Laptops under Linux - Toshiba R100 - Fedora 7

This page relates to the Toshiba R100 running Fedora 7. It covers screen resolution, Palm handheld sync, Samsung Ogg Vorbis connectivity with Amarok (both these are USB issues), and wireless networking.


Laptops used to be a bit of a pain under Linux but things are now much better - however they are still trickier than a desktop. I ran Ubuntu and then Kubuntu (just to try it) on an old Toshiba Portege 7200, which worked fine, though I always ran it on the docking station on mains power, as the batteries were pretty well gone. This machine never went further than Breezy.

More recently I have been running Ubuntu on a Toshiba R100. This was fine until I upgraded from Dapper to Edgy, when a graphics driver problem began to annoy me. So I hunted around recently - had a go with Sabayon but wasn't impressed (awful update support), and tried Mint - based on Ubuntu, and this had the same problem. Eventually I tried Fedora - in the old days I had used Red Hat and it was pretty solid, though in the old days setting up X11 on a desktop was usually a nightmare. I had Fedora 7 and Fedora 8 on freebie DVDs from Linux magazine; the Fedora 8 ground to a halt during install but the Fedora 7 one was fine. This seems to be much more solid; this page is a reference of issues I had to dig out to get everything working as I want it. I hope it may be useful for anyone else wishing to go this route.

Graphics - screen resolution

Fedora 7 ran OK, but "out of the box" the screen resolution was limited to 800x600 and 640x480. It worked fine, just in a smaller rectangle than is ideal on a 1024x768 laptop! There are two useful fixes.

Boot screen resolution

You can change the boot screen resolution from the default 640x480 to 1024x768. Add the parameter "vga=795" to the boot command in the grub configuration file. Can't remember exactly where I got this but the solution is on the Fedora Forum. I edited my /boot/grub/grub.conf and the lines with the kernel details now look like this:

title Fedora (2.6.21-1.3194.fc7)
    root (hd0,0)
    kernel /vmlinuz-2.6.21-1.3194.fc7 ro root=/dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00 rhgb quiet vga=795
    initrd /initrd-2.6.21-1.3194.fc7.img

User screen resolution

To change the setup so that "system-config-display" would have more than 800x600 and 640x480 to offer, I had to edit the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file - back to the old days! By default it had no "Monitor" section and not even any modes in the "Display" subsection for "Screen", so even adding the modes didn't help until I'd set up a screen. These sections now look like this:

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier  "laptopLCD"
    HorizSync   31.5-48.5
    VertRefresh 50-70

Section "Device"
    Identifier  "Videocard0"
    Driver      "trident"

Section "Screen"
    Identifier "Screen0"
    Device     "Videocard0"
    Monitor    "laptopLCD"
    DefaultDepth     24
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     24
        Modes "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"

Again, this is discussed (example link) in the Fedora forums; I think the HorizSync and VertRefresh values could be better (somewhere I read the laptop screen should have 60 for VertRefresh) but these work OK. (These used to be critical for old CRT monitors - the only time I've ever blown one up was when I set the wrong parameters in an xorg.conf!)

USB issues

USB is great but Fedora is very security concious (good!) so a little bit of extra setup is needed.

Sync for a Palm handheld

I have a Palm Tungsten E which is getting a bit battered but still carries my diay and address book stuff. It's useful to sync at home as well as at work, and I'd had no problems with this on Ubuntu - thought I'd try on Fedora. Carsten Clasohm's blog provided the solution - adding a rules file in /etc/udev/rules.d is the answer. By default without this, the usb device only has root permissions - so the normal user can't get at it.

My /etc/udev/rules.d/10-visor.rules looks like:

BUS=="usb", SYSFS{product}=="Palm Handheld*", KERNEL=="ttyUSB[13579]", SYMLINK+="pilot"

Using an Ogg Vorbis player (not an MP3 player!) with Amarok

I have used Amarok for a while now as my music organiser on Linux, so wanted it on the laptop as well as the desktop. It worked fine on the old Toshiba under Ubuntu, providing lovely music into the warm evening air on the terrace of a gîte in the south of France! So I will want it on the R100 for our next holiday.

For a while I've used an iPod shuffle I was given when I moved from my College post - a great gift which has frequently provided music on long car journeys, the only snags being (a) it doesn't tell you what it's playing and (b) you need to be running iTunes to talk to it. I haven't tried this on Linux using Wine, and thought a better solution would be to kill two birds with one stone and get a machine with a little display that could also handle Ogg Vorbis. Some time ago I found that some Samsung machines could do this, which looked promising - and I recently impulse bought a YP-U3J. Sure, it plays Ogg - but the little devil isn't a normal usb pen drive type device, it uses MTP. Some would suggest changing it to UMS, but actually libmtp which supports this protocol is already in Fedora - the only reason I couldn't get it to work in Amarok was the same as for the Palm sync - security! So again you need a rules file in/etc/udev/rules.d as for the Palm; this time the solution came from the Amarok wiki and my /etc/udev/rules.d/libmtp.rules looks like:

SUBSYSTEM!="usb_device", ACTION!="add", GOTO="libmtp_rules_end"

#Samsung YP-U3J
SYSFS{idVendor}=="04e8", SYSFS{idProduct}=="507d", SYMLINK+="libmtp-%k", MODE="666"


I only want to use this one device so didn't put all the others in. This works, my music can be transferred nicely into the YP-U3 including the artist / album structure, so I'm very pleased with the device as a Linux accessory.

Wireless Networking

I use Network Manager to handle networking - both eth0 and eth1 are set up so they don't attempt to start on boot. However it took a while to get the wireless (WPA) going properly with Fedora 7 - wasn't an issue with Ubuntu :-) once WPA access was enabled - see the parent page to this.

I tried lots of stuff, there are loads of fairly recent discussions (example) on this on the forum, easily Googled - however using /sbin/ifconfig -a and /sbin/iwconfig and /sbin/iwlist scan suggested that the interface was in fact working - lots of local access points visible (I live in a city). In fact, when I first set up Fedora it managed to access the network through someone else's access point! This for me is not desirable - which is why I have my own access point set so it doesn't broadcast the SSID. This worked fine with Ubuntu as I noted (and W*ndows). As part of testing I re-enabled SSID broadcast, and the wireless access fired up fine. Hmmm. Not as secure as I would prefer even with WPA - I like to be invisible - so will need to investigate further. However at least I have a workaround for when I need the laptop on wireless. Wired was never a problem - network manager just works.

This is a known problem - turning off SSID just turns off the beacon of course, the access point needs to be able to respond to make a connection. The guru comment at the end (#15, 30Jan05) suggests that turning off the beacon does little good anyway! - so maybe I won't push this further.