Debian GNU/Linux on MSI S270 aka Cytron/TCM/Medion/Tchibo MD96100/SAM2000, aka MSI MegaBook, aka MS-1013

Laptop Photo

Apparently there are multiple versions of this laptop with different CPUs and equipment. I got a model sold by the german retailer Tchibo in August 2005, featuring an AMD Sempron CPU (32Bit) and a Ralink WLAN NIC, but no IrDA or Bluetooth.

Most things work without issues, however the following stumbling blocks remain. (Applies to Debian GNU/Linux Sarge (with bits from Sid) and Kernel 2.6.12).

Update 13 Feb 2006: A blog article about s270ctrl.

Update 10 Aug 2006: Another blog article, this time about the kernel port of s270ctrl.

Update 10 Aug 2006, #2: I created a mailing list for Linux on the MSI S270. If you own an S270 you are invited to join!

Update 24 Oct 2006: We've created MegaWiki, a public wiki for collecting all kinds of information on running Linux on laptops manufactured by MSI. You're welcome to join us and edit it!

APIC

Unless noapic is specified on the kernel command line the system clock runs twice as fast as the wall clock. Documented here.

Update 12 Feb 2006: Newer kernels (2.6.15 and up) have the new command line option disable_timer_pin_1. This fixes the system clock problem without the need to disable APIC.

ACPI

During bootup the ACPI subsystem spits out some AML interpreter errors. The kernel command line parameter acpi_fake_ecdt=1 can be used to work around them. I couldn't detect any system behaviour change with that fix, however.

The ACPI DSDT may be disassembled with Intel's AML assembler iasl. Compiling it again doesn't work as is. The fix is simple, but probably completely irrelavant to system behaviour. Contact me for more information.

Update 15 Feb 2006: acpi_fake_ecdt=1 will fix the boot problems but actually breaks the battery status querying. The better fix to make these boot problems go away is to make a BIOS upgrade as described below. (See BIOS)

Sound

snd-atiixp loads without errors, but the internal speakers don't work and the volume of the headphone jack is very low. This is a apparently a known issue. A workaround is running the following command after loading the module:

echo 7a 2090 > /proc/asound/card0/codec97#0/ac97#0-0+regs

(This will work only if ALSA debugging is enabled in the kernel -- CONFIG_SND_DEBUG)

Don't forget to enable the "External Amplifier" switch in the mixer!

Hopefully, a future kernel will contain a driver that patches the AC97 controller automatically without the need of userspace interaction.

Update 12 Feb 2006: Newer kernels (2.6.15 and up) do no longer require the AC97 hack described above, with them sound works flawlessly out-of-the-box.

Wireless LAN

A working driver for the Ralink RT2500 WLAN device is available as Free Software.

VGA

Although the Radeon XPress 200M is officially supported by X.org 6.8.2, it immediately locks up the machine after initializing the graphics mode. A workaround is disabling acceleration (Option "noaccel") in the driver. Unfortunately, this slows down things immensly. A better solution is to use ATI's binary only fglrx driver, which works without hassles but is unfortunately closed source.

Update 12 Feb 2006: To get some versions of fglrx working with newer kernels (2.6.15 and up), you need to apply the patch included in this thread from KernelTrap.

PowerNow!

cpufreq support works without issues. The corresponding module is powernow-k8.

BIOS

Update 12 Feb 2006: I had some issues loading ehci-hcd on kernel 2.6.15 (unhandled IRQs), updating the BIOS to the newest version provided by Medion (V3.70 at the time of writing) fixed this. If you don't have the Tchibo/Medion version of this Laptop you better look for proper BIOS upgrade somewhere at MSI's web site. You might find this HOWTO enlightening which explains how to flash a BIOS without boot floppy. I used the 2.88MB FreeDOS image which had enough space for the bios upgrade.

LCD Brightness Control

Update 13 Feb 2006: I reverse engineered the Windows drivers which may be used to control the LCD brightness. The result is s270ctrl.

Update 10 Aug 2006: I turned s270ctrl into a proper kernel driver which will hopefully be included in the upstream Linux kernel soon.

Special Keys

Update 14 Feb 2006: Not all special keys on the laptop generate scancodes that are known out-of-the-box to Linux. I updated keyfuzz to include a scancode table which enables all 12 special keys I have on my version of the laptop: Mail, WWW, WLAN, Search, Brightness Up, Brightness Down, Volume Down, Volume Up, Mute, Sleep, Power Plug, Power Unplug. (Some of the special keys are just combinations with Fn, the latter two are just events which the hardware likes to map to a key press event.)

PCMCIA/Cardbus

Update 15 Feb 2006: The BIOS doesn't properly initialize all PCI bridges. Due to this the PCMCIA/Cardbus slot will not work. You may work around this by passing pci=assign-busses to the kernel.

Modem

Update 20 Apr 2006: Stanislav Bogatyrev reports that the modem works with sl-modem-daemon and the ALSA drivers. (I haven't tested it myself, though.)

Unresolved Issues

No MMC/SD. Sometimes the screen stays black when booting up the machine. Turning it off and powering it on shortly after fixes this. A working, free graphics driver is still missing.

Links


Lennart Poettering <mzjro (at) 0pointer (dot) net>
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