Optimal configuration

2010 March 22

Installing Debian Linux on a Samsung N220

Filed under: linux — Eric Fraga @ 14:34

2010-03-22 Mon

Recently, I had to buy a new laptop for giving presentations. The laptop I ended up with is a Samsung N220, a netbook (although not a netbook as was as these latest netbooks are really the same size as some old laptops I’ve owned in the past…) with a very snazzy skin. I got the red one.

Anyway, this laptop came with an operating system I find no use for, even if it’s now in version 7, so the first thing I did was try the most recent Ubuntu release. I find that this is usually a good test of what is possible with new hardware. In this case, everything seemed to go quite nicely, including sound and being able to suspend to RAM.

However, I prefer having Debian on my systems. For new hardware, it’s usually best to go with the testing version as the drivers will be more up to date. The current testing version is known as squeeze. I downloaded the necessary files and prepared a USB disk using unetbootin. I booted the system after having setup the bios to allow booting from USB.

Almost everything worked out of the box. A few things did not work:

wireless
to get wireless working on my system, I noticed from dmesg that the card was being recognised. The card is a Realtek 8192 and the driver is r8192_pci. However, this driver needs firmware that is not distributed by Debian. I downloaded the firmware from links given in a thread on linuxquestions.org. Placed the files in /usr/local/lib/firmware/, rebooted and everything worked fine.

However, I believe that there may be some problems with the driver which make the wireless not function correctly after suspend to ram, although not always. I’m still investigating this.

screen brightness
the next problem was that the screen was quite dim and the keys for changing the brightness level (see next item) did not work. Some searching on the Web led me to the following magical incantation for setting the brightness:

     setpci -s 00:02.0 F4.B=xx

where xx is the level in hexadecimal with values between 00 (no backlighting) and ff (full light). I find that a value around 60 works quite well.

There is a script for making this easier to use.

hot keys
Most of the blue keys, meant to be used with Fn key, do not work out of the box. Two of them do: the suspend (top left on my keyboard) and the toggle for the touchpad (F10, again on my keyboard). The others do nothing at all. This page describes show to assign keycodes to these special function keys. Once keycodes have been assigned, you can then use whatever system your window or desktop manager of choice provides for binding these keys to desired commands. I use ratpoison which provides a very simple definekey command for this purpose.
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