Debian GNU/Linux on my ASUS M5623N

After trying and failing to get X going on this laptop with a BLAG install I decided to fall back to the tried and tested distro – Debian. For this install, I used a Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 (Sarge) snapshot CD from 21st October 2004. I booted from the CD typing ‘expert26’ which runs the new debian-install system (which is a big improvement from the old boot-floppies system) in expert mode using a stock 2.6 kernel. In fact, expert mode lets you choose from several stock kernels as well as choosing which branch of Debian to install. I decided to run unstable because this laptop has some quite new hardware which will require up to date code.

The main resource I used for this install was this helpful guide on Debian with a slightly older M5N by Patrick Reynolds. TuxMobil - Linux on Laptops, Notebooks, PDAs and Mobile Phones

So far all has run smoothly – even sound (ALSA) worked with minimal fiddling (installed and run alsaconf and all seemed fine). The only thing stopping a pretty full-featured install running right ‘out of the box’ is an obscure option that needs to be added to the Device section of /etc/X11/XF86Config-4:

Section "Device"
        Identifier      "Intel i810 shared"
        Driver          "i810"
        VideoRam        12288
        Option  "DisplayInfo" "FALSE"

If the ‘Option’ line is not added the graphics card locks out X, making it display a green screen, and refusing to be killed with the Ctrl-Alt-Backspace X-kill combo (though Ctrl-Alt-Del works as normal).

CD-R and CD-RW burning works fine with k3b (xcdroast will prob work too and gnomebaker definately works). DVD-R burning now works too once I removed udftools (although I need to learn the difference between filesystems for long file names etc.). I still need to test DVD-RW though, and according to the Nero utils in Windows, this drive does not support DVD+R or DVD+RW. DVD playback works when you install libdvdcss2 and realted packaged from an unofficial apt source. It only works once you set a region code (using regionset or equivalent). Unfortunately, a firmware upgrade to get around region codes for this model of DVD-RAM does not yet exist, so until one is relased, my laptop is stuck on region 2 (you start with 5 changes, and 5 vendor resets, but after that it becomes fixed, so use with caution). My Sony camera via USB 2 works fine via libgphoto2 (I use the excellent gthumb to access this) once I added myself to the camera group with the adduser command.

Touchpad and mouse
The touchpad and USB mouse both worked after install. However, I had to install the xfree86-driver-synaptics package to get extra touchpad features like taps and so on working. I’ve discovered that the driver also has some rather nifty features: if you tap and move your finger down or up in one motion on the right hand edge of the pad, it acts like the wheel on a wheel mouse – nice once you get the hang of it. Also, if you tap and slide in one motion in the bottom right hand corner the web browser performs back when sliding left and forward when sliding right. I’ve also disscovered that a single tap in the bottom right hand corner is equivalent to a right-click. Now I only need to find middle-click… I had to modify /etc/X11/XFree86-4 according to the instructions in /usr/share/doc/xfree86-driver-synaptics/README.Debian to get this going. However at the moment, the USB mouse no longer works. The readme mentions this and gives a solution that involves changing a kernel config option. So we’ll see after my next kernel compile…

Kernel compile problems
After downloading kernel-source 2.6.9, spending ages configuring all the options I think I need to get everything working nicely, compiling a new kernel with make-kpkg (part of the kernel-package package – this is the Debian way to install custom kernels) and finally installing the resulting .deb, the new kernel throws a fit and panics:

VFS: Cannot open root device "/dev/hda4" or unknown-block (0,0)
Please append a correct "root=" boot option
Kernel panic - not syncing: VFS: unable to mount root fs on unknown-block (0,0)

The only idea I have about this is that if may have somthing to do with the fact that I’ve removed the old devfs option (it was marked DEPRECATED in the config), so the hard drive may not be refered to as /dev/hda anymore. If so, then this is just a grub and fstab problem and I have to find out how the new udev system refers to the hardrive now. Buggered if I can find documentation excplaining this to me though. Anyone with a clue, please let me know!

I’ve managed hot keys using the GNOME keyboard shortcuts in preferences. It doesn’t seem to register the Fn key, which is a bit of a pain, but you can usually use Ctrl instead.

Packages check list
gkrellm modconf snd-gtk-alsa alsaconfig samba gdm-themes xmms-skins xmms-status-plugin grub-splashimages grubconf k3b drip libdvdcss2 (and DVD related stuff) xfree86-driver-synaptics alsa-source boot-icons hibernate ipw2200-source kernel-doc-2.6.9 kernel-source-2.6.9 kernel-package kismet newbiedoc wavemon airsnort kismet kwifimanager ifplugd mobilemesh netapplet netspeed prismstumbler waproamd wavemon wireless-tools airsnort

Stuff to get working:

* Get touchpad fully working (taps etc) Get USB mouse working
* Configire APCI properly so hibernate and suspend work (including hot and lid keys)
* Get cpufreq woking (will probably have to compile new kernel for this)
* Install wireless drivers
* Install drivers and test modem
* Test PCMCIA and Firewire somehow.
* Bootsplash. Needs kernel compile too, I think. Not strictly needed, but nice ;)
* Test burning: CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW
* Test DVD movie playback. Wait for and install region code firmware.
* Install drivers for WMA, DivX, MOV etc.
* Test USB 2 with camera
* Get volume and other hot keys working somehow
* Get microphone working
* Test card reader (not working)

This article is a document in progress. I will keep updating it until I’ve got everything working I can on this laptop .


Filed under Blog

9 Responses to Debian GNU/Linux on my ASUS M5623N

  1. Thank you for this Linux installation report. It will be linked at the
    TuxMobil Linux Laptop Survey.

  2. H2O Intolerant Ninja

    just for reference (incase we meet again and i feel the urge to link my iriver):

    yeah, it always seems so simple when you read it afterwards ;)

  3. Dear Asa,
    I am a Newbie, I have installed sucessfully on my Laptop Asus M5N > Debian Sarge 2.6.8 from the Linux Format DVD magazine.
    But when Linux try to launched the X-server > I got a green screen.
    I don’t know how to go back to the prompt as Debian try automatically to start the X server… :(
    I know that I have to add in the /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 the following line :

    Section “Device”
    Identifier “Generic Video Card”
    Driver “i810”
    VideoRam 16384
    >>>This line Option “DisplayInfo” “FALSE”

    My question is very simple : How to Kill the X-server or go to the prompt as I have only a green screen at Linux debian startup ?
    I have tried Ctrl+Atl+1 > untill Ctrl+Atl+9 > I couldn’t go to the text mode to edit this file. Tried Alt+1….didn’t work either….
    I guess I should boot abd select thr run level 3 (instead of 5 I guess) but I don’t know how to do it.
    Could you please, help on this. Thank you.

  4. asa

    I haven’t found a way to kill X once it gets into that mysterious green screen state. The only way around it is to avoid getting there in the first place. You need to boot from a lower runlevel that does not invoke X – level 1 (single user mode) should do it.

    To change the runlevel at boot time you could reconfigure GRUB. A simpler way would be to select “rescue mode” (or similar”) from the GRUB menu at boot time. If Debian didn’t set this GRUB option up for some reason, try this page. Remember that the way you select the runlevel at boot time is just to add 1 as a parameter.

    Good luck – let me know how it goes. :)

  5. Hi Asa,
    thanks for your answer, I could finish the installation of Sarge. I am very happy.
    Do you have any more tips to optomize our favorite Linux into on Asus ?
    Thanks, for your great Blog.
    Take care, John

  6. Ge3


  7. asa


    How’s things? Email me!

  8. Rob

    Hmmm…. Me thinks you used to work in PC World in Cardiff

  9. asa

    I did indeed!

    Were you one of the engineers? I think I remember you…

    Good times… lol

    Sorry, i only just noticed your comment in moderation since I have far too much spam on my site. Need to upgrade to latest version of WordPress

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