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Gentoo on a Phillips Freevents X52

May 28th, 2007

My old laptop was very nice and powerful but had one problem when using it for work. It weighted close to 4kg in its bag with the power adapter. I never did any 3d graphics work on it anyway so I decided I needed a new lighter laptop.

After looking around for ages I finally found one that was perfect… at PC World… I know! I normally don’t touch PC World machines but this machine was perfect. There’s a page here on the X53 which as far as I can tell is exactly the same. The specs of the machine are…

  • Intel Core Duo T2050 Processor 1.66GHz
  • 667 MHz FSB
  • 1024 MB RAM
  • 80 GB Hard Drive
  • DVD ReWriter MultiDrive
  • 12.1″ Widescreen Display (1280×800)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home
  • 224MB Intel GMA950 Integrated Graphics
  • 1.85kg
  • 802.11 a/b/g Wireless
  • About 4 hours battery life

…and all for the price of £799.99. I haven’t been able to find a small laptop this light and powerful for anywhere near that price. One of the first things I did was try and get gentoo running on it. Here’s some notes on how to do it.

Note: This is still a work in progress.

Initial Install

I installed the system following the Gentoo Handbook using the gentoo 2006.0 install CD. I used an i686 stage 3 release. Gentoo seems to have an issue with the network card in this laptop (see below) so to boot up the system from the install CD I had to press Ctrl-C when the PCI Coldplugging text appeared. This stops it from loading the network driver and it continues booting. I then had to use a USB network device to complete the install.

My CHOST and CFLAGS are…

CFLAGS="-march=prescott -O2 -pipe -fomit-frame-pointer"


I currently have almost everything working under gentoo. I’m currently running gentoo-source-2.6.21-r2 and am only having trouble with the MMC reader.

To build the kernel I just used genkernel with the –menuconfig option so I could change kernel options. I also disabled creation of bootsplash images but that’s just a personal preference. There were a number of options I changed in the kernel to get things working. They were…

# Set Processor Information
Processor type and features
	Processor family = Pentium M
	Preemption Model = Preemptible Kernel

#set SATA controller (I believe it's Intel ESB,
#ICH, PIIX3, PIIX4 PATA/SATA Support that is needed
#but I enabled all of them to make sure
Device Drivers
	Serial ATA and Parallel ATA drivers
		ATA device Support = M
		All SubOptions set to M

#Linux currently has issues with the network card and
#the MMC Reader, here we disable the MMC Reader.
Device Drivers
	MMC/SD Card Support
		Secure Digital Host Controller Interface support = N

Gentoo seems to have an issue with the network card in the laptop. lspci gives…

01:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation Unknown device 4222 (rev 02)
03:04.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL-8139/8139C/8139C+ (rev 10)

So for the ethernet controller it should require either 8139cp or 8139too. However when the 8139too module is loaded the whole laptop freezes up. After a lot of playing I finally figured out how to get it working. You need to enable the following sections in the kernel configuration

#To fix it enable PIO and RX-reset options, not sure which it is
#but it works with both enabled
Device Drivers
	Network Device support
		Ethernet 10 or 100Mbit
			Realtek RTl-8129/8130/8139 PCI Fast Ethernet = M
			Use PIO instead of MMIO = Y
			Support for uncommon RTL-8139 rev. K = Y
			Support for older RTL-8129/8130 boards
			Use older RX-reset method

I have managed to get wireless working on this laptop. Previously I managed to get NetworkManager working fully with the wireless but recently it has stopped working. However I can still get it to connect to un-encrypted WAPs from the command line so it is probably just NetworkManager.

Gentoo comes with drivers for the wireless card. All you need to do is…

emerge -a net-wireless/ipw3945

and that will handle all dependencies. You may need to disable or enable some sections in the kernel but they are easy to find. Obviously when you upgrade you kernel you will need to reinstall this package.

Power Management
To get power management to work correctly I followed the instructions in the Gentoo Power Management Guide. The modules I had to add to /etc/modules.autoload.d/kernel-2.6 were…

  • speedstep-centrino
  • ac
  • battery
  • button
  • container
  • fan
  • processor
  • thermal
  • video
  • cpufreq_conservative
  • cpufreq_ondemand
  • cpufreq_powersave
  • cpufreq_stats
  • cpufreq_userspace
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  1. al
    July 19th, 2009 at 11:42 | #1

    Hi there,

    Nice to see somebody were able to install Linux on this kind of laptop.

    For my part, most distrib have not been able to be installed on.(Ubuntu x.x, Mandriva x.x, Suse x.x, even the openSuse 10.2)

    I have been able to pass through the install GUI on OpenSuse 10.2, but during the reboot install process this one froze again the laptop

    the main issue seem as mentionned form your article is network card so i ‘ve used kernel argument brokenmodules=8139too otherwise i was stuck!

    I have to try the gentoo distrib as you mentionned.


  2. July 19th, 2009 at 11:43 | #2

    Thanks for the comment. This weekend I’ve finally managed to get the onboard network card working fine under gentoo. I ended up having to enable the following options in the kernel; CONFIG_8139TOO_PIO and CONFIG_8139_OLD_RX_RESET. I’ve updated my guide slightly and this goes into more details. Good luck with getting it to work, it’s a very rewarding feeling when it does!


  3. Stu8
    July 19th, 2009 at 11:44 | #3

    After alot of searching on the net for a possible solution as to how to install Linux on my X52 ( which I had to take back and now have a X56 ) I’ve tryed to install linux on both with the same problems. I’ve tried Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Gentoo, DSL, Whax whoppix, with no joy. The only thing that i’ve found that goes half way to installing is FreeBSD, which is a whole world of new stuff I need to get my head round – which I don’t think I’m ready for yet. Have you managed to fully install linux on your lappy yet? If so I would be greatly appreciated if you could either send it to me or post on you website.

  4. July 19th, 2009 at 11:45 | #4

    I must admit I gave up getting gentoo to run on my laptop. Not that it wouldn’t do it, purely that I didn’t have the time to tune it correctly.

    However I have now managed to get Ubuntu 7.04 installed on it using a custom livecd that you can download (using bittorrent) from here.

    Using that livecd I have managed to get everything working apart from the card reader. That includes ethernet, wireless, suspend and hibernate. The best thing? It didn’t require any config on my end. The only thing you have to make sure is you don’t update the kernel.

    When I get some free time I’ll have a look at seeing why the card reader doesn’t working, there is already a bug open for the network adapter. If I can get the card reader working I can completely remove windows.


  5. Stu8
    July 19th, 2009 at 11:45 | #5

    Cheers for the reply,

    Since posting on your site I’ve also been working with a Kubuntu Alternative ISO from the same site you’ve just recomended.

    everthing seem to install OK with the exception of the card reader, like you say.

    as a matter of interest do you used your wireless? I’m having a few problems getting my wireless to work with WPA ! I know you are a Gnome dude and the feel of it is different to KDE but if you do use your wireless and use WPA I’ll be interested as to how to set it up so It keeps your WPA key.


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