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Linux on the Toshiba Satellite 2100CDT

Andy Bradford

March 21, 2000

Finding linux on a laptop is becoming more commonplace, however, there are still some models that put up a fight when trying to get linux installed. This small document will give ideas about getting linux running on the Toshiba Satellite 2100CDT. The distribution used is OpenLinux 2.4.


1. Preparation

1.1 Creating the floppy

The first thing that I had to do was create a custom boot floppy since the internal CDROM would not recognize the installation image on the CD itself. I had this same problem with other linux CDs so I assume that this particular model of Toshiba doesn't recognize the boot sector on the CD. To create the boot floppy I simply used dd to write one of the installation floppy images to a new floppy. The boot floppy image can be found in col/launch/floppy called install.144 and I wrote it to floppy with this command:
dd if=install.144 of=/dev/fd0 bs=1k

1.2 Which boot option?

The new OpenLinux 2.4 has a lot of new booting options depending on the requirements of the hardware. They are:
Standard install mode (recommended)
VESA install mode (good for VESA 2.0 compliant graphics cards)
Cautious install mode
Expert install mode (truly expert mode)
Non-graphic install mode (remnant of LISA)
Unattended install mode
Demo install mode (which goes through all the steps but doesn't modify anything)
Collect hardware data (useful if the install fails)

The only problem that I found is that the boot floppy doesn't have all these options because it uses a different boot loader, called LILO, instead of grub which offers a nice menu interface for booting. So, it's back to putting in LILO options on the LILO command prompt "boot:" for any customization with the boot floppy.

Had I been able to boot from the CD I wouldn't need a floppy.

2. Booting the install

When it came time to boot the installation floppy, I placed it in the drive along with the CD in it's drive and let the boot continue. Unfortunately, this Toshiba has a weird video S3 Virge/GX video card that doesn't like to run in standard VGA mode and so the Standard install mode would not work as it requires a VGA mode that is not supported. Do not let it continue as it could damage the LCD. Instead, there are other options such as the Non-graphic install mode or the VESA install mode---I obviously chose the VESA install mode. I wasn't presented with that nice grub menu from the floppy so I had to revert to using LILO commands to force the mode. Here is what I typed at the LILO "boot:" prompt:
install vga=785 nosmp noapic debug=2
The important command is the "vga=785" which tells the kernel to run in frame buffered mode, which will allow a VESA 2.0 compliant card to run in graphics mode. This allowed me to continue with the nice looking graphical installation.

3. During the install

3.1 Video configuration

The install went rather flawlessly from that point. There was one thing that I learned that I needed to avoid; the setting of the video settings, namely, resolution and color depth. No matter which I tried to test I ended up rebooting and restarting the installation. So, don't try the "Test mode" option when presented with the choice.
I will provide a working XF86Config file that should work without problems.
Once I avoided this test the installation was smooth and I was able to get it all working. Even XF86Setup won't work with the odd S3 Savage DX graphics adapter that is in the laptop.

3.2 Enabling PCMCIA

To get the PCMCIA detected during the installation you will need to create a modules diskette which will have additional modules to probe hardware with. The modules floppy can be created in a similar manner to the installation floppy---it's name is modules.144 instead. I recommend not using PCMCIA for the time being; it seems that there are problems with the 2.2.14 kernel and the version of current PCMCIA version. I have recompiled the kernel and the pcmcia tarballs a number of times and have not yet been able to get them working. Oddly enough, the older versions of PCMCIA did work on this same laptop. If you do decide to install PCMCIA services be prepared for kernel lockups. When I finally get PCMCIA working properly I will update this document.

After the install has finished it will boot immediately into the new system. I would recommend quickly switching over to one of the virtual consoles because X will not likely come up correctly. To do this hit CTRL-ALT-F2 and then login as root to make the final touches.

4. Final touches

4.1 Configuring X for good video

As promised, I will provide an XF86Config file that you can use to replace the incorrect one. Simply download the file and replace /etc/XF86Config with the contents of this one. You may need to recreate the symbolic link in /usr/X11R6/bin to the correct X server. The X server that I use with this config file is the XF86_SVGA X server. To make the new link type:
cd /usr/X11R6/bin
rm X
ln -s XF86_SVGA X
 Surprisingly enough, the sound card was also detected during the installation and I am now able to listen to my favorite MP3s on this laptop, whereas previously is was soundless because there was no support for the card in the kernel. The sound is not completely perfect, however, it is only noticeable when the volume is well above what it should be for the tiny speakers. It sounds good with headphones. Here is the link to the XF86Config file that I use on this laptop.

4.2 Making the modem work

I was displeased to find out that the internal modem was some type of a Winmodem, which I know are one of the worst pieces of hardware that could ever be put into a computer. They are flakey and are not real modems. At any rate, Lucent has released a binary only version module for there Lucent PCI modems that can be used. Unfortunately, it has been compiled for kernel version 2.2.12-20---I know, who ever heard of version 2.2.12-20---so it wouldn't work with the 2.2.14 kernel that was installed. I decided to see what could be done about this as I was not pleased that my modem would not work and that Lucent had provided a binary only module for some unknown kernel. I opened the module with vi and searched on the string 2.2.12-20 and found it somewhere in the file, replaced the replaced the 12 with 14 and then changed each character in "-20" to the null character; achieved by typing "3r^V^2" to replace the following three characters under the cursor with a null character: all this to change the string to 2.2.14. You may then run the ltinst script that came with the Lucent driver. (NOTE: the ltinst script that comes with version 568 of the Lucent Modem module uses "insmod -f" to insert the module, so you should not need to edit the module. Try the ltinst script before you run off and hack into the binary module file!!!) When I edited the module I got unresolved symbol error message, however, you may or may not get these same messages. If you do, you may need to recompile the kernel.
If you recompile, you will need to change the sound module name to maestro not maestroup in /etc/modules/default
This is the kernel configuration that I use and it doesn't give me those error messages anymore. Kernel Configuration. If you are unable to find a copy of the Lucent module, here is a copy of the original that they released. Lucent PCI module. I originally got this from the linmodems.org website.