Acer Travelmate 4150LCi

(actual model number: DL00)

acer travelmate 4150

[The original Linux installation is described below. Nowadays it's primarily a spare Windows XP machine, but I also I run out-of-the-box Ubuntu still using GRUB as a boot manager, both with zero issues.]

These machines vary considerably from seller to seller. This one was a special and seems to be a fairly standard configuration with 512 Mb RAM; the bluetooth radio was omitted. The system came with Windows™ XP Pro pre-installed, and the 60 Mb disk set up in what appears to be a typical Acer way: small hidden recovery partition; C drive on a primary partition, D drive inside a logical partition, both using FAT not the dreaded NTFS.

USB (4 ports) and IEEE 1394 (one port) devices insert on the fly without a problem, as do the various memory cards accepted by the built-in reader. There is a single PC Card slot. There are no legacy ports. Battery life ihas been excellent. It's big and heavy, but not bad at all.

As a Windows machine it's very good, although the 802.11s/b/g drivers for the Intel Pro 2200 are a little flakey. As it turns out, however, the Acer is a lousy choice for a Linux machine, because of the aforementioned Intel Pro 2200 and the Broadcom 440x, neither of which are supported natively within Debian, and also because of the unusual IDE structure, which had the a primary drive as /dev/hdc. Some of the newest distros (Debian Testing, Ubuntu) also have a problem with the configuration of the SATA drive: the CD boots, but then further installation fails the IDE drivers report no CDROM. Very peculiar, and there are lots of discussions on various Linux boards about the problem.

Curiously, in china, the same hardware is marked with Linux pre-installed: a custom version of Libranet. I was going to try that, but the free version of the distro is in Chineese.

I was able to get the latest Knoppix to boot and run, as long as I disabled framebuffers, and Knoppix even found and used the Intel Pro 2200 wireless. I find Knoppix too slow and klutzy to use on a regular basis, however, and knoppix-installer failed to create a HD installation, either because the script is buggy or because it couldn't deal with the wierd hardware. So I fell back on a Sarge DVD, which found the CD properly and installed a base system successfully, including GRUB as my new boot-loader. I then used an old Linksys 802.11b PC card for networking and changed sources.list to point to 'testing' hoping for usable drivers for the odd hardware. The 'upgrade' to testing went well (once the CD is identified dutring the Sarge install, you're past that problem). 'Testing' installed a spanking new kernel, but the network drivers were still in source-only form. In any event, I'm not the 'testing' type, and besides, there was no and no zed editor, wo wmnd, and so on. Bummer!

So, I re-started with the Sarge DVD and re-installed from scratch, reformatting the Linux partitions completely. Right away I could confirm that the b44 module for the Broadcom sees the adapter, but that's about it. No function. Furthermore, iwconfig sees no wireless extensions for the Intel Pro 2200, and there's no driver at all for that device. So back to the PC card, which I knew was fine.

Everything else works pretty much out of the box. Alsa takes care of sound; I use modconf to add the APCI kernel module, and install my usual sparse windowmaker desktop. I modified the XF86Config-4 file to make the Synaptics driver the main pointer and to make double-taps and dragging work.

I haven't tried printing (which would have to be through a USB port), but I have added a couple of unofficial sources to get realplayer and java. I don't use the modem so there's nothing to report there. I haven't figured out yet if the built-in card reader is working and, if it is, what the device assignments are. All that will come, I suppose, eventually.

Meanwhile, here's some key files and diagnostic output.

Document maintained by rgm at last update: September 25, 2009