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Installing Linux on an Acer Travelmate C110 tablet laptop
I recently purchased an Acer
Travelmate C110 pc tablet laptop from NewEgg.com.
The model number is LXT270E044, with a 900MHz Pentium-M processor, 512mb of memory,
and a 40gb harddrive.
Of course I wanted to install Linux on it. This page documents my efforts to do so.
- I wanted to install Red Hat 9. Thankfully, the BIOS supports booting off the FireWire CD-ROM drive,
(I just needed to change the order of the boot devices in the BIOS settings), so getting Linux installed
was actually relatively painless.
Update 11/16/2003: I have installed Fedora Core 1, which is essentially
the next version of Red Hat.
Update 6/7/2004: I have installed Fedora Core 2. I installed by loading the install image through the grub off my home partition, and having the isos on my home partition. No CDs needed! I tried upgrading my Core 1 partition, and that was a bad idea. A clean install is much better. And yum is so cool!
- The laptop came with Windows XP pre-installed. Strangely, the harddrive was partitioned into a 30gb partition
and a 10gb partition. Supposedly, this is for a quick-reinstall plan of Acer's that was abandoned.
Seems like a waste of a good 10gb. One thing Acer did right, though, was format both partitions with FAT32 instead
of NTFS. Thus, the GNU utility parted can be used to resize the Windows partition.
parted can be run from a Live Linux CD like Knoppix, or I just installed RedHat in the 10gigs, resized the Windows
partition down to 5gigs, and then re-installed.
Update 11/16/2003: When I reinstalled Red Hat 9, I booted off CD, and then did a network install. Since there are no
on-campus mirrors of Fedora, I tried to do a full CD install; unfortunately, the install kernel
cannot access the CDs once booted. I ended up doing a hard drive install by copying the iso images
to my home partition.
Update 6/7/2004: When I installed Fedora 2, I resized my swap partition to 1Gb. Supposedly, suspend to disk needs swap space to be 30% larger than your main memory. I used qparted to do resizing, but I needed to convert ext3 partitions to ext2 first by removing the journals.
- The built-in ethernet and sound worked immediately.
- The tablet has an Intel 855GM integrated graphics card. The i810 driver for XFree86 4.3 worked immediately,
but rotation did not. My work around for this is to enable the Linux framebuffer in the kernel by passing the kernel
option vga=792 on boot up. This enables the kernel framebuffer module vesafb in 1024x768 mode with 24 bit color (also see this
page about framebuffers).
I then used the XFree86 framebuf driver, which supports the "Rotation" option. Unfortunately, the RandR extension
must be disabled for the rotation option to work. Otherwise, X seg faults. The framebuffer is much slower than using
a native driver, but I find the slow speed is undetectable for most 2d uses. In the GRUB, I have two options to boot up:
one with framebuffer and one without. In /etc/rc.local, I call a script to check the kernel options from /proc/cmdline
and then copy the correct XF86Config file (rotated or not) to /etc/X11.
- The standard imps mouse driver worked with the touchpad in XFree86 4.3, but had no mouse wheel scrolling capability,
nor did it have a true middle mouse button. The amazing Synaptics touchpad driver
(older TuxMobil page) for XFree86 fixes
all of these problems, as well as adding a bunch of great features, such as wheel scrolling when moving your finger along
the edge, and middle clicks when you tap with two fingers.
Update 6/8/2004: I compiled the Synaptics driver version 0.13.3 and installed it under X.org for Fedora Core 2. Works great.
- The screen pen device is similar to a serial Wacom digitizer tablet. The Linux Wacom project
has a driver that works for it (I used version 0.5.2-beta, which required no patching). The only trick is that the serial io port
is different than previous versions of the Acer tablet. I needed to add the line
setserial /dev/ttyS0 port 0x06f8 irq 6 autoconfigure
to my /etc/rc.local file. The port number and irq I got from the Windows driver settings.
Unfortunately, the pen driver will only work the first time that X is run after booting. That is, if the X server is restarted
without rebooting, then the pen will not work. This means rotating the screen requires a complete reboot.
Here are my two XF86Config files: rotated and straight.
Update 11/16/2003: Don't forget to change the permissions on /dev/ttyS0!
- The internal wireless is an Intel PRO/wireless 2100 LAN Mini-PCI card. Unfortunately, Intel is not releasing Linux drivers,
despite their previous press releases. I bought a DLink DWL-G650 Cardbus card instead. There are partially-closed-source
Linux drivers for the card (I used madwifi-20030802), but they would only compile against
kernel 2.4.20-13.9 or later (ie, not the original Red Hat 9 kernel). The driver works okay, but I can't connect to my roommate's
DLink 802.11g base station (in g or b mode). I could not get the alternative open source driver to work.
The annoying thing about using the wireless adapter is that the Cardbus slot is on the bottom when the screen is rotated
into tablet mode. So I use the X options to rotate the screen upside down. Unfortunately, this means the screen
buttons are not as convenient.
Update 10/28/03: Linuxant's DriverLoader program allows you to use WindowsXP wireless NDIS drivers under Linux. I used version 1.21. It actually works! (even though, later I was having trouble with null pointer references crashing the driver and crashing the entire system. Happened sporadically.) I got the latest Windows driver from Acer's support page, using the wireless driver 22.214.171.124, dated September 11, 2003.
Update 11/16/03: I compiled version 1.42 of DriverLoader on Fedora, had no problems installing it. Seems to work just fine, no problems yet. Unfortunately, Linuxant is charging $19.95 for a license, and doesn't seem to be giving out unlimited 30 day free trials.
Maybe Intel will finally get around to releasing their driver.
Update 6/7/04: When I installed Fedora 2, I installed the Intel open source ipw2100 drivers. They work great!
- I have not gotten ACPI working yet, since it requires patching and recompiling the kernel. Supposedly these things
will work in the next version of Red Hat.
Update 11/16/03: Fedora's ACPI works, mostly: battery state (yay!) and CPU throttling work. I can't seem to change the CPU frequency or sleep or suspend.
Update 11/19/03: The CPU frequency can be changed by modprobe speedstep-centrino, and then using /proc/cpufreq. cpudyn looks like a good program to control these features, but I haven't used it yet.
- The extra buttons above the keyboard (including the mail button) supposedly can be gotten working using ACPI events.
Update 11/16/03: This LaunchKey driver (version 0.4.3-lhj) compiled with only a slight bit of trouble (the quoted string on line 300 needs to be on one line, the Makefile needs to be edited to point to the source code). The key events are reported, and the mail led can be turned on and off (it's green!).
The buttons around the screen just report standard keyboard events (watch them with xev), and so should be easy to map to something useful.
- I have not tried the infrared port yet.
Update 1/31/04: I have successfully upgraded my Palm III to PalmOS 3.3 (to enable IrDA support!). The infrared port on the Acer needs to be enabled in the BIOS (under IO Ports, serial ports).
The information that I used above was gathered from several helpful places on the Web.
- TuxMobil, a great place to find out about installing Linux on mobile devices.
- LinuxSlate, a new site about Linux on slate computers.
- Three sites about installing Linux on the Acer Travelmate C100:
Unfortunately, not all software is very friendly to the pen and no keyboard. These are some of the programs that
I have found useful or interesting.
- gsumi is a test application for adding support for pressure
sensitive pens to GTK. It's handy for jotting notes. The Gimp also supports
the pens quite nicely.
- gtkeyboard is a nice on-screen keyboard.
There are lots of others, however.
- Lots of things from handhelds.org like xstroke, xscribble, XRmouse.
Unfortunately, I haven't installed these yet.
Update (10/28/2003): On LinuxSlate is a fixed version of xscribble for tablets. It works great! And it makes the tablet mode without a keyboard really usable.
- Galeon supports mouse gestures, which is handy with the pen.
Unfortunately, I need to figure out a good way to switch the mouse buttons.
- Pogo is a handy toolbar program that allows you to easily run scripts with the tap of a pen (or click of the mouse). You can also change the toolbar on the fly.
- I hacked a version of Xfig so that releasing the mouse button (or lifting the pen) ends an action. I also made freehand spline drawing the primary mouse button. This means that Xfig is now usable with the pen. I made some scripts that pulls apart a postscript file into pages, lets you write on them with the pen in Xfig, and then glues them all together. Great for editing papers! Once I have it more polished, I'll release the code here.
- Update 1/24/04: Gournal is a great note-taking program. It does require installing a lot of perl-Gtk programs. Jarnal is a similar program written in Java that I have not tried yet.
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