Linux on Acer TravelMate 361 EVi

So, you want to install Linux on your 361 EVi ? No problem! Linux runs well on 361 EVi and perhaps better than the preloaded WinXP! This webpage describe how to install TLE 4.1/RedHat 7.2 on Acer TravelMate 361 EVi. It might work for other TravelMate 360 series, and/or different distributions of linux as well. Anyway, information in this webpage is provided AS IS, and WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY. So, do not blame me if it does not work, or damages your notebook, etc, etc. Okay, first thing first, the brief hardware hardware specification of Acer TravelMate 361EVi :

  • CPU Intel Pentium III 1 GHz with SpeedStep Technology
  • Memory 256 MB
  • HDD 20 GB
  • 13.3 TFT i830 Display Subsystem
  • AC’97 Sound Subsystem
  • 10/100 Ethernet Intel EtherExpress Pro 100 VE
  • Orinoco 802.11b Wireless LAN
  • Texas Instruments PCI1410 CardBus controller
  • O2Micro OZ6933 CardBus Controller
  • SmartCard Reader
  • IEEE 1394, IrDA, USB, PCMCIA, Serial, Parallel
  • External Combo Drive (EasyLink) FDD, 8X DVD

Does Linux support all of these ? Fortunately, yes — at lease, that is what the Linux Documentation said. So, I installed two OSes on my 361 EVi. One is MS Windows XP Home, another is Linux. I simply partitioned my HDD to 50/50 for XP and Linux. Because I’m Thai,I choose Linux TLE 4.1, a Thai Linux distribution developed by NECTEC. TLE 4.1 is a variant of RedHat 7.2. So, what can be used on TLE 4.1 can be used on RH 7.2, and vice versa. Almost every components of 361 EVi can automatically be configured by the installation script/setup utility. So, it’s quite easy to install Linux on 361 EVi. Anyway, let see them one by one.

Boot Loader

I use grub. It is safer and easier than lilo, especially when you install Linux on a large hard drive. It also works fine for WinXP. This is my /etc/grub.conf.

default=0
timeout=10
splashimage=(hd0,1)/boot/grub/splash.xpm.gz
title Linux TLE
    root (hd0,1)
    kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.4.18-3 ro root=/dev/hda2 vga=791
    initrd /boot/initrd-2.4.18-3.img
title Windows XP
    rootnoverify (hd0,0)
    chainloader +1

X-Window

TLE 4.1/RH 7.2 includes XFree86 4.1 in the package. This version of XFree86 does not support i830 display subsystem, so you have two choices here:

Use either ‘fbdev‘, or ‘vesa‘ driver. It does work and it is fast enough for almost everything, but 3D games. Or, upgrade to XFree86 4.2 that natively supports i830 through the ‘i810‘ driver. RedHat just released the 7.3, which includes XFree86 4.2. You can go entirely to RH 7.3, or if you already install TLE 4.1/RH 7.2, you may download only XFree86 4.2 packages (XFree86-*-4.2.0-8.i386.rpm, Glide3), and replace the 4.1 with the new one. I have tested and currently use it. Also, you must upgrade your kernel at least 2.4.11 to use AGP GART. I use 2.4.18-4. You can download one from RedHat or kernel.org. It works well.

I provide here config for both 4.1 using vesa, and 4.2 using i810. The ‘Monitor’, ‘Device’, and ‘Screen’ section of my /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 are showed below:

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier "13.3 TFT Flat Panel"
    VendorName "Unknown"
    ModelName  "Unknown"
    HorizSync 30.0-57.0
    VertRefresh 55.0-100.0
EndSection

Section "Device"
    Identifier "VESA"
    Driver "vesa"
    BoardName "VESA compatible"
EndSection

Section "Device"
    Identifier "i830"
    Driver "i810"
    BoardName "i830 display subsystem"
EndSection

Section "Screen"
    Identifier "Screen0"
# uncomment below to use "vesa" driver, works for both XFree86 4.1/4.2
#    Device "VESA"
# uncomment below if you want to use i830, works only for XFree86 4.2
    Device "i830"
    Monitor "13.3 TFT Flat Panel"
    DefaultDepth 16
    Subsection "Display"
        Depth 24
        Modes "1024x768"
    EndSubSection
    Subsection "Display"
        Depth 16
        Modes "1024x768"
    EndSubSection
EndSection

Sound System

AC’97 sound subsystem could be detected by TLE4.1/RH7.2. Just run the ‘sndconfig‘ utility and it will modify /etc/modules.conf for you. AC’97 does not support MIDI. So, you might want to install some software wavetable to play MIDI files (try TiMidity++, it’s cool!). Here is what sndconfig put in my /etc/modules.conf

alias sound-slot-0 i810_audio
post-install sound-slot-0 /bin/aumix-minimal -f /etc/.aumixrc -L >/dev/null 2>&1 || :
pre-remove sound-slot-0 /bin/aumix-minimal -f /etc/.aumixrc -S >/dev/null 2>&1 || :

If sound quality is poor, try to upgrade kernel.

PCMCIA

361 EVi has two CardBus Controllers (YES, TWO !) One is TI PCI1410, another is O2Micro OZ6933. The document said they are supported by kernel module named “yenta_socket“. However, if you use (modprobe) yenta_socket, it will lock your system immediately and you have to cold boot. To use PCMCIA on 361 EVi, you need to disable CardBus/PCMCIA support in your kernel, and use pcmcia-cs instead. So, grab the kernel source (2.4.xx), config, disable CardBus/PCMCIA, check the other kernel options, compile, and install. Then, grab the pcmcia-cs source, config, compile, and install. It should work. This is my /etc/sysconfig/pcmcia

PCMCIA=yes
PCIC=i82365
PCIC_OPTS="do_scan=0"
CORE_OPTS=
CARDMGR_OPTS=

Please be very sure that you include “do_scan=0“. Otherwise, your system will crash when you start PCMCIA service. If things go well, the Orinoco 802.11b Wireless works immediately (it is hard-wired to TI PCI1410). You can start eth1, and manage the wireless LAN through iwconfig utility. The SmartCard reader is hard-wired to slot 2 of O2Micro. It is recognized by Linux PCMCIA, but it does not work right now.

10/100 Ethernet

This Intel EE Pro 100 VE works out-of-the-box by using

eepro100 driver. What in my /etc/modules.conf is

alias eth0 eepro100

But, you might want to clear sleep mode bit of the adapter. Otherwise, it will cause transmit timeout when you transfer large data. To do so, visit http://www.scyld.com/diag/index.html download ‘eepro100-diag.c‘, compile the program (see instruction near the end of the file), run ‘eepro100-diag -G 0 -w -w -f‘, and reboot (don’t forget to reboot. it’s required). It should work.

Ports

Serial/Parallel/USB works perfectly. I’ve tested all of them. Firewire should work but I have no firewire devices to test :P.

IrDA also works but you might need to enable IrDA in the BIOS setup. You also need configure your system to run irda init script at startup (using either ‘setup’ utility, or manually link /etc/init.d/irda to /etc/rc?.d/S??irda). I have Palm IIIxe and I can sync through IrDA perfectly.

External Combo Drive

This combo drive works fine, but you MUST connect/disconnect the drive ONLY when your 361 EVi is OFF. WinXP may support hotplug for this device but it does not mean the same for Linux. I think Linux recognize this device as a generic FDD and ATAPI CD/DVD ROM, not a kind of hotplug/removeable stuff, so DO NOT TRY!

Well, I hope this helps. The Linux TLE 4.1 is very fine for me. I used to do my works on MS Windows. Now, I transfer all my works to Linux and use WinXP only when I wanna play games! If you know something more, or you want to know something more, you can contact me at kitty@kitty.in.th . Comments/questions are welcome.

Have a nice (Linux) day!