Debian on the Samsung Series 9 NP900X3B

Mon, 28 May 2012 11:40:28 +0000

There are other guides to getting Linux going on the Samsung Series 9 NP900X3B, but both that I’ve found are for Fedora. Mostly it’s the same in Debian, but here are some of the things I’ve spotted.

Install media

Recent versions of Debian install media images are created as hybrid ISO images, which means you can download them and dd them directly to a USB stick. This is what I did, with the Squeeze netinst image. The computer’s BIOS settings needed changing to look at USB before the internal SSD, but that’s not hard. I deselected all packages which resulted in a very minimal basic install, then added xfce4 and a few essential utilities using apt-get

Networking

The wired network works out of the box.

The wireless networking is courtesy of an Intel 6230 adapter “Intel Corporation Centrino Advanced-N 6230 [8086:0091] (rev 34)” (apparently this also does Bluetooth, but I haven’t tried that yet). This is not supported in Squeeze’s default kernel, but is available in Wheezy. After much swearing at backports I decided to do the apt-get upgrade dance

Touchpad

Touchpad handling worked in Squeeze and partially broke when I upgraded to get working wifi. Pointer movement worked fine, but tapping (for the uninitiated, “tapping” on the touchpad is simulating button presses by briefly touching the pressure-sensitive area instead of the hardware buttons below it) didn’t. On this system tapping is infinitely preferable to the hardware buttons, because it appears impossible to move the pointer while one of the hardware buttons is pressed – this makes window placement pretty tricky. The fix here is

synclient TapButton1=1 
synclient TapButton2=2 
synclient TapButton2=3 
synclient PalmDetect=1

which means you can use one finger to simulate button 1, two fingers simultaneously (note: not double-clicking, as I foolishly initially thought) to simulate button 2, and three for button 3. It also turns on palm detection, so that accidentally brushing the pad as you type won’t send your cursor off into the wild blue yonder.

This affect the current session only. To make it permanent you need to edit files: copy /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/50-synaptics.conf to /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d and add the lines

        Option "TapButton1" "1"
        Option "TapButton2" "2"
        Option "TapButton3" "3"
        Option "PalmDetect" "1"

in the first Section "InputClass" stanza

Suspend and hibernate

I had the same problem with suspend as John Teslade : it appears not to resume but in fact it works perfectly except for the display backlight. However, I had it harder because my Fn-F2 and Fn-F3 keys didn’t do anything. After determining with acpi_listen that Linux is listening to those keys (they send ACPI events video/brightnessdown and video/brightnessup respectively) and is capable of controlling the brightness (try e.g. xrandr --output eDP1 --set BACKLIGHT 1) I decided this must clearly be a 90% solved problem and that the missing link was probably somewhere in the Debian package archive. It was, it was xfce4-power-manager

After that, suspend and hibernate are both usable.

Battery life

Pretty poor right now (looks like about 3 hours), but I’ve just installed laptop-mode-tools which has turned most of the PowerTOP tunables from “Bad” to “Good”, so I will be disappointed if that doesn’t make a significant difference. We’ll see …