Specs | Installation | Graphics | APM | PCMCIA | Drives | Sound | Ethernet | Modem | Ports | Links

Linux on an HP Omnibook 6000

On May 9, 2000 I installed RedHat Linux 6.2 on an HP Omnibook 6000 laptop, model F2087WT#ABA. At the time this was a very new model. I have used the machine heavily since, and find it to be a great Linux laptop. X windows, APM, PCMCIA, the built-in Ethernet, and sound all work well. Only the internal modem is not supported under Linux.

Omnibook 6000 basic specs

The keyboard is full size and supports, simultaneously, a track point and a Synaptics touchpad (these work fine under Linux). At the time of purchase it was one of the thinnest and lightest laptops available with a 14.1" inch screen. Here is HP's spec sheet.

Linux installation

The machine arrived with two partitions: hda1 was about 550 MB for a hibernation partition, and the rest, hda2 was for Windows 95. After defragging from inside Windows I used FIPS to squeeze the Windows partition to 2 GB. I then booted from the RedHat 6.2 install CD (it is straightforward to set the desired boot device from the BIOS set-up screen), and did a straightforward workstation install in GUI mode. The install script identified the graphics system as generic Mach64, which seemed to work alright, but I changed it to the ATI Mobility and entered the 8 MB of video memory. I also told it that I had a 1024x768 LCD panel. The only difficulty I had during the install was that the floppy drive, which I needed to use to run FIPS, was fussy. Several times the machine refused to recognize that a floppy was in the drive.

Graphics

X windows works flawlessly in 1024x768 resolution with 24 planes. The graphics performance on graphics intensive jobs seems to be better than on my Dell Precision 410 desktop Linux workstation which has a Diamond Viper 770D, nVIDIA TNT2, Video Card with 32MB. Here is my XF86Config file. I am using XFree86 version 3.3.6 from the RedHat 6.2 distribution. David Topper (topper@virginia.edu) reports that XFree86 version 4.0.1 also works flawlessly.

For those interested in running a high-resolution textmode on the console (without X windows), Petr Linke (petr@novicom.cz) sent these instructions: 1. Reconfigure the kernel: in the section "Console driver" turn on "Support for frame buffer devices" and then "ATI Mach64 display support" and "VESA VGA graphics console". Then recompile and install the new kernel. 2. Insert the following lines into /etc/lilo.conf:

vga=792 append="video=ATIMob:xres:1024,yres:768,pixclock:13334,left:144,right:24,upper:29,lower:3,hslen:136,vslen:6,sync:6,depth:8"

Then run lilo and reboot.

Advanced Power Management

For APM, I had to uncomment the line 'CHANGEVT="7"' in /etc/sysconfig/apmd. Otherwise either suspending or hibernating when X windows was running would cause problems. (Suspending would even wedge the machine, requiring a hard reboot.) The indicated change causes the kernel to switch virtual consoles, and so get out of X windows, before suspending or hibernating, and then to return to X after resuming. This completely cures the problem. Currently the sleep button suspends and Fn+F12 hibernates to disk. (This is true for XFree86 3.3.6 and both the 2.2.14-12 and the 2.2.16-3 kernels from the RedHat 6.2 updates directory, without any recompilation.) David Topper (topper@virginia.edu) reports that after upgrading to XFree86 version 4.0.1, the machine responds perfectly to all BIOS APM calls--suspend, hibernate, display off, and disk down--without the need to switch virtual terminals. If you want to have APM automatically invoked by the BIOS, this appears to be the way to go.

PCMCIA

The PCMCIA bays work well. I have used modem, network, and flash memory cards, including hot-swapping, without problems.

Drives

The floppy drive works fine under Linux. The DVD drive works fine under Linux at least for reading standard CD-ROMs.

In February 2001, Christian Worm (cworm@gmx.net) gave the following report on his successful install of Xine software for viewing DVDs (he started from the SuSE 7.0 Linux distribution) with the DVD drive. First, he upgraded XFree86 to version 4.02 using the RPMs from ftp.suse.com. Then he got the ati_xv module from http://www.linuxvideo.org/gatos to enable the XVideo extension for the ATI Graphic Adapter, and copied the tar.gz file to /usr, untarred it, and restarted XFree86 4.02 to install the XVideo extension. Next, he got Xine 3.7 from http://gape.ist.utl.pt/ment00/linuxdvd.html. This is a version where the DECSS plugin is included. Original Xine is from Xine.sourceforge.net, but without the plugin it can't play encrypted DVDs. Xine compiled without problems and found the xv extension. It needs a symlink from /dev/dvd -> /dev/hdc for recognizing and playing DVDs, and you must run "hdparm -d 1 /dev/hdc" (or there will be many dropped frames). He reports having to experiment with the various sound drivers (see the paragraph below) to get one working will with Xine, but was successful with the ALSA driver and Zach Brown's driver (which is incorporated into the 2.4.2 kernel).

Sound

The ESS Maestro 3 sound card is supported by the Linux kernel as of kernel version 2.4.2. Working drivers can be found for use with earlier kernels in several places. Zach Brown's driver (the one used in the kernel) and a mailing list about it can be found here; the ALSA project has a driver; and a commercial driver can be downloaded from the OSS web site. I personally use the OSS driver because when it was released on July 10, 2000, it was the first Linux driver for the Maestro 3. I have used it to play audio, MP3, and MIDI files, to play music CDs on the integral CD player, and to record via the integral microphone, all without problem. I have received reports from satisfied users of all the other drivers as well.

Ethernet

The ethernet functionality of the built-in 3Com 3C556 mini PCI modem/ethernet card is supported by the Linux 2.2.17 kernel. There is also support in the 2.4 kernel series starting with 2.4.0-test7. So a network connection just requires running a cable to the integral 10BaseT port--no PCMCIA card or dongle needed. The 3C556 driver can also be found in the form of a loadable module for use with earlier versions of the kernel or to avoid a recompilation if you're using a kernel compiled without 3C556 support. Further information, modules, and source code for the driver can be found at Fred Maciel's page for the driver. (For a small proviso concerning power management; see here, although I'm not sure how this applies to the latest kernels.)

Modem

The same 3Com mini PC card that hosts the ethernet has a modem. Unfortunately as far as I know this modem does not work under Linux. If you know of any progress towards support of this modem, [an error occurred while processing this directive]. It would be great to be completely free of PCMCIA cards with dongles or XJACK connectors! (In May 2000, a 3Com engineer posted a note asking how much interest there would be in Linux support for the modem from 3Com--see here. Unfortunately, no one seems to be able to raise any response from them.)

External ports

The external ports are

I haven't yet experimented with the USB port, the infrared port, or any kind of docking station, although I wouldn't anticipate problems with these. If anyone has experience with these [an error occurred while processing this directive].

A small problem with rebooting-now fixed

Until version 1.81 of the BIOS was released in April 2002 there was a small quirk with rebooting. Namely attempts to reboot the machine by running the "reboot" command or using various GUIs, resulted in the machine halting and then freezing. To avoid this, it was necessary to halt the machine and then reboot with the sleep button or power switch. This problem goes away with BIOS version 1.81, which is downloadable from the HP customer service drivers and downloads web page.

Other Linux-on-the-Omnibook-6000 web pages


Last modified May 13, 2001 by Douglas N. Arnold