Installing Debian 4.0 r0 “etch” on Acer Aspire 3003LMi

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This is a report of the installation of Debian 4.0 r0 “etch” on a Acer Aspire 3003LMi Debian’s Logo

INSTALLATION

I downloaded the 1st CD of Debian, and booted the laptop with it. At the boot screen, I typed ‘expertgui‘ so I would both get the graphical install and all the questions thrown at me (am I a control freak?).
I began installing with the laptop off-line, but you would be best to do it connected to the net (via Ethernet), since this way the installer helps you choose APT servers from your country, among a few other niceties.

The laptop came with Windows XP, with two FAT32 partitions sized to 50 GB each (actually there’s a third “hidden” partition, I think it has to do with Acer Recover, but I never messed with it). I used the following following partition scheme:

/ – 9 GB formatted as Ext3
swap –
2 GB formatted duh! as swap
/home –
43 GB formatted as Ext3 with the ‘user_xattr’ option (good for beagle and other search programs)

Being in expert mode, the installer also asks if you want to use the system like in Ubuntu, with no root, and a user with “sudo” permissions, which I like!

If you don’t use the ‘expert’ boot option, but still want to give yourself sudo privileges later on, this is how you do it once the system is installed. It’s very easy, run as root in a console or Virtual Terminal:

visudo

The program that will open is vi, which for someone who has never used, is a b****. To write, press these keys, one after the other to begin writting:

Esc

i

Now enter this line:

your_username ALL=(ALL) ALL

with your_username being your username.. hmm..

Now to save the file and quit the editor, press the key:

Esc

and type:

:wq

and press Enter.

There’s one point in the install where you’re asked what software tasks to install. I chose Standard, Desktop Environment, and Laptop.
The Desktop Environment task installs Gnome by Default, but Debian also provides 1st CD’s (of the full 27 set) with KDE or XFCE for the Desktop Environment task. KDE’s iso file is called debian-40r0-i386-kde-CD-1.iso for example, and available from the usual place.

GRAPHICS

The video-card chip-set (Sis M760GX) was automatically detected during install, and found the available resolutions for this laptop (the maximum being 1024×768). Oh, and this is the first time it did so, hooray!
If you want in the future to fine-tune your graphical settings, i.e. the X Window System from X.Org, you can access the debconf options of its debian package, which is xserver-xorg, by doing :

sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

(assuming you use sudo, like me. Otherwise, you’ll have to be root to reconfigure a package’s debconf options)

Many packages have debconf options (or questions). They appear on-screen when installing them, or by invoking them with the ‘dpkg-reconfigure <package name>‘ command. You can also use Synaptic to do this. The Debconf system allows the administrator of the debian system (YOU! :)) to choose the kinds of questions he wants to be asked about, on a priority basis. How do you choose so? Well, just reconfigure the debconf package with:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure debconf

You’ll also have an option to choose the desired frontend for debconf questions. Myself, I use the Gnome frontend, since I use Gnome. It reverts back to the newt frontend if X is not available, i.e., you’re in one of the Virtual Terminals (accessible using Ctrl+Alt+F1 for VT1, Ctrl+Alt+F2 for VT2, etc. To get back to the Desktop use Ctrl+Alt+F7 , or just cycle using Ctrl+Alt+<left arrow> and Ctrl+Alt+<right arrow> .F1 up to F6 are the Virtual Terminals, F7 up to F12 are for the X sessions, which means you can have more than one graphical session running (good for swapping seats with other users of the computer).

DRI (Direct Rendering Interface, i.e. 3D Accelerated Graphics)

Let’s install the package mesa-utils, which contains a handy utility to see if the video chipset is being 3D accelerated. Install it, by doing:

sudo aptitude install mesa-utils

After it’s done, let’s see:

glxinfo | grep direct

Which results in:

direct rendering: No

OpenGL renderer string: Mesa GLX Indirect

I investigated this a bit, and it seems that there is no support in xorg’s sis driver for accelerated 3d graphics. The fault is with the creator of the chipset, Sis, which according to various people, haven’t provided any kind of specification for this, and others of its chipsets. This means no gnu/Linux developer can add 3d acceleration to the sis driver (without reverse engineering, which I’m told is very hard work!) So… We’re shafted. If you were expecting to play quake3 or 4 in gnu/Linux, forget it, you wont, until these chipset makers change their behaviour.

BATTERY (ACPI)

I took my battery out (it’s malfunctioning), but I suppose it works fine. Just install the right kernel for the cpu:

sudo aptitude install linux-image-k7

linux-image packages always depends on the most recent Linux version.

CPU-THROTTLING

This guy explains this step beautifully! In this laptop’s case, it’s the powernow_k8 module that needs to be loaded.

For extra coolness, add the Cpu Scaling Monitor applet to one of Gnome’s panels. Then, do:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure gnome-applets

and answer yes. You’ll now be able to change the frequency and the behaviour of the cpu with the applet.

TOUCHPAD

Works OK, except I get no double-tap an drag, and no “invisible” scroll-bars on the right of the laptop. Still unsure, but maybe by installing the package xserver-xorg-input-synaptics works.
Also sometimes the touchpad portion that should exist in /etc/X11/xorg.conf isn’t. You can make it appear with debians tool, sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phig xserver-xorg

OPTICAL USB MOUSE

Works immediately when plugged in.

DVD DRIVE

Haven’t tested viewing restricted DVD movies yet. I’ll probably just need to install libdvdcss2 from marillat’s repository (see bellow on how add it).

SOUND

Good.

FONTS

Good. Had to configure gnome to use LCD sub-pixel, by going through the top menu:

Desktop->Preferences->Fonts.

NETWORK (WIRED)

nice, with a cable modem (Ethernet).

NETWORK (WIRELESS)

There are two ways to do it (go for B for now!):

A – Try and use the driver available in the kernel

1 – get the firmware specific to this laptop, by installing the package bcm43xx-fwcutter

sudo aptitude install bcm43xx-fwcutter

2 – insert the module:

sudo modprobe bcm43xx

3 – add bcm43xx to /etc/modules

echo bcm43xx | sudo tee -a /etc/modules

B – use the windows driver (this involves the ndiswrapper suite of packages).

Method A worked, but if I took the laptop a bit farther from the wireless router, it couldn’t connect. So I eventually went with ndiswrapper way:
1 – Get the Windows driver ( kindly provided by this other fellows tutorial)
2 – Install ndiswrapper stuff:
sudo aptitude install ndisgtk
This package will download ndiswrapper-common and ndiswrapper-utils-1.9 as well.
3 – Run ndisgtk, and choose to install the .inf file you extracted previously from bcm43xx.tar.gz
4 – Install module-assistant
sudo aptitude install module-assistant
5 – Run the next commands:
sudo module-assistant prepare ndiswrapper
sudo module-assistant auto-install ndiswrapper
6 – Unload the bcm43xx module:
sudo rmmod bcm43xx
7 – Load the ndiswrapper module:
sudo modprobe ndiswrapper
8 – Blacklist the open source module bcm43xx:
echo blacklist bcm43xx | sudo tee -a /etc/modprobe.ds/blacklist
9 – Make ndiswrapper module to automatically load on boot. Edit /etc/modules:
sudo nano /etc/modules
And remove bcm43xx if present, and add a new line containing just ndiswrapper.
10 – If you chose the Desktop task, you should have NetworkManager installed. If not, do it now:
sudo aptitude install network-manager-gnome
(or kde if you’re using it, like I am now (months after this report))
Also comment the interfaces in question (eth0 for wired and eth1 for wireless) in the configuration file  /etc/network/interfaces, so as to let networkmanager handle them.

SPECIAL KEYBOARD KEYS

None reacted like they did on Windows.

I just had to open Gnome’s Keyboard Shortcuts and configure the combination of keys to use for mute, raise, lower the volume, launch help (Fn+F1), etc., and those small buttons to launch a browser, etc. You can of course make them do other things. I used the 3 first buttons to:

Open home directory, Search, Open web-browser.

OTHER OS PARTITIONS
EDIT:No need to edit fstab to acess my FAT32 Windows Partition anymore, it just opens. But if I had to mount is manually, it would probably look like this line in /etc/fstab:

/dev/hda2 /mnt/windows vfat rw,users,gid=users,umask=0002,nls=utf8 0 0
(If your other windows partition’s filesystem is NTFS, you would switch vfat to ntfs, and rw(read-write) to ro(read-only)…to access the main windows partition.

CODECS

MP3 – Plays by default. Debian installs totem-xine instead of totem-gstreamer. Who’s me to complain, it works!

MS WMV 9 videos don’t play by default. I caved in (who doesn’t, until ogg vorbis and ogg theora are more spread out?), and added marillat’s repository source line to /etc/apt/sources.list :

deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org etch main

To install the apt GPG key for this repository, install the debian-multimedia-keyring package.
Now I can install the package w32codecs, which makes all of the videos encoded in wmv, mov, rm, etc work.

SECURITY UPDATES

If you installed Debian without a connection to the net, you’ll have to edit /etc/apt/sources.list and uncomment the repository source line for Security updates. Otherwise, they’re there.

FINAL /etc/sources.list

I added the non-free and contrib sections .
If you’re wondering what these mean, my understanding is than non-free, is, well, non-free software, and contrib is free software which need non-free software to work. This is how, finally, my sources.list file became to be:

deb ftp://ftp.telepac.pt/pub/debian/ etch main contrib non-free
deb-src ftp://ftp.telepac.pt/pub/debian/ etch main contrib

#Updates de segurança
deb http://security.debian.org/ etch/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org/ etch/updates main contrib

#debian-multimedia
deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org etch main

(I’m using a Portuguese mirror, and you should use another, preferably from your country. During install, and if you were on-line, you probably already chose one. If not, choose one from http://www.us.debian.org/mirrors/list )

FINAL TIPS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Unless you’re thinking of playing 3d games in Linux, or expecting to use it a lot on battery power (runs out too fast, less than an hour [before it went bust that is]), or are expecting a giant screen resolution, it’s a good laptop for its price.

aptitude is the preferred package management tool in Debian. If you aren’t used to it, checkout my aptitude in 30 seconds Guide.

apt-file is a good program to search which package has the file you want (just remember to apt-file update once in a while)

flashplugin-nonfree for most of your flash needs.

firestarter is an easy to use Firewall configuration tool.

ktorrent is an excellent bittorrent application. Just remember to use ports above 40000 in it’s configuration, and then open them in firestarter, and in your router, if you use one (usually in the section called Port Forwarding).

If you are a complete new user to GNU/Linux, there may be other distributions more suited for you (which have a smoother learning curve to them). Take a look at DistroWatch.

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28 Responses to “Installing Debian 4.0 r0 “etch” on Acer Aspire 3003LMi”

  1. Matthieu Moy Says:

    Another installation report for the same laptop :

    http://www-verimag.imag.fr/~moy/acer3003/

  2. jobezone Says:

    http://students.turkuai.fi/~coholteg/laptop/

  3. The White-Plastic Life-Style » Blog Archive » Debian-Install Beta 2 Testing (etch) installation in an Acer Aspire 3003LMI - updated Says:

    […] I've updated most of my previous instalation report of Debian testing on a Acer Aspire 3003LMI, installed with Debian-Install Beta 2 . You can read it here:https://jobezone.wordpress.com/2006/03/07/aspire-3003lmi-on-debian-testing-etch/ […]

  4. Dirk Says:

    Thanks to your hint with the K7 kernel, I finalled got the fecking Broadcom 4318 to work.

    Thanks for that,

    Dirk

  5. jobezone Says:

    You’re welcome 🙂 I still have problems with the wi-fi, but I don’t care for it right now…

  6. Roke Says:

    I do with your help. I do all you say and them i turn up the wifi card by ifconfig eth1 192.168.1.55 netmask 255.255.255.0

    After that if u have to set the key you can use iwconfig eth1 key s:

    Thanks for all.

  7. patricio ENJILO Says:

    i need bluetooth to my laptops

  8. PSP Games Says:

    Nice Blog

  9. jobezone Says:

    This laptop doesn’t have bluetooth.

  10. Hugues Clouatre Says:

    Hi Jobezone,

    As you commented on my blog, I’d like to return the gesture 🙂

    As for laptop installation how-to, I wrote a small one myself for my Asus Z63A, which is a bit different than yours though. I invite you to read if you like.

    I very much share your thoughts on the new Debian-installer. Good job!

  11. Hugues Clouatre Says:

    Oups, wrong link. Here is the how-to for my laptop.

    See ya 🙂

  12. jobezone Says:

    Huges, Your blog is very helpfull! I’ve subscribed it already.

  13. Jesse Says:

    so has anyone solved the TOUCHPAD issue yet?

  14. jobezone Says:

    I’ve upgraded to unstable, and have the touchpad working now. I didn’t have to do any manual editing of files. By looking at the packages I have installed, it may be xserver-xorg-input-synaptics that was needed. Do you have it installed? And if not, when you do, does it make the touchpad work like expected, with double-tap + drag, and scrollbar ?

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    thank you, dude

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    Hi,
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    I searsh an aplication that i will haven a link, and when i click that, it beging recording a video animation or all mouse moving.

  19. Floating Shelves Says:

    wireless routers are very necessary nowadays because we do not want so many wires running around the home ~;*

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    -~’ I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information ,.-

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    A link to this guide is now included in the TuxMobil Linux Laptop and Notebook Installation Guides Survey http://tuxmobil.org/

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