Linux on My Laptop Answers


I bought an HP Pavilion ze4500 laptop this week. The ze4500 is the custom built model number of the ze series. I think that all ze series laptops use similiar hardware. Here is my configuration:

I have tried two Linux distros on it, and have found both very satisfactory (so far). I have included more details below. Unfortunately, I don't have enough time to give you all the details that I would like to share. For more information, check out TuxMobil.org.

Fedora

I installed the Fedora Core 1 beta (0.95 severn) and the installer took care of setting everything up right out of the box. There were a few tricks though:

I verified that these things worked before moving on to another distro:

Written November 5, 2003

Gentoo

I have had a harder time getting things set up in Gentoo, mostly because I can't find much good help on the web. Here are my hints:

I hope to get time to add the other things that I had to play with.

Written November 6, 2003

Okay, I am having a really difficult time with the sound. ALSA appears to be working correctly, but sound only works a fraction of the time (i.e. three 30 second bursts in the past week). Here is my post to the Gentoo forums. If you have any idea how to get this working, please let me know.

Also, HP's printed documentation that comes with this laptop is really lacking. It is very non-technical and is not very helpful. They don't even include a product specification sheet. After twenty minutes, the customer support representative found this web page which provides support information for the ze4501, which is almost identical to the custom built ze4500. The Product Specifications is the most informative document in the collection. None of these documents are very technical, so they are not super helpful, but the specification has some good hints for what Linux drivers will work. It also gave me enough information to buy my memory upgrade which is what I needed.

Written November 11, 2003

I think I found a solution to the sound problems. I haven't looked into it enough, but it looks like a bug to me. I get sound as long as only the Master, Headphone, PCM, Line, and CD channels are unmuted. I'm not sure which of the other channels is causing the problem, or why. I haven't tested the mic, but everything else I want seems to be working now (CDs, DVDs, MP3s, OGG, etc). I hope that this really is the problem, and it's not just a temporary "I got lucky" streak of functioning sound. If I get the chance, I'll have to experiment more and try to pin down which combination of channels, then I should examine the driver's code, or at least file a bug report. For now, I'm going to wait and make sure that my sound really works consistently, and focus on more pressing projects.

Should it be helpful in the future, I just noticed that the kernel does in fact have drivers for this chipset (without ALSA). They are hidden near the bottom of the list and grouped with other drivers. The line reads "Trident 4DWave DX/NX, SiS 708 or ALi5451 PCI Audio Core drive". Should my sound still not work consistently, I'll have to try ditching ALSA and using this driver.

Written November 17, 2003

Unison

I installed Unison to keep /home on my desktop and laptop synchronized. I am very happy with it, but I had some trouble getting it to work the way I wanted to. I wanted it to preserve permissions and ownership across my two systems, and this is not its default functionality. Here are some tips:

Written November 7, 2003

D-Link Air DWL-650 Cardbus Wireless card

I thought that this was the PCMCIA card that is listed in the kernel docs as having a prism chipset. It's not. It is version 2 and uses an ADMtek chipset.

I didn't really try to get it working. Instead I took it back to the store and told them that I wasn't happy with the manufacturer changing the chipset without making it clear on the box. I then bought a card that was listed on The Linux WLAN Compatibility page

If you are certain that you want to get this one working, then you can follow the excellent instructions on this guy's very helpful page on this card: http://www.houseofcraig.net/belkin_howto.php . The information on the D-Link is at the bottom of the page.

Written November 7, 2003

Hawking Technology 11M Wireless Ethernet PCMCIA Card

This card has a prism2 chipset and works like a charm. I think it is a great card, and it only cost about $40, including shipping charges. I would recommend this card.

I started off trying to get the linux-wlan-ng driver to work because that is what every HOWTO I found recommended. I found the wlan driver to be a pain to set up, and not very feature complete. I couldn't get WEP to work, nor could I specify an SSID. The documentation was really poor. To do anything with the card, you need to edit the wlan driver's configuration files, but the documentation gives no syntax suggestions or examples. I wanted to be able to use different network settings (WEP keys, SSIDs) on my home network than on my work network, but I could find no suggestions how to set that up. It looked like I had to have seperate network interfaces for each network setting. Not very helpful.

Recently my friend suggested using the Orinoco driver. I would have tried it earlier, but I didn't think that it supported prism2 chipsets. It does, and it is sweet. It is much easier to use than linux-wlan-ng. Here is how to set it up under Linux 2.4.22:

  1. Recompile the kernel:
    1. Include no PCMCIA/CardBus support under General setup-->PCMCIA/CardBus support.
    2. Include basic Wireless LAN (non-hamradio) support under Network device support.
    3. Do not include support for any of the specific drivers under Wireless LAN (non-hamradio).
  2. Install pcmcia-cs. Check to make sure that it compiled the Orinoco driver in /lib/modules/pcmcia.
  3. Install wireless-tools. This should give you the iwconfig utility.
  4. Start the cardmgr service.
  5. Put the card in the bus, and see if you get an IP address.

It isn't very difficult. If you have a problem, check the output of the configuration script when you start to compile pcmcia-cs; it can give you some pointers.

The process is almost the same with the 2.6 kernel, except that the driver is included in the actual kernel. I am very happy with the driver over all.

Written January 21, 2004