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 Linux On Laptops
This report is listed on Linux on Laptops and TuxMobil.

Introduction

A few weeks ago I decided to buy a new notebook. My old one, a Toshiba Satellite 4090 XCDT was a good friend for me. And running Linux on it was very easy.
First I thought I should buy a Toshiba again. But in these days there are many notebooks with a WXGA resolution. I don't like it, because the notebooks are getting very big with this display dimensions. I didn't want a standard XGA display either. After searching the web for a while I decided to get a SXGA notebook. I compared prices and Linux compatibility for different models and found this HP NC6120. The price machine I used told me the best price for Amazon. Then I thought, OK - let's have a look at ebay. And there I got it for 150 Euro less than at Amazon.
HP is supporting the Ubuntu community to adapt their distribution to this and a few more notebooks. First I tried Ubuntu on my new notebook. But I realized very early, that this is not my distribution. I'm using Debian now for a long time. And I also want to have it on my Notebook. Since Ubuntu is a Debian based distribution, I thought it should be easy to get Debian running. But this is not true. Hopefully the following hints will help some people out there to get happy with Debian on their NC6120. It is a great notebook!

Experience

The NC6120 is a nice and solid notebook. It has a nice and homebred design, keys and connectors in the right place and is easy to handle. I have no special negative experience with it. Only the BIOS, especially the VGA BIOS could be updated (See X11 section).
The surface of the notebook, right where the keyboard is located, is of some kind of metal or high quality plastics and feels very well. The temperature in this area is low, which makes the work more comfortable. A Dell Latitude D505 I use at work gets very hot on the left side. I don't like that, especially in the summer.

People often ask for the fan. I have to say, that the fan is running very often. So the NC6120 is not really a quite notebook. Of course I'm not an expert in notebooks, but I think it is more or less normal for a notebook of this power range. Compared to the Dell Latitude D505 I would say that they are on the same level concerning the fan usage. And the Dell has 100 MHz less than the HP. But I can't recommend this notebook for people looking for a quiet notebook.

The power of this computer is good. I used an AMD Athlon XP+ 1700 in my desktop before. Compared to that I don't miss anything. But I don't play games. What I'm doing is mainly eMail, Internet browsing, writing text and write/compile software. In this case compiling is the killer application. The speed is good except you are on battery and use the powersave governor ;-) .

The screen has a very good quality and is good for many hours of work. It has a good brightness. Maybe the lower area of the screen is a little bit more bright than the top. But that doesn't hurt.

I didn't measure the capacity of the standard battery yet. I think it's around 3 hours with permanent normal work, but I will check that later.

The loudspeakers are not too bad for a notebook. They are good enough to watch a film, but not to enjoy music. Compared to the Toshiba 4090 they are much better. But I still recommend some earphones or external loudspeakers.

Update 10.11.2007
The problems with the VGA BIOS are solved for me now, see the updates in the X11 section.

For the fan I can say that it is very quiet now. I use undervolting for the CPU now. It is great! See the Power management section for more information.

System overview

There are more pictures on the next page.


HP NC6120

My NC6120 has the following technical data:

  • 15 inch SXGA TFT (1400x1050)
  • Intel Centrino (ICH6) chipset (Sonoma)
  • Intel Pentium M 750 processor with 1.8 GHz
  • 512 MB DDR Ram
  • 60 GB hard disk (5400 rpm)
  • CD-RW/DVD combo drive
  • Bluetooth module
  • Intel IPW 2200 WLAN
  • Broadcom NetXtreme BCM5705M Gigabit Ethernet
  • AC 97 modem
  • IrDA port
  • 4x USB, serial, parallel, TV out, VGA, Firewire, 2x CardBus,
  • Modem, LAN, microphone, earphones, multi card reader¬†

And here a short and a long version of the lspci output. To check the kernel modules which are used in my Debian installation, I created a list of them. Not all of them are necessary, of course. There are also some for NFS, IPSec and so on.

Update 09.01.2007
Here is a new list of loaded modules. Currently I use the 2.6.19.1 vanilla Kernel.

Update 10.11.2007
Again an updated list of the loaded modules. Now for Kernel 2.6.23.1.