Acer TravelMate 4100WLMi

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Installing Ubuntu 5.04 Hoary Hedgehog on the Acer Travelmate 4100WLMi

started by PaulStimpson

Welcome to my adventures in Linuxing-up my new Acer Travelmate. After several recommendations and because I just couldn't resist any piece of software with a name like Hoary Hedgehog (damn that sounds like a euphamism if I ever heard one!) ;o) I gave up my generally unsatisfactory attempt at getting Fedora Core 3 to work on this laptop and took the plunge with Ubuntu.

What is the Travelmate 4100WLMi?

The Acer Travelmate 4100WLMi is an Intel Centrino based laptop. I bought mine from Tesco (a UK supermarket) because I broke my previous laptop and was desperate to get a new one before leaving the country the next day. It seems to have a slightly cut-down spec (1.5 GHz CPU instead of 1.6, Memory card reader not installed,no bluetooth, Intel Extreme graphics instead of ATI X600) from the regular 4100 and was presumably made down to a price for the shop.

As laptops go it seems well built and fast enough for my everyday office use. Initial tests with Windows and the supplied power management app set to maximum economy put battery life at as much as 6 hours (90 minutes more than claimed in the specs.) At maximum performance the estimated battery life was about 2hrs 30 minutes without the DVD drive running. I am pleased with it.

I should point out however that the internal speakers are very poor. If you want to use the machine as a DVD/movie player I would think about a set of external ones.

System Specifications

'''Item''' '''Specification'''
Processor Intel Pentium-M 715 (1.5 GHz, 400MHz FSB, 2MB L2 cache)
RAM 512MB 333MHz DDR (2x256MB - No free slots)
Chipset Intel Alviso 915GM Centrino
System bus PCI Express (Intel 82801FB)
Video Intel 915GM Extreme (Shared memory - 16MB @ TFT res. - Max 64MB)
Screen 1280x800 WXGA widescreen (16:10) TFT
Wired NIC Broadcom BCM4401 10/100 base-TX
Wireless NIC Intel Prowireless 2200GB
Hard drive Hitachi Travelstar IC25N080ATMR04-0 80GB ATA100 4200RPM 9.5MM
Optical drive Pioneer DVR-K15RA DVD+/-RW burner
Sound Intel 82801FB AC'97 (ICH6) Audio
Modem Intel 82801FB AC'97 (ICH6) Softmodem
USB Intel 82801FB USB 2.0
Keyboard 89-key Windows keyboard plus 4 programmable keys and a button each for bluetooth and wireless kill. I should point out that the keyboard is an ergonomic, curved "smiley" shape. Initially this reduced my typing accuracy since the keys weren't quite where I expected them to be. The key feel is nice though.
Rodent Reported by X to be a Synaptics Touchpad. Also has a 4-way scroll rocker between the mouse buttons
Ports 3x USB 2.0
  1x Infrared (FIR)
  1x VGA for external monitor
  1x PC Card slot (Type II) Texas Instruments
  1x S-video out (NTSC/PAL)
  1x IEEE 1394 port (4-pin small [iLink] connector)
  1x Modem (RJ-11) port
  1x Ethernet (RJ-45) port
  1x speaker/ headphone/ line-out jack
  1x microphone/ line-in jack
Charger/PSU 100-240V in 19V 3.42A out 65W
Power Consumption 65W (OK for airline in-seat power - Airline power adaptor not supplied)

Important notes

You need to go into BIOS setup (Press F2 when the Acer logo comes up as the machine starts) and change the boot order so that the BIOS tries to boot from the CD before the hard drive to get the Ubuntu (or any other) CD to boot.

The Ubuntu installer (and live CD) fail to start if you just put the CD in, boot and press enter; It will say something along the lines of "uncompressing vmlinux. OK. Booting the kernel" then lock up solid. You need to type linux noapic at the boot prompt and then the installer will start fine. If you want to try the Ubuntu live CD you need to type live noapic at the boot prompt.

The system fan does not run after ACPI is enabled leading to a very hot machine. There is no option in the BIOS setup to permanently enable the fan but the Windows installation (Norton Ghost discs rather than real Windows discs - Thumbs down Acer) comes with a program called eManager which has an option to always enable the fan. This seems to set it in the BIOS even though the option isn't in the BIOS setup.

There is a problem with the Acer eRecovery software that comes installed as part of eManager. If the disc is repartitioned for Linux the process Monitor.exe starts spinning and chews up high 90%s of the machine's CPU. This can be worked around by using Windows task manager to kill Monitor.exe after login or by scrubbing the disc and reinstalling Windows from the Acer-supplied recovery disc without replacing the hidden system partition. In this case the eRecovery software doesn't get installed. I also believe you can safely rename the Monitor.exe application so it doesn't run.

Hardware status with vanilla Ubuntu install

'''Item''' '''Does it work?''' '''Comments'''
Processor Yes Speedstep works
Wired LAN Yes  
Optical drive Yes Reads DVDs and CDs fine. Nautilus CD burner wrote and ISO image to a CD out of the box
USB Yes  
IEEE1394 Firewire Yes Installed Kino. Kino could control a Sony DSR-11 deck and capture NTSC DVCAM video out of the box
PCMCIA / Cardbus Yes A PCMCIA wireless card was inserted and it immediately appeared in ifconfig with the correct MAC address
Charger Yes Gnome Battery Charge Monitor 2.10.1 correctly detects when machine is on mains power
Touchpad Yes? Message "Synaptics reset error" appears during boot. Device seems to work fine though. Scroll rocker works (Up/down scroll a window, Left/right make Firefox go Back / Forward
Wireless LAN Mostly Wireless works fine. Wireless kill switch works but does not light up when NIC active
Sound Mostly Output, mic and input work in ALSA but Skype has a problem with the OSS drivers
Keyboard Mostly Euro,Dollar, programmable keys, wireless button and bluetooth button not mapped
Graphics Partially Incorrectly reads resolution of TFT - Works but video BIOS needs to be patched to get it right
Modem Unknown I haven't tried the modem yet as everywhere I work has broadband
TV-out Unknown I will use this feature but have not tested it yet
Infra-red FIR Unknown Not tested yet. My mobile phone has IR but I don't really use it to go online
Battery No Gnome Battery Charge Monitor 2.10.1 is unable to read the charge level in the battery. The battery appears to be a "Smart Battery" that runs on SMBus that is in turn based on I2C. /var/log/mesages is full of errors relating to ACPI not being able to read the battery. For repeated short use on mains the machine will run on the charger without the battery inserted but it is physically unstable on the table as one of the laptop's feet is on the battery. Not sure about ventillation implications.

Fixing things

Software Repositories

'''Important''' - Before continuing you should follow the instructions here to backup your APT repositories list and enable the extra repositories as a number of the items below will require software that is not in the standard "Hoary Restricted" set. After adding the repositories I recommend doing a full update with the reload and update functions of Synaptic Package Manager (Found in the System>Administration menu) or by doing a sudo apt-get update followed by an sudo apt-get upgrade from a terminal. You will get a kernel update as part of this package and should reboot afterwards.

The above upgrade won't upgrade your copy of Mozilla Firefox from 1.0.2 to current. You will need either use Synaptic or apt-get to remove the old copy then reinstall it.


The Intel Extreme 915GM graphics chip is detected by the Ubuntu installer and it correctly writes the /etc/xorg.conf file with modelines for 1280x800 that appear to be appropriate for the built-in panel and no other modelines. Unfortunately the video BIOS fails to report the TFT panel's dimensions as one of the modes available from the card and when X starts however it decides that the most appropriate mode to be in is 1024x768. The resulting video gets mapped onto the TFT and looks wrong because its aspect ratio is incorrect (1280x800 is a widescreen TFT and 1024x768 is a standard screen mode) and the pixels of the mode don't exactly map onto the pixels on the panel. There are also some unfortunate times when bits of windows fall off the screen and can't be accessed.

I was pointed in the direction of a program called 855resolution which rewrites the video BIOS tables of machines with the Intell 855 Centrino chipset and allows the reported modes to be redefined. I was unsure whether 855resolution was suitable for my 915GM card but I located a fork of the project called 915resolution which definitely is. Its website is here I chose the "Debian packages can be found here" link and downloaded 915resolution_0.4-1_i386.deb .I opened a root shell and installed the package with dpkg -i

I ran 915resolution from the command line with no arguments and it displayed the available resolutions reported by the BIOS. I selected a resolution I didn't use (I chose the highest as I can't afford a monitor '''that''' expensive!) and wrote down the mode numbers in each of the bit depths (in my case 3c, 4d and 5c.) 915resolution must change the mode definitions before X starts if X is to correctly read the modes so I decided to run it at boot time. I opened the file /etc/init.d/ with an editor and went to the end. The last line of the file read ": exit 0" before that line I added the following lines to change the resolutions of my chosen modes to 1280x800.

 # Modify video BIOS tables to report correct mode for LCD
 /usr/sbin/915resolution 3c 1280 800
 /usr/sbin/915resolution 4d 1280 800
 /usr/sbin/915resolution 5c 1280 800

I saved the file, logged out and rebooted. The graphics immediately came right.


The sound system is correctly detected and seems to work.

I use the Skype VOIP telephone-over-internet service as they have a Linux client available. It works well and I have used it PC-to-PC and have both outgoing and incoming landline telephone service. It even works behind our company firewall and http-proxy.

Sorry... I went off a half cocked here... The following fixes the problem on my desktop but only makes the situation better on the Acer (if nothing has made a sound for a coupke of seconds Skype works.)

When first installed on this machine Skype starts fine but hangs whenever a call is originated or received (It worked fine on FC3.) Originally I thought this was a networking problem but upon further investigation it became clear it was related to the sound system. The Enlightenment Sound Daemon (esd) runs on Ubuntu and prevents Skype from gaining exclusive access to the sound hardware and Skype just hangs. Audacity also fails to work saying it cannot initialise the audio I/O layer. These problems can be fixed by replacing esd with polypaudio as follows:

  1. Open a terminal
  2. Type sudo apt-get update
  3. Type sudo apt-get install polypaudio
  4. Say "y" to all the questions


I have a general problem with laptop Touchpads of all makes (not just this one). I don't know if I generate static electricity of something but I always get random trackpad taps while I'm typing even though I know I never touched the pad. The effect of this is that suddenly the caret will jump and I will be typing in the wrong place or I will highlight a lump of text by accident and the next key press will wipe it out. ''Hint: Pressing CTRL-Z generally gets the destroyed text back.''

I set out to try and stop these random taps. I prefer to use the mouse buttons and virtually never tap the Touchpad to get a click so I decided that I would be happy if Touchpad tapping was totally disabled. To disable tapping:

  1. Open a terminal
  2. Type sudo bash to become root
  3. Open your favourite editor from that terminal and edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf
  4. Find the InputDevice section that contains Identifier "Synaptics Touchpad"
  5. Add Option "MaxTapTime" "0" at the end of that section as follows:
 Section "InputDevice"
  Identifier  "Synaptics Touchpad"
  Driver   "synaptics"
  Option   "SendCoreEvents"  "true"
  Option   "Device"    "/dev/psaux"
  Option   "Protocol"    "auto-dev"
  Option   "HorizScrollDelta"  "0"
  Option   "MaxTapTime"   "0"

Then save the file and exit the editor. The change will happen and become permanent when you next reboot. If you want to make it happen at once log out, at the username prompt press [CTRL][ALT][Backspace] to restart the X server then log back in as normal.

To be continued...

I would be interested in the ACPI power saving. Does it go into hibernate/standby mode? SteveW ? /7/05

Since I posted the above question I have installed Ubuntu on my Presario 2700 laptop and after a few hiccups hibernate now seems to work pretty well. It is all aon the default out of the box settings. It is the first time it has ever worked on this computer.SteveW 5/9/05

I haven't looked into power management yet as I tend to use my machine as a transportable rather than a laptop. I'm really not knowledgable as to what tools are available and how to go about using it. Here's what I found in the last few minutes. I did notice a "hibernate" option on the Gnome logout dialogue so I pressed it to see what happened. This is what occurred:

  • The hard drive ran for some seconds
  • The screen went out.
  • Both power lights (on the powerswitch and the front edge) and the LED in my USB optical mouse stayed on.
  • All attempts to dab the power switch or sensible keys (space,return) didn't make anything happen.
  • I turned the machine off with a long power press and it started up from cold as normal rather than continuing.

I therefore suspect that either it doesn't work or I need to configure something to make it functional. /proc/acpi/processor/CPU0 does contain various files detailing throttling and CPU states so I do have some hope about the Speedstep.

I took a look in /proc/cpufreq and it contains values that I have read on websites and therefore suspect may be correct:

   minimum CPU frequency - maximum CPU frequency - policy
 CPU 0  600000 kHz ( 40 %) - 1500000 kHz (100 %) - userspace

I decided to try and find out if Speedstep was working. I read around and found out that CPU scaling on Linux is a dynamic thing based on how much work processor has to do rather than Windows' pick-your-rate and stick with it approach. An lsmod revealed that the module speedstep_centrino was loaded. With the machine idle /proc/cpuinfo contained the line cpu MHz : 598.621 so I decided to make it really busy and see what happened. To this end I loaded a 3.25 megapixel digital camera photo into the GIMP, opened the Gnome "System Monitor" so I could see the CPU activity and played until I found a filter that maxed out the processor for some time. I found the "despeckle" filter maxed the CPU for over 5 seconds (long enough to click into an open shell with a waiting cat /proc/cpuinfo command and hit enter) I started the filter and hit return. /proc/cpuinfo now contained cpu MHz : 1496.553 and the bogomips had gone up from 1179 to 2949.

I therefore conclude that Speedstep is working at least in intent :o)

This /proc is a cool place; I haven't looked in here before :o)

Comments please... It would be cool to have a working power management setup and section here.

I tried the same steps as you with similar results. Strangly my slower cpu was set at 800,000 kHz (66.6%) and 1,200,000 (100%). Thanks fo doing the hard work for me. One tip: Try

 watch cat /proc/cpuinfo  SteveW 5/9/05