LINUX on an AMSTECH Roadster 15CTA

Please note that I do not actually have a Roadster. I can only help with some general things !!!
Have a look at http://www.mhmsys.com/linux.html. That is much more up to date page on a similar notebook!

In December 1998 my former girlfriend asked me to look for a notebook computer for her.

Please take note of the 'former'. I don't have access to that computer any more !!!

I investigated the web for reasonably priced machines with 12.1´´ TFT screens. I decided for the AMS roadster mainly because of its price and the 3 year garanty, though I hope that it won´t be necessary. I bought it online at www.buycomp.com.

Mohd H Misnan wrote to me that the AMS Roadster 15 is an OEM version of the Mitac 5033. So some, if not all, of the information given here might be applicable to the Mitac 5033.

General Impression

The Roadster 15CTA is a nice machine for a very low price. From my experience with other notebooks it seems to be on the heavy side. The 12.1´´ TFT screen is very nice and bright and my one had no broken pixels. One surprise came after some 20 minutes of active installation work. A fan started. It is located on the bottom side of the notebook and of regular CPU-fan size. Under hard computing conditions it starts about every 15 minutes and runs for 1-2 minutes. For a weaker usage, such as text editing, it does not come up. However, this could have been expected from the low price and the relatively strong but probably not specifically mobile CPU. This also explains the battery time of 1:40 hours. More annoying is the extremely weak cover for the PCMCIA slot, which I don´t expect to last forever. Overall it´s a good deal. Now three months later it´s already 130$ cheaper.

Repartitioning of the harddisk

The neverending story. Is there anybody who has installed LINUX onto an existing Windows system without any problems? Of course afterwards you find out that it could have been so easy, but... Ok, from the beginning. I had a 2GB harddisk and wanted to reduce the Windows partition to 1250MB and use the rest for LINUX (my girlfriend and her working environment is more used to MS). I know of fips by Arno Schäfer and have used it previously without problems. Cautious as I am I checked dejanews for information on using fips on a Windows98 system. The newest version 2.0 should be able to handle FAT32 systems (I did of course not look at the actual filesystem type, which was an old FAT16!) I then tried to run fips, but it always stopped when it was supposed to write the MBR with an error message "cannot allocate memory" "failed to load COMMAND" or so. I then gave part (a fips-comparable program by Mikhail Ranish) a try. It worked neither. I finally gave up and was going to delete the Windows partition and install from scratch. I created a Windows boot disk and started fdisk. I removed the partition and created a new smaller one. When I was going to write the information, fdisk stopped with an error message that it was not allowed to write the MBR. I then had a closer look into the BIOS setup. And there, under "security", was the activated option to write-lock the MBR, explaining all my problems with fips. Of course the Windows fdisk had destroyed files in "c:\windows\system", so I really had to reinstall Windows98, which luckily went without major difficulties.

Installing RedHat 5.2

I wanted to install RedHat 5.2 from a computer on our network to which I had downloaded the RedHat source tree. Therefore I would need a working network card. Through some investigation on relevant pages (e.g. Linux hardware compatibility list) if found that a LINK-SYS DE660 PCMCIA card should be supported and take both BNC and RJ-45 ethernet connectors. I had ordered this card together with the notebook. Installation went without unexpected problems (apparently I always have to do it three times until I am happy with the configuration ;-).

The X window system was similarly configured without problems. Except for one problem: X locked after the BIOS put the notebook into sleep mode! As a simple solution I first disabled the sleep-mode in the BIOS-APM. Later I found that activating the screensaver (see man xset) before it goes to sleep is also sufficient. Andrew Dowding pointed out that XFree86 3.3.1-4 is not working. Later versions like 3.3.3.1 are working.

There was one problem with the X which I forgot. After I got a couple of mails I remebered it (one should take notes!). The X did not work from the beginning with 800x600. One of the refresh rate ranges in /etc/X11/XF86Config is too small. A small increase in the upper boundary fixed that problem. WARNING: You change these parameters at your own risk ! It might damage your screen. As soon as possible I will add the working XF86Config file.

John Cowgill followed the way outlined above. Replacing the HorizSync 35.1 by HorizSync 36.1 worked for him. Again the warning, that you do any changes at your own risk !

And here is the XF86Config I created for the notebook. It worked fine for me. I changed the HorizSync to range up to 47.1 . If you want to be more cautious, follow the way of John Cowgill and increase it only a little bit.

Compiling a new kernel

As next step I compiled a new kernel. Again without problems in about 10 minutes. I did not include sound card support, though there is one in the notebook. And I never tried to get the modem to work (under Windows98 it works fine).

Rolf Weber wrote me that the modem is a Winmodem. So it won't work with Linux !

Matthew Hixson got the sound to work. Here is his kernel configuration for the sound part. Different from standard the interrupt is 5 and not 7.
#
# Sound
#
CONFIG_SOUND=y
# CONFIG_PAS is not set
CONFIG_SB=y
# CONFIG_ADLIB is not set
# CONFIG_GUS is not set
# CONFIG_MPU401 is not set
# CONFIG_UART6850 is not set
# CONFIG_PSS is not set
# CONFIG_GUS16 is not set
# CONFIG_GUSMAX is not set
# CONFIG_MSS is not set
# CONFIG_SSCAPE is not set
# CONFIG_TRIX is not set
# CONFIG_MAD16 is not set
# CONFIG_CS4232 is not set
# CONFIG_MAUI is not set
CONFIG_AUDIO=y
# CONFIG_MIDI is not set
# CONFIG_YM3812 is not set
SBC_BASE=220
SBC_IRQ=5
SBC_DMA=1
SB_DMA2=5
SB_MPU_BASE=0
SB_MPU_IRQ=-1
DSP_BUFFSIZE=65536
# CONFIG_LOWLEVEL_SOUND is not set

List of encountered problems

Links to information



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