June 2006


I recently bought an affordable HP nx6125 laptop and I’ve spent the last few days trying to get Ubuntu linux 6.06 (dapper) to run acceptably on it. Since it’s taken days it’s safe to say that not everything has gone super smooth, but a lot of the time has gone by trying to figure out just what the problems were in order to fix them. If I had to do it all over again today the whole thing shouldn’t take more than your average installation of Windows. So if you’re trying to get linux to run on your nx6125 I’ve got a few pointers to reduce your workload. I would assume some of them are are valid for other laptops with similar specs too.

Gnome - a pleasant place to be

1) Start by updating your BIOS. The downloads can be found here.

2) Download Ubuntu. Even if your nx6125 has a Turion64 CPU, stick with the x86-version, since you’re more likely to find working drivers with the standard version. I would think you’d be hard pressed to find a preformance gain with the 64bit version too.

3) Important. If you just boot from the CD the system will run really, really, really slow. On the CD menu press F6 to edit the boot parameters, and add “noapic” (not to be confused with “noapci”). Without this the installation will take hours. I couldn’t resize the preinstalled Windows partition, which might have worked with this option enabled. Once installed you might have to add this option to the GRUB bootloader too. Run “sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst” and add “noapic” to the end of the line that says “kernel /boot/vmlinuz-(…) quiet splash”.

Update: I’ve updated to Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft), and the noapic switch doesn’t seem to be needed anymore. If you’re installing Edgy from scratch, you can probably skip this step unless the installation runs really, really slow and the system fan runs wild.

4) Getting the laptop’s internal wlan adapter to work is tricky to say the least. It’s a Broadcom unit called BCM4318. I finally got it working following this thread the Ubuntu forums, but not on the first go and it’s still not fully stable and only supports 802.11b (11 Mbit). There’s also an approach using ndiswrapper, but I couldn’t get that to work at all. As of right now I’m borrowing a Atheros 5212-based 3Com PCMCIA card. This worked like a charm (almost) right out of the box.

5) This is a bit experimental, but I had some problems with the wlan adapters not waking up or functioning 100% after suspending the PC or putting it into hibernation. These went away after editing /etc/default/acpi-support (sudo gedit /etc/default/acpi-support in a terminal) and setting “ENABLE_LAPTOP_MODE=true” instead of false which is default.

6) The default ATI graphics driver works reasonably well in 2D mode but turn those fancy screen savers off. I have no need of it, but 3D support can be enabled by installing the fglrx drivers for full 3D support even with the tricky integrated Xpress 200M based card the nx6125 is equipped with. The procedure is explained in this post, once again on the Ubuntu forums. You also might want to check out the wiki he’s refering to for a more detailed explanation. But the current fglrx drivers breaks the sleep, hibernate and suspend modes. I haven’t installed them since these are more important to me than 3D on my laptop.

Update: The fglrx 8.25.18 drivers released 26th of June 2006 supports the Xpress 200M chipset. I’ve installed it as described in this post, and it seems to work as advertised. I havent had any problems with suspend or hibernate, but I can’t see any difference in 2D performance either. I am however not able to adjust the screen brightness anymore using the laptop’s fn+f9/f10 buttons, and I can’t seem to find any other way of doing it either.

All in all Ubuntu 6.06 works reasonably well on the HP nx6125. It does take some fettling to get it going, but all in all it’s not bad. The Broadcom wlan and the ATI graphics are the only real problems as of now, and hopefully they’ll be fixed one day too. With the 3Com PCMCIA adapter on board really have no gripes with this setup at all.

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SecuROM and Star Force are two of the more popular forms of "copy protection" schemes for computer games. The system is based on making you insert the correct DVD or CD each time you want to launch the game, and SecuROM's or StarForce's task is to make it harder to make a copy or image of the original media which stands up to validation. Fair enough. DVD-ROM is fast becomming a horribly inefficient, expencive and archaic way of content distribution, so I guess a horribly inefficient, expencive (in terms of usability) and archaic way of authentication is just fitting.

However, it stops beeing fine when my legal games stop working as a result of a broken "copy protection" scheme. The DVD-unit in my PC is a Samsung TS-H552U DVD Burner which is less than a year old. All other DVD-ROMs work just fine, but it runs it to a lot of problems just trying to read the "copy protected" DVDs. I've had some problems previously with Splinter Cell 3: Chaos Theory, which uses StarForce v3 (3.4.71.19) according to gamecopyworld. However, the real problems didn't show up until I bought Hitman: Blood Money, which uses SecuROM v7 (v7.00.00.0018). When I insert the DVD, 9 out of 10 times it won't be able to recognice the DVD at all. You can hear it starting to spin the disc slowly, and then resetting the laser position ad infinitum.

zum zum

…zum zum wock-wack……zum zum wock-wack……zum zum wock-wack……zum zuuum wock-wack……zum zum wock-wack……zum zum wock-wack……zum zuum wock-wack….

That won't get on your nerves.

End result: A "copy protected" game where the legal copy is probably harder to use than an illegal one. Nice going, people.

When you do manage actually play the game, Hitman: Bloody money is a pretty amusing in a Léon sort of way. You're obviously a hitman, and after each mission you get a fake newspaper report about the hit with phrases like "It concerns the authorities that all of the victims were brutally excecuted by shots to the head." According to violent computer game zealot Jack Thompson you have to be a computer gamer or a hitman to shoot people in the face. Well Jack, that might be true. It's not becauce of the violence in the video games however, but having to wade through the layers of incomptance that is "copy protection" every time you try to start the game would send Mother Theresa over the edge.

…zum zum wock-wack…