Installing UNIX on the x86-64 Laptop

Status
SUSE x86-64

  • Power Management [Suspend]: Panics kernel
  • Power Management [CPU Speed]: Works
  • Integrated LAN: Works
  • Integrated Modem: Does not work
  • Integrated Wifi: Works!
  • Integrated Memory Card Reader: Does not work
  • USB: Works
  • Firewire: Untested, appears to work
  • Bluetooth: Untested, appears to work
  • Sound: Works with ALSA
  • Video: Works in X and framebuffer
  • DVD/CDWriter: CD Writing works; DVD writing untested
  • VMWare: Does not work


    FreeBSD x86-64

    Not configured yet.


    Mandrake x86

  • Power Management [Suspend]: Does not work
  • Power Management [CPU Speed]: Does not work
  • Integrated LAN: Works
  • Integrated Modem: Works
  • Integrated Wifi: Works
  • Integrated Memory Card Reader: Does not work
  • USB: Works
  • Firewire: Untested, appears to work
  • Bluetooth: Untested, appears to work
  • Sound: Works with ALSA
  • Video: Works in X and framebuffer
  • DVD/CDWriter: CD Writing works; DVD writing untested
  • VMWare: Works


    WinXP x86

    All devices appear to work.



  • Background

    The CPU

    AMD released their Athlon64 in the last half of this year; this is a transition chip using the x86-64 or AMD64 ISA. The Athlon 64 can run a 32-bit kernel with 32-bit userland applications, or a 64-bit kernel with 64-bit and 32-bit userland applications. This means that 32-bit x86 applications will run without modification on either a 32-bit or 64-bit kernel, giving all of the benefits of a 64-bit CPU with none of the porting issues. The Athlon64 boasts features such as a 1 MB L2 cache, and a dual-channel 1.6 GHz replacement for the frontside bus known as HyperTransport.

    The Athlon64 was initially a desktop and server CPU; recently, however, AMD has released a mobile version known as the Athlon64 Mobile. Clock speeds for the mobile version are 3000+ and 3200+, which apparently cover 1.6GHz and 1.8 GHz of real clock speed.


    The Laptop

    At the time of purchase, there were only three options for an x86-64 laptop: the Voodoo Envy, the Hypersonic Aviator, and the Packard Bell Something. The Voodoo gets by far the most coolness points, the Packard Bell the least, with costs scaling appropriotely. The Hypersonic model was chosen since it is based on the same OEM/"whitebox" notebook as the Envy, with several hundred dollars knocked off the price.


    The Operating Systems

    The laptop came with Windows XP pre-installed. Due to the inability of the defrag.exe utility to move all files to the beginning of a partition, and due to the tendency of Windows XP to write files in the middle of an empty 60 GB partition, XP had to be reinstalled in order to trim the partition size down to 5 GB.

    NetBSD gets support for new architectures before any other UNIX; selecting it for install was automatic.

    FreeBSD 5.1 and 5.2beta both support x86-64. This was an unexpected bonus; if the ACPI support works well and there are no driver issues, this will be quite a nice install.

    Linux supports x86-64 with late-model 2.4.2x and 2.6.x kernels. SUSE and Mandrake both provide x86-64 distributions, while Debian [the preferred distro] is working on one. SUSE was chosen due to its reputation and to poor experiences with Mandrake.

    During the course of installation, it was found that many desired features [VMWare, Wifi, Winmodem] were only available in a 32-bit Linux. NetBSD was removed and Mandrake 9.0 [the only 32-bit distro at hand, sadly enough, with a modem for conn] installed. Mandrake 9.0 is an abomination and should be avoided at all costs.



    Specifications
    Dimensions
  • 7.9Lbs
  • 13.1"W x 11.2"D x 1.7"H
  • Battery life 140-200 mins
  • 15.1" SXGA+ Display



    Hardware
  • AMD Athlon64 DTR 3200+ (800MHz FSB)
  • VIA K8T800 + VT8235 chipset
  • 1 GB 400MHz PC3200 DDR RAM
  • ATI Radeon 9600 64MB (max 1400x1050)
  • 60 GB 7200 RPM hard drive
  • National Semi PC887393F-VJG I/O Controller
  • Matshita DVD-RAM UJ-811 2xDVD-R/W
  • Atheros 802.11a+b+g Tri-band Wireless
  • SmartLink V.92 56K Data/Fax Winmodem
  • VIA Rhine VT6103 10/100 Fast Ethernet
  • VIA VT82333 AC'97 Audio Controller
  • VIA VT6307L IEEE 1394 Firewire
  • 4 VIA USB Controllers
  • ENE 4-in-one Memory Card Reader
  • 1 Yenta PCMCIA slot



    Athlon64 Pages
  • AMD x86-64 Architecture Tech Docs
  • AMD64 DevSource
  • AMDZone 64-bit Forum
  • Overclocking the Athlon64 3200+
  • x86-64.org



    Vendor Pages
  • Athlon64 Notebooks
  • Alienware
  • Hypersonic
  • Packard Bell
  • Voodoo



    Reviews
  • Athlon64 3200+ Notebook Review (Anandtech)
  • Athlon64 3200+ Notebook Review (Extreme Tech)
  • Athlon64 3000+ Notebook Review (IXBT)
  • Athlon64 3200+ Notebook Review (Tom's Hardware)
  • Athlon64 3000+ Review (AMDZone)
  • Athlon64 3200+ Review (Nordic Hardware)
  • Athlon64 3200+ Review (PC Stats)



  • Installation
    SUSE x86-64

    No problems.


    FreeBSD x86-64

    No problems with install, though the 5.2 beta iso was missing Perl and X.


    NetBSD x86-64

    Install overwrote MBR even though it was instructed not to.


    WinXP

    No problems.


    Mandrake x86

    Would not boot with the 2.4.19 kernel due to APIC issues. Had to use one of the ALT kernels, a 2.2.19, to boot. This caused serious problems with the installation, since PCMCIA and general laptopness were not detected. NOTE to 32-bit Linux distro users: If the machine locks up and/or the screen locks up during boot, try the "noapic" option or a different install kernel.



    Hardware Support
    The first surprise comes after poking around with cpuinfo, then doing a bit of background research. That Athlon +3200? Yeah, that's got a clock speed of 1.8 GHz. Now the +3200 designation naturally makes one suspicious, but the clock speed should at least be over 2 GHz just for modernity's sake. The real surprise, though, is that the CPU is underclocked to 800 MHz in order to conserve power.


    SUSE x86-64

  • CPU Support:
  • No problems?
  • ACPI Power Management:
  • Does not suspend, sleep, throttle, or really do anything.
  • APM Power Management:
  • Untested -- missing from kernel??
  • Motherboard resources:
  • No problems
  • DVD/CD-Writer:
  • Region encoding not tested DVD playback not tested DVD Writing not tested No problems
  • Display:
  • No problems using SUSE-supplied Radeon driver for X
  • USB:
  • No problems
  • Firewire:
  • No problems
  • Keyboard:
  • Windows keys of course do nothing, and for some reason the extra backslash/pipe key acts as a greater-than lesser-than key.
  • Touchpad:
  • Not detected during install as I was using a USB mouse. Added during post-install configuration with no problems.
  • 4-way scroller:
  • Had to configure manually. Luckily this is easy:
    		# set Left-scroll to act like Left-arrow
    		setkeycodes 5a 105
    		# set Right-scroll to act like Right-arrow
    		setkeycodes 59 106
    		# set Up-scroll to act like Up-arrow
    		setkeycodes 69 103
    		# set Down-scroll to act like Down-arrow
    		setkeycodes 68 108
    		
  • Integrated Network Controller:
  • No problems
  • Integrated Sound Card:
  • Install: worked OK Kernel recompile: unresolved dependencies due to ALSA. Changed kernels to 2.4.23 from kernel.org, compiled w/o alsa, and the OSS drivers seem to work fine, though a mixer module needs to be located and added since dsp0 is currently mute.
  • Integrated WiFi Card:
  • 64-bit binary available
  • Integrated Card Reader:
  • Does not work
  • Integrated Winmodem:
  • Now, did any of us really have any hope for this one? 32-bit binary only


    Mandrake x86

  • CPU Support:
  • Untested
  • ACPI Power Management:
  • Does nothing
  • APM Power Management:
  • Does nothing: no APM device
  • Motherboard resources:
  • Untested
  • DVD/CD-Writer:
  • Untested
  • Display:
  • No problems using Vesa video driver on X
  • USB:
  • No problems
  • Firewire:
  • Untested
  • Keyboard:
  • No problems
  • Touchpad:
  • No problems
  • 4-way scroller:
  • Untested -- see above
  • Integrated Network Controller:
  • No problems
  • Integrated Sound Card:
  • Works only with ALSA, not OSS
  • Integrated WiFi Card:
  • No problems
  • Integrated Card Reader:
  • Does not work
  • Integrated Winmodem:
  • No problems


    FreeBSD x86-64

  • CPU Support:
  • Untested
  • ACPI Power Management:
  • Untested
  • APM Power Management:
  • Untested
  • Motherboard resources:
  • Untested
  • DVD/CD-Writer:
  • Untested
  • Display:
  • Untested
  • USB:
  • Untested
  • Firewire:
  • Untested
  • Keyboard:
  • Untested
  • Touchpad:
  • Untested
  • 4-way scroller:
  • Untested
  • Integrated Network Controller:
  • Untested
  • Integrated Sound Card:
  • Untested
  • Integrated WiFi Card:
  • Untested
  • Integrated Card Reader:
  • Untested
  • Integrated Winmodem:
  • Untested


    NetBSD x86-64

  • CPU Support:
  • Untested
  • ACPI Power Management:
  • Untested
  • APM Power Management:
  • Untested
  • Motherboard resources:
  • Untested
  • DVD/CD-Writer:
  • Untested
  • Display:
  • Untested
  • USB:
  • Untested
  • Firewire:
  • Untested
  • Keyboard:
  • Untested
  • Touchpad:
  • Untested
  • 4-way scroller:
  • Untested
  • Integrated Network Controller:
  • Untested
  • Integrated Sound Card:
  • Untested
  • Integrated WiFi Card:
  • Untested
  • Integrated Card Reader:
  • Untested
  • Integrated Winmodem:
  • Untested


    WinXP

  • CPU Support:
  • No problems
  • ACPI Power Management:
  • Untested
  • APM Power Management:
  • Untested
  • Motherboard resources:
  • No problems
  • DVD/CD-Writer:
  • Region encoding??? DVD/CD Writing not tested No problems
  • Display:
  • No problems
  • USB:
  • No problems
  • Firewire:
  • No problems
  • Keyboard:
  • No problems
  • Touchpad:
  • No problems
  • 4-way scroller:
  • No problems
  • Integrated Network Controller:
  • No problems
  • Integrated Sound Card:
  • No problems
  • Integrated WiFi Card:
  • Drivers as provided do not work
  • Integrated Card Reader:
  • Untested
  • Integrated Winmodem:
  • Untested



  • Applications
    SUSE x86-64

  • Xcdroast
  • Burns CDs just great. Does not burn DVDs...despite SUSE's advert.
  • Xine
  • Refuses to play DVDs ... despite SUSE's advert.
  • Xmms
  • Works fine
  • Open Office
  • Almost flies
  • Mozilla
  • Impressively smooth
  • VMWare
  • Not a prayer -- the kmod code is all heavily x86-specific and will not compile
  • Mplayer
  • Having trouble compiling some of the dependencies due to inline x86 code
  • Epplets
  • Will not compile due to inline x86 code



    Mandrake x86

    Untested


    FreeBSD x86-64

    Untested


    NetBSD x86-64

    Untested


    WinXP

  • WinDVD
  • Plays fine
  • Does Windows come with any apps? ;)


  • Kernel compiling
    SUSE x86-64

  • Many disturbing warnings
  • Had to copy SUSE 2.4 x86-64 includes over the SUSE 2.4 kernel source tree
  • Include files in /usr/include and /usr/src/linux/include did not match the running kernel
  • PCI and PCMCIA Modules that worked when precompiled failed with unresolved symbols after kernel recompile


  • Mandrake x86

  • Had to d/l ncurses library to 'make menuconfig'
  • Had to overwrite Mandrake kernel source
  • Had to update mod-init-utils
  • Had to update pcmcia-cs


  • FreeBSD x86-64

    Untested.


    NetBSD x86-64

    Untested.



    Programming
    SUSE x86-64


    FreeBSD x86-64


    NetBSD x86-64


    WinXP



    Third-Party Drivers
    Linux

  • SmartLink Modem
  • Atheros WiFi
  • ATI Radeon
  • NOTE: to build the Atheros driver, use the following command:

    TARGET=x86_64-elf TOOLPREFIX=/usr/bin/ make
    TARGET=x86_64-elf TOOLPREFIX=/usr/bin/ make install
    


    FreeBSD


    NetBSD


    WinXP



    Config Files
    SUSE x86-64

  • 2.4.23 Kernel Config
  • 2.6.0 Kernel Config
  • 2.6.1 Kernel Config
  • Keyboard Map
  • /etc/modules.conf
  • /etc/sysconfig/kernel
  • /etc/sysconfig/mouse
  • /etc/X11/XF86Config


    FreeBSD x86-64

    No files.


    Mandrake x86

  • 2.4.23 Kernel Config
  • 2.6.0 Kernel Config
  • /etc/modules
  • /etc/modules.conf
  • /etc/sysconfig/mouse
  • /etc/X11/XF86Config-4


    WinXP

    No files.



  • Summary
    Pros

  • 64-bit architecture is very forward-looking
  • Excellent desktop replacement

  • Cons

  • XP appears to run a 32-bit kernel
  • ACPI/Power management is worse than useless in *NIX
  • Inability to use binary-only kernel modules in *NIX
  • !Heavy!

  • Should I buy it?

    This really depends on what you plan to do with the machine, and how much you are prepared to be disappointed. The laptop is nice -- *very* nice, with all of the integrated hardware you could want -- but it is big, and the *NIX support for it is limited to, well, this page at the moment.

    For a Windows user, the question is a no-brainer: 64-bits, all of the hardware works, al of your favorite applications can be installed with no problems. Reviews of the laptop by PC gamers demonstrate awe and joy at the smooth grafics handling, the speed, etc ... in short, for a Windows user, the answer is an unqualified 'yes'.

    For the Linux user, things are in more of a grey area. Yes, this is 64 bits, and the performance obtained will blow away anything the XP users can achieve. Yes, this is cutting edge technology ... a little too cutting edge. Vendors are still getting the bugs out of a mixed 32/64-bit system, and the ACPI implementation brings to light shortcomings in the 2.4.x ACPI code -- shortcomings in the form of kernel general protection faults. So, for the Linux user, be prepared for a lot of work getting this puppy stable and happy.