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Toshiba Satellite 1805-S253

Unwrapping the Laptop

The plastic wrap contained a warning that opening it indicated acceptance of the supplied license agreements. After nearly half an hour of searching, I found a slip of paper containing numerous unacceptable prohibitions (e.g. no reverse engineering, no development of derivative product, etc.) I use GNU/Linux largely for the sake of freedom, and these were requirements that I might actually want to violate. After a careful reading, however, I found the phrase "If you do not agree to these terms, do not use the software." Well, that's fine with me! Sadly, the licenses are non-transferable and Toshiba explicitly refuses to refund for software :(

Installing Linux

Installation was very easy. I put Mandrake 8.0 into the CD drive and turned the system on. I hit F2 to select boot device (otherwise it would read straight from the hard drive, possibly forcing me to "use" WinME. It booted properly from CD and installed smoothly, auto-detecting everything cleanly. Picking packages was easy too on a 15 Gb hard drive :). Throughout the install I noticed that the entire screen wasn't being used, only a large block in the center. This turned out to be a sign of future troubles.

Fixing the Framebuffer

After the install, the whole screen still wasn't being used. I must have spent two hours searching (and breaking) the X configuration before I realized the same problem occurred in text mode. Skipping to the solution, I discovered that the framebuffer was told at boot time to expect an 800x600 screen. This works fine with CRTs, but isn't really compatible with the Satellite's Active Plasma Display. A little investigation on linuxdoc revealed that the solution was to put the line "vga=0x317" into lilo.conf. Then just re-install the bootloader by running the lilo command as root, re-boot the system, and everything worked. I have since discovered that the Mandrake installer includes an option framebuffer size in the lilo configuration. Pick 1024x768x16 and you won't have to deal with all this.

Other installers seem to have more trouble with X setup (which Mandrake handled fine). So, for anyone who wants it, here's my XF86Config file. It's for X3.3.6, using the framebuffer server. I'll get other versions posted soon.

Mouse troubles

I have encountered two distinct mouse problems. The first, which has been observed under other operating systems, is that the cursor will sometimes continue to move slowly after I take my finger off the pencil eraser mouse. It moves where I tell it whenever I put my finger on it, but it's occasionally changed window focus on me this way.

The mre serious bug is one in X4. The mouse pointer is drawn about 20 pixels to the right of the logical hotspot (going offscreen if nessesary). The bug is rare, and its cause is not established. Switching to X3.3.6 solves the problem. I am told (though I haven't had the opportunity to test it) that adding the sw_cursor command to XF86Config file will fix this as well.

Sound

Early 2.4 kernels (or, at least, the 2.4.3-3mdk that shipped with Mandrake 8) are buggy as regards Trident sound cards. The problem has been fixed, and a straightforward kernel upgrade will solve the problem.

Other

I am told that the USB and PCMCIA work fine, but that the DVD may be troublesome, and that the modem is an unsupported winmodem. If you can shed light on any of this (or would like to question or comment about anything), please e-mail me.

Second Opinion
Thinking a second perspective might be useful, here is an e-mail I received from Michael Shafer regarding the closely related 1805-S274.
I just bought the machine about two months back - some specs are

1.1.gh Intell
256 m RAM
20 gb HD (Hitachi I believe)
CD-ROM (burner) / DVD
Intel 8255x NIC
Trident Cyber Aladdin-T (16 vid ram)
Internal stock modem appears to be a WinModem and was troublesome in trying
to get drivers to work with W2k. I scrapped that at installed a 3COM PCMCIA
card which appears to work fine. Just started testing it with Minicom and AT
x commands all appear to be working find.

I removed the stock XP Home Edition and installed W2K Pro w/ SP2 on half the
drive. RH 7.1 (2.4.2) on the other half.
W2k installed first with NTFS. Had to make simple edit to lilo.conf to be
able to boot to W2k. No problem with linux installed above 1024 on hard
drive.

RH install found the Intel NIC just find. Added my hosts file and could ping
and access across my network just fine.

X config broken. Wouldn't work on install and post install attempts have
failed so far. Note this is a weak area for me so some study is needed here.

Will try and get the audio and DVD working later and will let you know then.