Linux on Laptop Report

Installing Debian GNU/Linux "Squeeze" on a Novatech V13 743


Novatech are are UK based re-seller and system builder. Their Novatech V13 743 is an ultra-portable laptop that is marketed as "Made in the UK". The underside of the unit clearly states on that it is a Clevo W83T which is "Made in China". I believe Clevo make a nearly complete system and then re-sellers tailor them to their local market. I purchased it in December 2009 without operating system, though it was available with Windows 7 for extra. As of December 2010 it is no longer available from Novatech's web site and shops.

General Hardware Specifications of V13

Hardware Components Status under Linux Notes
ULV Celeron 743 1.3 GHz Works No special procedure required during installation
13.3" 1336x768 TFT display (LED backlight) Works No special procedure required during installation
Intel 4500 Series Graphics Works No special procedure required during installation
2 GiB DDR3 RAM Works No special procedure required during installation
250 GB 2.5" SATA Hard Drive Works No special procedure required during installation
Integrated Gbit Ethernet Works Requires 2.6.32 Kernel or later
Bluetooth 2.1 Untested Drivers loaded, system reports okay
802.11 B, G & N Wireless Works Required manual driver download or 2.6.33 Kernel or later.
3x USB 2.0 ports Works No special procedure required during installation
DE-15/D-sub 15 VGA out Works No special procedure required during installation
HDMI (Type A) Out Works No special procedure required during installation
Sound Blaster Compatible Audio Works No special procedure required during installation
31.08 WH battery Works No special procedure required during installation
1.3 Megapixel Web Cam Works Requires 2.6.33 kernel or later
7-In-1 Multimedia Card Reader Works No special procedure required during installation
ExpressCard/34 slot 2x PCI Express Port (one free) Works WiFi Card is on internal PCI Express Port

This laptop is operating under Kernel version 2.6.32-5-amd64

Basic Installation of Debian GNU/Linux "Squeeze"

  • All my systems at home run Debian GNU/Linux, of which all but one run AMD64 versions. My servers and family systems run Debian stable (Lenny at the time of writing) and my desktop runs Debian testing (currently squeeze). Originally I intended to install Debian stable on the notebook, but as some drivers were missing from stable but available in testing, I upgraded from stable to testing instead.
  • Debian GNU/Linux is freely available from a world wide set of mirrors, for multiple system architectures and in a range of installation media. If you have decent network available at the time of install it's best to use the simple network install CD image and install all other packages on demand over the network. If you are installing without a network, then the DVD images are more complete and allow for a near complete install. All Debian images are designed so that you only need the first disk in the set, to perform the basic install. The disk images can be used to create bootable CD or DVD, bootable USB keys, PXE boot images or as in my case bootable hard disks.
  • The V13 does not have an optical drive of any type and I do not have a USB optical drive. I initially set up a PXE server from which the unit was happy to boot from, however the Debian stable image did not have the correct driver for the built-in Ethernet chip-set, so instead I created a bootable USB hard disk and placed the standard DVD stable image on it. Installation was standard though I did only a minimal install with no GUI. Once I had a running system I copied the kernel from Debian SID/testing onto the unit to bring the network up. I then performed a routine upgrade to Debian testing which the system has been running ever since. The install is a standard KDE desktop system, mostly with Debian defaults.
  • All hardware works perfectly with the vanilla Debian testing installation except the WebCam which requires a newer kernel and Bluetooth which I've not tested so can't comment on. Wireless works but required manual intervention to compile the required driver.
    • Wireless Ethernet uses the Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd RTL8191SEvB Wireless LAN Controller (rev 10). Realtek provide a Linux driver and it has been accepted into the 2.6.33 kernel. To make it work with the 2.6.32 kernel I had to download it from Realtek and build and install it myself. The driver is buggy and on some switches does not auto-negotiate down to a lower speed, instead it shows no link.
    • WebCam uses an Acer, Inc BisonCam, NB Pro which works with a 2.6.26 and later kernels and the Linux UVC driver but apparently there is a bug. With a 2.6.33 kernel or later it should work fine - confirmed to work perfectly with Debian's 3.2.0 kernel.
    • Bluetooth is a Cambridge Silicon Radio, Ltd Bluetooth Dongle (HCI mode) chip-set. The kernel loads a bluetooth module but I've not tested that it does anything.

Now upgraded to Debian 8 "Jessie". Everything still works and the WebCam now works perfectly as expected.

Setting up Additional Features for Debian

  • Suspend to disk works, using the default Debian install though I only used it to test it.
  • Touch pad works with default configuration, including three-button emulation and up/down scroll option.
  • Hardware "Fn" buttons of back-light, sound volume etc work and integrate with KDE4 "out of the box".

Unresolved Issues

  • WebCam needs testing with a more recent kernel
  • HDMI and Bluetooth needs testing to confirm theyit works

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