Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake) on Acer AS3004WLCi

I had installed Dapper Drake on my Acer AS3004WLCi Laptop a few months back. I've been happy with it but there were several things that didn't work. I've been pretty lazy but I think I've finally resolved most, if not all, of them. Here's a run down.

Firstly, what didn't work:

  • After booting up and picking Ubuntu from the grub menu list, a few kernel messages would show up and then there would be a blank screen until X Server started up with the login box. Similar issue when shutting down... didn't see any messages.

  • Same thing for Virtual Terminals... Ctl-Alt-[F1-F6] would bring up a blank screen.

  • Resolution for the 15.4 inch screen would only bring up 640x480, 800x600 and 1024x768 options. No wide-screen 1280x800 resolution.

  • Touchpad scrolling would not work.

  • Suspend/Hibernate would work the first time after booting up, but after resuming there would be a message saying there was a problem and on subsequent attemps would fail. It would look like it's doing something, screen would go blank, then all of a sudden some garbled text would be displayed at the top of a black screen and the screen saver would start up.

  • Wireless would not work. Would not detect the card.

  • Issues with sound... If multiple applications which use sound such as a music player, a flash site and skype were open, things would be very erratic. Skype would give errors like 'Problem with sound device'. Flash based sites like YouTube or Google Video would not have sound etc...

What I did to resolve these issues:

  • Turns out that the blank 'bootup/shutdown screen' and blank virtual terminals are related. When you pick Ubuntu from the grub menu list, it loads up the linux kernel which in turn loads a basic video driver to show the kernel messages. The video driver is considered to be basic and compatible with most screens. If the vga parameter is not passed to the kernel it defaults to vga=normal. It seems it wasn't with my Acer screen. So this needed to be changed. Edit /boot/grub/menu.lst. Add vga=792 to the kernel /boot/vmlinuz-<version> root=<hda> ro quiet splash line.

    HOWTO: Change bootup resolution was really helpful. It goes into further details about the bootup process etc... Also read it to understand the 792 value.

    The kernel uses the same driver for both the 'bootup/shutdown screens' as well as the virtual terminals. The vga parameter fixed both these issues.

  • The touchpad scrolling problem and the screen resolution problem had a common resolution.

    lspci | grep VGA
    VGA compatible controller: Silicon Integrated Systems [SiS] 661/741/760/761 PCI/AGP VGA Display Adapter
    on my Acer laptop.

    So we need a sis driver. Looking at /etc/X11/xorg.conf showed that it was loading the vesa driver. To fix this run
    sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg.

    Go through all the screens and answer the questions. For most, the default will do. When you get to the video screen, pick the sis driver and the desired resolution (1280x800). Make it the default. After this is done restart X-server (Ctl-Alt-Backspace). It should start with the crisp widescreen resolution.

    The Strange screen resolution thread got me the lead on trying dpkg-reconfigure.

    Check this page for some bedtime reading on sis drivers.

    The touchpad scroll started working after going through the reconfigure. I didn't do anything specific. I think I just picked default options for the touchpad/mouse screen.

  • The Suspend/Hibernate issue was related to Wifi not working. Funny how these things are related no? The garbled text that was displayed after a failed suspend became clear after the virtual terminal issue was resolved. It was outputting bcm43xx: Error: Microcode "bcm43xx_microcode5.fw". dmesg showed the same error.

    lspci | grep Wireless
    Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4318 [AirForce One 54g] 802.11g Wireless LAN Controller (rev 02)
    on this Acer laptop.

    So this is the wi-fi driver. After some searching, came upon How to: Broadcom Wireless cards (These How-Tos are amazingly helpful!). I followed the instructions and it seemed to work. iwconfig brings up the wireless network interface information + iwlst <eth> scanning shows the wireless connections available.

    After suspending and resuming, looking at the dmesg output, the errors weren't there anymore.

    Check this page for some insight into the suspend/hibernate process.

  • The sound issues took care of themselves really :) Upgrading the kernel to 2.6.15-27-386 seemed to resolve all of them. Also upgrading to Skype helped.

Most problems have solutions out there. All it needs is a bit of searching/reading/trying.

Lets see how many of these issues are resolved in Egdy Eft which comes out tomorrow!

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