Howto Linux on Mitac 8170

'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

You get the point. The machine finally gave in. Faced with going through the second motherboard switch I gave up. I keep this page though for reference but don't expect any new info.

You'll see below that I had the machine go through Red-Hat 7.2 up to Red-Hat 9. After that I also moved on to Fedora Core 1. After a hard disk crash I switch distribution to Gentoo. The feeling is the same. No real hardware problems to talk of.

Below follows the page as it was when the machine still was running Red-Hat 9 and had a functioning mother board.

I have been using the machine for quite some time now. Things that worked fine are still working good. Latest new feature is the wireless network.

This is my experience from installing Red-Hat on the machine. I started with Red-Hat 7.2 and have upgraded to 7.3, 8.0 and now 9. I have installed and used a customized kernel but at the moment I'm using the kernel shipped with RH9. Basically everything has worked fine.

I have also included reports from Emmanuel2, Thomas3 and Greg4. Thank you for improving this page.

If you have any suggestions or ideas how to improve this page please drop me a line:

Below is an early picture of the machine running Linux!

Initial test

The unit came with XP installed. So I unpacked, plugged it in just to check that the unit was OK on delivery. It was!

Installing Linux

No major problems with basic stuff.

I had arranged so that I would have one day to try the unit with Linux and if that wasn't to my satisfaction I could return it. So I immediately rushed into install-mode.

Unfortunately my copy of Partition Magic wasn't capable of creating any free partitions for the Linux install, problems with XP and NTFS, so I went for a complete Linux install. So I didn't test any dual boot and I thus scratched the whole XP installation. Maybe I will try dual boot later.

The installation was without major problems. I had to change the BIOS to boot from the CD before the hard disk but that was really all.

I choose a server installation, let Red-Hat use the whole disk for its partitions and could just sit back and relax while the OS was installed. Most important, the X configuration found the graphics card.

I don't know whether the sound worked from the start. After running sndconfig I got sound anyway. (I think actually it worked straight out of the box but I had some trouble with the sound configuration in Gnome and the volume knob on the unit before I actually could hear anything.)

So after the install I had the following features working:

Due to some USB problems 1 I have had to use the touch pad at times. When there isn't any external Mouse Linux will recognize new hardware and configure the touch pad. It works but I haven't been able to get the "middle-button-scroll-wheel-thing" working.

CD Recording

I downloaded gtoaster and got a pleasant surprise when I found out that the CD was already configured to be recognized as a SCSI unit. (It isn't a SCSI unit but you need to fool the system that it is. You can read more about it in the HOWTO but everything was already setup as it should.) So since I know gtoaster fairly well I was able to burn my first CD-R within minutes.

I haven't tried with CD-RW yet.

I have tried to burn multisession CDs with gtoaster and that works OK.


Nope. Haven't tried it.

Emmanuel and Thomas reports success here though.

Other graphics modes

I haven't tried to use other graphics modes with an external monitor. I don't expect problems here apart from that I will need to configure X to support more than one size or reconfigure it to use the wanted graphic mode.

Emmanuel kindly reports that there are no problems with other graphics modes and the external video port. -- "As far as the other graphic mode are concerned. I confirm you that it is running very well : the external monitor and the video port. I tried a DVD on a TV and it is running perfectly!"

Good news!

Wireless networking

With RH9 things seems better than before. I could simply use the graphical network configurator to configure my Netgear MA401 with encryption key and all.

Below you can read about what I did with earlier versions of RH. Note that it is a combination of the kernel version and the configuration support. You might be better of with earlier version of RH than I was. Experiment!

This is what I did before

Read this if you are having problem with the built in support of your distribution. It might help.

I use it with a Netgear MA401. I have got it working with both no encryption and with 128-bit encryption.

There was some problems getting all pieces in place however. I don't think that this is actually a problem with the Mitac but with the current state of affairs in Linux, Red-Hat and with my knowledge.

If you know what you are doing you will probably have no problems with this. Further improvements of the PCMCIA support in the kernel will probably also make this easier. e.g. Less other packages to download and install.

What I did was this:

Still this didn't work out. Wrong module was loaded. wlan. (As it turned out this module was included with the kernel shipped with Red-Hat 7.3, 2.4.18-3, so I might have been better of using that kernel instead but once you start building your own kernels it is not fun to go back.)

In the readme file for PCMCIA in the kernel the orinoco module was suggested as the one to use. It was installed but I simply couldn't get it to load properly. (I thought this could be so because Red-Hat is configured to use wlan and simply installing a new kernel with new modules won't change that. This was something I experienced once again when I upgraded to 8.0.)

Battery meter

It doesn't work out of the box. The apm reports no system battery but that is wrong, I have batteries, it is a laptop. I haven't had time to look into this but it has been reported that this is an ACPI-unit. (Which explains why the apm doesn't work.) This would then need ACPI-support activated in the kernel.


After installing RH9 I decided to test this again. I had previously done some experiments with my GPRS phone but without any success.

The Ir candidate this time was my Palm (PDA).

Palm (PDA)

Success! It worked after fixing a few things:

For testing it is useful to try this command together with activating hotsync on the Palm

pilot-xfer -p /dev/ircomm0 -l

This will list the databases on the Palm unit. When this works you are nearly done. It should just be a matter of setting your favorite sync software to use /dev/ircomm0 (or if you prefer to create a symlink /dev/pilot to /dev/ircomm0.)


Nothing done here yet. (I have a T68 so I might try this.)

Other Ir equipment

Thomas has been able to connect with another laptop running XP.

Standby mode etc

I haven't been concerned with power saving things, like standby mode, so I have just very limited info here. I have tested to do standby to RAM by pressing Fn-F12, or is that just suspend?, and that seems to work. I haven't tested to have it in that mode for a long time though.

I have been thinking of trying the kernel-patch to get standby to disk. The swap is used to dump the memory and when booting the machine the kernel recognizes that and loads it in.


Emmanuel reports some success with using ACPI. However this seems a bit experimental.

Greg reports that by using a vanilla 2.4.21 kernel, and applying the software suspend patch from and the acpi-option patch from this distribution, he has gotten suspend-to-disk working. If you also run acpid from, then it is possible to program the sleep button (Fn-F12) so that the machine will suspend to disk, then power off.

The swap space needs to be large enough to hold both your physical RAM plus the amount of swap space you are actually using.

Greg further reports that suspending to disk and resuming from disk takes nearly as long as a regular shutdown and reboot respectively.

Finally Greg reports: After lots of gnashing of teeth, I have found out that suspend-to-RAM simply does not work on ACPI-based machines like the 8170 in the 2.4 kernel. You must run a development kernel or wait for 2.6 for that.


I haven't tried it yet. Don't think I ever will. Getting GPRS working over infrared is definitely more interesting to me and still I don't seem to get the time to try that out.

However Emmanuel and Thomas has reported success with RH9 and the built in modem using pctel. Here is Emmanuel's step by step description:


I don't even own a Firewire unit so I will not try this in the near future.

[1] After a few days work I got problems with the USB-port. I switched to the other port and got the same problem again on that port soon after. I could then by removing and inserting the USB units get it to work a few minutes more but after a few days the USB-ports refused to work at all.

The whole unit was then replaced by the local sales representative and I have now used the machine for a few months without any problems.

[2] Emmanuel Riboulet-Deyris <>, here often just referred to as Emmanuel, has reported success with Xcdroast etc.

and if that wasn't to my satisfaction I could return it. So I [3] Thomas <>

[4] Greg Woods <>

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