3D S320 II
Belkin BT USB
Advent 7041 / Medion MD 40676
Pentium-M Processor • Intel 855PM Chipset • nVidia GeForce FX Go 5200 • Realtek AC'97 Audio • Intel PRO/Wireless LAN 2100 3B • Realtek RTL8139 Fast Ethernet NIC • PCtel AC'97 Modem • Synaptics Touchpad • Intel USB 2.0 • Texas Instruments OHCI Compliant IEEE-1394 Firewire • National Semicondutor HP HDSL-1100/2100 FIR IrDA • Texas Instruments PCI-4150 CardBus
The machine has a 1500 MHz Intel® Pentium-M processor with 512 MB of DDR333/PC2700 RAM, a 40 GB hard drive, a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo, a 15.3" widescreen TFT display driven by a 64 MB nVidia GeForce FX Go 5200 graphics on a Mitac 8060B motherboard. All in all this adds up to a pretty powerful machine. The jewel in the crown is the Intel i855PN (Centrino) chipset, providing onboard 801.11b WiFi. There are also built-in 10/100 Base-T Ethernet, 56K modem, Firewire, USB 2.0, PCMCIA, parallel, IrDA, SVGA and S-Video ports. And it all weighs in at 1199.99 GBP.
On the downside, there is no floppy (but a USB floppy drive will only set you back 30 GBP and can be used as a boot device), there are no PS/2 ports, so it's just as well that USB mice are now prevalent, and there is no serial port either!
The pre-installed Windows XP Home (SP1) is properly configured, and all the devices work as they should. The only real niggle here is that you are supplied with a "Rescue Disk", rather than an official Window XP disk. This means that should you want to re-install the machine, it will revert to the original disk layout of a single 40 GB NTFS partition! I personally object to this, as for the price I would expect to get the original media so that I can do what I like with it. The other drawback is that you must go to PC World for technical support and their special support website for driver updates - these are way behind the manufacturers and you may never get that critical driver update if you rely soley upon the provided support. The only problem is that they will refuse to support you if you install drivers from other sources than themselves (or Windows Update)!!!
The real nitty gritty is whether or not this machine will run Linux, and the short answer is yes! There were no problems booting a variety of live distributions, though some worked better than others. For the time being, I do not want to re-partition the disk, so I have stuck with live distros and used a CompactFlash card for permanent storage (as there is no way to safely write to the NTFS partition). This has meant that I have been limited to using a pre-compiled kernel, but apart from the Wireless LAN, this has not been a problem.
Intel® Pentium-M® 1500 MHz with 512 MB RAM
The RAM appears to be two banks of 256 MB generic DDR333 (PC2700) SO-DIMM RAM, giving a total of 512 MB (that's half a Gigabyte!!!). Looking at the specs for the i855PN chipset, it looks like it might be possible to upgrade this to DDR400 RAM, but probably at quite considerable expense!
Intel® 855PM (Odem) Chipset
In addition to this is also an Intel PRO/Wireless Network connection, which is part of the Intel Centrino chipset.
Packaged along with all this is a Texas Instruments PCI-4150 CardBus Controller and a Texas Instruments OHCI Compliant IEEE-1394 FireWire Controller.
nVidia GeForce FX Go 5200
The newer drivers provided a better interface to controlling two displays. One disappointment was that the TV-Out is not yet capable of widescreen output, which means that you have two different shaped displays! Both PC ServiceCall and Medion have yet to issue any driver updates, so this is the only way to get the goodies that nVidia are including in their latest drivers.
I tested the card using 3D Mark 2001 SE (free version), and it managed scores of 7035 when run at 1024 x 768 x 32 and a slightly lower 5913 when run at the maximum resolution of 1280 x 854 x 32. The graphics themselves were breath-taking.
Under Linux, things varied from distro to distro. Knoppix came out on top
and would drive the display using the
Intel/Realtek AC'97 Audio Controller
Behind the AC'97 Controller lies an Advance Logic ALC202 Audio Codec (id ALG64). This is a fairly basic 2 channel Codec, but oddly seems to provide S/PDIF output, even though there is no socket on the machine to get at it!
There was no problem getting the sound working under Linux, as it uses the
The standard 2.5" hard drive with an unformatted capacity of 40 GB. This is decent enough amount of storage for any laptop, but as it is an UDMA/100 (ATA-5) drive running at 5400 RPM it is unlikely to set any speed records. Still, provided that the machine doesn't start swapping, it is more than adequate. One really stupid thing is that the drive comes partitioned as a single 40GB NTFS partition. This has two downsides, firstly there is no option of either putting your data in one partition and Windows in the other, or using part of the disk to install Linux. Secondly, NTFS is best treated as Read-Only from Linux, so you need some other way of transferring data between a Live-CD distro (like Knoppix) and Windows.
There is also an QSI SBW-242 24x8x24x10 CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive, allowing CDs to be burnt whilst on the move. This is very useful for backing up any data as well as playing the latest DVD movies in glorious widescreen!
Intel PRO/Wireless LAN 2100 3B Mini PCI Adapter
I did try an updated set of drivers, emailed to me by Medion support (they do not seem to be available through their website), and this had a marginal improvement, the main benefit bein better a monitoring app. I the discovered that, after a policy change, the latest set of drivers are not available direct from Intel are these are much better. These drivers are available from Intel and the board's homepage contains some other useful info and tools.
I have since upgraded my access point to provide WPA, applied XP Service Pack 2 and started using the upgraded wireless drivers from Intel, I noe get a slightly less reliable connection than when I was initially using plain old WEP and the original drivers and access point firmware.
There are problems with this device under Linux. There are a number of ways to go, but unfortunately the one which is likely to be the most reliable is still under heavy development! This is the Intel sponsored ipw2100 open source driver, and when it is finished, it will definitely be the best route to take. As it is an being developed in conjunction with Intel, it is progressing rapidly and should make its way into the Kernel tree before long (Knoppix 3.4 already ships version 0.41 with the 2.4.26 kernel). The driver can be compiled both inside the kernel source tree and outside, but as it's difficult to re-compile the Kernel of a live distro, I had to go with the external option, and the Makefile needed some work to make it compile using only the kernel headers provided with Knoppix. Even up to version 0.45 of the driver I still can't establish a connection with WEP enabled, so this is not a fantastic option at the moment.
The later incarnations of this driver 0.55 onwards do not support 2.4 kernels, however there are some patches available to allow you to do this. 0.55 purports to support WPA, but I have not had the chance to try this. Recently this driver when to 1.0 status, so it is pretty much complete, but I have some work to do in setting up a WPA connection.
I also tried the NdisWrapper route, which basically takes the Windows driver and makes it run under Linux by emulating the Microsoft NDIS (Network Device Interfacing System) API. This almost works, in that I can detect my network, but I have not managed to establish a connection to it! Again, I suspect that this might be down to my mandatory use of encryption.
RealTek RTL8139 PCI Fast Ethernet NIC
Under both Windows and Linux this works like any other network connection,
with Linux using the
Intel/PCtel AC'97 Modem Controller
This is an AC'97 (or MC'97 if you prefer) modem, which uses a PCtel
Codec (actually an Si3036 or 3038 made by Silicon Laboratories with id SIL33).
Althrough quite definitely a WinModem, it is a well known Codec and there are
drivers available. Either the
I had problems with the SmartLink driver locking up the machine, and
Note that the
It is possible to use the SmartLink drivers and a 2.6 kernel with some AMR modems (that go via an AC'97 controller), provided you stick to version 2.9.9 or earlier (2.9.10 contains a clause in the licence agreement that prevents you using it legally with a non-SmartLink modem). All the earlier slmodem drivers are available from the Linmodems site. Note there a currently some issues with the 2.6.10 kernel in that you need to hack the code to fool it into thinking that the module is GPL'ed.
More information about this modem and other PCTel modems is given on a separate page dedicated to PCTel Modems.
Under Linux the touchpad is seen as a PS/2 mouse, and there isn't really anything you can do to configure it. Still, it works, so you can use the machine with or without a mouse. Knoppix left the touchpad enabled, even when it detected the mouse, so you are free to unplug/re-plug the mouse at any time.
As the machine doesn't have a floppy drive, I purchased a cheap USB floppy drive which the BIOS is smart enough to recognize as a boot device. It can also be plugged in whilst the machine is running, and Windows identifies it and adds A: to the list of drives.
Linux supports USB 2.0 quite happily using the
Knoppix does not detect the Firewire controller, but it is supported by the
Fast Infrared Port
The device also works under Linux. The SIR part appears as a 16550A UART
serial port appears as ttyS0. The FIR part is note detected by Knoppix, but
Linux Kernel Card Services also detects the CardBus Controller and loads
The machine is provided with a Recovery Disk rather than an official Windows XP Home disk. This means that should you have to re-install the machine, then it will likely take over the entire disk again, even if you have re-partioned it yourself. Personally, for the money we pay for machines like this, I would have expected a proper XP CD, however this supposedly promotes piracy of Microsoft's crappy OS. It also gives us very little control over what is and what isn't installed on your machine. Long live Linux!
Last updated 17 October 2010
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