NEC Versa S950

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Overview

NEC Versa S950 is a relatively small Pentium M based laptop with non-glare 14" display. Its weight is around 2.2 kg, and supplied 4800 mAh battery lets it run for ~3h in autonomous mode.

Linux support is complete for this device, all built-in peripherals have functional linux drivers. Arch Linux installation goes smoothly. Aside from local sources (DVD, USB or possibly SD) you can use Ethernet for network installation, but probably not Wi-Fi.

In this guide I'll describe describe what may be done after installation to get all the hardware working. I assume reader has some general linux knowledge, and skip nonspecific parts of installation and Arch configuration.

Specs

  • Processor: Pentium M 1.73GHz
  • Screen: 14" non-glare 1280x768
  • Memory size: 1G
  • Chipset: i915GM
  • BIOS: Phoenix NoteBIOS ver.4 rev.6.1
  • Hard disk drive: 60G Hitachi Travelstar 5K100
  • Optical disk drive: Philips SDVD8441
  • Sound: SigmaTel STAC9200
  • Ethernet: Broadcom BCM5788
  • Wi-Fi: Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG in miniPCI slot
  • Bluetooth: Broadcom 2101
  • IrDA: NSC unknown
  • Modem: Agere Athens
  • Card reader: TI FlashMedia SD
  • FireWire: TI OHCI compilant
  • Touchpad: AVC Finger sensing pad

There are several other modifications, with different RAM and HDD sizes.

Setup

CPU

Use acpi-cpufreq module together with some governor to control CPU speed (cpufreq_ondemand seems to be the most popular choice, though I myself prefer cpufreq_powersave).

There's a standard Arch way to do this: install cpufrequtils from [extra], check /etc/conf.d/cpufreq:

	governor="ondemand"
	#min_freq commented out
	#max_freq commented out

then add cpufreq to DAEMONS in /etc/rc.conf (and/or run it manually).

See Cpufrequtils, CPU_Frequency_Scaling.

Text Console

No useful BIOS textmodes. Pity. Either leave it as is, or use framebuffer.

Xorg/video

Video is handled by intel driver. Relevant section of my xorg.conf is

	Section "Device"
		Identifier		"i915G"
		Driver			"intel"
		Option "DRI"		"true"
	EndSection
	
	Section "Screen"
		Identifier		"Screen0"
		Device			"i915G"
		Monitor			"Versa display"
		DefaultColorDepth	24
		SubSection "Display"
			Depth 		24
			Modes		"1280x768"

Virtual 1280 1536

		EndSubSection
	EndSection

DRI is backed by i915.ko, which seems to be autoloaded — no need to mention it in rc.conf.

You should get native 1280x768 without running 915resolution, but in some cases I had to use it; check carefully which mode X uses!

Virtual is set to accomodate two 1280x768 displays, one atop another; you may need to tweak it for your needs. See [NEC_Versa_S950#External display|xrandr setup]. Beware, setting any of Virtual dimensions to anything greater than 2048 will effectively disable DRI.

Note: seems like there's no software way to control backlight brightness.

Xorg/input

Laptop keyboard may require keymap tweaking, but that's not necessary. Fn key is processed somewhere in BIOS and you have no control over it. Two additional buttons near power switch generate codes 178 and 236 - bind them if you need them. See Multimedia keys on Arch forum.

Touchpad is dumb crappy AVC unit connected via PS/2 — just use /dev/input/mice and do not bother trying to configure it. It's a good idea to turn Emulate3Buttons on, there's no hardware button 3. Buttons 4 and 5 (scroll), on the other hand, are there: tap on the upper right / lower right corners of the pad.

Relevant section from xorg.conf:

	Section "InputDevice"
		Identifier		"Main mouse"
		Driver 			"mouse"
		Option "Protocol"	"auto"
		Option "Device"		"/dev/input/mice"
		Option "Emulate3Buttons" "true"
		Option "ZAxisMapping"	"4 5"
	EndSection

Hitachi HDD

To avoid excessive load/unload cycles, add

	hdparm -q -B 255 /dev/sda

to rc.local, tweaking -B value according to your needs.

Beware: head parking can be useful; in particular, it can save your HDD when laptop falls. Do not use hdparm -B unless you known exactly what you are doing.

See laptop harddrive Load_Cycle_Count issue.

Sound and Ethernet

No additional setup required, modules (snd_hda_intel and tg3 resp.) are guessed by Arch installer.

Wi-Fi

Driver module, ipw2200, is guessed correctly by installer, but it won't work unless you install firmware — ipw2200-fw from [core]. Add

	options ipw2200 led=1

to modprobe.conf (or modprobe.d/ipw2200) to enable front panel LED. Also note, you can turn it on/off by pressing Fn+F2, but current device state can be hard to guess. "Failed to send SCAN_ABORT" in kern.log means card is being turned on, and LED should show some activity (flash from time to time at least).

Bluetooth

Bluetooth dongle is connected via USB and handled by hci_usb module, which is autoloaded when necessary. Pressing Fn+F4 actually (dis)connects it from the bus, this can be seen in kern.log. The driver does NOT reports anything when it finds device; mount usb fs:

	mount -t usbfs none /proc/bus/usb

and examine /proc/bus/usb/devices to find "Foxconn Bluetooth", then check whether Driver=hci_usb.

Note: for "hcitool dev" to work, you need the whole pack of daemons running. Install bluez-utils and examine /etc/rc.d/bluetooth.

See Bluetooth for more information.

IrDA

Load nsc-ircc module, and/or add it to MODULES in rc.conf. Should work, though I didn't test it with any real device.

FireWire

No setup needed, ohci1394 module is autoloaded.

CardBus (PCMCIA)

No setup needed.

Card reader

No setup needed, tifm_sd module seem to be autoloaded. Your card will be accessible as /dev/mmcblk0, with partitions mmcblk0p1 etc.

Framebuffer

To get native resolution in framebuffer, you have to use uvesafb. This thing is quite tricky, my recipes may or may not work for you, so get ready to read the real docs.

You need to put v86d together with 915resolution to initrd. Both can be found in Arch repositories, but you probably won't be able to use those. Check if prebuilt v86d runs, then examine it with ldd — you should not get segfaults. If you do, reconfigure it --with-x86emu. Then rebuild 915resolution using klibc instead of glibc (set CC=klcc for make), otherwise it won't be usable within initrd.

You need hook files for mkinitcpio, namely /lib/initcpio/{install,hooks}/{915resolution,v86d}. Get them from prebuilt packages, then modify HOOKS in /etc/mkinitcpio.conf:

	HOOKS = (base udev 915resolution v86d ... )

resolution settings in /lib/initcpio/hooks/915resolution

	msg -n ":: Patching the VBIOS..."
	/usr/sbin/915resolution 5c 1280 768

and /etc/modprobe.d/uvesafb:

	options uvesafb mode=1280x768 scroll=ywrap

(note: module parameter is mode=, not mode_option= as default configuration suggests). At this point, you may try to modprobe uvesafb — text console should switch to framebuffer.

If everything's ok, run

# mkinitcpio -p linux

to rebuild initrd and reboot.

Note: this is one of possible ways to setup uvesafb. You can insert the module later, say, in rc.local; initcpio won't be involved at all. You can try to compile it statically into kernel and possibly get graphical console much earlier.

Warning: suspend-to-RAM and uvesafb are mutually exclusive, at least for this laptop. You can't choose both.

See uvesafb in Arch wiki and official site.

Modem

There's no modem in this laptop. Ok, nowadays such things are sometimes called "modems", but, well, they aren't. Agere Athens (or Athena according to some NEC specs) is and AMR-type card, which is in fact a sound card add-on with fancy (phone) connector, nothing more. It is handled by snd_hda_intel, and you can see some of its controls in alsamixer.

To make a real modem out of this, you need some software DSP to analyze and make all those hissing, chirping and beeping which real modems use to communicate. There's one called slmodem. Make sure it is built with SUPPORT_ALSA=1, and run

	slmodemd -a modem:0

It will create virtual serial port, /dev/ttySL0 usually, which can be used for pppd etc.

See Smartlink_Modem_drivers, slmodem page

External display

There's no hardware hotkeys to control external display, so your only option is xrandr. Typical usage:

  • turn display on: xrandr --output VGA --auto
  • turn display off: xrandr --output VGA --off
  • clone primary display: xrandr --output VGA --same-as LVDS
  • twinhead setup: xrandr --output VGA --below LVDS

Twinhead mode requires Virtual from xorg.conf to be large enough to hold both displays together, i.e., for 1280x768 below 1280x768 you need at least Virtual 1280 1536.

Hibernation

S4 (suspend-to-disk) seems to work well. S3 (suspend-to-ram) works well too unless you use uvesafb, in which case X server will die on wakeup and won't be able to start until next reboot. Maybe this will change in future releases of xf86-video-intel and/or uvesafb.

You should POST video card after S3 wakeup, otherwise console will be blank. Also, hdpart -B should be run again as HDD is turned off and forgets its settings.

Plain kernel interface: To activate S4, just

	echo 4 > /proc/acpi/sleep

uswsusp: Use s2disk for S4 and s2ram for S3. s2ram requires --vbe_post option (or with appropriate line added to whitelist.c, having VBE_POST in last field) to handle video card properly. See Suspend_to_Disk, Suspend_to_RAM for more information.

pm-utils: Use pm-suspend for S3 and pm-hibernate for S4.

To reanimate sleeping laptop, press Power button.

When using S4, do not forget to specify resume=/dev/sdXN in kernel command line (sdXN being your swap partition).

Basic disassembly

Taking out some parts of the laptop may be necessary for upgrade or routine maintance. Seems like the official disassembly guide isn't available, so here's quick guide how to gain access to different parts of the laptop.

Memory and Wi-Fi card: open lid at the bottom.

Optical drive: remove shallow screw (not the deeper one) left to bottom lid, open the lid and push shiny metallic handle visible on the left side next to wifi card until the drive comes out.

Keyboard: you need to remove plastic panel with buttons and leds above the keyboard first. Open screen to full 180°, remove two screws at the back of screen handlers, remove the battery, then push the plate from below. You should push the side closer to the screen while keeping keyboard side in place. Little screwdriver may be necessary to lift it left and right of the battery place.

After the panel is done, remove two screws on the top of keyboard, and one marked with K in circle from behind, then slide the keyboard forward (to the screen). Again, you may need to use small screwdriver to help it come out.

Fan: right under the keyboard.

Usage notes

Do not press too hard on laptop lid, you can damage display (scratch it against keyboard rim). If you did, first of all wipe the screen carefully — display coating is apparently much harder than keyboard paint, it may be not as bad as it seems.

When working under full load while standing on a flat surface, laptop tends to heat above 70°C (ACPI termzone). To mend this, raise it above the surface — a couple centimeters will be enough — to let cool air to fan inlet.