The new Acer Aspire Timeline 3810T is pretty nice and I got it at a surprise sale, so it was definitely worth it.
This time around I had – at least partially – done my homework and already knew about some possible hardware issues. Installing Debian wasn’t problem-free, but it was certainly made harder by my stubborn expedition into let’s-try-it-the-stupid-way-land (not unlike my recent run-in with dpkg):
Lenny’s kernel didn’t recognize the network cards and the daily-built installer images didn’t even boot (perhaps related to #541115), so I diligently spent the next couple of hours trying to build my own Frankenstein version of d-i with varied levels of failure. This didn’t accomplish much besides leaving me with a renewed respect for the d-i team.
In the end I gave up looking for ways to complicate things, simply installed a base Lenny system and copied a new kernel package via USB-stick (actually compiled my own 2.6.31-rc5, since 2.6.30 still didn’t correctly support the atl1c Ethernet card: recognized, but non-working).
After that slightly bumpy start, everything went
totally smooth. [UPDATE: I just noticed the internal microphone wasn't working. Adding "option snd-hda-intel model=fujitsu" to modprobe's configurations fixes the issue. It also works with model=eeepc-p901, but the sound quality was worse. I filed a bug on ALSA to support this out-of-the-box in the future.]
As for the IDE vs. AHCI problems reported in the Ubuntu help site, I don’t know if it affects the Lenny installer because I switched to IDE mode before installing and back to AHCI only when 2.6.31 was already running.
My quick overview of the laptop:
- The battery’s really nice: ~6 hours with wireless on, medium brightness and normal usage (including some quick compiling).
- The screen’s also pretty sharp and the size seems to hit my personal sweet spot between too small to use and too big to carry.
- The keyboard seems a bit strange at first, but after a few hours I’ve gotten totally used to it and now I actually find it a positive point. It’s pretty hard to find a nice keyboard on a small(ish) laptop.
- It isn’t a performance machine, but it’s a sensibly quicker and more responsive than all netbooks I’ve tried.
I haven’t tried it very hard, but I didn’t manage to make suspend work. Still haven’t given up on it, though…[UPDATE: suspend works like a charm with the solution found in this bug report]
- Multi-touch support doesn’t feel very usable, but perhaps it’s just hard to master (it could also be lack of tuning on the synclient settings)
- The touchpad buttons are annoyingly a single piece of plastic. That means it’s pretty hard to press both at the same time to use 3rd button emulation (in case multi-touch doesn’t cut it for you).
Even thought the CPU apparently has the VT extension, it seems to be disabled in the BIOS (tested versions 1.04 and 1.10).[UPDATE: as seen in the comments, there are a couple of workarounds][UPDATE #2: BIOS v1.14 seems to enable it.]
- For those whose FOSS principles matter: the wireless LAN requires the non-free iwlwifi firmware.
It may seem like a lot of cons, but I’m pretty happy with it. Perhaps it’s just my frustration with the old laptop making the new one look better, or perhaps it’s just my newgadgetophilia speaking.
Regardless, the final test drive will be next week’s FrOSCon.