Gussoh at sohtell.se

A short experience guide to the AOpen 1551 Barebone Laptop using Linux Debian and Windows XP


 
AOpen 1551-AW1 Barebone - A 12" Widescreen Laptop.
AOpen product page: http://solution.aopen.com/products/nb/1551-AW1AG1.htm

My Laptop configuration:

Processor: Intel Pentium M Dothan 715, 1.5GHz
HDD: Samsung 2.5" 80.0GB 5400rpm UDMA-100, 8MB Cache, "MP0804H"
Memory: Apacer SO-DIMM DDR-333 512MB
Wireless: Intel PRO/Wireless 2200B/G MiniPCI
CD: AOpen Combo DVD/CD-RW

The AOpen 1551:
Monitor: 12" Widescreen 1280x800
Chipset: Intel 855GME and Intel ICH4-M
Graphics: Chipset-integrated Intel Extreme Graphics 2
Ports: RJ-11 Modem, RJ-45 LAN, S-Video, D-SUB VGA, 2x USB 2.0, CF-reader, PCMCIA-slot, Firewire IEEE 1394, Line-out, Mic-in
Dimensions and weight: Width: 296mm, Depth: 205mm, Height:35mm, My config weights: 1.95KG with Battery
Battery: I can watch a Movie and a little bit more using Linux. That means about 2.5 hours of battery time at a maximum CPU frequenzy of 600MHz. In windows I often miss the end of the movie even though I have disabeled the "hibernate at 10% battery"-setting. Windows seem to use the maximum CPU speed when watching movies. Update: You can use SpeedSwitchXP to fix this (look under links, below).
Update! I've bought the bigger, 4080mAH battery, twice the sice of the regular one. Works good but is a bit big.

Assembly


This is what my package contained.
 

The Barebone
 

Underside, Screws unscrewed for the CPU, MiniPCI and RAM-slot
 

This is what it looks like inside. You can see the CPU-fan to the upper left, the MiniPCI-slot to the upper right and the RAM-slot in the lower left side of the picture.
 

CPU, Pentium M 715
 

CPU, WLan and RAM mounted. I had some problem to get the CPU-cooler tight on the processor. The screws were a bit too long i think.
 

HDD mounted
 

Battery and slot
 

Mounting the keyboard. I never figured out how it was supposed to be fastned. After a day I modified the keyboard plate and used duct tape. Update: Now i know how to do this, read the Dell 700m service manual below!
 

Installing Operating system

This would have been no problem if Itservice would have given me the CD-ROM i bought. I got it two weeks later.
Install Linux over network:
First set up an PXE-service. This is a DHCP-server and an TFTP-server on a server on the network. Set the PXE-service on the server to boot a usable kernel. I used PXELinux to boot the Debian netinstall CD. This was the easy part. Now i got linux to work.
Install Windows XP over network: (How to install windows without CD or floppy)
This is more difficult. I dont own a RIS-server. First i made a fat32-partition on the harddrive using my installed Linux. ("dosfstools" is needed from the apt-archives to use mkfs.vfat) I copied the Windows XP-installation there. Then i used PXELinux and used Memdisk as kernel to boot a Win98-DOS 1.44MB boot-disk. To make the fat32-parition readable by MS-DOS you have to set the partition to "Fat32 LBA", not just "Fat32". This can be found in the cfdisk partition type list.

Linux Issues

There are lots of guides on the Internet on how to use Linux on 855GME-chipset. This is a summary:
X is dependent on vbios to set avalable video modes. This means that by default you cannot use 1280x800 since its not in vbios. The 855 resolution patch solves this problem. 855resolution is avalable through Debians APT if you are using SID. I run "#855resolution 7d 1280 800" in a boot script and use "Modeline "1280x800" 83.46 1280 1344 1480 1680 800 801 804 828 +HSync +VSync" in the monitor section of my monitor section of the XF86Config. (DRI works in 2.6.9-kernel. Perhaps erlier)

Problems

I can't control the CPU fan using ACPI.
I can't suspend in linux. Neither to RAM nor Swap. (I haven't tried swsusp2 yet)

Nice to know

The new Dell Inspiron 700m is based on the AOpen 1551. This means that most things about the 700m also applies to the AOpen 1551.
Like this service manual:
http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/ins700m/en/sm/
Note: The Dell Inspiron 700m battery does not fit the AOpen 1551. (from jacknel)

Windows Vista

Vindows Vista works fine with the AOpen 1551. Vista includes drivers for everything on the DVD except for the AC'97 modem. The drivers supplied for the Intel Extreme Graphics 855 does not support OpenGL. As of 18 feb 2007 Intel has not released any other drivers for the graphics. To run Windows Vista i recomend installing more ram than 512MB. I have not experimented with battery time and Vista, but my guess is that battery time is reduced. I've noticed the CPU-fan is running at high speed most of the time in Windows Vista.

Windows Vista ReadyBoost

Vista does not support running readyboost on the ide-attached CF-reader. Vista's eventlog says the interface is unknown. If you know any way to override this please tell me and I'll post how to do it here. Since 4GB Compact Flash memory is very cheep and most people dont use the CF-card reader this would be a very easy and cheap way to make Vista run much faster on the AOpen 1551.

Links

Dell 700m Service manual
Synaptics touchpad driver for X (linux)
swsusp2 project (software suspend in linux)
SpeedSwitchXP - CPU frequenzy control for Windows XP

My personal opinion

The AOpen 1551 is a good laptop except for the battery. Small things I don't like is that the audio ports are on the front, the CD-tray is a few millimeters too high (if you lift the laptop from that end you might break it), the AC-adapter plug should not have had a 90 degree angle - this is annoying when you use the S-Video-connector. The keyboard should have been fastened like on the ibooks - with simple clips!

Painting the laptop


I got tired of the gray color after a while and painted the laptop. Here is the guide.
 
Contact information:
Mail:
 gustav (a bun) sohtell.se