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.
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!