Running Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 ("Lenny") on the Toshiba Satellite L300-214

The Toshiba Satellite L300 (214) is a good platform to run Linux. I have tested it with Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 ("Lenny") and it works fine for me. There are some issues (see below), but all of them can be resolved pretty straightforward. Please take care to fix the problem with the ACPI first (see below "Step 1"); otherwise the CPU temperature may rise above 80°C, posing a potential risk to your hardware. Also make sure to read the warning at the end of "Step 1" below about high CPU temperatures during the installation process.

Step 1: Fixing ACPI

The L300 ships with Insyde’s "H2O" BIOS which doesn't work very well with Linux by default. The main issue is the fan for CPU cooling, which is turned off by default, kicks in at full power at a CPU temperature around 80°C and stays on full power forever. The spec for the Intel T3400 processor says the CPU is fine up to 100°C, but I wouldn't bet on it. At least the infinite fan at full power is enervating.

So solve the issue, add the kernel parameter acpi_osi="Linux" to the appropriate line in your /boot/grub/menu.lst file. If you use Debian’s default kernel, your boot stanza may look like similar to this:

title		Debian GNU/Linux, kernel 2.6.26-1-amd64
root		(hd0,4)
kernel		/vmlinuz-2.6.26-1-amd64 root=/dev/sda6 ro quiet acpi_osi="Linux"
initrd		/initrd.img-2.6.26-1-amd64

For me this works fine, but your mileage may vary. You are on your own risk! I recommend checking the CPU temperature (e.g. with the acpi -t command) and performing a few stress tests (e.g. bzip2ing large files) under strict monitoring.

Warning: This solution requires an already installed system. During installation, ACPI doesn't seem to work properly and the CPU may get hot. On my machine, the fan turned constantly on during installation and nothing was damaged, but your mileage may vary. To support proper thermal management during the installation process, you may use acpi_osi="Linux" as a boot parameter for the Debian installer (using boot parameters is described here). However, I haven't tested this myself. It may work, or not.

Step 2: Fixing the screen resolution

Xorg wasn't able to handle the shiny new Mobile Intel GMA 4500M chipset and messed up the screen resolution (dropping me to some 1024x768). To solve this, simply add the line Driver "intel" to the section "Device" in your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. This gives you a section that looks similar to this:

Section "Device"
	Identifier      "Configured Video Device"
	Driver          "intel"

Log off to restart Xorg and your resolution should switch to 1280x800.

Step 3: Getting wireless networking (wifi) to work

The L300 has an Atheros AR2425 chipset, which is supported by the madwifi driver under Linux. To install it, you have to activate Debian’s non-free repository (this is described here). Then install the packages madwifi-source, madwifi-tools, module-assistant and build-essential. Fire up a terminal and run the m-a command as root. PREPARE the system and SELECT the madwifi module, then BUILD and INSTALL it.

Reboot and you should be able to see the wireless network via GNOME’s network manager. Voilà!

Final remarks

IMHO the L300 is a fine machine that works well with Debian GNU/Linux 5.0. There are a few issues, but they are easily solved.

Copyright © 2009. Send comments to me. Last update: 04/05/2009 10:12:27

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