Linux on the Acer 361EVi Laptop

Ewen McNeill

Naos Limited

ewen@naos.co.nz

Last updated: 2003/10/14


Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. Hardware
2.1. Summary
2.2. Bundled Software
2.3. lspci -v output
3. Linux Installation and Support
3.1. Installing Debian Linux
3.2. Hardware Support in Linux
3.2.1. Video
3.2.2. Sound
3.2.3. Ethernet
3.2.4. 802.11b Wireless Networking
3.2.5. Modem
3.2.6. PCMCIA support
3.2.7. SmartCard Reader
3.2.8. USB
3.2.9. IEEE-1394 (FireWire)
3.2.10. IRDA
3.2.11. Floppy and DVD-ROM drive
3.2.12. Keyboard
3.2.13. Mouse
3.2.14. Power Management
4. Other Useful Information

1. Introduction

The Acer 361EVi laptop is a light (1.8Kg) laptop first released in March 2002, replacing their Acer 35x line of laptops. (It appears not to be available in New Zealand any longer, hence the "global" URL.) As with the Acer 35x range (351, 352, 353), the laptop is a single spindle design (only the hard drive is internal), and comes with an external unit with a floppy drive and DVD-ROM drive (the Acer 35x range came with an external floppy/CD-ROM unit). The ability to detach these items (floppy, DVD-ROM drive) and leave them behind contributes to the light weight of the base system. The Acer 361EVi has a fairly good battery life (claimed 3.5 hours, measured 3.25 hours), which is an improvement over the Acer 35x range.

It has a good range of communication options, including built in wired and wireless networking, USB, Firewire, and serial and parallel ports (available on the port replicator, and via a small "Y" cable that plugs into the port replicator socket). There is also a built in AMR (Audio Modem Riser) modem, but this will work only under Windows.

Linux runs well on the laptop and most of the hardware is supported.

Update: I have now (2003/10/12) had the laptop for over 18 months, and have used it every day in that time period. Overall I've been pleased with the purchase. The only significant niggles are:

The first problem (the keyboard) is largely avoided by using the port replicator and an external keyboard/mouse/monitor (which I always planned to do when I bought the laptop).

As far as I can tell the refresh rate issue won't be solved by upgrading to XFree86 4.3, although it does include much improved i830M video drivers with support for other advanced features. I haven't, yet, tried to do this though. The Intel Extreme Graphics support (a modified video module for XFree86) may avoid this problem. The Xi Graphics LX Server (commercial, US$69-US$129 depending on features required) claims to avoid this problem by doing its own video mode changing (having reverse engineered the process). I haven't tried either, although may try the Xi Graphics server demo at some stage to determine if it is worth buying.

The small hard drive issue was resolved by replacing it with a Hitachi 40GB 5400 drive (model: IC25N040ATCS05-0). The replacement was no more difficult than any other hard drive replacement: put new drive in another machine, partition and format; remove old drive, copy data across to new drive; put new drive in machine, and it all works.

The entries in the PCI routing table for the O2Micro PCMCIA controller incorrectly state that it uses IRQ11 when in fact it uses IRQ10 (this incorrect information is also shown in the lspci output below). This leads to a lockup when the PCMCIA services are activated, unless the incorrect information in the PCI routing table is overridden. It can be overridden with a small patch to the PCMCIA i82365 module that gives precedence to the config file setting over the PCI routing, or a recent (eg, 3.2.5) set of PCMCIA Card Services that include this patch, and a config setting. In particular PCI_OPTS must contain "pci_irq_list=10,10,10". (This was determined experimentally, at great length, and has worked very reliably.)

The remainder of this document has been updated with my experiences of the last year with the hardware. Minor details have simply been changed (eg, where more information is known about the hardware), but other details are marked with "Update" for ease of reference.