Wednesday, February 13, 2008

openSUSE 10.3: Install problems on Acer Laptop

Last night I ran into some weird problems installing openSUSE 10.3 on a new Acer Aspire laptop - the laptop kept shutting off partway through the install!

The laptop is actually a friend's, and he asked me to "set it up" which means throw openSUSE 10.3 on it, all the updates, a few tweaks and so on. The laptop is an Acer Aspire 7720-6569, which has a mobile Core 2 Duo T5450 at just shy of 1.7 GHz, a big 17" display, 2G of RAM, 160G HDD, blah blah blah. Initially, I was impressed by the light weight (for a physically large laptop), the huge display, and so on. Until you clean up the fonts the display only looks OK but after you fix up the fonts the display is great!

However, partway through the install process (which was insanely fast, estimated 15-20 minutes for a complete install using the KDE desktop), the laptop shut off. I happened to be in another room, so I wasn't exactly sure what happened. Maybe one of the kids did it? Power fluctuation? Then it happened twice more, the last time right in front of me. I had begun to suspect a heat issue, but it wasn't especially warm. For the last boot I made sure to pay attention to the power management system startup and noted that it did not work correctly - apparently the install media has an incomplete or broken power savings subsystem. I posited that, if I could complete an install and reboot that perhaps a new kernel or some bit that isn't on the install media might work better. I managed to get a base system installed and this time the power management stuff worked fine. The laptop did not have another spontaneous shutdown again, over the next 2 days.

What's the upshot of all of this?

  1. I'll be sending a bug report in to Novell. I've had mixed success with bug reports to Novell, but overall good responses. I'll be updating this entry with the relevant bug number later.
  2. Acer's BIOS sucks - there was no diagnostic information (temperature, fan speeds, ways to control them, etc...) and in the absence of O/S control, the BIOS just shuts off the computer instead of, oh, turning on or increasing the fan speeds.

UPDATE:

I noticed last night after only half of an hour off of A/C that the LED switched from green to red. What's up with that? According to the battery applet I had over 2 hours left and the machine was totally idle! Chalk that up to a sub-standard BIOS, I guess.

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