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Linux on the Advent 6414

This page exists entirely thanks to a gentleman who shall be referred to henceforth by the code name 'Simon', who was kind enough to send me an email describing his experience with installing Linux on the 6414 model of Advent laptop. Let this be an example to anybody else out there who ever tried, successfully or not, to install Linux on an Advent laptop - I'd love to hear about it, and so would all the people who read this site...

Since this site is badly organised, I'll have to ask you to refer to the main page for general information about the Advent laptops. I hope to fix this at some point... but you know how it is ;-)

The 6414 is described as being of similar design to the 6412 model. It is slightly more powerful, being equipped with a
1.1ghz P3, 30gb hd and 256mb RAM.

1. Installation attempts

The first install attempt used Red Hat 7, but failed due to the install program, which crashed repeatedly before beginning the actual install sequence.

The second attempt used Slackware 8. In this case, the installation completed successfully. Therefore I recommend to anybody intending to install Linux on this laptop that they first locate a copy of Slackware 8 or newer (when relevant) - I've always found it to be the easiest distribution for laptop installations in any case, although superficially the hardest for beginners to understand. Believe me, it's easier to try with an installation that you have reason to believe will work than to test out a new one. That is, unless you're planning on sending me the details afterwards...

2. Configuring Slackware for the Advent 6414 : XWindows

After installation, Slackware 8 crashes, due to the fact that it has the same graphics problem as the other Advent laptops. That is to say, the SIS graphics card is not well supported by XWindows, and therefore the best way of getting it working is by using the workaround I described in the main page. Here it is again:

Installing XWindows - using kernel 2.2.16 with XFree86 3.3.6 or whatever comes on Slackware - it won't work, it'll freak out at you, it'll give you stupidly small and nasty resolutions and insist that every single horizontal and vertical frequencies you give it are completely wrong, until you do one simple and totally daft thing: reboot having typed this line:


in the file /etc/lilo.conf
and then typing 'lilo'.

Lilo is the standard Linux bootloader (the little program that lets you choose between running Windows and running Linux when you switch the computer on). The above addition to the config file will instruct Lilo to ask the kernel to use a framebuffer graphics mode, with which the SIS card is (fortunately) happy. You can then tell XWindows, in the XF86Config file, that you're using a 'fbdev' - framebuffer graphics mode - and it will suddenly start working. If you want to see an example configuration file for this, you can try mine: here

XWindows bugs

Sadly, XWindows still suffers from an interesting bug:

On logout from KDE, the screen goes and stays blank. The only way of escaping this situation appears to be a 'ctrl-alt-delete' shutdown and reboot - changing virtual windows doesn't help at all.

In my opinion, this sounds like a bug I mentioned before- that XFree 3 doesn't seem to know when to let go of the screen. So when you shut down X, it suddenly does /something/- and it's anybody's guess as to what, I swear I have no idea- that makes sure that all you see on the screen is your rather nice background image, permanently frozen. It hasn't actually frozen the system- you can type 'shutdown -r now' into it when this happens, and it will reboot - it's just taken permanent control of the graphics for no reason that I can possibly image. Probably it's somewhere between XFree and the framebuffer device that you've enabled by typing 'vga=791'.

However, apart from this, it's basically usable. Just don't try to switch terminals using 'ctrl-alt-F[1-6]' because it'll do just the same thing at you and you will again find yourself staring at that pretty background image.

In my opinion, this one is probably best solved by trying newer versions of XFree (4 and above) as described on the main page. For this, you will need a very recent kernel, above 2.4, preferably.

APMD problems

There are definite issues with APMD under the slackware install.

The machine seemed to go into suspend mode all the time..during boot, during console use, during X use. This was due to APMD. It seems that one fix to this would be to include apm=off in lilo to stop power management from putting the laptop into suspend mode even when using it. Probably a better solution exists if you want to use apm, but this solution makes the whole thing usable.

If you're looking for help or have a query, first try the other pages on this site. If you want to discuss the problem further, there is a virtually null-volume mailing list. Otherwise, you could email me and ask- but be warned, I don't have every model of Advent laptop and therefore I'll have to ask a lot of diagnostic type questions before fixing some problems...