Sager NP9820 with SuSE 6.1 (lite)

This is sort of a supplement to the only article on the NP 9820 on the Linux on Laptops web page.

My differences are that I'm using a different Linux distribution, I found a different work-around for XFree86, and my experience with PCMCIA cards was different. The distribution was a SuSE 6.1 promotional CD, not the multi-CD set they sell.

The main news I have is that you don't need to use the framebuffer X-server. While the ATI Rage LT Pro video chipset was not supported by the Mach64 X-server in version 3.3.3 of XFree86, it is supported in version 3.3.5, which is now out. Further, the 3.3.5 server is a drop-in replacement if you have 3.3.3 installed. I got a single file (on the Windows side of my dual-boot machine, as I didn't yet have my PCMCIA ethernet card working in Linux), copied it into /tmp, expanded it, and copied the resultant binary from /tmp/bin/XF86_Mach64 into /usr/X11R6/bin/XF86_Mach64. I was then able to use either XF86Setup or sax, SuSE's X configuration utility, to configure my video.

I still haven't entirely figured out what was going on with my PCMCIA ethernet cards. I have 2, an IBM Home and Away (combined with a 14.4 modem) and a SOHOware NE2000-compatible. I'd thought the single-purpose one would be easier to deal with, and that's what I'd been using at home. I spent much of a weekend trying to get it working, to no avail. Monday I brought my IBM card home from the office, and it worked right off the bat. The next weekend was spent getting the SOHOware card to work with Linux in the Sager. It worked with Windows in the Sager, and when I installed Linux on the Toshiba 420CDS I'd just moved out of, it worked with that. That's using the same distribution of Linux installed from the same CD with the same options (just add PCMCIA to the default install). I installed multiple times just to be sure there wasn't some freak event during the install. It turned out that while the IBM card was working at io=0x300 on the Sager, and the SOHOware card was using that base address in Windows on the Sager and in Linux on the Toshiba, the SOHOware card was trying to use 0x1400 when running Linux on the Sager. Changing a line in /etc/pcmcia/config.opts from
include port 0x100-0x4ff, port 0x1000-0x17ff
by chopping off everything from the comma onward prevented this and got the card working. It may be that I'll run out of address space if I add more PCMCIA cards to my collection. The irony is that if I only owned the IBM card, I'd say getting a PCMCIA ethernet card running is a snap, instead of something that I spent 2 weekends fighting.

I can use 2 cards without adding the statement the article linked above mentions. I've used the SOHO ethernet and a Zip SCSI (seems to be OEM Adaptec) cards at the same time.

I work in an environment where a Microsoft-free machine isn't presently an option. I bought this Sager so I could have Linux as well as Windows on my main machine. Here are my notes on why I chose this particular machine. It has since turned out that one of my major decision factors was invalid - the SciTech X-Server I was depending on being able to use was not yet out of beta, and I couldn't get it installed. While checking out USENET for any advice in this direction, I found out about the 3.3.5 version of XFree86.

The Sager comes with the option of saving the machine state to disk when it goes to sleep, but this requires a separate partition a bit larger than RAM size, and I'm not sure it doesn't depend on a DOS program. I set the CMOS for a simple suspend, and took out that partition. I'm running a Win98 VFAT partition of roughly 3 GB, a Linux swap partition of about 96 MB, and a Linux partition of about 3 GB. I've mainly been running Debian on my assorted desktop machines, but I haven't had good results with PCMCIA with Debian 2.1 (which uses the 2.0 kernel). I expect I'll wipe the present Linux install and try Debian 2.2 when it comes out, perhaps splitting the Linux side into a few more partitions. (Though perhaps I'll decide I like SuSE more ...)

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