Linux on the Acer Travelmate 602TER laptop

I had been using a borrowed laptop, and had only a few hours to replace it, so I did a quick web search and then went to the shop (OTA Notebook Centre in Toronto; this has now merged with OTA's main store, and notebook universe on Queen near Broadview seems to have a better range). I can't say whether I would get the same system if I had longer to shop; it was actually a pretty good deal.

[three years later, I'm still happy with it]


The Acer 602TER has a trackpad, and does 1024x768 on the 13.3 inch TFT LCD, up to 1200x1600 externally (but only 1280x1024 at a comfortable refresh rate and in 24-bit colour). It has a 650MHz PIII, 128M of RAM (with a free upgrade so another 64M is on its way, they say), 11.5G disk, an atapi/scsi 4x4x20 CD-RW, built in 10/100 ethernet, built in winmodem (untested) and 16-bit ESS audio.

Installing Linux

After problems with Corel Linux Deluxe Edition (hung in installer), StormIx (hung configuring X) and SuSE (failed to detect mouse, and asked me to double-click on elections, with no keyboard equivalent), I tried Mandrake 7.2 and had no problems of any sort. Everything worked. It's amazing. Even the sound.

Mandrake 7.2's graphical installer asked if I wanted 3D accelaration with XFree8x 3.x or 2d with 4.x, and I chose to run XFree86 4.x, which then worked fine. I updated the XF86Config-4 file later to add info for my 19" external monitor.

I have an external zip 250 drive, and had to use insmod to load the imm driver for that to work.


I haven't tried the winmodem; others have said it works in Linux if you download a driver.

update it works fine with ltmodem; this is included in the Mandrake boxed edition, or you can download it

I had a hardware problem where if you touched the bottom of the case, under the cd-rw drive, there was a loud click and the screen dimmed. I am sending the machine back to Acer to have that repaired.

(two days later: the machine is back and working. I am very impressed. Acer had Purolater pick up the machine at their expense (I had kept the original box) on Monday afternoon and it was back (Purolator again) on Wednesday morning.

If I boot windows, then restart into Linux, I sometimes find that the power management kicks in, and if the machine is unattended it shuts down, but I can't start it again reliably. The reset button on the front works to reboot.

update this went away with Mandrake 8; With Mandrake 9.1 I use APM rather than ACPI (boot with acpi=off) because otherwise the machine starts running sluggishly after a few minutes.

I now use Mandrake 10.1 and/or Cooker. Suspend/resume isn't reliable with a 2.6.8 kernel, but it's fine with 2.4.* - I close the lid and it suspends, and ersumes when I open the lid.

The physical machine

There were a couple of oddities. There is no floppy drive (it's an option). There is no volume control wheel; a function key and the arrow keys alter the volume, and that works in both Windows and Linux, but means you can't see the volume setting.

This laptop is 10 pounds lighter than my previous one, if you include the carrying cases. Wow.