A new-new laptop

2009.08.15 19:54 by Leo Antunes - 8 Comments

After more than one problem with the old one and thanks to no small amount of luck, I got a new laptop, just six months after getting the last new laptop.

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.

  1. Hi Leo.

    I also have the same laptop since 2 weeks ago.

    I’ve managed to get multitouch touchpad to work.

    This is my hal preferences:



  2. Oops. Let’s try again:



    Hey José, thanks! I guess you tried pasting the HAL XML and they got filtered out.
    Could you post just the text values?

    My multi-touch is currently working (albeit not very well) with the following:
    SHMConfig=on (not strictly necessary, but apparently some tools still use the old SHM interface)

    I assume your 60 is for EmulateTwoFingerMinZ, which means I’m not the only one who has skinny fingers and had to set this down from the examples I found on the net.

    Did you manage to make pinch movements work? AFAICT that’s not (yet?) supported via emulation. Hopefully we’ll see real multi-touch support for this touchpad soon.


  3. Hi again.

    I think that the programs don’t have support for the pinch movement. But I managed to do two finger vertical and horizontal scroll.

    input.x11_options.SHMConfig On
    input.x11_options.TapButton1 1
    input.x11_options.TapButton2 2
    input.x11_options.EmulateTwoFingerMinZ 60
    input.x11_options.EmulateTwoFingerMinW 6
    input.x11_options.VertTwoFingerScroll 1
    input.x11_options.HorizTwoFingerScroll 1
    input.x11_options.VertEdgeScroll 1


  4. Reporting ALSA bugs in the ALSA BTS might not do what you expect: see the message at the end of this:


  5. Intel VT technology can be enabled with some tweaks in the InsydeH2O EFI. Take a look here:

    Keep in mind that a user in the comments reports that the tweak won’t work if you flash your BIOS to 1.10, so you may have to downgrade your BIOS to 1.08.


    Unfortunately I was too trigger-happy with my BIOS (trauma from my last laptop) and had already done the 1.10 update when I noticed the lack of VT (and downgrades don’t seem to be an option).
    I tried the harder way of actually editing the raw BIOS image as suggested here, but I couldn’t easily find the right offsets and decided to postpone it a bit, since I’m not even using KVM that much and have more pressing matters at hand.
    I do plan on going back to this at some point, though.


    Just for the record: it seems BIOS v1.14 enables VT without need for workarounds (the post has been updated to reflect this). Would be nice if someone could confirm it.