Archive for March, 2010

Novell Opensuse 11.2 on Acer 3680-2633

This blog documents my experience with running Novell Opensuse 11.2  on Acer Aspire 3680-2633. Previously, this laptop had been running Linux Mint 8. I decided to give Opensuse a tried again.

Why Opensuse

Suse used to be one of the most popular distros. It is still popular but its popularity has been eclipsed by Ubuntu. One reason to try Opensuse is that it’s a fairly Gnome / KDE neutral distro. Unlike Ubuntu and Mint, which comes in separate Gnome and KDE editions, Opensuse allow you to install either Gnome and KDE from the same disc.

Opensuse also worked a bit to tweak their desktop and supposedly have better integration with Microsoft stuff. They also have a build service where different developers can share build packages. I used it to get a build of the wicd. My reason for trying Opensuse again was to play around with mono and just plain curiousity since I use Suse a long time ago and was wondering how they improved.

Installation Instructions

According to uname -a, my machine is running kernel Note that I install the Gnome desktop.

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 with slight modifications 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).

You can mute by pressing Fn+F8, but cannot unmute. This is apparently a Gnome configuration issue.

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
Marvel 88E8038 PCI-E Ethernet Working
Atheros AR2413 802.11bg Wireless Working with modifications Connection is only reliable if you install madwifi,which is available as a package, but the package turned out to be unreliable. I ended up building madwifi from source.You’ll also need to use wicd to maintain a steady connection. Wicd is available through the Opensuse build service.
Battery Working
Modem Untested Unlike Linux Mint, no soft modem driver is offered.
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 Was unable to get Totem to work, but was able to install vlc and mplayer and play virtually all of the video formats without issues.

Unlike Fedora 12,  I encountered no strange install errors during installation. Unlike Linux Mint, there were no mysterious kernel panic lockups. Madwifi was also available as a package, which means I didn’t have to compile madwifi. Wicd package was available in Opensuse’s build service, but was more tricky to install than Linux Mint.

If you like Mono, this may be the distribution to use since MonoDevelop is almost always available for Opensuse. However, I was able to easily found the latest MonoDevelop for Ubuntu based distros.

Install instruction

You will need an ethernet connection since your wireless will not be working during the install. One gotta to watch out for is that Opensuse defaults to automatic login. If you don’t like automatic login, you should keep an eye out of the option and uncheck it. The automatic installation option makes the installation faster, but it doesn’t give you an option to set the host name. You can set it later. Another nice touch is that Opensuse automatically detected my “/”, “/home”, and swap partitions on my hard drive.

  1. Install Opensuse 11.2 on the laptop. I used the default options except for partitioning, which I setup with a 3 partition for “/”, “/home”, and swap. When setting up partition, make sure you have a swap that’s at least 2 Gb. The reason is that when you hibernate, it will save the memory to swap and you will need swap space that’s the same size as your RAM or larger. I also make sure that I did not use automatic login. I also disabled UTC because I plan to run windows under Virtualbox. It’s not easy to make windows use UTC time.
  2. Shutdown and hook  the laptop to Ethernet.
  3. Restart the laptop. The Opensuse installer will use the connection to download the rest of the software.
  4. After installation, login, click on YAST and go to Network Settings and set your host name (since I didn’t like the default one set by the installer.
  5. Do a software update.

Opensuse has GUI method of installing madwifi, but it’s faster to copy and paste from the command line. So a lot of the following madwifi install will be using the command line.

Fixing the Unmute issue

When you press Fn+F8, the volume mutes, but pressing the hotkey again does not unmute. According to Novell, this is because they are following Thinkpad convention; this is contrary to the behavior on the other distros. To correct, do the following:

  1. Run Gnome Configuration Editor.
  2. Go to /apps/gnome_settings_daemon/
  3. Set toggle_mute to true (default is false).

Installing MadWifi

As in both Linux Mint 8 and Fedora 12, ath5K is not yet reliable enough for use with the Acer 3680’s Atheros wireless. I encountered massive drop outs and low performance of less than 1 Mb. Based on my previous experience with Linux Mint, the NDISwrapper will not work with WPA authentication. Note that I am using WPA2 with AES.

I originally use the wireless from the repository in using the madwifi madwifi-kmp-desktop. Initially, it worked great, but then would mysteriously stop working completely for several hours. WPA authenication which worked fine before would stopped working. Reboots and removing the battery did not resolve the issue. Eventually the problem will clear on its own only to return again. To resolve the problem, I downloaded the madwifi and installed it.

  1. Download the madwifi to your home directory. I use the following driver:
  2. Extract the archive.
  3. Open a terminal window and become super user.
  4. cd to the madifi directory you extracted and run the following commands:
    zypper install gcc make linux-kernel-headers kernel-desktop-devel
    make clean
    make install
  5. Add a file “50-blacklist-ath_pci.conf” to the /etc/modprobe.d directory with the following lines:
    blacklist ath5k
  6. Add a file “60madwifi” to /etc/pm/config.d and add the following line:

    This will tell the OS to unload ath_pci during suspend, otherwise suspend may fail.

  7. Reboot the computer.

Installing wicd

The Gnome network manager does not work reliably with the madwifi. Every 10 minutes or so, it would drop the wireless connection and then reconnect. Normally, this will not interrupt a download because it recovers before download times out, but it is very annoying to get URL not found when you are web surfing and will disconnect your remote desktop sessions. From my experience with Linux Mint, the KDE network manager has the same problem. There is an alternate network manager call wicd which appears to be entirely stable and do not have the disconnect issue.

Wicd is not available in the standard repository, but it appears that it is available through the Opensuse build service.

Wicd do not co-exists well with Network Manager. After install wicd, the Network Manager should be removed to avoid conflict.

  1. Open a terminal window and become super user.
  2. Enter the following lines:
    zypper -v ar Wicd
    zypper mr -r Wicd
    zypper install wicd
  3. When prompted about the key, enter a and return.
  4. Answer y to install the package.
  5. We need to delete the network manager:
    zypper remove NetworkManager
  6. Answer y to remove the package.
  7. Reboot.
  8. In YAST, Network Configuration. change the network method to “Traditional Method with ifup”. Click on OK.

Install Multimedia

Like most Linux distros, Opensuse comes with no restricted codec support. Fortunately, Opensuse now offers a one-click install. However, part of the installation can be confusing.

  1. Go to
  2. Click on the one-click for your desktop (gnome, kde, etc).
  3. Press OK to use the Yast Meta Package Handler to open the ymp file.
  4. Keep clicking on next until you get a warning asking if you review the changes. Press Yes. You may need to enter your admin password.
  5. When prompted to enter a key, press Import.
  6. At some point, you will receive several prompt stating “There are some conflicts on the transaction that must be solved manually”. The dialog wil list a bunch of packages with a conflict issue. Each package listed will be have several options including options to install, not install, and break dependency. For each package, make sure you select the radio button for install (with vendor change).
  7. Press Apply to do the actual installation.

Unfortunately, after you complete the installation, you’ll find that streaming from your web bowser does not work for a lot of the podcast. Many of the podcast will start playing and then stop with an error. Apparently, the built-in Totem browser plug-in does not work very well. An alternative is the vlc browser plug-in, but that is unacceptable because player has no visual controls, forcing you to navigate by keys. I eventually settle on the using the Gecko Media Player. It should available in the Packman repository that you have setup using the one-click.

  1. You have to had run the one-click for multimedia to add the Packman repository before you start.
  2. Open a terminal, and go to root.
  3. Next you want to remove the totem plug-in and replace it with the Gecko Media Player plug-in. You don’t want to remove totem entirely. The Nautilus file manager uses a Totem plug-in (a different one than the browser plug-in) to generate thumbnails. Remove just the Totem plugin by running the following command:
    zypper remove totem-browser-plugin
  4. Once removed, we can install the Gecko Media player by running:
    zypper install gecko-mediaplayer
  5. This should install both Gnome MPlayer and the Gecko plug-in.
  6. When you first run the Gnome MPlayer, you may get this error:
    Failed to open VDPAU backend cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

    This is caused by Gnome MPlayer attempting to use the default VDPAU for outpput, which does not exists. To fix, open Gnome Mplayer, select Edit->Preference, and enter xv into the video output.

  7. You may need to go into the browser’s preference and Manage Content Plug-in to add set each MIME type to use the new plug-in.

March 9, 2010 at 6:21 pm 14 comments


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