Friday 16 May 2008

Yes! OpenSuse 10.3 on my laptop

Yes! Finally I succeeded in getting OpenSuse 10.3 86_64 on my laptop. I think it sounds silly since it's one of those Linux distro's that should install simply and just work. And actually it did but there were some issues that kept me struggling for two weeks and several re-installs (I think I re-installed linux about 5 times the last two weeks). Apparently my Dell Latitude D830 is a very special one ;-).

Since I have this laptop I worked with Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon. And really enjoyed it. However there were also some things that I found not so obvious as expected in Ubuntu:
  1. My soundcard did not work natively. I had to re-install the alsa-drivers and change the mixer settings to get the Front-part of the volume controls under the volume buttons on my laptop.
  2. My Nvidia-card is a Quadro NVS 135M. And apparently due some license-issues the native-propietry driver is not shipped with the distribution. (This also counts for OpenSuse 10.3). So I had to install the propietry driver. Luckily this is very simple in Ubuntu. Just enable it in the propietry driver screen. But changing resulution settings is not so simple. Actually it seems simple with the Screen Resolution in the administration menu. But when I wanted to have another external screen attached to my laptop it is a crime to get the correctl resolution and also get it back to the native resolution of my laptop.
  3. I work extensively with VMWare Server. Ubuntu works with a Debian-based packagemanger for which often no package exist for many commercial software like VMWare. Nowadays it is in the repository but that was the 1.04 version, while the current version 1.0.5 is not yet (that is: two weeks ago it was not). Having it installed it works fine, except for suspend and resume. It is terribly, unworkable, slow. So under Ubuntu: just startup and shutdown your guest, then it works fine.
  4. Ubuntu uses Gnome. And that is a fine windows-manager. But I got a glance at KDE and that has many more shortcuts, richer pop-up menus (right-click), and just looks and feels "opener". Also I missed the "windows active desktop" in Gnome that seems to exist in KDE (I've seem something that suggest those capabilities but did not have it working).
  5. I had the 32 bit version of Gnome. I tried the 64 bit versions of both Ubuntu 7.10 (Gnome) and Kubuntu 8.04 (KDE). But the 7.10 version I could not get started normally (you had to remove the splash screen in the startup otherwise you did not get a "visual"). The Kubuntu 8.0.4 had some other issues. Mainly I could not get the Nvidia propietry driver and VMware Server working properly. I wanted to have the 64 bit because I have a 4 GB laptop and a 32-bit OS just addresses 3.5 GB of it, because of some address-lines that have to be reserved for peripherals.
An (ex-)colleague of mine uses OpenSuse 10.3 86_64 for a while on his D630 laptop with great sattisfaction. He uses OpenSuse for ages, so I figured: then it should be easy to get it working on my laptop. And actually it comes with a nice graphical installer (like Ubuntu 7.10, but unlike Kubuntu 8.04 amd64 which has a character-based one) and all my laptop-hardware is recognised. So Happy? Well then begins the configuration-issues.

Nvidia driver
Like Ubuntu also OpenSuse lacks the propietry driver for Nvidia due to License Issues. To me it seems that they could have put the Nvidia-software repository to the repository list and give the choice to install it for you. Then they could have presented the EULA and let you agree to it. The opensource driver nv works but is very slow. Scrolling with it in a large document or Web-page is not convenient. Luckily on the net are a few sources that explain how to replace the driver.
There is a nice one-click install on Unfortunately I found this one just the second try. The first try I had another source (which I can't remember and see no need to give here). It looked well (just a little less easy: near-one-click install). But something went terribly wrong during a reboot that I did a short while after that. My complete file system messed up unrepairably.

VMWare Server 1.0.5
Works very good. It is fast, also in suspend and resume. Just like I was used to under Windows.
I would like to get my windows-partition booted under VMWare Server. That should be possible, but when I tried I hit some access-right restrictions on the partition.

The wireless drivers that get installed were the ipw3945 drivers. (I have an Intel Pro/Wireless 3945 ABG card). These drivers don't work that good. I just get a connection once in a while and it is then very unstable. There are also iwl drivers (iwlwifi, iwl3945-ucode). Just search on 'iwl' in YaST2. What I had to do was to uncheck/uninstall the ipw3945 modules and make sure that iwlwifi and iwl3945-ucode are installed. Now my wireless work just fine with the iwl-driver. I did not have to couple my wireless to the drivers. It just worked.

NTFS partitions
I have a dual boot machine. There are some things that just only work with windows (my Nokia N73, my Nikon D40+, and Netsupport a remote-desktop tool that they use at Oracle University). Ubuntu natively give read-write-support on ntfs-partions and usb-disks.
But OpenSuse does not. I had to made sure that the ntfs-3g drivers and mount tools were installed. Then I had to change the mount rule in /etc/fstab:
/dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SATA_ST9160823AS_5NK0BXV1-part1 /windows/C ntfs-3g user,users,gid=users 0 0
Also check that /windows/c has the users group and read/write on group level:
chown root:users /windows/C
chmod g+w /windows/C

Suspend to disk
Well this is the only main-thing I have left. It just does not work. I got this error in /var/log/pm-suspend.log:
ERROR: resume partition '/dev/sda5' not active, can not suspend
WARNING: /var/run/pm-utils.inhibit will be created to prevent suspending!
I searched and searched on Google but could not find a proper solution. It seems that I'm the only one in the Linux world that has this...

Well in the end I'm very happy with my OpenSuse install. Although I still would also recommend Ubuntu to others. Both are really fine systems. I think Ubuntu is especially strong for less experienced Linux users, people that just want to have a very stable system or have less up-to-date hardware. It's very easy to install and have in use.
OpenSuse also works very good with some refinements like explained above. KDE is really a pleasure to me.
If you have a good solution for my Suspend problem or know how to have a windows-partion booted under VMWare Server then please give me a comment. Thanks in advance.


Ananth Narayan said...

>ERROR: resume partition '/dev/sda5' not active, can not suspend
>It seems that I'm the only one in the Linux world that has this...

No longer! :). Not that I have a solution to offer. Just in case you figure out the solution, please drop a comment on my blog.

Martien van den Akker said...

Hi Anthroponym,

I did not know where to put an answer on your comment on your blog. So I answer it here. In a more recent blog I explained the solution for me.

For some reason the installer named my internal partiones /dev/sdb1 - /dev/sdb5 but put in the resume parameter of the /boot/grub/menu.lst /dev/sda5. After changing that to /dev/sdb5 it worked for me.

Nice tech trek blog you have. I'm going to revisit that from time to time