Linux on the Compaq Armada M700

pic of M700 Here is how I got Linux (RedHat 6.0) running on a Compaq Armada M700, on loan from Compaq. The model I have is the 6400/14T, but the various models only appear to differ in processor speeds, disk sizes and so on, so the actual model shouldn't make much difference.

I gleaned much useful information from the Linux on Laptops page, in particular the Dell Inspiron 7000/7500 pages as these machines appear to share much hardware with the M700.

The following describes what I did: I was successful, but I guarantee nothing, and accept no liability for lost data, damaged hardware or any other untoward happening in your life.

Addendum. The machine has now returned to Compaq, so don't expect any more updates to this page!

Backup

You did backup anything you want to keep, didn't you?

Make a RH boot floppy?

You can set the BIOS to boot directly from the CD so you don't need to do this. (Get to the BIOS by pressing F10 while there is a flashing cursor in the top-right corner during a boot.)

Squeezing Windows

Now we shrink the Windows partition. I decided to keep a vestigial Windows, as some software manufacturers still haven't seen the light.

Do the Install

Reboot using a RH floppy, or direct from the CD. I made new partitions

Video

The ATI Rage Pro Mobility within the M700 is not fully supported as yet, but I got decent results using the framebuffer (method 3 from a Dell Inspiron page).

Choose:

24 bit colour works, too, but is somewhat slower. When the native driver works properly it should be very fast, and 24 or more bits no problem.

This should now reboot to a working system.

Final Touches

We need to finish off the video and audio.

Video

Edit /etc/lilo.conf, and add

  vga=791
after label=Linux line, and run lilo. This does the framebuffer magic.

Addendum. I have been trying out the Mach64 driver version 3.3.5 in place of the SVGA driver, and it works well at 24 bit colour. However, it doesn't like hibernating and messes up on resume.

cd /etc/X11
ln -sf ../../usr/X11R6/bin/XF86_Mach64 X
And edit XF86Config so the accel driver has depth 24.

Another Addendum. From Paul Foster:

I found that the XFree86_Mach64 server that comes with RH6.2 doesn't like the Armada - the screen really flickers badly. I removed the RH6.2 package and installed the RH6.1 version - works perfectly.

Sound

Get the Maestro soundcard driver. Update. This page seems to have disappeared. Furthermore, the Maestro driver is now in the standard kernel sources, so maybe it's on your system already!

If you get no sound out when you play something, start aumix and turn up the volume.

Reboot, and we are done!

Install the RH errata. Add users, install ssh1, ssh2, xv, realplayer, etc.

Suspend and Hibernate

Hit the round blue button to get suspend. Compaq claim you can leave it like this for up to a week on a full battery, but I've not tried that.

The hibernate (suspend to disk) Fn-blue button works as well. This writes a file to the Windows partition, though I am led to believe that a dedicated hibernate partition (type 0x84) should work if you don't want to keep Windows.

After a resume you may find the keyboard in a virtual terminal acts weird: hitting 'A' produces '^A' and so on. To remedy, press Fn-Scroll. This problem only affects virtual terminals.

Modem

It's a Lucent winmodem.

Addendum. Lucent have released a binary-only driver (you may find it doesn't like the version of the kernel you are running), and there is work on open source drivers.

DVD/CD player

The CD player is fine, and maybe one day the DVD will work, too!

PCMCIA

The RH distribution contains the PCMCIA stuff, and it works. To set up a network card, edit the IP numbers into
/etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0

The picture at the top of the page was taken using a Canon S10, loaded using a Compact Flash card adapter in the PCMCIA slot (see the section on PCMCIA ATA/IDE card drives in /usr/doc/HOWTO/PCMCIA-HOWTO), and edited with the gimp.

General Impressions of the M700

This seems quite a sturdy machine, but surprisingly heavy for an ultraportable. The keyboard has a good feel, but the Fn and Windows keys are in intrusive places. The rubber port-protector on the back is worse than useless, as it keeps falling off.

Most things work (except the winmodem). It is pleasantly fast, both in disk and in screen: the 10G disk provides ample room (even with a bloated Windows partition), and the 14.1" screen is clear and sharp. Battery life is much as advertised, though the battery meter (asapm or equivalent) gets confused about the amount of time left.

The sound driver is described as beta, but works well with only an occasional glitch. There is some crosstalk noise from the disk drive, but if you turn the line1 volume right down it disappears. Sound reproduction is actually quite reasonable through the stereo speakers: this machine makes a good portable CD player!

Russell Bradford, November 1999.