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Debian 3.1 "Sarge" on a Compaq Armada 1700 -- Home

Debian 3.1 "Sarge" on a Compaq Armada 1700

Final Update
I am no longer using Linux and will not be maintaining or updating this page.

This page will describe a few of the steps I took while installing and configuring Debian "Sarge" on a Compaq Armada 1700 laptop. For the most part, Linux is compatable with this laptop; there are a few issues involving the cooling fan and the internal modem.

Hardware list
Update and Configure the BIOS
Debian Installation
The Cooling Fan
The Internal Modem
Console mouse (gpm)
IrDA (infrared)
Useful Links

Hardware List

        Compaq Armada 1700:     Model 6300/T/5000/D/M/1 manufactured in 1998        
        CPU:                    Pentium II 300Mhz                                   
        Memory:                 160 Mb                                              
        Display:                14" TFT                                             
        Video chip:             Chips and Technologies 65555                        
        Sound chip:             ESS1869                                             
        Internal modem:         Compaq 56VL Global Internal Modem (Lucent WinModem) 
        PCMCIA/CardBus slots:   Two                                                 
        IrDA (infrared)         works
        USB 1.1 slot:           works
        Floppy drive:           internal                                            
        CD-ROM drive:           internal                                            
        Hard Drive:             upgraded to Hitachi Travelstar Model 4K40 (30 GB)   
        Mouse:                  Synaptics Touchpad (PS/2)  works

Update and Configure the BIOS

Updating the BIOS involved downloading a Windows '.exe' (System ROMPaq) from Compaq. Running this program on Windows creates a boot floppy; this boot floppy automatically updates the BIOS if the current BIOS is older than the update. From the "Software and Drivers" page for the Armada 1700, you can follow the links to the "System ROMPaq" for your specific laptop model number and version of Windows (MS-DOS, Windows 3.x, 95, 98, 2000, NT 3.5, and NT 4.0).

On this computer, Compaq put the BIOS configuration tool on a hidden partition. This had been overwritten by a previous owner installing Windows 2000 and so to change the BIOS settings, I had to download a Windows '.exe' (Computer Setup for Portables) from Compaq which creates a boot floppy. Booting with this brings up a mouse-driven program that allows you to make changes to the BIOS settings. You can use this boot floppy whenever you need to change a BIOS setting. This "Computer Setup for Portables" '.exe' will run on MS-DOS, Windows 3.x, 95, 98, NT 3.5, and NT 4.0.

Debian Installation

The installation was not done in a normal fashion. I already had the boot and root installation floppies for Debian "Woody" as well as a CD-R of the drivers file and basedebs.tar which are used if you aren't installing with official CD's or over the 'Net. This was an early release of "Woody" and was not the same as the "Woody" just prior to the release of "Sarge." An attempt to upgrade directly from "early Woody" to "Sarge" did not work because of a dependency problem involving 'debconf' and some library. Since I already had "early Woody" installtion media, I started by doing a minimal install of "early Woody", then edited /etc/apt/sources.list to point to 'old-stable' (the latest Woody), and ran 'apt-get update' and 'apt-get dist-upgrade'. At this point, I edited /etc/apt/sources.list to point to "stable" and ran 'apt-get update' and 'apt-get dist-upgrade' to end up with a minimal "Sarge" installation. From here I used apt-get to install the remaining packages I wanted. If you need help with the installation process, the Debian installation manual page has links to many language translations in HTML, PDF, and text formats. Unfortunately, at that site, the HTML formats are not available as single files for downloading, so, I have English HTML tar.gz and zip files available.

The Cooling Fan

Security Update
The following section suggests using 2.6.[4-7] kernel source and a third-party fan patch to build a kernel which will run the cooling fan properly. Various security vulnerabilities have been found in the 2.6 kernel; see the Debian security advisory. If that link does not work, you may view a local copy. Debian does not offer security patches for the 2.6.[4-7] kernels so you will need to find them elsewhere. These "security patch hassles" will be on-going with this laptop, and for this reason, I am no longer using Linux.

I do not believe a stock Linux kernel will run the cooling fan properly on this laptop. Various 2.4 and 2.6 kernels from different distros either ran the fan continuously or not at all. The cooling fan is needed, as the laptop hardware will perform a thermal safety shutdown when temperatures rise too high as they did for me under SuSE and the 2.4.18 "Woody" kernel. Luckily, someone has created kernel patches for the 2.6.[4-7] kernels which modify the ACPI code and solve the problem, in my experience. The fan now runs occasionally, changing to a higher speed if needed, just as it does under Windows. There is information concerning ACPI (fan status, temperature, etc.) in the /proc/acpi directory (here is the 'ls -R' of /proc/acpi.) To compile your own kernel, continue with the following:

A nice HOWTO for compiling and installing 2.6-series kernels: Kernel Build HOWTO

Download the kernel source (2.6.x where 'x' is 4,5,6, or 7):

Download the specific patch for the kernel version you are going to use:

Install the "patch" program needed to patch the kernel sources (apt-get install patch)

# mv armada_1700_dsdt_linux-2.6.x.diff.bz2 /usr/src

# bunzip2 /usr/src/armada_1700_dsdt_linux-2.6.x.diff.bz2

# tar zxf linux-2.6.x.tar.gz -C /usr/src

# cd /usr/src/linux-2.6.x/

# make mrproper

# cd /usr/src

# ls

  armada_1700_dsdt_linux-2.6.x.diff       linux-2.6.7/

# patch -p0 < armada_1700_dsdt_linux-2.6.x.diff

# cd linux-2.6.7

# make menuconfig

Configure the kernel to your liking, making sure to visit the following sections:

To include the cooling fan options:

Top level ---> Power Management Options
    Say 'Y' to Power Management Support

Top level ---> Power Management Options ---> ACPI
    Say 'Y' to ACPI Support
    Say 'Y' to Fan
    Say 'Y' to Processor
    Say 'Y' to Thermal Zone
    Say 'Y' to Compaq Armada 1700

Top level ---> Power Management Options ---> APM
    Say 'N' to APM

Necessary for the internal modem (CONFIG_SERIAL_CORE):

    Top level ---> Device Drivers ---> Character Devices ---> Serial Drivers
        Say 'Y' to 8250/16550 and compatable serial support

The sound modules

    Top level ---> Device Drivers ---> Sound
        Say 'Y' or 'M' to Sound card support

        ---> Open Sound System
            say 'Y' or 'M' to Open Sound System
            say 'Y' or 'M' to OSS sound modules
            say 'Y' or 'M' to Verbose initialisation
            say 'Y' or 'M' to 100% Sound Blaster compatibles (SB16/32/64, ESS, Jazz16) support

The IrDA (infrared) modules

    Top level ---> Device Drivers ---> Networking Support
        Say 'Y' or 'M' to IrDA (infrared) subsystem support

        ---> IrDA (infrared) subsystem support
            Say 'Y' or 'M' to IrLan protocol
            Say 'Y' or 'M' to IrNET protocol
            Say 'Y' or 'M' to IrCOMM protocol
            Say 'Y' to Fast RRs (low latency)

            ---> Infrared-port device drivers
                Say 'Y' or 'M' to IrTTY (uses Linux serial driver)
                Say 'Y' or 'M' to IrPORT (IrDA serial driver)

The Internal Modem

This laptop has a Lucent winmodem (56VL Global Internal Modem) and needs two special kernel modules to work with Linux. The source code for these modules (ltmodem-2.6-alk-7a.tar.gz) is made available by the folks at Linmodems. The usual advice from Linmodems is to run a utility called "scanModem" to first identify the modem's chipset, but this only works with PCI-based modems and the modem on this Compaq is ISA-based. Luckily, this modem will work fine with the above modules. There is a very informative README in the source tarball which explains compiling, installing, and using the modules (ltmodem.ko and ltserial.ko). The kernel source or kernel headers of the kernel the 'ltmodem' modules will used with must be present on the system when compiling. After compiling, installing, and inserting the modules, the internal modem can be accessed at /dev/ttyLTM0. To use the modules, the kernel configuration must include "CONFIG_SERIAL_CORE" as shown in the kernel configuration section above.


It was not hard to set up printing although I probably installed more Debian packages than needed for this purpose. I installed the following:


After apt-getting the packages, I used a web browser to access the local CUPS administration page and followed the simple procedure for configuring my printer (Epson Color Photo 700.) It has not always been that easy; previous attempts to set up CUPS under "Woody" failed miserably. I don't know why it worked this time.


Configuring the X Window System proved to be a simple matter. X uses the "chips" driver for the Chips and Technology video chip on this laptop. I accepted the default horizonal sync (28-50) and vertical refresh (43-75) rates which seem to work okay. The Synaptic touchpad works as a PS/2 with 3-button emulation on /dev/psaux. I chose "pc101" as the keyboard type. For reference, here is my XF86Config-4. I also have an xorg.conf if you prefer the "xorg" version of the X window system.

Console mouse (gpm)

For once, 'gpm' and the 'X' mouse get along well together. Here is the 'gpm' configuration file and the relevant section from XF86Config-4.




		Section "InputDevice"
			Identifier	"Mouse0"
			Driver		"mouse"
			Option		"CorePointer"
			Option		"Device"		"/dev/psaux"
			Option		"Protocol"		"IMPS/2"
			Option		"Emulate3Buttons"	"true"
			Option		"ZAxisMapping"		"4 5"


The sound chip, an ESS1869, works fine but setting it up may take some experimentation. You will need the proper kernel sound modules as described above in the kernel compilation section. From what I have read of other 1700 user's experiences at Linux on Laptops and Tuxmobil, set up the sound by running as "root":

    # modprobe   sb   io=0x220   irq=5   dma=1   dma16=5

In an earlier attempt to establish working sound, I managed to change the I/O settings for this chip in the laptop's BIOS (using the above-mentioned "Computer Setup for Portables" BIOS-configuration boot floppy.) I do not recommend this approach ;^). My setup is different because I mistakenly changed the I/O settings. The sound works when I run the following command:

    # modprobe   sb   io=0x230   irq=5   dma=0

In order to load the sound module automatically at boot, I have this in my "/etc/modules":

    # Module for ESS1869 sound chip
    sb   io=0x230  irq=5  dma=0

Of course, you will need to substitute the proper {io irq dma} settings in your "/etc/modules" file.

The Infrared Port (IrDA)

The infrared port works; to use it, do the following:

        ls -l /dev/ir*

		crw-rw----  1 root dialout 161,   0 Jan 29 03:47 /dev/ircomm0
		crw-rw----  1 root dialout 161,   1 Jan 29 03:47 /dev/ircomm1
		crw-rw----  1 root lp      161,  16 Jan 29 03:47 /dev/irlpt0
		crw-rw----  1 root lp      161,  17 Jan 29 03:47 /dev/irlpt1
		crw-rw----  1 root root     10, 187 Jan 29 03:47 /dev/irnet

Useful Links

Official Compaq Links

    Main Entrance Page for Armada 1700 support

        Main Entrance Page for Armada 1700 documentation
        User's Guide PDF format, 5.7 MB
        Maintenance and Service Guide PDF format, 1.1 MB

        Software and Drivers main entrance page for the Armada 1700
        Computer Setup for Portables: BIOS configuration boot floppy -- Armada 1700

Other Compaq Links

    Compaq page: Linux on Laptops
    HP/Compaq page at the Open Directory Project
    The Compaq page at the Tuxmobil website

Official Debian Links

    Debian Home Page
    Debian Reference Manual


    Kernel Build HOWTO: A nice HOWTO for compiling 2.6-series kernels.

Last modified on May 3, 2006

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