SuSE Linux on the Medion MD41100

Last update: April 21, 2004


Summary

The Medion MD41100 (FIC MB05, Cebop CDG) is a low budget Centrino notebook and is a reasonable compromise between equipment and quality on the one hand and price on the other. The hardware can be (almost entirely) expected to work with Linux, although not instantly (with SuSE 9.0). For the time being some additional installation effort is required, but this might well change with future releases of Linux distributions.

General Information

The MD41100 is offered by the German manufacturer/reseller Medion. Medion sells its products online and frequently via the discount supermarket chain Aldi. The output of lspci -v suggests that the notebook was originally manufactured by First International Computers (FIC). Comparing the outer appearance and technical data leads to the conclusion that it belongs to the model series MB05. This hardware is also sold by other companies, e. g. under the brand name Cebop (model CDG).  An extensive test of the hardware can be found here.

Technical Data

This is the fact sheet for the Medion MD41100.  The equipment of MB05 notebooks from other brands may vary.

CPU
Pentium M, 1.4 GHz
Chipset
i855 (Centrino)
Graphics
i855GM, XGA Display (1024x768)
Memory
512 MB
Harddisk
40 GB (Seagate)
Removable Media
Pioneer DVD Multinorm Burner (DVD+-R,+-RW)
Network
Realtek RTL-8139 fast Ethernet adapter,
Intel PRO/Wireless LAN 2100 3B
Touchpad
Alps Apoint 2K
Sound
Intel 82801DB AC'97 Audio Controller
Modem
Intel 82801DB AC'97 Modem Controller
Connectors
3xUSB 2.0, Firewire, 2xCardbus, Serial, Parallel, VGA, PS/2, Line/Mic in, Line out
Battery Life
Approximately 4 hrs.
Weight
2.8 kg

Overall Impression

The hardware makes a good and sturdy impression. The most positive aspects are the display and the agreeable keyboard. The display is bright, has large viewing angles and I was not able to find a pixel error yet! The XGA resolution may not be state of the art any more, but the nowadays often found SXGA+ displays lack support in the i855GM bios, meaning that the native resolution of the display cannot be used with the linux driver (so far)!  To become happy with these displays one needs a notebook with a third party graphics card (e. g. ATI, as in the IBM Thinkpad T40), which can at the moment only be found in high end Centrino hardware.
The most negative aspect is the rather noisy fan (this can be done much better as the IBM Thinkpads show!). Fortunately, its use is only necessary under high load and the Intel speedstep technology allows the Pentium M CPU to be efficiently clocked down otherwise. However, for using these features enabling and configuring ACPI and cpufreq support is mandatory.

Installation of SuSE Linux 9.0

Resizing the primary NTFS partition and installation of Linux worked fine with the SuSE 9.0 DVD. I used the logical volume manager for all partitions including root. ACPI support did not work out of the box with the SuSE 2.4.21-99 standard kernel (ok, I didn't try too hard) and neither did the ndiswrapper, I intended to use for WLAN support. Thus I switched over to the 2.6 kernel series. I compiled the vanilla 2.6.3 with the latest ACPI patches applied. All in all, this might not have been the brightest idea, since the some kernel interfaces have changed and are not compatible anymore with the utilities shipped with SuSE 9.0. This includes LVM (2.6.3 has only v2.x support but SuSE 9.0 still uses v1.x by default) and the hotplug utilities. Fortunately, the LVM2 utilities can be installed from the SuSE distribution, but I was not able to construct a working initrd, so I had to move the root file system out out of the LVM system. Thus, if you intend to use LVM, do not make the root partition part of it. Maybe SuSE 9.1 will take care of this, but by now it is a possible pitfall for a future update! Fixing hotplug was the more nasty thing. In the end, I installed the latest hotplug packages from sourceforge and lost functionality (automatic update of /etc/fstab). Later I found out, that a SuSE version of the 2.6.3 kernel can be downloaded from the SuSE ftp server (or one of its mirrors). This might have been the better choice. Alternatively, it might be wise to install a late 2.4 kernel with the appropriate patches first and switch to the new kernel line later, when a new SuSE release appears with complete 2.6 support.
 

Hardware Compatibility

Graphics Adapter / X11

Graphics and X11 work more or less out of the box (after choosing the appropriate display type, e. g.
"LCD 1024x768@70Hz"). With a color depth of 16bpp 3D support works according to 3Ddiag. However, programs like tuxracer still complain about the missing 3D capabilities (I am not quite sure why, I suspect that the correct agpgart module is not loaded automatically). I experienced some nasty keyboard hangs, when the CPU fan switched on or off while typing. This seems to have changed after switching to the new "kbd" driver. You can find my XF86Config here.

Function Keys

The three additional function keys (labeled with "P1", "P2" and a WLAN symbol), can be made usable under Linux. For this you can execute the following commands
/bin/setkeycodes 6b 120
/bin/setkeycodes 6d 121
/bin/setkeycodes 66 122
before the X server starts.  The keys can now be assigned using xmodmap or the KDE key bindings utility.
The lineakd  can be placed in the KDE autostart folder to execute arbitrary actions upon key pressing (see my /usr/local/etc/lineakkb.def and $HOME/.lineak/lineakd.conf files as an example).

Touchpad

The touchpad is an Alps Apoint2k with four buttons (left/right mouse buttons and up/down scroll buttons).
It works out of the box with the generic PS2 driver (the down button acts as the middle mouse  button). A lot more functionality (like horizontal/vertical edge scrolling) can be gained by installing the synaptics touchpad driver and the appropriate kernel patch. The latest synaptics drivers come with a very useful utility for controlling the properties of the touchpad on the fly. For the configuration options see my XF86Config (still not optimum, sorry). Beware that the evdev.ko module must be loaded before the X server starts. Otherwise it will render the system unusable. Same applies as the wrong event-device is chosen in the XF86Config.

Sound

The soundcard is supported by ALSA. The appropriate module (option CONFIG_SND_INTEL8X0) can be found in the 2.6 kernel tree. However, using a vanilla 2.6.3 kernel and SuSE 9.0 the sound system has to be configured manually (not a big deal, see my moprobe.conf.local). Remember to unmute the audio device ;-).

Modem

The softmodem works fine using the latest Smart Link Soft Modem driver (v2.9.6). Patching the kernel is not necessary, instead one can use the slamr.ko module (see my moprobe.conf.local for details).

Network (LAN/WLAN)

The Realtek RTL-8139 ethernet adapter is well supported by Linux. The Intel PRO 2100 wireless LAN adapter can be but into operation using the ndiswrapper module, which has to be downloaded and compiled separately. This driver supplies the linux interface for windows WLAN driver, which are loaded in addition. For this purpose you have to copy the files w70n51.sys, w70n51.inf and w70n5msg.dll from your windows partition to a place in your linux installation (e. g. /lib/windrivers/). The antenna can be switched on and off using the tool
wlan_radio_averatec_5110hx which is shipped with the ndiswrapper package.

Power management

ACPI power management is supported by the 2.6 kernels and seems to works in general well together with the hardware. However, I experienced instable behavior when using the modem (see below). Beware that most suspend states do not work yet and lead to a system crash when invoked (like S3, "suspend to RAM" after closing the lid). A solution may be software suspend, which allows the contents of the system memory to be saved into swap space before powering off system (included in 2.6 kernels, not tested yet).
The power consumption and thus battery life and fan noise can be efficiently controlled by with the cpufreqd
daemon which sets the CPU into high performance mode when in heavy use, but  switches back into powersave mode otherwise. This behavior can be configured by the user (for details see my /usr/local/etc/cpufreqd.conf).
When the mouse pointer is moved while the fan switches on or off, the mouse/touchpad driver seems to loose some bytes. This may result in arbitrary mouse actions, doing occasionally havoc to the desktop. I have no clue why this happens. When using the modem the system sometimes even crashes when the fan switches on (but  I'm not sure whether this is the cause or the consequence...). I fiddled around with the interrupt handler without much effect. Maybe I'll have to wait for a newer ACPI or smart link modem driver.

CD-Rom/DVD-Burning

With kernel 2.6 ide-scsi should not be used anymore and the kernel options "hdc=ide-scsi hdclun=0" which  are appended by SuSE by default are obsolete (and should therefore be deleted from /etc/lilo.conf). The warnings about cdrdao which k3b issues on startup can be safely ignored (at least with version 0.11.2).

Not Tested Yet

Cardbus support, Firewire, audio input.

Unresolved Problems

Links

The ACPI4Linux homepage
The cpufreqd homepage
The Smart Link modem driver homepage
SuSE Linux


(C) Markus Gruner (me _at_ thp.uni-duisburg.de)

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