Linux Mint 8 Helena on an Acer 3680-2633

February 25, 2010 at 10:09 pm 1 comment

This blog documents my experience with running Linux Mint 8 Helena on Acer Aspire 3680-2633. Previously, this laptop had been running Linux Mint 5. I decided t reformat all of the drives to ext4 and reinstall from scratch.

Why use Linux Mint?

In my opinion, Linux Mint offers the best out of the box experience out of all of the Linux distros. On just about every other distro, you have to figure out how to add the repository for the restricted formats and load the codec and libraries just to play back dvd and multimedia files. Linux mint will play just about everything. Since it’s based on Ubuntu, you are likely to have your application in a supported package.

Installation experience

According to uname -a, my machine is running kernel 2.6.31-19-generic. The initial kernel version on Linux Mint 8 is 2.6.31-14-generic.

Hardware Component Status under OS Notes
Intel Celeron M520 1.6 Ghz CPU Working Note that there is no frequency or voltage scaling on this Celeron.
Intel 943 GML Video Working Compiz seems to work perfectly.
14 inch LCD Working Brightness function keys works.
Intel 82801G HDA Audio Working Correctly detected headphone and disable speaker.Volume function keys work. For some bizarre reason, you can set your volume control to 150%, which makes the laptop speaker actually audible (this laptop has terrible speakers).Mute function key works.

Pulse audio seems to be working without issues unlike in Linux Mint 5.

2 Gb RAM, DDR2 Working The full 2 Gb ram is available.
Western Digital WD800BEVS 80 Gb SATA Hard Drive Working
Optiarc CD-RW CRX880A Working
Keyboard Working Many of the Hot keys works.
Synaptics Touchpad Working If you use the KDE edition, there is no controls to turn off touchpad tapping.
Marvel 88E8038 PCI-E Ethernet Working
Atheros AR2413 802.11bg Wireless

(Keep in mind that Acer used several different type of wireless, so your hardware may be different)

Working with modifications The default ath5k is unreliable, Attempts to use the latest ath5K from March 1, 2010 failed. Ath5K does work, but transfer rate is less than 1 Mps and randomly drops out.

Linux Mint also allow you to select the windows drivers. However, the windows drivers do not appear to work with WPA.

I have managed to get reliable wireless using Madwifi. I used the Feb 1, 2010 snapshot at http://snapshots.madwifi-project.org/madwifi-0.9.4/.In addition, the gnome network manager is unreliable even under Madwifi. The wireless would disconnect and reconnect once every 10 min or so. You should use synaptic to install wicd, which does not have a disconnect issue.

Note that if the kernel is upgraded through mint update, you will need to get the new kernel header and recompile the driver.

Battery Working
Modem Untested I can see the soft modem driver, but did not test it.
USB Working
TI 5-in-one Card Reader Working Tested only with SD card
TI Cardbus Untested Probably works
Sitecom Bluetooth (third party install) Working This is a USB module that plugs into the Acer 3680’s internal bluetooth connector. Note that this is a third party module.
Laptop Power Management Working Note that Celeron do not have frequency scaling. Sleep and hibernation works properly.
Suspend to RAM Working with Modification Suspends works fine with ath5k. Too bad ath5k doesn’t work with the wireless. Need to add ath_pci to the unload modules list.
Suspend to Disk Working
Multimedia playback Working Note that if you use the 64-bit version of Linux Mint, WMAP audio playback will not work.

Initially, the laptop would mysteriously crash. The screen and control would be frozen and there is no error logs and the caps lock would be blinking indicating a kernel panic. The problems have gone away, I haven’t figure out which of my actions fix this problem. It’s either:

  1. Upgrade from 2.6.31-14-generic to 2.6.31-19-generic kernel through Mint updates.
  2. I minimized my Compiz animation settings.
  3. Change to Madwifi and wicd.

Other Distros

I have also tried the following distro with this machine

  • Fedora 12 – Although previous version of Fedora worked before, this release had numerous problems. During install, I had a mysterious error when it attempted to load the storage. This happened numerous times until it mysteriously went away. There were madwifi and wicd rpm on the http://atrpms.net/dist/f12/madwifi, but neither  rpm  installed properly due to dependency issues.
  • Opensuse 11.2 – Installed without an issue but you’ll need to install madwifi and wicd. Unlike Linux Mint, the soft modem driver is not displayed during install.
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Entry filed under: Laptop, linux, mint.

Which version of Linux Mint 8 Helena should I run? Novell Opensuse 11.2 on Acer 3680-2633

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Marko  |  April 11, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Thank’s for report.I have Mint too on Acer Aspire 5738 series and it works without bigger problems.Only didn’t tried dial-up modem and car reader…

    Report of bad side that I noticed:
    Bluetooh – increase light on screen when I turn it off over function key 🙂
    Touch pad – need system restart or returning from stand-by to get functiona again (if you turn it off over its function key).

    Other function keys work verry well.

    That’s all 😉

    Reply

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