Linux on an AST M-series (M1560X) Laptop
My new (july 3, 1998) laptop is a refurbished one, an
AST, M1560X. I was reasonably
happy with my old AST J30,
but a bigger screen (thus XGA was the only
option for me) and CD player (15 hours of MP3 music from one CD
for those long trips away from
home are nice) were the main reasons to upgrade. I took advantage of
JEM's basement (now outletzoo)
kept a detailed spec list on their
web site, which I shamefully copied here.
AST also has a special going on, which gives the buyer 32Mb extra
for free (but not for mine).
The bottom line: the machine basically works fine, PCMCIA, X-windows,
CD-ROM etc. Only the APM is still giving me minor problems finding the
right kernel and BIOS configurations that I am happy with.
Note: I sold this laptop July 2000 and won't be able to help
much with problems.
- CPU: P166-MMX (333 bogoMIPS) w/ 512k L2 cache on an
Intel 430 TX chipset motherboard
- 64Mb (two removable slots, mine came with 32M and I added 32M
shortly after buying it). Each slot can actually fit up
to 64M, thereby allowing a max of 128M. When I bought this machine
a 32M module went for about $100-$120.
Standard PCI bus, no apparent problems with detecting PCI devices.
- 13.4" Active Matrix screen with
CL 7556 (officially
still unsupported by XFree86 3.3.2).
I was eventually able to get it running
in 1024*768 (8bpp), and I'll keep my latest
XF86Config here online for
you to try (with the usual caveats!!!). Don't forget to
kill gpm (or disable it from rc.local), at least on mine
it wouldn't work without. May also be a slackware 3.5 problem
I've read about.
Here's an XF86Config file from
isabelle SELON. This was with a 12.1" screen and Mandrake 6.1.
Note: coming out of X windows, the console fonts
are not restored yet, I'll be trying to figure that out
later, hints welcome. One quick fix is to add a call to
setfont in your startx script.
Since XFree 184.108.40.206 the video display doesn't work quite right
when booting from Windows to Linux. You need to power the
machine down inbetween.
Michael Neef reported to me that got got 16bpp to works also!!
his page for more details.
- Touchpad PS/2 mouse, which can also be used with external mouse.
Oddly enough I could only work with one PS/2 mouse at the time,
the one it was booted with (be it the touchpad or the external)
Not very useful
(the J30 was better configured in this way).
mouse buttons are right next to each other, the X windows
emulate3button is really easy to operate!
- No modem, but the program I bought it under comes with a
(Viking) 56k PCMCIA card modem (which appears to work, but
gets very very hot, see below)
- APM basically works fine, but you need to know a few peculiar things
about this machine.
I may have not figured out all the right APM options though.
Anecdotal during the first week: left the machine accidentally
plugged in without power at 6pm, got back at 11pm (5 hours)
and there was still 20% juice left. Of course it could
run low, since nobody was working on it. Not bad for BIOS/APM
Resume after a true suspend (Fn-F11(Rest)) doesn't restore
mouse,but I got that corrected with a new kernel
(DO_ENABLE should be disabled).
On one occasion the system hung (read: X + kbd didn't come alive),
but I could get back in via the ethernet card (which did work)
and reboot the machine gently.
Note: it appears that Fn-F11(Rest) only works when you do this
when being on battery power, not on AC. If you put the machine to
sleep with still on AC, you may really lock it up, and it will
refuse to come out of suspend.
Note: now I get the feeling that if you are in X windows and suspend,
it can give problems, so I now switch to a non-X virtual console
(ctrl-alt-f1 is just as good) before suspending it. Then after
waking up, ctrl-alt-f7 gets you back to X. Also, it is important to
suspend and wake up
with the same peripherals attached (the power cord should count as
a peripheral too).
If after resuming it,
the machine later appears to lock up (leftmost light continuesly on
instead of blinking slowly), just let it sit for a few minutes,
and it will fall back to sleep mode, wake it up again with the
power button and plug the AC back in, or keep it awake.
The battery status has only 5 levels: 100, 80, 60, 40 and 20. Not
No time-left estimates either, like the
Toshiba Tecra series does so well.
I will keep a copy of my latest
/usr/src/linux/.config file here,
this is still for kernel 2.0.34.
- Smartbay, can hold a floppy, CD-ROM, hard drive. Nice. I'm not really
using it for that purpose. Keep the CD drive in, and use the floppy
- 2Gb hard drive, although I first removed the standard one it
came with (this time you need to remove a screw, and the
disk housing comes out. Replacing it was very easy. Empty trays
are very cheap (I found them for $3.50/piece, part number
234-802-020) so you almost have near-swappable drives. Mine
didn't come with screws, so better make sure when you order.
Also note you need very special screws, with essentially no
rounded heads, otherwise they stick out a bit and you cannot
slide the tray back into the laptop.
- 20x CD-ROM drive (can read my CD-RW media!!!). Can only be used in
the smartbay, not external. Brand-name: Toshiba XM-1602B.
I'm having a tick problem with cdda2wav, but that could
be a software problem as cdda2wav is still in development at
the moment. The front cover is a bit flimsy, it keeps falling
out by about 1-2 mm on the left end when you move around, a
- standard 1.44M floppy, nice and fast for laptops. The machine
came with the floppy in the SelectBay, but I put the CD
in it, and use the floppy via the (somewhat awkward, one
clip already broke)
cable on the
external (left side) port. One appears to be able to boot
without the floppy (this is a BIOS option),
and use it later on by just plugging
it in (the manual is a bit vague on that, or likes to tell
you to reboot the machine if you want to take the floppy
- Infrared port on the back (COM2 I believe), but not tried
- Has IC-4237 sound, but I needed to reset the IRQ from the
kernel default (select IC-4232, and deselect SB stuff).
Music CDs work great, independantly of kernel sound support
Two large (pretty good) speakers are in the base
on either side of the touchpad, so don't spill any coffee
on the keyboard.
Nice is the volume control,
I missed that on the J30. Volume isn't very loud though, in
fact, it's annoyingly low.
Microphone is also builtin, right below the mouse buttons,
but I didn't get that to work yet.
- USB, but I turned that off to save an IRQ, or even power.
Installed with the "baseapm" boot disk and the "pcmcia" root disk,
but then actually proceeded installing everything from CD ROM.
- the CD-ROM (A Toshiba XM-1602B) supports my CD-RW, which not all
CD drives do!
- I don't like that they moved the tilde/backquote key to the
bottom row, inbetween the control, and Fn (special laptop function)
- Too bad the HD is not "removable" anymore. You need a screwdriver
for the one screw holding the casing),
but on the other hand, the casing is a lot easier and cheaper than the J30
(you still need an additional 4 screws to replace the HD itself from
the casing frame)
- Can't get a decent volume out of the soundcard. The J30 at maximum
was excellent for some music, this one is just way too weak....some
music just needs a tad more volume
- PS/2 mouse: only the one with which it was booted is seen, this
is quite annoying. Can't boot with the external and use both, or
unplug the external and also still use the `internal', like on the
J30 and a lot of other laptops.
I'm trying to figure these out and decide if they are good or bad,
or if I'm actually understanding what is going one at all.
- The power button revived the machine when it went to sleep,
but cannot be configured (?) as suspend button like with the J30.
In my current APM it doesn't go to sleep anymore. APM is just
a very complex... I typically don't use suspend to disk.
- Cannot disable the mouse touch pad on the keyboard other than
booting with an external PS/2 mouse.
- Every now and then the CMOS clock comes out of suspend
with an odd date. Sometimes off by a few days, with the same
time of the day, but not always. And very occasionally you will
see a CMOS checksum error when you would take the effort of
entering the BIOS setup menu, and you have to setup your BIOS
from scratch (better write your favorite defaults down someplace).
- One day my machine didn't want to to boot to Win95 anymore,
neither from disk, neither from rescue floppy (an error message
claimed something was dividing by 0 and i had to contact my
vendor). It turned out the CMOS was blanked (as described in
previous item) and I simply had to reset the BIOS entries and
all was well. Linux of course doesn't care about such a bad
BIOS for most of the boot values it needs.
- Another time the video driver appeared totally messed up, X windows
would not work anymore. Panic of course. Decided to power the machine
down and up, and then discovered once again that a bad CMOS checksum
had occured, and as a result this time the video was messed up....
Date: Sat, 6 Apr 2002 05:11:26 +0900 (KST)
Subject: Suggestions on AST M-series Laptop article
I got lots of hints on how to setup my laptop as I read your article.
I suggest that you might want to add a few points for AST-M series
1. I use Samsung Sens600 and I guess this is an OEM modem from AST
or AST got OEM from Samsung. The appearances are exactly the same, and
the machine specifications are identical - actually I discovered this fact
as I was looking for ways to install X window on my system. Every little
detail is identical to what you mentioned on the page.
2. I have an NE2000 compatible lan card and Linux doesn't
recognize it as an ethernet card if I turn on the Plug&Pray feature at the
BIOS. I spent a couple of days trying to figure out how my eth0 got dead
and I eventually found that turning this feature keeps the pcmcia card
from being recognized.
3. Speaking of setting X window, I solved this very simply - I
added the following line
and buffer frame mode was enabled! (Yey!)
I could boot the system with the nice penguine picture. After I booted
the lap this in this mode Xconfigurator recognized the video chip right
away. I just had to choose the resolution, which is 800x600 and my X
window is using 16bpp color.
I am still a novice linux user and I still haven't figured out how to set
up e-mail services properly on my machine. But you can still reply to me
at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Also visit the
Linux Laptop Page.
Other pages that refer to my pages:
AST service for computers bought before 1-feb-99 can now be obtained
from ARI Service
Last updated: 26-jul-00
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