Installing SuSE Linux on the Acer 739TLV

JP Mellor

The document describes how I installed SuSE Linux in my new Acer 739TLV. The initial installation is done with version 7.1. Version 7.2 is current, but I don't have it handy yet. I'll probably upgrade in the near future. The upgrade instructions may also make it into this document. I started using it $ \sim$2 years ago when I needed to quickly install a couple of machines from scratch. They had some non-standard hardware and I didn't want compile anything by hand. I chose SuSE Linux because (at least at that time) it was much easier to install than either Debian or Red Hat. Before using SuSE Linux, I maintained a custom linux distribution based on Slackware for the MIT AI lab. Well, here's what I did:

  1. Obtain the SuSE Linux distribution. A shrink wrapped package containing a manual, floppies, and CDROMs can be purchased from Security patches, updates, etc. are also available here. It can also be downloaded free of charge from the SuSE web site and various mirror sites. I like to use sourceforge because they run an rsync server which makes grabbing the entire distribution tree easy. Something like
    rsync -avr .
    will create, in the current directory, a directory name 7.1 which contains the entire distribution tree. If the connection gets interrupted no worry, simply reissue the command and rsync will figure out where it left off and continue from there.

  2. Once you've got the distribution downloaded. Follow the directions in the ``disks'' directory to create a bootdisk and a modules disk. You will need these to boot linux and start the installation process.

  3. If you intend to completely reinstall your hard disk, you can skip this step. Occasionally, I am forced to use MS Windows1 because a few uncooperative people continue to send me word or excel documents. Some of these documents I simply ignore, some I request an open standard version (e.g. pdf, html, ascii), but a few I just have to deal with, so I need a windoze partition on my laptop.

    I definitely don't want to mess around with reinstalling windoze, so I used Partition Magic 6.0 (available for loan from WCC) to repartition my hard disk. Simply boot your laptop with these 2 floppies and resize the existing windoze partition. My laptop has a 30GB drive and I gave windoze 4GB. You don't need to create linux partitions now, these will be created during the linux installation.

    Just in case you're wondering, the windoze partition on my laptop is the only one on any of the machines I regularly use and most of the time I boot it from linux using VMWare which is currently available for $50.

  4. If you have SuSE Linux on CDROMs you can skip this step. If not, you will need to make the distribution accessible to your laptop for installation. You can install from a partition on your hard disk, via NFS, and via FTP. A partition on your harddisk is the easiest, but may pose a chicken and egg problem on how to get it there. You could download it to the windows partition, but this will add about 6GB to the minimum size of the windoze partition. I'll leave this as an exercise for the reader. If you have a fast, reliable Internet connection, you can use ftp to one of the SuSE Linux distribution sites. If you have another machine that can act as an nfs server you can use nfs. For the initial installation, I used nfs. I got a new laptop this year so in Step 1 I downloaded the distribution to /home/suse/7.1 on my old laptop which is also running SuSE Linux and exported the filesystem. You will also need to know the IP address you the ftp or nfs server, the location of the distribution (in my case /home/suse/7.1), the IP address of your machine, and if needed the IP address of your gateway.

  5. Now we're ready to do the installation. Insert the boot floppy into the drive and boot your machine. The boot process should stop when the ``PCMCIA chipset i82365'' is found. Hit ``ok'' to continue. Next you'll get a ``Cannot find the image!'' message. Don't worry about this, simply click ``ok'' to continue. If you have CDROMs insert them and continue to the next step. Otherwise, hit ``ok'' twice to setup you installation source. After a few questions (2) you'll get to the ``main menu''. If you're installing from your hard disk you can hit ``ok'' to start the installation and select the source. If you're using ftp or nfs, select the ``kernel modules'' option and ``load network card modules''. You'll need the modules floppy for this. Select the eepro100 driver. No parameters are required. You should get a couple of messages confirming successful installation of the module. Then, return ``back'' to the main menu and start the installation process. Select ftp or nfs and fill in the required IP addresses and paths.

  6. If everything is okay you should see a ``loading ramdisk'' message and then another menu. Select install linux from scratch. Next, you will need to create a linux partition. The empty disk space that was crated with Partition Magic should be detected. If you're not picky about the layout of your partititions, you can choose the automatic option. It will create a small (8MB) /boot partition for kernels, etc., a single 128MB swap partition, and the remaining free space will go into the root (/) partition. I wanted two swap partitions so my partition table looks like this:
    Partition From To Size Type
    /dev/hda1 1 498 4GB windoze
    /dev/hda2 499 3648 25GB extended
    /dev/hda5 499 499 8MB linux /boot
    /dev/hda6 500 3614 25GB linux /
    /dev/hda7 3615 3631 128MB swap
    /dev/hda8 3632 3648 128MB swap
    After the partitioning is complete, the filesystems will be created. This will take a little while so be patient. If you did the automatic partitioning you can skip the rest of this step. If you manually partitioned your disk, you'll also need to specify the mount points. You'll most likely get a warning about the size of the root partition being greater than 1024 cylinders. That's the reason for the small boot partition below 1024. Add them both (/ and /boot) and cotinue.

  7. Select what you want installed using ``load configuration''. This provides some coarse choices about what is installed. If you're so inclined, you can customize your installation using the other menu options. The disk is big and I didn't what to spend a lot of time sorting through things so I just installed everything. Select ``start installation'' to begin the installation. This will take a very long time. Go eat diner, go to bed, go do something and come back later.

  8. When the installation is done, you will be asked a few questions such as the type and location of your CDROM drive (atapi and /dev/hdc), the type of mouse (imps2), your timezone (EST), network configuration method (dhcp). You will also be asked to setup lilo, the boot loader. Be sure to add entries for both linux and windoze if necessary. After you've answered all the questions, your laptop will reboot and complete the installation. At this point the basic installation is done.

There is a lot of individual configuration that is possible. I'll list the things that I did simply as one data point.

  1. Review the settings in /etc/rc.config. In particular, set START_HTTPD to ``no''. SuSEconfig must be run for these changes to take effect.

  2. In /etc/modules.conf set ``alias char-major-180 usbcore''.

  3. Setup the X server. Run sax2 to setup version 4 of XFree86. You may want to add ``Option "XkbOptions" "ctrl:swapcaps" to the keyboard section to get control and caps lock in the correct places (i.e. to the left of ``a'' and in the bottom left corner respectively).

  4. Create user accounts. There are utilities for doing this, but I prefer to do it by hand. Mostly because I want to clone existing accounts. I do this by cutting-and-pasting entries into /etc/passwd and /etc/shadow and copying the home directories to /home.

  5. Configure sound by running alsaconf.

  6. Turn off everything you can live without in /etc/inetd.conf, especially ftp and telnet.

  7. Change papersize in /etc/texmf/XDvi to ``XDvi*paper: us''.

  8. Move letter papersize definitions to top of list in /etc/texmf/

  9. In /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/app-defaults/Fig set ``Fig.inches: true''.

  10. Change all instances of ``null-buffer-file-name'' in
    /usr/share/xemacs/21.1.14/lisp/os-utils/crypt.el to ``null buffer-file-name'' and byte-compile the file.

  11. In /usr/share/doc/packages/l2h/dot.latex2html-init change $PAPERSIZE to ``letter''.

  12. Get the latest version of openAFS and build it. By default SuSE Linux 7.1 installs the 2.4 sources and headers even if a 2.2 kernel is installed. To build afs for 2.2, you must install the lx_sys22 package. Configure openAFS with ./configure -with-afs-sysname=i386_linux22 and make it. After the build is complete, move i386_linux22/dest/{bin,etc,include,lib} to /usr/afsws and move i386_linux22/dest/root.client/usr/vice to /usr/vice. Create directory /usr/vice/cache. Copy CellServDB, SuidCells, ThisCell, and cacheinfo to /usr/vice/etc. Copy the modified afs.rc. Create symlink from /etc/init.d/afs to /usr/vice/etc/afs.rc. If you want afs to be started everytime you boot, add a start and stop link in /etc/rc3.d. If you need to use klog you might want to add something like:
    if ( "${SHLVL}" <= "1" ) then
       if ( -d /usr/afsws/bin ) set path = ( $path /usr/afsws/bin )
    to /etc/csh.cshrc.

  13. Get kerberose 5 and build it. Configure it with ./configure -enable-shared and make, and make install it. Get krb5.conf and place it in /usr/local/etc. I copied the one from sliderule.

  14. Get afs-krb5 migration package and build it. Actually, you only need aklog in the src directory. Run ./configure -with-afs=/usr/afsws -with-krb5=/usr/local, make aklog, and move it to /usr/local/bin.

  15. In /etc/rc.config.d/apmd.rc.config change APMD_WARN_LEVEL to ``5'',

  16. Install lprng package and grab an /etc/printcap.

  17. The acer has a Lucent win modem. LTModem drivers can be found at Binary
    packages for SuSE Linux drivers can be found at:

  18. Install eazy package. This provides ginstall which is needed to install several packages including opencv.

  19. Install VMWare. Follow the installation instructions from VMWare. I configured VMWare to use a raw disk partition and added myself to the disk group to provide access to the partition. The installation will likely require several reboots of windows within VMWare. When windows within VMWare is stable, install the VMWare tools. Installation of the VMware video driver may have corrupted the native video driver. Down loading it from and reinstalling fixed the problem.

  20. Install xformsd package.

  21. Install a newer version of VM (e.g. 6.94). This is needed because the version included with SuSE Linux 7.1 contains several outdated parts of the imap protocol.

Additional resources can be found at

Remaining question:

  1. Touch pad - getting it to work with a PS/2 mouse and getting a PS/2 mouse to work when plugged in after booting.

  2. FIR port - get it working.

  3. Firewire port on docking station - get it working.

  4. Automatic detection of external monitor and docked.


... Windows1
From here on referred to as windoze

J.P. Mellor