Friday, April 6, 2007

Toshiba Satellite A135-S4427: More Display problems

As nice of a unit as the new laptop seems to be, it has not been without its problems. I bought the computer about two months ago. Just past 30 days of purchase, the LCD back light went dead. After backing up my data I took it back to CompUSA and asked for an exchange. They gladly obliged me (mainly because I had bought their extended warranty). Within 20 minutes, I had a brand-spanking new laptop and was happily on my way.

Fast forward to today, and suddenly in the last twenty-four hours my screen has stated acting...funny. I've been booted into Windows since this morning, and whenever I open my lid, the display flickers in a frighteningly familiar fashion. It's very similar to the way the LCD back light on the last unit started behaving before it went kaput.

Naturally, this has me greatly concerned. It's only just started, and maybe it's just the way that Windows behaves vs. Ubuntu (where I haven't yet seen such a strange behavior). I'm going to watch it closely over the next few days, however. I have a bad feeling this one's on its way out, too.

If this goes, I'm getting something completely different. Should I have a second dud unit, it either speaks poorly for this model of Toshiba or Vista, or some combination thereto.

God I hate hardware...

Sunday, April 1, 2007

New Laptop - Toshiba Satellite A135-S4427

Recently I bought a new laptop, a Toshiba Satellite A135-S4427. It's a decent enough, middle-of-the road computer. It has a dual core Centrino chip, 1 GB of memory, and a 120Gb HD. In all, pretty good for a laptop. :-)

Of course, I had to install Linux on it. I wasn't about to run with Windows Vista as my primary OS. I've been playing with Ubuntu lately, and have been pretty pleased with it. So, I decided to give it a go as a laptop OS.

Unfortunately, I couldn't just wipe Windows. There are still some apps that I need (Quicken foremost among them) so I went dual boot. Compared to previous Windows versions, it wasn't quite so painful a process. The last time I did it, I needed some next-gen Fdisk that could handle resizing existing NTFS partitions. Now, with Vista, Microsoft has finally put in facilities to resize the disk natively.

The install for Ubuntu was a breeze, as is just about everything with that distro. Most things just worked the only exception being (drum roll please...) ACPI. This, however, should not surprise any Linux aficionado whose used a Toshiba laptop. Unfortunately, the Toshiba BIOS tools available for Linux don't work on this model laptop, as it's of of the models using a Pheonix BIOS.

The ACPI support I've got is limited. Hibernation and screen blanking work, but suspend doesn't (the system never quite gets all the way into suspend mode and doesn't come back). The fan seems to work, but I get the sense it's a dumb thermistor switch in the BIOS that is not managed by the OS. I can't read the system temperature, the CPU speed isn't being stepped, and I can't adjust the screen brightness (in fact, none of the special Toshiba function keys work).

I've done some initial investigation into additional packages to deal with the Pheonix BIOS on Linux. The main (only?) one I've found is the Omnibook project. However, the project doesn't seem as well maintained as its sister project.

So, hopefully I'll be able to pursue more research soon and figure out how to make it work. My ambition makes me want to contribute to the Omnibook project, but my expectation says I don't have the requisite experience to write code for kernel modules. :-P