Linux on the HP Omnibook 7100

Alan Jeffrey

About the Omnibook 7100

The Hewlett Packard Omnibook 7100 is a monster notebook, with a 1024x768 display, 266MHz PII, 90M of RAM, etc. etc.

Unfortunately, it is a bit of a pig to run Linux on, because the video subsystem doesn't particularly like X. I now have a botched version up and running, but it's not pretty...

I'd like to thank HP for donating this laptop to the SafetyNet project.

Installation

Well, most of the install is standard, you do `the usual RedHat install', then when it comes to X, you select a ATI 3D Rage LT Pro with 4MB of video RAM. The device XF86Config is:

Section "Device"
    Identifier  "ATI 3D Rage LT Pro"
    VendorName  "ATI"
    BoardName   "Rage LT Pro"
    VideoRam    4096
    ChipId      0x4754
    ChipRev     0x01
EndSection

Select your favourite 1024x768 display. I spent ages playing with Modelines, all to no avail. The one I'm now running with is:

ModeLine "1024x768" 65.00 1024 1032 1176 1344 768 771 777 806

but I suspect it doesn't make much difference what you use...

The rest of the install is as per usual.

The problem

You should now have a Linux box you can use fine in text mode, and if you plug an external monitor in the back, then you can run X. Unfortunately, if you start an X server, the display just hangs, and nothing you can do will bring it back to life, short of power cycling the machine.

However, there is a solution...

The problem seems to be that when the video card changes mode, the LCD display kills the machine. The LCD display is quite happy running in text mode, and it's quite happy running in X mode, it just doesn't like jumping from one to the other. So all you have to do is start X with the LCD display switched off.

This is what the Fn-F5 key combination does: it toggles the external monitor. So if you boot up Linux, log in, and get ready to run X, but hit Fn-F5 before you hit Enter then X will start with the display off. Wait a few seconds, hit Fn-F5 again, and X will be running on the LCD screen. Hooray!

This hint was supplied by Ralph Buckley. Thanks!

According to Ron Nelson, all these problems are fixed by the 2.2 kernel VESA framebuffer support. Roll on the day when RH ship a 2.2 kernel!

Another problem

The one remaining problem with X is the interaction between the video card and APM. If you put the machine into sleep mode, then wake it up, all is well. But if you leave it asleep for long enough, it goes through the `save-to-disk' business, but when it restores from disk, it doesn't restore all of the video card state, so you have to restart X before you can get back to work. Not fatal, but annoying!

Links

Linux on Laptops contains a number of pointers to HP Linux installations, although none of them described a similar problem.

Alan Jeffrey, CTI, DePaul University. Last modified: 1999/04/13.