Debian GNU/Linux (sid) on the HP Omnibook XT 1000

Specification

HP Omnibook XT 1000
  • Mobile Pentium III 733/1133 MHz with SpeedStep Technology
  • 512 MB
  • S3 Savage4 (1024x768 TFT display)
  • DVD/CD
  • PCMCIA
  • 10/100BaseT NIC onboard
  • 3 USB ports (USB serial adapter and USB floppy supplied)
  • 56K modem
  • Infrared port

Kernel

Till February 2004 I have been using the 2.4 kernel, but I decided that the 2.6 kernel is stable enough for me and in fact I am not disappointed. Hardware support for the XT 1000 was already good in 2.4, but it's gotten even better in the 2.6 kernel. Here's my config-2.6.6 in case you want to have a look at it.
(Please note that you should use at least kernel 2.4.22 because from this kernel on the important patches that make ACPI usable on the XT 1000 are integrated into the kernel source and you don't have to patch manually anymore.)

X11

The S3 Savage4/Twister chip sets are supported by the XFree86 servers. I use the 4.3 version which has even accelerated support via the savage driver. I suggest you take a look at http://www.probo.com/timr/savage40.html and decide for yourself whether to install the later Savage module or not. If you experience strange crashes with applications like OpenOffice.org, then you might want to install this module. You can download my XF86Config-4 from here. I'm using this driver for the Synaptics Touchpad. But beware: I'm not responsibe for any loss of data or hardware failure, so have a look at it for yourself before using it.
You may want to install the s3switch package as well so you can switch between LCD, CRT and TV output and so you can choose between NTSC, NTSCJ and PAL signal format (for TV out).

Sound

The sound chip is a VIA 686a which is supported by the kernel drivers, but only 1 second of audio plays and then it loops forever (for kernels before 2.4.22). With the ALSA drivers it works however (I only got the 0.9 version working, not the 0.5 one). For Debian, you need this /etc/alsa/modutils/0.9 (for ALSA 0.9beta12) which should be linked to from /etc/modutils/alsa.
From kernel 2.4.22 onwards you don't even need the ACPI patch for the sound to work. You need to build the via82cxxx_audio.o module then. In order to make the module load automatically, you should add the following line to your /etc/modules.conf (for 2.4 kernels) or to your /lib/modules/modprobe.conf (for 2.6 kernels):
alias sound-slot-0 via82cxxx_audio
With Debian however you shouldn't edit /etc/modules.conf or /lib/modules/modprobe.conf directly, instead place the line inside /etc/modutils/aliases (for 2.4 kernels) or /etc/modprobe.d/aliases (for 2.6 kernels) and run update-modules afterwards.

Network

The onboard RealTek RTL-8139 works without problems with the kernel driver for it. Configure it as module and make sure that 8139too.o is loaded automatically by adding the following line to your /etc/modules.conf:
alias eth0 8139too
With Debian however you shouldn't edit /etc/modules.conf or /lib/modules/modprobe.conf directly, instead place the line inside /etc/modutils/aliases (for 2.4 kernels) or /etc/modprobe.d/aliases (for 2.6 kernels) and run update-modules afterwards.

USB

Configure USB support in your kernel and make sure you install the package hotplug or murasaki. Then everything gets dead easy and you don't have to do anything else. Devices just get recognised if you plug them in. Even devices already plugged in at boot time are correctly recognised and initialized.

Mouse

The internal touchpad is on /dev/psaux (major 10 minor 1) for me and speaks the IMPS/2 protocol (it has a "touch-wheel"). In order to make USB mice work, configure your kernel in a way that input.o, hid.o and mousedev.o are compiled. Then have a look at http://www.linux-usb.org/USB-guide/x194.html which is a good introduction of how to set up the USB mouse. If you're using hotplug or murasaki there are good chances that you don't have to do anything additional at all.

Floppy

The XT 1000 has an external USB floppy. In order to make this work, you have to configure USB support in your kernel (in addition to the obvious core modules you need the usb-storage.o module), but you also have to configure SCSI support in your kernel. In particular, you need the modules scsi_mod.o and sd_mod.o as well (have a look at http://www.linux-usb.org/USB-guide/x498.html as well). Again, if you have hotplug or murasaki then you should not have to set up anything here.

Modem

It's a PCI modem which shows up in lspci as
00:10.0 Communication controller: ESS Technology ES2838/2839 SuperLink Modem (rev 01)
I haven't spent any time in configuring it as I don't need it.

IrDA

It doesn't seem to work in 2.4 kernels. But for 2.6 kernels, you have to enable the via-ircc.o and irda.o modules when building the kernel. Installing irda-utils then makes the infrared port work.

PCMCIA

Not tested yet, as everything I need is included without having to use PCMCIA. But inserting a card into the slot showed the card in cardinfo, so I assume it works. And I have several reports that it's indeed working.

Firewire/IEEE 1394

Due to lack of Firewire devices I cannot comment on this. However I have reports that it works fine with the ieee1394 and ohci1394 modules.

APM

APM is not supported with the XT 1000, use ACPI instead.

ACPI

Use a kernel from 2.4.22 onwards, then everything important for ACPI is already included and you don't have to patch manually.
If you run acpid, here's my /etc/acpi configuration which shuts down the notebook if you press the power button and puts the notebook into sleep mode when closing the display lid (turning it back on with the power button). Please note that the configuration files are only suited for Debian and if you have murasaki installed as well. Otherwise you'll have to change the configuration a little bit for yourself.

Console

I configured the kernel to support VESA frame buffer console. Now I supply the parameter vga=791 when booting and get a nice-looking framebuffer console with lots more space on it.

One-Touch keys

The five "One-Touch" keys can be enabled with a small script named "omke" by Pavel Mihaylov or by a kernel patch named "onetouch" by Peter Soos. You can find both at http://sourceforge.net/projects/omke/.
An even nicer variant is to use a kernel module by the same two authors which can be found at the above URL as well. Compile and install the module as documented and then place the following line inside your /etc/modules:
omnibook
If you've installed any of the above, you can use xmodmap to map the generated scan codes onto key codes. The multimedia keys in front of the notebook and on the right side work even without the script. Here's my example ~/.xmodmaprc.
If you even want to experiment with my FVWM configuration, feel free to do so. It makes use of the OneTouch keys mapped with the above ~/.xmodmaprc. For completeness, here are my ~/.xsession and ~/.Xdefaults files so that you can get everything working together.

Bootloading

For bootloading the whole thing I have a three-stages setup. First of all I have installed the package mbr which installs another Master Boot Record (not the Windows one, do you trust it? ;-)). You can do this if you damaged your MBR as well, so you don't have to open the sealed rescue CDs. As I wanted to keep XP on the machine (only for the case that I have to make use of the warranty, so that I can show the supplier what's wrong with the notebook in XP and don't have to hear lame excuses like "That's Linux and we don't support that."), I had to take the way via the NT bootloader. This either loads XP or (by default) starts GRUB which then starts the Linux kernel. Complicated? Yes, but I don't have any maintainance work to do when compiling a new kernel. Due to GRUB nothing has to be changed (unlike LILO).

Problems

When I still used BIOS versions 1.05 and smaller, the notebook had the problem that it turned itself off very rarely when pressing a key on the keyboard. When using the notebook very intensively, this happend once a day for me. The notebook ran days without turning itself off as long as I didn't hit a key on the keyboard. I've got lots of responses from other people who are suffering from the same problem. However, upgrading the BIOS to version 1.09 and then to 1.10 completely solved the problem for me. I didn't experience one single shutdown since I upgraded the BIOS.
Now, my XT 1000 completely broke. It started with some keys not working sometimes (amongst those keys were always G, H, Del and some function keys). Then the touchpad didn't work always. The next thing which failed was the backlight of the TFT. And finally, the XT 1000 crashed during usage. This happened regardless of what OS I was running and whether I was running an OS at all: It once crashed in the GRUB bootloader. In the end, it didn't start anymore at all. It just beeped at you when you wanted to turn it on. I brought it back to the vendor where I bought the XT 1000 and he sent it to HP. After 14 days they returned it but it still didn't work. Again I brought it to the vendor and now, after another 14 days, they told me that HP will replace the motherboard. I now got back my XT 1000 and indeed, it works again.
After some further time, it broke again with the same symptoms as above. As the warrantee was over, I just threw it away. RIP. I know own an IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad T60 which is better in all aspects.

Related pages

Belarus translation of this page

Dominik Meister - Debian GNU/Linux (Woody) on a HP Omnibook XT 1500

Ivan Villanueva - Laptop HP Omnibook xt1000 with Linux (Debian and kernel 2.6.8.1)

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Stefan Bellon (), 28-Apr-2008