the look of the phone, but wanted it in a specific colour and was prepared to wait to order that. I decided I liked the look of the Nokia N95. The iPhone is not an attractive prospect for me, apparently it’s a poor phone, a poor camera and there even seem to be issues with its sound. So no amount of astounding user interface makes up for that. The Samsung Omnia, coming out soon, looks really interesting but it runs Windows CE, and that’s a big minus for me. I’m very interested in the OpenMoko FreeRunner neo which can, among other things run my favourite operating system Debian, after the great work done at debconf. Apparently it’s not however a useful and reliable phone, which is definitely a minus too. Maybe next generation, and I can’t hack everything at once.

The Nokia N95 runs Symbian which is a plus. I was warned that the battery life was poor and given the choice between the conventional model with an 8 Gb card, and the N95 8Gb which has the memory totally internalised. The former also has a shutter cover for the lens, which was discarded in the latter to allow a larger battery. I wanted the cover. I got the handset from Phones4u and it’s an O2 handset, who I have my contract with. It took a while to put the order though, so they gave me £50 for waiting. So, seriously, I got the free upgrade, the memory card, a screen protector and £50 in my hand. The bundled accessories are good, a USB cable (like the much criticised N800 it doesn’t seem to do charging) a car charger, a tiny regular charger (same as the N800 actually) and the usual ear phones, with a small control panel on a cable for the sound.

Continue reading Nokia N95

Debian GNU/Linux on Toshiba Portege R500

This week I got my hands on a Toshiba Portege R500 for work. It’s brilliant to have a laptop with a decent battery once again. Here are some thoughts on the hardware, and installing Linux.

The first thing I did was cut through the label on the box that makes it clear that no refund is possible for bundled software you don’t want, including the operating system. This beast came with Windows Vista Business edition, which I could happily live without. For now I didn’t perform a full exorcism, but only shrunk the Vista partition right back. I have some consultancy jobs which might make it handy to leave Vista there for now.

The hardware is brilliant, light (under 1 kg) while still packing quite a punch, dual core CPU, 2 Gig RAM and 160 Gig hard disk. I didn’t want the extra expenditure for a solid state disk, and I wanted the space too. Some reviews mentioned the heat and fan noise, but both are hugely reduced from my Sony Vaio so I’m more than happy.

I burnt a new Debian AMD64 net install disk with the current testing (Lenny) and the second beta version of the installer. I booted off the CD and began the install, having previously so configured the BIOS from within Windows, there was no obvious key to press to change the boot, although I think F12 will do it in retrospect. First thing to note, a really long delay after the kernel declares itself ready and the installer resumes made me think it had crashed. Be patient. The main Debian install went very well, smoothly and quickly. I used the partition editor to shrink the Vista partition to 40 Gig for now. One minor quibble, Debian offers a quick solution for an entire encrypted disk, but not such an option with the remaining space. I don’t yet understand that process well enough so I have left it unencrypted for now, and will do it manually later. Most of my working content is actually in SVN repositories so it’s easy to rebuild from scratch should I choose to. Continue reading Debian GNU/Linux on Toshiba Portege R500

Marvell Technology 88SE6121 SATA II Controller

When I returned from the Christmas holidays to work, I found my computer there was showing signs of impeding disk failure, and shortly thereafter I could no longer boot it due to massive corruption of the disk sectors where the C library resides.

I decided we better get a SATA disk (noting there were SATA controllers on my motherboard) to future proof the purchase, but it took surprisingly long (around a month) to obtain a SATA disk from our suppliers at work. I then discovered that BIOS problems with the AOpen board meant it wouldn’t speak to the SATA disk, and found that the only way to upgrade the BIOS was through Windows. I put in a disk I keep for such purposes, and carefully checked the BIOS I downloaded was for the correct board. The tool flashed the new BIOS, but failed to verify it, and this happened on all repeated attempts. In the end I was left with a bricked motherboard.

Since I couldn’t obtain a socket A board, this meant we needed to get a new motherboard, memory and CPU (all of which was around 5 years old anyway). We got all that, including an MSI-7360 motherboard. But, I couldn’t get the thing to boot into anything. Continue reading Marvell Technology 88SE6121 SATA II Controller

ASUS P5KC Memory / PSU Problems

Ok, I spoke to soon. I thought video was my only problem.

On Tuesday I planned to work at home, to get a lot of code written for OPUS and found my computer locked. I kept restarting it, kept getting kernel panics. The temperature was fine, there was no abnormal load, I tried a new kernel or four, and apparently got a bit more stability. The graphics problems were worse than ever, and I get fed up and bought an ATI HD2600 Pro, which solved all those problems.

Still the machine kept locking. I eventually began to suspect the memory. Continue reading ASUS P5KC Memory / PSU Problems

Imladris Upgrade (nvidia problems)

I upgraded imladris (my personal box) yesterday after a long gap. Most of the process went very smoothly, but there some issues that took me some time to work around. This is really to record what I did to fix some issues for the benefit of myself and any others that have the same problems. I bought an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.66GHz CPU (which interestingly is regarded as amd64 in linux distributions, not ia64), an Asus P5KC motherboard, 2 GIG DDR2 RAM and an nvidia GeForce 8500GT. I probably regret the last item since I asked for an ati card but was talked out of it by the sales guy who also uses GNU Linux (but probably doesn’t worry about the proprietary drivers). My fear was that the nv free driver for xorg wasn’t so hot, and I think that’s been borne out.

After an hour or so I powered up the new system, found only one CPU reported on the old stock kernel, so installed the amd64 stock kernel (this is debian lenny, and I’m still running the applications in 32 bit mode), and there we have it, two CPU traces. The machine is operating very nicely, very responsive and undertaking complex jobs with ease, and without flat-lining either CPU. It is probably quieter than my old AMD single core processor, which is rather slower than each core. However, there were some problems with both sound and video.

Continue reading Imladris Upgrade (nvidia problems)

Tuxdroid with Debian (lenny/testing)

I ordered a tuxdroid from Firebox, and although they politely emailed me during the week to say that stock was delayed and it would be next week, they sent my tuxdroid yesterday and it arrived today, excellent service.

I’m used to buying hardware and discarding the CD that comes with it, since it’s usually windows only, but this is a GNU/Linux only device, and it doesn’t even come with software. I had already downloaded the setup program from their website in .deb form. I had to install python-ctypes before the .deb would install but after that all was routine. I also downloaded the UK voices, though they have some issues, notably they mispronounce some words used by the tuxdroid software, such as “tux” itself.

My nabaztag and tuxdroid together

It was routine to put the device together, a RF dongle in the shape of a fish (really) plugs into the USB on your computer, and communicates with the penguin. I plugged in the penguin to charge him up (very sensibly he has a rechargeable battery pack, which should make him much more portable than the nabaztag, and despite the instructions saying otherwise, I had to turn him on. His eyes lit up and he said hello. Very nice. Next I ran the tuxgi program, not the main executable, but just to play with the device. All seemed to be working pretty well.


I now ran the main gadget manager, which is installed in the accessories part of the gnome menu. I downloaded some gadgets from the community website and started to play. I was aware that not everything was working correctly. In particular the device claimed to be looking for a firmware upgrade interminably, and some gadgets like the RSS one locked up the manager. A little digging revealed this was due to Python 2.4 being used rather than 2.5. I quickly confirmed that 2.5 was already installed, but the issue is that at least for now, Debian links /usr/bin/python to python2.4, not 2.5.

tuxdroid in programming mode

So, I went into /usr/local/bin/ and edited the following scripts tuxfw, tuxgi, tuxsh and explicitly changed the python to python2.5. Now, when reloading the gadget manager, I was immediately warned of a firmware upgrade and went through the process to do this. This is interesting in itself, a programming lead is used to make a physical connection between the fish and the penguin. The upgrade failed first time, but was successful the second time. The RSS feeder gadget also no longer crashes.

Here’s an example of the change to show how trivial it is.

#python /opt/tuxdroid/apps/tux_framework/TFW.py 1 # CT change, run 2.5 instead python2.5 /opt/tuxdroid/apps/tux_framework/TFW.py1

Initial thoughts on the device are positive. It seems well designed, even for example, disabling its ability to turn when the power cable is plugged in. The gadgets show great potential. A remote control is supplied that allows the gadget manager to be controlled through the penguin. Continue reading Tuxdroid with Debian (lenny/testing)

Netgear DG834G firmware problems

I have a nabaztag, a wifi rabbit, but it hasn’t been functional for some time now. I’ve lacked the time to explore why, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve spent about 10 hours all in all testing various things. The problem seems to be with my Netgear DG834G v3 (UK) router, or at least the interactions between them.

Essentially, the rabbit is configured to connect to the network and then has four orange lights, that go progressively green as it goes through the connection phases. When the wifi is unencrypted all the lights go green, but for any other encryption setup, not a single light turns green, suggesting that the rabbit cannot see the router.

I found that some people are having similar problems with the PS3 and have reported that old firmware resolves the issue six months ago. Unfortunately the firmware to fix it is so old it’s off the main websites, but you can find it on the development website for netgear.

That might be intimidating since this site is intended for people trying to play with the code (which I’ve done myself once or twice), but no coding is required here, you just need to download 4.01.20 firmware (for the UK) and find a tool that can bunzip and tar extract the archive. Of course, in GNU/Linux, this is a snap ;-).

I’m writing this up in case some other pour soul is using Google to look for the same issue, as I did some days ago. It’s only when I started to focus on WPA problems with the router that I found these references. I reported some bugs with NTP handling in the DG834GT (emails have the wrong month name in the date header in the second half of the year), and Netgear has never fixed for them yet :-(. I may have to do it myself.

Garmin Nuvi 310d

I bought a Garmin Nuvi 310 sat nav system over the holidays.

It is a nice device, a good size, neither too small nor large, and the “d” bundle came with most of the accessories one might want, like the USB cable, carry case, mountings and so on, as well as a DVD with map information, that I haven’t gone near yet.

I discovered with some pleasure that at least one upgrade was installable on Debian GNU/Linux using the Java application at their site, whether or not it will be possible to avoid Windows for upgrades in all cases I don’t yet know.

The maps are accurate, with only a small number of very new changes not appearing on them so far, the device calculates, and recalculates routes quickly, and acquires a satellite lock very rapidly, even without the external antenna. It’s a nice feature that the internal antenna turns off the power to the GPS as soon as its closed up. A comprehensive list of categorized destinations, such as restaurants, airports, hospitals and shops is very easy to access. The screen is bright and easy to control.

One reason I bought this model is that it can act as a bluetooth handsfree kit for a phone, in my case a Sony Ericsson K800i. I have a headset, but this was a big draw for the extra money for me. Out of the box, I paired it with my phone quickly, and I am able to receive calls with good clarity with no problems. Beautifully the device accesses the phone books, call lists and so on from your phone allowing a nice interface to it from the device directly.

I did hit one big problem, I could not dial out. None of that functionality worked, the garmin “dialled” the number but the phone did nothing. I contacted Garmin support today (their website is … um … awful for support navigation) and was immediately told the phone needed an update. I was surprised, and skeptical since the phone has continuously told me that it has the latest software when I have asked it to update itself. Nevertheless, I went to the Sony Ericsson website and found a Windows (yuck), Flash (yuck) program for updating the phones. They were correct, there was an update for the phone and it has done the trick.

All in all, first impressions are a great device. One tiny niggle… I wish the keyboard could be laid out in QWERTY format rather than ABCDE.