Debian Linux on a Tablet PC Howto
Installation over LAN
Hibernate and suspend
There are by now many guides on setting up your favorite flavor of Linux on just about any kind of machine. I'm adding one more to this body of documentation because Linux is not well established on Tablet PCs and there is a great deal of work yet to be done.
I went through a considerable amount of trouble installing Debian on my Toshiba Portege M200. I wanted to write this guide to document some of the trouble spots. Although lot of the information here can be found elsewhere on the Internet, it contains a lot of my personal efforts in assembling easy to use scripts and just gathering the information. Using this guide will save you weeks of hassle.
My Portege did not happen to come equipped with either a CD-ROM or a floppy drive. It did come with two card readers, useless for installation purposes. Linux LAN installation is relatively painless. You will need either a Windows Server, a Linux Desktop, or another computer capable of providing DHCP services (a router doesn't work). The basic procedure is as follows:
To support laptop and tablet hardware it's crucial that you install the
latest Linux software. Installing Debian Stable is not going to cut it.
Your best bet is to install Testing or Unstable. The downside is that you will
often times end up having to downgrade packages because of missing
dependencies. Familiarize yourself with running
Likewise you will also need the latest 2.6 kernel. There should be no need
to build a kernel from source. Installing the latest kernel package should do
the trick. After you have installed the kernel package, you can optionally
edit the Grub entry for the kernel (as root, edit
title Debian GNU/Linux, kernel 2.6.18-4-686 root (hd0,2) kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.18-4-686 root=/dev/sda3 ro vga=0x31A quiet initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.18-4-686 savedefault
You will need to find the correct VGA code for your desired resolution.
Some of the codes for unusual resolutions can be hard to find. For the
Portege's 1400×1050 LCD the code is
The wireless card is an Intel PRO/Wireless BG2200. The driver for the card
Debian Etch/Unstable users be wary, the
Battery conservation on a laptop involves throttling down power to power
hungry devices. The foremost among these are the CPU, hard drive, LCD screen,
and fans. Fortunately, controlling most of these is done through
Laptop Mode Tools. For Debian, the entire thing is contained within the
The CPU speed can also be controlled through Laptop Mode Tools and
through the Gnome CPU applet.
To enable it however, you will need to enable a few modules on boot.
Add the following to your
cpufreq_userspace cpufreq_conservative cpufreq_ondemand cpufreq_powersave # For Centrino processors: speedstep_centrino # For Toshiba laptops: toshiba_acpi
Adjusting the LCD brightness can actually be done automatically through KDE.
In the power management settings you can set LCD brightness levels for
battery and AC power modes. For Toshiba laptops there is a nice program
which enables the use of the Fn keys, install the
The new Gnome Power Manager project attempts to fill in on many of the functions described here. It may work for your laptop but in my experience the HAL failed to adjust anything other than the CPU governor.
Suspend to either disk or ram does not work with the official
nVidia drivers as of September 2007. If you're willing to sacrifice 3D
acceleration and screen rotation for suspend you can use the
Section "Device" Identifier "NVIDIA Corporation ..." Driver "nv" EndSection
Now to suspend your laptop install the
The latest LinuxWacom driver package in Debian already has support for
rotation built in so all you need do is install
Section "ServerLayout" ... InputDevice "cursor" "SendCoreEvents" InputDevice "stylus" "SendCoreEvents" InputDevice "eraser" "SendCoreEvents" EndSection
For the Portege, the tablet screen is just a regular Wacom tablet connected over through a serial port. We can enable it just like a serial Wacom tablet by adding the following sections:
Section "InputDevice" Driver "wacom" Identifier "cursor" Option "Device" "/dev/ttyS0" Option "Type" "cursor" Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4" EndSection Section "InputDevice" Driver "wacom" Identifier "stylus" Option "Device" "/dev/ttyS0" Option "Type" "stylus" Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4" EndSection Section "InputDevice" Driver "wacom" Identifier "eraser" Option "Device" "/dev/ttyS0" Option "Type" "eraser" Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4" EndSection
Test if the driver is working properly by running
The following section should be added to the nVidia driver section in
Section "Device" Identifier "NVIDIA ..." Driver "nvidia" Option "RandRRotation" "true" EndSection
You should now be capable of rotating the screen via the
I have created a rotate
script for each Wacom patch that will do the work for you. To use this
script run it with one of the orientation names as an argument (normal, left,
right, inverted) like this:
Now that your wonderful Tablet PC is running Debian you're probably wondering what Linux has to offer to make full use of your nifty pen:
Aside from general Linux help websites, here are a few specific to tablet PCs that will help get you up and running: