Debian Linux on HP DV6-6023TX

It was time to update my creaking old laptop.  I ordered HP6-6023TX online and after a few days it arrived just before a long weekend.

I first backed up Windows 7 onto a set of DVDs and found that either my blank DVDs are old or this new DVD drive is far more fussy. There were quite a few coasters made until I gave up and bought some new ones.

DVDs seemed to be trouble for me that day.  I downloaded the Debian 6.0.4 DVD image but couldn’t burn it. Brasero would just keep saying calculating checksum and go no further.  So after waiting too long, the CD iso was downloaded and installed.

Installation of Debian onto the laptop was straightforward. That is if you used a wired connection. Wireless needs the non-free firmware and I gave up trying to work out how to install it at debian-installer time as it didn’t see the tar.gz full of firmware on the USB stick.  Wireless worked perfectly once I loaded everything on. So at this point with not much trouble I had an almost fully working setup. Even the webcam and sound was working.

Video Fun

The laptop is one of these strange modern ones that has two video cards.  The low-spec one is an Intel Sandybridge while the higher one is an AMD/ATI Radeon HD 6700M. The idea being you use the ATI when plugged in and the Intel on batteries.

Xorg worked first go, but only on the Intel chip.  Trying to force X to use the ATI driver with an Xorg configuration resulted in the Xserver crashing.

Next attempt was the fglrx packages within Debian. aticonfig said it didn’t know about the card. The reason for this is that the Debian packages use fglrx version11.4 and I needed for my card 11.5 So close but so far away.

OK, so building the ATI software can’t be that hard can it?  A nice set of instructions on the Debian wiki and we had… errors. The first problem is that the packaging used is ancient. The second problem is much more serious; it won’t compile.

I was stuck about here until I hopped onto the Debian irc channel and asked about it and someone found a very useful webpage about compiling the ATI drivers on Debian which importantly had information about the patches you need, especially the blk patch.

Success! the program compiled and installed. A small xorg.conf specifying the fglrx driver and the BusID and we were up and running.  I now have accelerated graphics on the laptop.

Ouch, my eyes!

I do actually get outside (one of my hobbies is gardening and that is an outdoor activity) so I don’t need a monitor screen trying to give me a suntan.  The default screen brightness on the laptop could be described as “sub-nova”. I’m sure there is some alien astronomers several light-years away who will in many years time wonder what that flash from the unimpressive end of the milky-way was about. To protect your eyes and keep the neighborhood complaints down you can reduce the brightness to something sane. You do this in the power management settings which for me is System -> Preferences ->  Power Management. I can see again!

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17 responses to “Debian Linux on HP DV6-6023TX”

    1. I’ve added a page to the Wiki. Moin Moin isnt something I use much so hopefully it looks ok.

  1. I am going to buy a new HP DV6-6050ee and i’ll seem to face the same problems as you!!
    so i was wondering if i can solve the problems i’ll face with the same steps that you did?
    also, what about the heating issues i always hear about with HP laptops?

    If you can give me any advices i’ll be more than thankful!!

    1. The heating depends on what you are doing with it. If you are doing some 3d or graphical work on it then using the Intel chip the laptop cooks as the poor processor has to do a lot more work. The ATI chip working the laptop still got hot but not nearly as much and the CPU load was less.

      My old Compaq/HP nx6320 had heating issues where under heavy loads it would actually shut down because one of the thermal alarms trips. This new one hasn’t done it but I’ve not really run anything really nasty on it either.

      I was quite surprised how (almost) everything just worked on it. The non-free firmware on the ATI card and wireless were a bit of a pain but I got there in the end. Also it looks like the vga_switcheroo feature works as well, but only to turn off the idle card. If you find the acpi_call module it is a matter of

      echo OFF > /sys/kernel/debug/vga_switcheroo/switch
  2. Julian Andres Klode Avatar
    Julian Andres Klode

    Do not use the ATI card, especially not with the closed-source drivers. Best is to use the intel chipset, it requires less power, and unless you’re doing extreme 3D stuff, you do not need a faster chip anyway.

    1. You’re right for simple stuff it is best to use the intel. My next task is trying to work out a simple way to switch between the two because there are times when I do need the power of the ATI while at others I don’t. I did see some project where it uses the Intel most of the time and the ATI for specific programs which is actually exactly what I’m looking for.

      It sucks to use the closed source drivers but the open-source Radeon driver crashes (see Bug 630345) so it really is not an option. My choices are currently to not have 3d acceleration or use the ATI closed-source driver.

      It will get better. I’m pretty sure the bug in the driver will eventually get fixed. It will then come down to does the 3d acceleration work ok.

    1. It certainly an improvement and should stop the problems with vga\_switcheroo doing bad things with a 2.6.38 kernel. You can turn the ATI set off and use the Intel but you cannot switch them (it just turns the screen off or does strange things).

      I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think it means you can actually use the ATI chip, just the switcheroo will work right. With a stock Debian 2.6.38 kernel your X server crashes if you tell it to use the Radeon chip. I’ll certainly try it out and see if it the radeon xorg driver dies because of the “bad” (or initial if you like) version of vga\_switcheroo.

      1. I had a look around the code and the vga switcheroo code is in the stock Debian 2.6.38 kernel. So for a laptop like mine you have two choices:

        1. Use only the Intel card on open-source drivers
        2. Use the non-free firmware and ATI drivers to use the ATI card

        There currently is no third option. As it stands today, you cannot even use the ATI card with the Xorg drivers. I’d like to make it all a stock Debian setup, but I like to be actually able to use my computer more.

        Maks comment that the non-free drivers may make your computer behave strangely or not-debuggable is right in the general context but completely irrelevant here. The reason is that the alternative will definitely not work; its not a potential problem we know it won’t work.

  3. Does that mean I can now use switchable graphics with a 2.6.38 kernel? 🙂

    1. It depends what you mean by switchable. I got it to a stage where I can use X with the integrated Intel card or use X with the discrete ATI card. I’m not sure if you can easily switch between the two. The vga switcheroo code is in the Debian 2.6.38 kernel but to me it was only good for shutting down the ATI card when using the Intel (which is a good thing in itself).

      I believe that the end goal is for the device to detect if it is on power or battery and then to use the appropriate card for the situation. I’m just happy enough I can force it to use either card with fiddling with the xorg.conf That’s not perfect but good enough for me.

  4. Paul Menzel Avatar
    Paul Menzel

    Wireless needs the non-free firmware and I gave up trying to work out how to install it at debian-installer time as it didn’t see the tar.gz full of firmware on the USB stick.

    I also thought that putting the archive on the medium would be enough. According to the installation guide you have to unpack it too [1].


    1. I thought the exact same thing. I did think I extracted the relevant deb file out but it still didn’t work. At the very least, its badly documented about what exactly you need to do. It even mixes the release versions 6.0.4 with the release names so it makes it difficult about which one to use.

      And it seems even if I got the wireless working, as I don’t use WEP it wouldn’t matter anyhow. Raphael blogged that debian-installer only works with WEP.

      The short answer (and the one Raphael also gives) is; use a wired connection for installing.

  5. yostyle Avatar

    I installed fglrx on HP DV6-6090sf (Debian Wheezy). It is similar to HP dv6-6023tx.
    After install fglrx (catalyst 11.6) and reboot, my Xorg crash.
    extract from my Xorg log :
    (WW) Falling back to old probe method for fglrx
    (EE) Unable to initialize PCS database
    (EE) Missing PCS defaults file /etc/ati/amdpcsdb.default
    (EE) No devices detected.

    Fatal server error:
    no screens found

    Could you help me ?

    1. yostyle Avatar

      I solved my problem. I purged old file from a precedent fglrx installation and reinstalled the new version.

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