Monday, March 20, 2006

Debian HOW-TO: Etch on Asus Z63A

TuxMobil - Linux on Laptops, Notebooks, PDAs and Mobile PhonesLast revision : April 30th, 2007

This guide is also available here, on my wiki. The present version is the most up-to-date however.

Now for Debian Etch (Debian's actual stable distribution).

The installation process is somewhat simpler (on the Asus Z63A) than Debian Sarge's one.


  • Hardware summary

The Asus Z63A is a customizable version of the W3A from Asus.


I built mine with these components :

Screen : 14"" Widescreen (WXGA) @ 1280x768
Video card : Intel 915GM
CPU : Pentium M 740 @ 1.73 Ghz
Memory : 1G DDR2 @ 533 Mhz
Hard drive : 80G FUJITSU MHV2080A @ 5400 RPM
Optical drive : TSSTcorpCD/DVDW TS-L532U (24x CDRW / 8x DVDRW dual-layer)
Network : Marvell Yukon Gigabit
Wireless : Intel IPW2200 b/g
Sound card : Intel High Definition Audio
3 USB 2.0 ports
Wireless mouse


...everything just listed works perfectly in Debian Etch.


Those on the contrary are untested so far :

IRDA (infrared) & Bluetooth
Firewire
S-Video output
4-in-1 card reader


For more details, see the lspci output.


  • Preparatives

First, download and burn Debian Etch (netinst CD image for i386), from the Getting Debian page.

If you are to use the netinstall CD, make sure the laptop is wired to the Internet (as the wireless card won't work during the installation process). If that is not possible, use the standard installer instead (the first CD is enough).


  • Installation


To install, type

installgui


at the boot prompt. During the installation, simply use the laptop's touchpad, or any mouse. You can also use the following keyboard keys: SPACE will select, TAB will change selection, ARROWS will navigate and ENTER will confirm.


At the Software selection menu, I choose to install Standard system and Laptop -- I don't like to install the whole Desktop environment during Etch's initial installation process (because I prefer a more minimalist environment), but you can do it if you like to.

Once the installation process is done, you are back to the shell (if you chose not to install the Desktop environment part). Something as simple as

sudo apt-get install xorg xfce4 iceweasel alsa-base


will get you a working desktop (I use "sudo" to get root privileges). But you will need some more packages for power management, wireless networks management, multimedia codecs, and so on.


  • Wireless Networking


This machine came with an Intel IPW2200 wireless card.

First install the card's firmware : download the latest Intel IPW2200 firmware from here, untar it and copy it in /lib/firmware/

tar zxf ipw2200-fw-3.0.tgz
cd ipw2200-fw-3.0/
sudo mv *.fw /lib/firmware/


To properly configure it you need those packages : network-manager, wireless-tools and wpasupplicant.

If you are to use Gnome (or Xfce), install network-manager-gnome. The package is network-manager-kde for KDE.

To get network-manager working properly, edit the file /etc/network/interfaces and comment everything except the "loopback" interface (see example file).

*Plus, you need to make your user part of the group netdev :

sudo adduser your_username netdev


For more details about network-manager, check the dedicated tutorial on the subject.


  • Graphics


Other than using the "i810" driver in your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file, make sure you install the 915resolution package, so that X will display the correct native resolution (1280x768).

sudo apt-get install 915resolution


The default 915resolution configuration should work fine on this machine. However, if it doesn't, edit the file /etc/default/915resolution to your needs.

That's about it for X. If you want more details, look at my xorg.conf file.

Those interested in serious eye-candy can read the tutorial on AIGLX+Compiz, or the one on AIGLX+Beryl.


  • Setting the DVD burner


I use K3B, which you can install like that :

sudo apt-get install k3b wodim cdrdao dvd+rw-tools


Other CD/DVD burning applications are available (namely GnomeBaker, Graveman, etc.), but I strongly prefer K3B, for its versatility and ease of use.


  • Power Management

First thing to do is to manage the CPU frequency.

Loading the correct modules at startup does the trick :

echo speedstep_centrino | sudo tee -a /etc/modules
echo cpufreq_ondemand | sudo tee -a /etc/modules
echo asus_acpi | sudo tee -a /etc/modules


One important thing to note: while on battery, the Z63A will not allow the CPU to go up to its maximum frequency. This is due to CPU frequency management from the BIOS. If you don't like it, just disable this feature (press F2 on startup to access the BIOS).

Some packages can help you achieve a greater battery life as well.

sudo apt-get install acpi acpid acpi-tools powersaved laptop-mode-tools laptop-detect


to install them.

*For powersaved to work correctly, you need to make your user part of the group powerdev :

sudo adduser your_username powerdev


I invite you to read the tutorial on power management for further details.


  • Suspend to RAM


All your suspend to RAM needs can be fulfilled by properly editing the file /etc/powersave/sleep (which is part of the package powersaved).

In this file, a few things must be changed, in order for suspend/resume to work properly. I will only list the lines that needs to be changed (the way they should be, at least for this laptop) :

UNLOAD_MODULES_BEFORE_SUSPEND2RAM="sdhci"
SUSPEND2RAM_FORCE="yes"
SUSPEND2RAM_ACPI_SLEEP="1"
SUSPEND2RAM_VBE_SAVE="yes"
SUSPEND2DISK_METHOD="uswsusp"


Another important element is to modify the Section "Device" of your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file so it includes this line :

   Option          "VBERestore"            "true"


Again, read the tutorial on power management for more about that.


  • Touchpad

The touchpad on this machine is a classic called synaptic. It works fairly well with the default settings using the xserver-xorg-input-synaptics package.

To add some functionalities, make sure you have this line in the Section "InputDevice" of your xorg.conf :

   Option          "SHMConfig"             "true"


This will allow you to use a very useful application called syndaemon. For example, you can use it to disable the touchpad while you are typing :

syndaemon -d -i 1 -k


Then you can add this exact line to your session manager so it gets set at startup : in Gnome, add it in Desktop -> Preferences -> Sessions -> Startup Programs.


  • Tips

Debian Etch's default kernel works fine on this laptop, but if you wish to tweak your machine some more, you can compile your own kernel. Take a look at this tutorial for some pointers.

To use the Asus Z63A native resolution (1280x768), remember that you need to install the 915resolution package.

Don't forget to unmute "front", "pcm" and "master" in alsamixer!

You might want to install things like Java (see tutorial) and Flash (tutorial).

You can take a look at my /etc/apt/sources.list if you need help on configuring your software repositories. Of course, always use your nearest local mirror.

You want to know how looks the end result on my machine ?

>>> Read the full article