posted by Eugenia Loli on Fri 5th Nov 2004 01:55 UTC

"LC2430 Laptop Review, Page 2/2"
All the USB 2.0 ports worked perfectly. I tried my new digital Canon A75 digital camera directly with it and an external card reader (that could read my camera's compact flash card). I also found the wheel-like button for the sound volume very convenient, while the touchpad (with Synaptics) felt good too (in fact, movement was smoother and acceleration was faster than in my Powerbook (even with SideTrack on)). However, I had to tweak the default settings of Synaptics, because Firefox would misbehave (it would jump pages Back/Forward out of the blue, when my finger was moving the cursor in the touchpad in the lower part of the touchpad). So, I had to disable horizontal wheel scrolling in the touchpad with a trick.

Laptop details LinuxCertified also sent us in a WiFi Prism54 PCMCIA card. The driver is included with all recent kernels, but you will need extra firmware files to make the card actually work. The LinuxCertified installations of Linux have all the needed drivers/files installed by default, but if you want to run a custom distro, you will need to hunt down these firmware files yourself. This is true for most WiFi cards anyway (see recent OpenBSD stories where the project actively pursues to "free" these files). The Prism card worked perfectly and it had much better reception than the internal antenna of my Powerbook or my TH-55 SONY Clie PDA.

The stability of the hardware/software is characteristic, I had no weird problems with the OSes I tried (except ACPI support, see below) and the laptop was able to go on for hours without getting overly hot. And it's a plus that the laptop's screen goes off automatically when you close the lid.

Problems

There are a few problems with the laptop, two laptop-related and two with software/hardware interaction.

The biggest problem with this laptop is its loose power cord cable. I find myself many times sitting on my couch or setting the laptop somewhere for a while in order to attend to other things (e.g. cooking), only to come back a while later and see that my battery has gone down to 80 or 70%. Then, I check the power cord and I see that it's not sitting well inside the power port. Sometimes it just comes out completely, and sometimes it's still inside the port but not completely inside. Update: Apparently this might be an issue with my laptop in particular and not with all the laptops of the series sold. We will investigate.

The second problem is the bad location of the PCMCIA slot. It's directly above the combo drive, and so when the WiFi card is in, putting a CD into the drive, or taking one out, is an exercise in patience.

The software compatibility problem has to do with power management and ACPI. Apparently, recent versions of ACPI are pretty screwed up (according to the Intel engineer who's developing it), however a new big patch is expected for kernel 2.6.10 that will hopefully fix some things that have been broken since 2.6.4+. So, first you need to make sure that ehci_hcd is not compiled into the kernel but is a module, otherwise ACPI won't be able to unload the USB drivers and put many recent laptops to sleep (thanks to Judd Vinet for altering his kernel configuration on Arch Linux 0.7-pre2 at my request). After you have this in place, the laptop does go to sleep like a baby (with the "echo -n mem > /sys/power/state" command). However, the laptop doesn't wake up. I tried the stock ACPI with all the Fedoras from LinuxCertified and Arch. The laptop would go to sleep, but when trying to wake it up, in the case of Fedora it would reboot the laptop while in the case of Arch it would wake up the laptop but not the screen (black screen).

The "Sleep" button on the laptop is Fn+F1 (which is actually a soft button), which doesn't work automatically, and so it doesn't have any effect to fully awaken the laptop (however this doesn't seem to be the root of the problem). LinuxCertified installations of Fedora come with SoftwareSuspend, but that's not what I personally want (takes too much time, about 20 seconds), as I am used to the Instant-On of my Powerbook (1-2 seconds). In fact, I never turn off my Powerbook, it's always on, in sleep mode. Please note that the standby/disk stock ACPI modes have no effect (they don't work at all).

The last problem has to do with the onboard Intel AC97 sound card which doesn't have mixing in hardware. This results in it being able to only play one sound at a time. It's very annoying, to say the least, while the rest of the sound experience is very satisfying (good stereo speakers, good overall sound quality). So, I had to resort to some black magic ALSA scripting, and even after that, not all sound applications supported the new "default" ALSA device (I created a software mixer via the dmix plugin).

Conclusion

This is a great laptop. It is actually a desktop replacement, with the added convenience of being portable when you need it to be. It's fast, very compatible with recent distros and it has good extra support from LinuxCertfied.com to add better support on Fedora installs (in RPM form). The LinuxCertified.com guys were very responsive in my requests and so this adds plus points regarding good support within the one year that the warranty is active.

The LC2430 is a trustworthy companion for day-to-day tasks and/or development. It does the job well, and may I say, quickly (fastest machine in my office anyway). It is a highly recommended product with a good overall quality and modern features. In fact, after a few days of using it, I found myself using this laptop more than my Powerbook!

I just hope that kernel 2.6.10 will fix the ACPI compatibility problems, and I would in fact like to see LinuxCertified.com engineers actively work on the ACPI kernel code directly and test their laptops, instead of creating special patched kernels that try to soften the power management problem, rather than truly fixing it in the first place.

Further reading: Another review of the same laptop, from LinuxLookup, and an interview with the LinuxCertified CEO at Tux:Tops.

Table of contents
  1. "LC2430 Laptop Review, Page 1/2"
  2. "LC2430 Laptop Review, Page 2/2"
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