As shortly described in the blog post “Short review of my Toshiba Satellite R630” I want to run Linux on my Toshiba Satellite R630. I assume that this short article shall be valid for the Toshiba Portege R705 and R700 too, because the devices are very similar.

My R630 came with Windows 7 Home Premium pre-installed. As far as I could see it has two mounted NTFS partitions:

  • C: [size 149GB] – with the OS and all installed programs on it
  • D: [size 149GB] – which contains the recovery media information

My R630 has a 320GB hard disk, so the the two partitions are using the whole drive.

Because this is my first try to run Linux on the R630 and I was not able to find a lot of information about running openSUSE 11.3 on it. Here are links to the post I found related to Satellite R630/ Portege R700/705:

http://answers.toshiba.com/answers/0293/category/501380/questions.htm?page=11&sort=helpfula

http://www.ciao.de/Toshiba_Portege_R700_13K__Test_8661359 (GERMAN)

http://www.linlap.com/wiki/toshiba+portege+r700-r705

http://forums.computers.toshiba-europe.com/forums/thread.jspa?messageID=221116 (NOT REALLY GOODS NEWS)

http://bill_gates_recomanda.ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1550219 (May be the best link I found so far)

I will post an update in case I find some better links/sites. Or in case you find something helpful please feel free to put it into the comment box or send it to me by e-mail.

First objective of mine was to test openSUSE 11.3 (64 Bit) on it without destroying the pre-installed Windows 7 installation. Therefore I decided to resize the D: partition from 149GB down to 100GB. Around 49 GB shall be enough for testing. Because I want to resize the 2nd partition (D:) I do not need any special tool like GParted. Instead of this I did it with the Storage Media Management from Windows 7. You can find it under “Manage your Computer” (Go to: [START] => Computer (right mouse click) => Manage) as you can see in the screenshot (sorry German, but the positions in the menus shall be the same like at the English Windows versions).

I decided to go for the 64 Bit version because of the 4 GB RAM and in my opinion the difference between 32 Bit and 64 Bit is trivial. The last strong point for an 32 Bit version was the not existing 64 Bit version of Adobe Flash player. But since September 27th there is a working version of Flash player 10.1 which is working on my 64 Bit openSUSE workstation quite well (you can get it from here: http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/flashplayer10.html)

To install openSUSE is used the 64 Bit network installation CD. To be able to install the main distribution via network I connected the R630 notebook via an ethernet cable to the internet and booted the installation from the network install CD. In my case I do like to upgrade to the KDE SC 4.5 release the openSUSE Build service is offering. So I install not the whole bunch of software from the install DVD. Instead I try to keep is small and install a lot of up-to-date packages after the initial installation is done.

Booting up the system from the net-install CD went smooth and YaST started in the GUI version without any issues. The internal NIC was detected by the kernel and I was able to access the internet for installation. As partition layout I followed the recommendation of YaST.

After the installation was done I added the additional repositories for KDE SC 4.5 and installed additional packages like powerTOP. PowerTOP is a great tool to optimize the power management of a notebook under Linux. Therefore after installing KDE SC 4.5 I started powerTOP as user root and implemented all proposals which powerTOP offered and sounded reasonable to me. To implement the proposals is quite easy. You just need to fire up powerTOP and than wait until it makes proposals (at the bottom of the screen) how to save power. You can confirm the proposal by pressing the command key displayed below the proposal.

An other in general good software package to add is “laptop-mode-tools” which offers tools for a more detailed power management.

A special software package for Toshiba notebooks is “fnfx”. With “fnfx” you can enable a lot more FN- and special key functions than currently available in a standard installation. In my standard installation I was able to use the FN-keys for managing the screen brightness and volume but not much more. With the “fnfx” package it is possible to configure action for display switching (LCD => external) and so on. To be able to work with this package the kernel needs to support a specific Toshiba ACPI module which is the case at kernel of openSUSE 11.3. Additional documentation available here: http://fnfx.sourceforge.net/ , http://nixbit.com/cat//utilities/fnfx/ or on the system at /usr/share/doc/packages/fnfx/. Without this package you will not be able to control if Bluetooth or the WLAN module will be on or off. Additional you can setup a lot of hotkeys within KDE. If you use both in combination you will be able to use a lot of the function keys.

After disconnecting the notebook from the ethernet cable I recognized that the internal wireless network card is not supported by the openSUSE kernel by default. But by the fact that Toshiba does not use no-name hardware in their devices they decided to put a wireless module from Broadcom BCM43xxx) into the Satellite R630 14J for which the Packman repository offers a specific kernel driver package. In my case (and I guess in 99% of yours) it is the package “broadcom-wl-kmp-desktop”. Therefore you need to add the Packman repository to YaST/ zypper first. openSUSE does not offer it in the common repository because of the license. After installing the driver and rebooting the laptop the wireless card was available and ready to use via network manager (KNetworkmanager) or ifup.

The next place to got to configure the laptop is the program “synaptiks”. As the name already describes it a little bit it refers to the company Synaptics which is the manufacturer of the touchpad. If you are searching for the program via the KDE menu you have to look for “touchpad”. In this application you can setup all different kind of settings from simple tapping to multitouch (in theory). Multitouch is not supported on Synaptics touchpads yet (see: http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=ODY2Mw). For as a user of openSUSE you have currently two options to get multitouch support: A) Wait until openSUSE 11.4 or B) install one of the new 2.6.36 kernels from the kernel of the day project (http://ftp.suse.com/pub/projects/kernel/kotd/master/). Maybe I will try B at the end of the test to screw up the system. Only to mention it. Synaptics developed an advanced multitouch software suite for Linux in the first half of 2010 but the only give it away to OEMs/ Device manufacturers (http://www.synaptics.com/solutions/technology/gestures/touchpad-linux).

After playing around with openSUSE 11.3 I realized that there are many options which are not really well supported. The mayor issue is the power management. The basic power management is working but by comparing the options the tools from Toshiba are offering to save power it is no mystery why the battery life time will be much shorter as under Windows 7. Under openSUSE 11.3 there is no real option to control the bluetooth or WLAN module via a keyboard short cut. In addition full support for power management of the core i5/7 CPUs will come with the kernel 2.6.36. The brightness control via keyboard short cuts is working out of the box but this stops after waking up the notebook from suspend to dis/ram. What was surprisingly well working was the key to switch between internal LCD and external VGA. Also it looks like that Xorg detected the HDMI port.

If you are interested in getting some more information about current issues and solution of running Linux on the Toshiba Satellite R630/ Portege 700/705 I can really recommend the link to the Ubuntu-Forums I already posted above (http://bill_gates_recomanda.ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1550219).

I decided to stop testing openSUSE 11.3 at this point because it is getting to much into the direction of living with ugly workarounds than being and productive working environment. Regarding Linux on this device it looks like that future/ very up-to-date distributions are a goods options to look at. Therefore I will give the Milestone 2 of openSUSE 11.4 a try and maybe Arch Linux.

In the meanwhile I will try to live with Windows 7 Home Premium in a combination with KDE for Windows and software packages which are available for both operating systems.

Linux openSUSE on Toshiba Satellite R630/ Portege R705
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