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Alpha Litebook laptop

July 18, 2017 — BarryK
Puppy Forum member muggins (David) purchased one of these laptops:
http://news.softpedia.com/news/litebook-launches-cheap-chromebook-like-linux-laptop-powered-by-elementary-os-513578.shtml

However, he decided that he didn't want it, and offered it to me. I offered to pay him something, but he didn't want any money. That is extremely generous.

The reason behind the offer, is I posted awhile back that I wanted to replace my baby laptop with Cherry Trail CPU, as it has problems running Linux.

The Alpha Litebook has a Intel Celeron N3150 CPU, which is 14nm technology, 6W TDP and 1.6GHz (2.1GHz burst). This is a more Linux-froendly CPU.

It arrived this afternoon, and I eagerly fired it up. It comes with Linux, however, I am keen to run Quirky Linux on it.
No problem with configuring the UEFI-setup to boot from a Quirky Xerus 8.2 USB stick, but...

The kernel loaded, then just got a blank screen with a blinking cursor at lop-left. Rebooted with "loglevel=7" so I can see what is happening, and saw messages like this:

ata3: Link is slow to respond, please be patient (ready=0)
ata3: SRST failed (errno=-16)
ata3: Reset failed


Anyway, after 2 minutes and 20 seconds, spewing out the above messages repeatedly, it booted and I got a desktop. Well, after bootup, it all looks good, sound, drives all working.

I examined the GRUB config, can't see any special kernel boot parameters. So, the next thing to do is compare the kernel configuration of the Linux that the laptop came with. It is kernel 4.4.66.

Quite a nice laptop, hi-res screen, good specs for such a low price.

Comments

Haven't tried it yet, but this guy had same problem with Slackware, and he recompiled the kernel, fixed bootup:
https://alpha.store/forums/topic/slackware/

There are some more issues with Quirky 8.2. Ethernet works but not wifi, not sure about bluetooth -- dmesg shows a firmware loading error for bluetooth, however apparently that is non-fatal.

Here are some links:
https://github.com/Alpha-Universal
https://alpha.store/forums/topic/litebook-hardware-details/
https://alpha.store/forums/topic/litebook-fixes-known-issues-extras-and-info/

http://imgur.com/a/PGwkx

http://www.sparerep.net/litebook/litebook2.html

Wifi fixed, posting from the Litebook now.

However, still have the slow bootup.

In the kernel configuration:
Device Drivers -> SATA ->
<*> Legacy ISA PATA support


Changed that to "<m>". That fixed it, got a fast boot. That is "CONFIG_PATA_LEGACY=m"

OK, I can draw the line, to not support PCs with ISA cards, however, my understanding is that that option also supports early PCI cards.
So, maybe I am "borrowing from Peter to pay Paul". Well, I will make the change, and we shall see if anyone else reports Quirky won't boot on their old PC.

Hmm, maybe I should even remove CONFIG_PATA_LEGACY entirely. As a module, it is useless anyway when Quirky is booting with an initramfs (live_CD and frugal installs).

I found the fix here:
https://alpha.store/forums/topic/litebook-fixes-known-issues-extras-and-info/

For the 'psmouse' module is is necessary to pass the parameter "proto=imps" when it loads. This can be done by a file /etc/modprobe.d/litebook.conf:
options psmouse proto=imps

However, the kernel used in Quirky has the psmouse driver builtin, not a module, so the paramter has to be passed on the kernel boot commandline:
psmouse.proto=imps

The problem is, I cannot make this a permanent arrangement for Quirky, because that option will break a working touchpad. See here:
https://bugs.freedesktop.org/show_bug.cgi?id=17624

So, a user of a Litebook will have to do it manually.

Personally, it is not a problem for me, as I don't like touchpads and always use an external mouse.

I had a problem first day it arrived. I booted up Quitky from USB flash drive, with the 'devx' pet on the drive, not installed, I was going to install it after booting up.
However, got an md5sum error on the pet package.

I had a new 8GB stick, it was unused, I don't recall the brand and it has no markings on it. I saw it somewhere very cheap, so bought it. Anyway, put Quirky on it, booted up, it worked, but I recall there were some problems, don't recall exactly. Anyway, later on, plugged that stick into my desktop PC and tried to install the latest Quirky on it --- it seemed to write ok, but nothing could be read back. 'probepart' showed no partitions. Oh dear.

So, decided to sacrifice one of my Emtec 8GB sticks. I wrote about these recently, appalling read and write speeds, so I wasn't much bothered about using it on the Litebook. Put Quirky on the Emtec stick, booted up on the Litebook, tested by using 'dd' to write big 1GB files, then read them back to see if md5sum is correct.

About 80% ok, but sometimes read back and got the wrong md5sum. Oh dear again.

So, booted up the internal OS, and did repeated writes and reads of 1GB files, this time consistently got the correct md5sum.

I thought it to be extremely unlikely that Linux itself was destroying my flash drives, but now I have to wonder.
As I have no idea what the cause is, I really can't use the Litebook. Unless I use a kernel configured exactly the same as the inbuilt one. That's one of the 4.4.x series.

Tags: linux