Debian GNU/Linux on the Elitegroup ECS A532

by Johannes Ranke jranke@uni-bremen.de

1. Version 2005 Jul 04

Last Change: 2007 Apr 17

Introduction
Configuration

Introduction

After the display of my Sony Vaio PCG505FX had given up, I had to get a replacement for this costly but linux-friendly subnotebook that would have a small footprint concerning weight and price. The report of Kim Moritz Nolde on Linux on the A532 and some more info on the net combined with the low price of the A532 made the decision easy for me.

In this review I am focussing on details that are not treated in the abovementioned report.

The device was configured with 256 MB RAM, an 8 cell battery (3600 mAh), the Transmeta Efficeon TM 5800 1000 MHz and a 40 GB hard drive (see picture to the right).

Later I got a memory 512 MB memory upgrade (SO-DIMM DD333-C25) which worked fine after I got the hang of installing it (actually easier than it first appears). Now I have 736 MB of memory which is absolutely sufficient for my purposes.

Although on the box there is no blue dot where the 802.11b/g interface is mentioned, the device is in there...

Take a look at the output of lspci if you want to know more.

Configuration

X11

Some distributions, including knoppix, try the vesa X11 driver per default, but knoppix as well as pure Debian can be made to work with the fbdev driver. I did at first have an issue with the touchpad, since is not supported by the mousedev driver on the psaux device of the default 2.4 kernel from the sarge netinstall CD I used, so I had to use an USB mouse at first. As soon as I installed a 2.6. kernel

apt-get install kernel-image-2.6.11-9-i386
and I used dev/input/mice for the X11 Mouse configuration, both pointers worked perfectly, even at the same time.

Using the VGA port with external projectors works fine, but I only tried 1024x768 resolution so far.

Here is the xorg.conf that I use.

Kernel

If you want to compile your own kernel from vanilla kernel sources, you can use my kernel config as a starting point. I patched the vanilla kernel with swsusp 2.2-rc7. Hibernation works (hibernate script 1.10 from the debian distribution) if I configure it to unload all modules. But the NIC card does not work for me after resuming.

You can also use my kernel package and my rt2500 module package, both of them are in my debian repository

deb http://www.uft.uni-bremen.de/chemie/ranke/debs ./

ACPI based suspend/hibernation from klaptopdaemon does not work, i.e. the machine doesn't wake up to a useable state.

Some modules that I compiled in (not complete):
HardwareModule
Graphicsvesafb
WLANrt2500 (from the rt2500-source package)
Soundsnd_intel8x0 (ALSA) or ali5455 (OSS)
LANr8169
USBehci-hcd (kernel 2.6.X)
Optical driveide-cd or ide-scsi
i2cic2-ali1563
I also tried lm_sensors. The sensors-detect script configures i2c-isa and i2c-it87 in /etc/modules, but this combination does not result in proper hardware monitoring, so I do not have temperature information right now.

Power management

My kernel configuration includes the longrun driver for the cpufreq framework for processor frequency scaling. As reported in the /sys filesystem as well as by the cpufrequtils the frequency gets scaled to 1000 MHz when there is a certain amount of use in the system, and over several steps as low as to 533 MHz when nothing serious is going on. This seems to be independent of the cpufreq scaling governors compiled into the kernel - only the "performance" and "powersave" governors are reported to be available but choosing between them doesn't make a difference. I don't even know if the cpufreq support in the kernel makes any difference, except that it makes it possible to request the current cpu frequency.

Looking up the cpufreq stuff over at the homepage of Dominik Brodowski I stumbled over his presentation on linux laptop power management where he mentioned the laptop-mode tools. I installed the Debian package "laptop-mode-tools", configured it in /etc/laptop-mode/laptop-mode.conf to only manage /dev/hda and not to look for other harddisks, and it works great so far. This means that the harddisk spindles down after a while when I disconnect the power chord. This doesn't happen when this package is not installed.

Without these two measures I once observed a battery life of 2 hours, but now I am confident that it will be more.

WLAN

As mentioned in the above table, the internal RaLink RT2500 card works fine for me. I even managed to make the RaConfig2500 tool superfluous so I can use the debian infrastructure for wireless cards (ifconfig, iwconfig, ifup/ifdown, /etc/network/interfaces).

Configuration of the ECS A532 as shown on the box it shipped in Front view of the ECS A532 while compiling the latest kernel (2.6.12.2) at the time of this writing Two USB ports, ethernet and sound are located on the side The rear side features VGA, parallel and two more USB ports