Ubuntu on Acer Aspire 5000

My temporary work laptop is an Acer Aspire 5000. It has a 1.8 GHz AMD Turion 64 bit processor, 1 GB RAM, 65 GB disc, 1280×800 resolution display and Broadcom wireless chip. The screen is the bright glassy type, which has a horrible glare problem in almost any setting.

I first got an Ubuntu 7.04 installation disk, which installed fine. The display resolution was not correct, nor did the wireless work, but since I was going to do a dist-upgrade to 7.10 I did not worry about those.

The dist-upgrade to 7.10 also went fine. Still wrong resolution which I fixed by manually adding the correct resolution in xorg.conf, but now it recognized the computer needed closed source drivers for modem and wireless. I did not worry about modem, but I installed the wireless drivers. I was able to connect to a wireless access point, but it seemed like the wireless support was extremely flaky, so I ended up installing ndiswrapper and downloading the binary drivers from Acer. That seemed to get a solid wireless performance. But when I took the computer home and tried to boot it up, it hung trying to start wireless. So back to the drawing board.

Since this is a temporary machine I decided to give the 8.04 beta a try. Once again installation went without a hitch, and now even the correct display resolution was recognized. On first install it did not offer any closed source drivers, but after I brought it up to date with all packages, there was a wireless driver available. I installed that, but surprisingly wireless still did not work. I looked at dmesg, and it showed a URL from which I got instructions on how to install the needed drivers.

Now that I have used the 8.04 beta a few days I can say that it is generally working, but things are not as smooth as I have come to expect with my Dell Latitude D820. It seems the wireless might still sporadically disconnect and reconnect on its own, and seems to show weaker signals for access points compared to the Dell. While suspend and hibernation seems to work, wireless usually does not restore coming from those states, and all kinds of twiddling is needed, sometimes requiring a reboot. Almost every resume from hibernation results in a weird sound during boot and an error dialog about problem during hibernation.

I am also experiencing difficulties with VPN. My company IT department has source code for a Linux VPN client, but that does not compile on 32-bit 7.10 or 8.04 beta. I tried the Cisco-compatible VPN client in the Ubuntu repositories and that somewhat works with wireless connection, but it is pretty flaky. I am not sure if that is due to the underlying wireless flakiness or VPN problems.

Another area I have not yet fully researched is LDAP support. It seems LDAP is better integrated with Redhat, Fedora Core and SUSE (which is what my company seems to prefer generally) so I am a bit on my own with Ubuntu.

The Aspire 5000 has some special buttons that I don’t need, and I haven’t tested if they actually work. Most of the Fn key combinations do seem to work, though. The keyboard is a little unusual with Alt Gr, euro and dollar currency buttons, but the currency buttons don’t seem to work. Fortunately they can be easily typed with other key combinations. During installation I chose the USA international keyboard layout with Alt Gr dead keys, but I don’t know if this was the best match.

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