Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo M 8815 08GD / M 8800 series on GNU/Linux

I wrote this page for people searching for a notebook, who may be interested in this device, in particular to run GNU/Linux on it.
This laptop is not mentioned on http://www.fujitsu-siemens.com/Linux/.

Notes

Features / components

This section tells you more than you can get from Fujistu-Siemens official datasheets! That's also why I publish all this. This way, people can know what's really inside before buying.

GNU/Linux support information
 
Working
Working fine
Partially working A driver exists, but some features are missing or there are small defects
Not tested
Just not tested. You should look for support information on the Internet.


Processor
Intel Mobile Celeron at 1.5 GHz
Screen 15 inch 1400x1050 flat panel
Hard disk IBM Travelstar 40 GN (IC25N020QTCS04-0), 20 Gb capacity. See its datasheet.
RAM 256 Mb DDR-SDRAM. 8, 16, or 32 Mb are shared with the video card.
Video card S3 Prosavage8 (Via VT8751 Prosavage DDR P4M266). Partially working because couldn't get 3D acceleration. Could get the best color mode: 24 bits (Window$ pretends it's 32 bit, but so far I've have never seen 32 bit color laptop screens).
CD drive
QSI DVD/CDRW SBW-081 Combo DVD 8x / CDRW 8x 8x 24x drive. Partially working: only tested cdrw, and had issues reading burnt cdrws on an old dvdrom drive. No problem on another drive. Couldn't manage to erase a cdrw disk! It seems that the device isn't fully supported by cdrecord. Didn't test playing DVDs on GNU/Linux.
Weight 2.93 kg (checked by myself)
Dimensions 32.5 x 265 x 4.0 cm (checked by myself)
Battery Li-Ion, 8 cells. My own benchmarks:
  • DVD playing: 1 h 30 min (tested on Window$).
  • Regular office use: 2 h 20 min (no CD/DVD use, measured on GNU/Linux Mandrake 9.0).
Multimedia slot
Reads 3 types of flash cards: Sony Memory Stick, MMC/SD, Smart Media. Handled by a USB controller. Not tested(but should work as a regular USB storage device).
PCMCIA
2 PC Cards type I/II or 1 type III. 2 controllers: OZ Micro OZ 6933. Not tested.
Sound card
On board Via Technologies VT8233 (AC 97 audio controller). Partially working (crackles on GNU/Linux before making any sound... should be fixable with Alsa).
Audio
In and out (3.5 mm jack). No internal microphone. 2 internal speakers (pretty good and powerful).
Volume control
No hardware gear available. Can be done on Windows using the [Fn] [F8] and [Fn] [F9] keys. Doesn't work on GNU/Linux by default.
Ethernet
RJ45 port. Fast Ethernet PCI Realtek RTL 8139 (RTL 8139C type), 10/100 Mbit/s. Working (couldn't connect it to other computers, but perfectly recognised and known as a supported device)
Modem
RJ11. Working. It's a Linmodem supported with a Conexant Systems driver. On Window$, reported as a SoftK56 Data Fax CARP from Fujitsu, but also with a Conexant Systems driver. See the modem configuration section.
Parallel port
1 port. Nothing to mention. Not tested.
Serial port
1 port. Nothing to mention. Working.
USB
2 USB 1.1 ports. Working
Firewire / IEEE 1394
1 port. Controller: Texas Instruments IEEE 1493 OHCI (Open Host Controller Interface). Probably working, as it is recognized by Mandrake 9.0 (ohci1394 module).
TV out
S-Video. Working
VGA Out
1 port. Working
Digital audio output
S/PDIF. Not tested
Infrared
1 port. Not tested
Floppy disk
None
PS2 port
None (doesn't correspond to the datasheet in French!)
BIOS
Inside Software SCU. Version 1.14
Default partitions
(On Window$) Just one 20 Gb NTFS (C:) partition, no FAT32 backup partition (D:).
The D: drive is assigned to the flash card drive, and E: is assigned to the DVD/CDRW drive.

See also:

Product photographs

See my photograph page for a view of this device from all its sides.

Device summary

Generic / OS independent view


Strengths
  • Great screen resolution (1400x1050) for its price (1800 euros in France in Nov 2002), usually only available on high-end devices. The screen is also bright and colorful.
  • Complete connectivity. Only PS2 is missing.
  • Silence: it seems that this laptop only has a cpu fan, which blows only when cpu-intensive applications are run. When you run office programs, you can spend hours without hearing the fan.
  • Very good keyboard: comfortable to use, doesn't vibrate and isn't noisy.
  • Pretty light (less than 3 kgs) and not too thick.
  • Pretty loud and clear sound.
  • Pretty silent hard disk.
Weaknesses
  • Heat: some parts on the back of this laptop get pretty hot, which I find too much for me. That may reduce the durability of this device. It seems that the cpu fan only cools down the cpu, and that another fan or bigger air slots would be useful.
  • No hardware volume gauge. You can't find tune it (at least on Window$)
  • The 1.5 GHz Celeron processor is not very powerful.
  • Slow multimedia interface: reading photographs from a memory stick looks pretty slower than by connecting the camera on the USB port (test make on Window$ on an older laptop).
  • Not very well supported graphical card. Only 24 bit color is available, instead of 32. Shared video RAM reduces overall RAM.
  • The flat panel is wider than the base, so you should only carry it on its rear side.
  • The hard drive is only 20 Gb. Now (Nov 2002), 30 Gb is becoming the default disk space.
  • Makes a very small buzz noise when you use the touch pad.

GNU/Linux wise

At least for GNU/Linux Mandrake 9.0 (default configuration)! When I say that something doesn't work, I mean that I didn't manage to make it work. Beware that I'm not a hardware/kernel expert! Later distribution versions may come with more complete drivers too.

Strengths
  • Standard Ethernet card with very good GNU/Linux support
  • Serial port: can use the laptop a control console for a screenless device.
  • Linux ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) seems to work fine with this BIOS/hardware. I didn't test suspend modes and automatic shutdown, but at least you know when the battery is almost empty and when you need to plug the AC in. This is very well handled by KDE 3 in Mandrake 9.0.
  • Supported internal modem.
Weaknesses
  • No hard-coded beep / led flash when the battery is low. You need APM or APCI otherwise your laptops switches off without any warning.
  • Surprisingly, couldn't make the graphical card work on Red Hat 8.0, though I selected the same driver name. Didn't try enough to be sure, though.
  • No power saving features directly available from the BIOS. Because of this, don't know how to auto-power off the screen, except by closing the laptop.
  • This device is sold with lots of proprietary software you may not want. Just having Window$ and Star Office (as in some cases) would reduce the price.


Installing GNU/Linux Mandrake 9.0

 This guidelines should be helpful to install other Free Software distributions, in particular GNU/Linux ones.

Overview

As there is no free software yet to resize NTFS partitions (at least when I write this article on Nov 2002), the best thing to do is wipe out existing partitions and install Windows again later, provided you wish to keep it, of course.

In this case, here's what I suggest (in the Mandrake 9.0 example):
  1. Boot on the Mandrake 9.0 cdrom and make new partitions.
  2. Reboot and re-install Windows from the recovery cdrom provided by Fujitsu-Siemens.
  3. Install your favorite operating system and setup a multi-boot system.

Create new partitions

Insert your GNU/Linux distro cdrom, reboot and press [F2] to enter the BIOS setup.
In
Startup -> Boot Device, chose CD-ROM Drive as1st Boot Device.
Press OK, execute Exit -> Save and Exit and press OK.

In the GNU/Linux installation interface, erase all partitions
CAUTION: all your data will be lost. Better archive all of them on a cdrom before. You will also have to re-install Windoze too.

Now, create your own partitions. Here's what I did (that's just an example):

Partition
Type
Filesystem
Mount point
Size
Comments
hda1
primary
FAT32
/win
4096  Mb
If you want to keep Windoze XP, it seems it needs to be in the 1st (primary?) partition. I didn't manage to re-install this system on the 2nd primary partition (the 1st one used for Linux Swap).
hda2
primary
Linux Swap
 
512 Mb
 
hda3
primary
ext3
/data
4096 Mb
I use it to store distribution independent user data or programs.
hda5
extended
ext3
/
5192 Mb
/home is inside this partition.
hda6
extended
ext3
/root2
5192 Mb
Partition to install another GNU/Linux distribution, leaving the other intact until it's completely ready. The other partition can then be used to store user data.

Re-install Windows

Just if you want to keep it, of course!

 Installing this proprietary OS is not as easy as you may think. There are lots of reboots and unexpected things. Here are just a few details:

Install GNU/Linux

Reboot on your distribution cdrom. The Mandrake 9.0 install runs without any issue, at least until X configuration.

Here's how I configured X:
That's it. Mandrake 9.0 is installed. Here are the issues I found so far:

Custom kernel / APCI support

You now need to re-compile the kernel, to enable ACPI, at least to access battery information. In addition, as we exactly know what hardware we're running on, we can also make a simpler and faster kernel. You can reuse my kernel configuration file. First make sure you installed kernel sources.

Logged as root, here's what you can do:
  1. > cd /usr/src/linux
  2. Edit the Makefile file and set EXTRAVERSION to -16mdkamilo8815, or directly get my Makefile file.
  3. > make mrproper
  4. > make xconfig
  5. Load my kernel configuration file (amilo8815.config), or at least enable ACPI support). Press Save and exit.
  6. > make dep
  7. > make bzImage
  8. > make modules
  9. > make modules_install
  10. > cp arch/i386/boot/bzImage /boot/vmlinuz-amilo
  11. Edit the /etc/lilo.conf file and add a linux-amilo entry, or directly get my lilo.conf file.
  12. > lilo
  13. reboot

Modem configuration

Once you have built this kernel, you can compile modem driver sources and configure your modem.

The driver is developed by MBSI for Conexant Systems. See http://www.mbsi.ca/cnxtlindrv/ for details and the latest version.

I tried to use the binary RPM package and run the configuration program, but it didn't work, perhaps because kernel modules are no longer in the default location for Mandrake 9.0. So, you have to pick-up the .tar.gz sources (still on http://www.mbsi.ca/cnxtlindrv/, here's a copy in case something changes and new versions no longer work with this modem) and follow instructions:

  1. Logged as root, unfold the source archive.
  2. > make install
  3. > hsfconfig
  4. > chmod a+rw /dev/ttySHSF0
  5. You can now access your modem through /dev/modem.

Other settings

Useful documents / links

Latest update by Michael Opdenacker on Dec 12, 2002