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  • Notes on Acer Aspire One 522

    Not sure where to post this... but there's an AMD thing and a linux thing. So here I am.

    I bought an ASUS eeepc 1000ha two years ago for taking notes in classes. The eeepc 1000 runs notepad or kedit very well, and makes a fair fist of Firefox but it's not good for much else IMHO. I liked the small size and battery life though, so have been looking for something similar with better performance.

    Yesterday I bought an Acer Aspire One 522 netbook at Futureshop in Calgary. This is Acer's AMD Ontario c50 based product, $CA299 plus Mr. Harper's cut.

    Got it home last night, fired it up. It comes with Windows 7 Starter edition, 1GB PC3 8500 RAM, 250 GB disk, a C50 CPU, 10.1" 1280x700 glossy screen, VGA & HDMI out, 3 USB and a card reader, and 802.11, and fast ethernet. The keyboard is some sort of international version, and you may see some stray pipe and backslash chars in what follows because the left shift key is half width with a pipe key beside it, the right return is perilously close to a backslash key. Well, notebook/netbook keyboards, what can you do?

    I installed OpenSuSE 11.3 right away with XFCE desktop. It detected most of the hardware but did not know what to do with the graphics adapter, I was stuck with VESA 800x600. The wireless worked, but not the wired ethernet, nor the sound.

    Next up the newest Ubuntu 10.x live CD. Again the video controller not recognized (VESA 800x600) but neither wireless nor wired ethernet were recognized nor sound.

    I grabbed the kernel 2.6.37 tarball and ran the gconfig for that but could not find any options related to Ontario, Zacate or Bobcat.

    So, not much c50 love yet from Linux!

    Posts on the intertubes say next kernel release will have Ontario/Zacate support. So I'm downloading 11.x alpha Ubuntu DVD now, which is supposed to be using that kernel code pre-release (I| might be wrong about this, I'm a SuSE guy and don't follow Ubuntu very closely). |I will report on how Ubuntu 11 alpha test goes.

    RAM Upgrade
    -------------

    One GB RAM is not much because I tend to have a LAMP stack running or be doing nifty stuff with g++ and template code. |With not much Linux luck, I stuck 64 bit Win7 enterprise on it and went to the local PC store and bought a 4 GB SODIMM (Kingston KVR1066D3S7/4G), and set about opening the case up.

    There are 7 screws on the underside. I took them out, noting that they screw into brass sleeves not just plastic which I thought was kind of nice. The case refused to come apart. I turns out that on the bottom is a central rectangular piece of plastic that looks like it is just molded into the bottom of the case but which is actually held in place by internal plastic hooks. Using a flat head jeweler's screwdriver as a wedge I got the four corners of this piece of plastic free, but somewhere in the centre were more hooks I could not get at. The 7 screws serve some purpose other than holding the case together?

    I was able to pry one corner up enough to get at the SODIMM slot. With needle nose pliers and a lot of care I replaced the 1GB card with my new 4GB card. Booted the 522 up into BIOS, it reported 4GB RAM. Booted into Win7/64, it reported 4GB RAM with 3.73 usable (graphics controller grabs 256 MB).

    At this point I noticed that AMD CCC had gone mad and was using 50+ % CPU. I changed the CCC preset from game to web browsing and CCC settled down - and stayed happy when I changed back to game or the other options.

    AMD CCC for Ontario has controls for the CPU and the GPU part of the c50 APU, and for power schemes under AC power and battery. Which is to say all the power, graphics and CPU frequency controls are in CCC for Ontario.

    Drivers
    ------

    AMD web site does not list drivers for Ontario. Googled "Acer Aspire One 522 driver" and got two Acer.com hits in the top four results. One says "no drivers for this product", the other lists Win7 drivers. I am not sure if the normal desktop HD6xxx drivers from AMD would work. I could not find even a hint of Linux drivers on Acer's site.

    Impressions
    -----------

    I do not know if I should call this machine a netbook: it has 1280x700 screen not 1024x600, but it is about the same size as my eeepc 1000ha. |My comments are based on running Win7/64 Enterprise not Linux.

    I can tell you that the performance is subjectively better than the 1000ha (Atom 270 IIRC). The graphics performance is quite excellent, head and shoulders (also torso and probably thighs) above the 1000ha. Things happen on the screen very fast, video playback is very smooth without hiccups running Media Player (DIVX encoded ripped DVD, and also straight VOB files ripped from DVD using DVD Decrypter).

    The sound from this machine's speakers is so sad terrible. I'm taking a "you get what you pay for" attitude though.

    ---

    So I am crossing my fingers hoping Ubuntu's alpha 11 code knows what to do with all the bits & pieces of this machine. And if not I'll be watching the kernel closely for c50 support.

    ---

    If you want out of the box Linux support with an Ontario APU then I must report you do not have it right now. If you can live with Win7 for now and just SSH into the One True Operating system from an Aspire 522, which is what I'll be doing, then I recommend the 522. It's cheap, it has pretty good graphics, it does not weigh very much, and after typing this screed for an hour while hunting down stray pipes and backslashes, WLAN on and screen at 100% brightness, Win7 says I still have 5hr 11min battery left.

  • #2
    Pardon me

    1280x720 not 1280x700.

    Comment


    • #3
      What about a noise?

      Hi, hoohoo! These are very good notes. Thanks for sharing your experience. I've been waiting for the netbook because of its display. I prefer higher resolution in smaller screens. But my another concern, right next to it is the system's noise, if any. And in case there is a noise, what are the main sources? Fans? HDD? I mean, is there any chance to make the computer VERY quiet by replacing HDD with SSD for example? Thank you in advance.

      Comment


      • #4
        Noise

        Originally posted by hessler View Post
        Hi, hoohoo! These are very good notes. Thanks for sharing your experience. I've been waiting for the netbook because of its display. I prefer higher resolution in smaller screens. But my another concern, right next to it is the system's noise, if any. And in case there is a noise, what are the main sources? Fans? HDD? I mean, is there any chance to make the computer VERY quiet by replacing HDD with SSD for example? Thank you in advance.
        It is very quiet. When CCC was running at 50+ % CPU I could just hear the fan.

        Also it did not get very hot to the touch. Just warm.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by hoohoo View Post
          There are 7 screws on the underside. I took them out, noting that they screw into brass sleeves not just plastic which I thought was kind of nice. The case refused to come apart. I turns out that on the bottom is a central rectangular piece of plastic that looks like it is just molded into the bottom of the case but which is actually held in place by internal plastic hooks. Using a flat head jeweler's screwdriver as a wedge I got the four corners of this piece of plastic free, but somewhere in the centre were more hooks I could not get at. The 7 screws serve some purpose other than holding the case together?

          I was able to pry one corner up enough to get at the SODIMM slot. With needle nose pliers and a lot of care I replaced the 1GB card with my new 4GB card. Booted the 522 up into BIOS, it reported 4GB RAM. Booted into Win7/64, it reported 4GB RAM with 3.73 usable (graphics controller grabs 256 MB).
          For future reference, the keyboard is popped out with gentle prying on the top, revealing four screws to remove with a #1 label beside them, and a hole labeled #2, which pressing a screwdriver through will pop that molded bottom piece out, revealing access to the hard drive and memory. Apparently, Youtube videos of the 533 model teardown reveal similar steps. On the 522, no screws on the bottom-side of the case need to be removed.

          And now, a question: I tried booting a thumbdrive with Ubuntu 10.10 and another with 11.04 nightly build on my new 522. Neither manages to get far. I've built the sticks with Ubuntu's recommended Pendrivelinux imager, as well as UNetBootin, and I get an unmoveable mouse cursor overlaid on the Ubuntu loading graphic at best... or a freeze at the SysLinux start line at worst. What's been your most successful Ubuntu boot method on here? Thanks!

          Comment


          • #6
            Looks like openSUSE 11.4 will miss the mark too on the kernel, so close...

            So no attempt with fglrx?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by x86Daddy View Post
              For future reference, the keyboard is popped out with gentle prying on the top, revealing four screws to remove with a #1 label beside them, and a hole labeled #2, which pressing a screwdriver through will pop that molded bottom piece out, revealing access to the hard drive and memory. Apparently, Youtube videos of the 533 model teardown reveal similar steps. On the 522, no screws on the bottom-side of the case need to be removed.

              And now, a question: I tried booting a thumbdrive with Ubuntu 10.10 and another with 11.04 nightly build on my new 522. Neither manages to get far. I've built the sticks with Ubuntu's recommended Pendrivelinux imager, as well as UNetBootin, and I get an unmoveable mouse cursor overlaid on the Ubuntu loading graphic at best... or a freeze at the SysLinux start line at worst. What's been your most successful Ubuntu boot method on here? Thanks!
              I booted Ubuntu 10.10 CDROM from an external USB CD drive, and it completed the startup and gave me the standard Ubuntu desktop. I tried Ubuntu 11.04 alpha 2 DVD this morning but it fails to complete start up, hanging halfway through.

              I have not tried booting off a thumbdrive.

              Hope that helps.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by PsynoKhi0 View Post
                Looks like openSUSE 11.4 will miss the mark too on the kernel, so close...

                So no attempt with fglrx?
                Not yet, probably try that this evening.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by x86Daddy View Post
                  For future reference, the keyboard is popped out with gentle prying on the top, revealing four screws to remove with a #1 label beside them, and a hole labeled #2, which pressing a screwdriver through will pop that molded bottom piece out, revealing access to the hard drive and memory. Apparently, Youtube videos of the 533 model teardown reveal similar steps. On the 522, no screws on the bottom-side of the case need to be removed.

                  ...
                  Thanks also for the note about how to open the machine up properly. I see how the keyboard comes out. I want to replace the HDD with one much larger at some point. But my abortive try at opening the case up had led to believe I would not be able to.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by hoohoo View Post
                    Posts on the intertubes say next kernel release will have Ontario/Zacate support. So I'm downloading 11.x alpha Ubuntu DVD now, which is supposed to be using that kernel code pre-release (I| might be wrong about this, I'm a SuSE guy and don't follow Ubuntu very closely). |I will report on how Ubuntu 11 alpha test goes.
                    I got mine a few days ago, works GREAT under Ubuntu10.10.

                    For graphics you just need to activate the proprietary fglrx driver, after that you have an "unsupported hardware" watermark in the bottom right hand corner. To get rid of that, download the latest catalyst driver, run the binary with the --extract option, that will extract everything in the archive to a directory. Pick up the etc/ati/control file, replace your copy with it, and restart X, no watermark!

                    Graphics acceleration works well under vlc, can play 720p mkvs with very little frame lose, planets beyond want my old atom based MSI Wind could do.

                    Originally posted by hoohoo View Post
                    RAM Upgrade
                    -------------
                    Upgraded mine to 2GB, runs MUCH better, plus hibernate now works.

                    Originally posted by hoohoo View Post
                    Drivers
                    ------

                    AMD web site does not list drivers for Ontario. Googled "Acer Aspire One 522 driver" and got two Acer.com hits in the top four results. One says "no drivers for this product", the other lists Win7 drivers. I am not sure if the normal desktop HD6xxx drivers from AMD would work. I could not find even a hint of Linux drivers on Acer's site.
                    The built in fglrx driver in Ubuntu 10.10 works great. I've read people just manually installed the latest catylist with zero problems, haven't risked that yet.
                    Originally posted by hoohoo View Post

                    If you want out of the box Linux support with an Ontario APU then I must report you do not have it right now.
                    While the support isn't flawless (the card reader does not work, no linux driver, and I can't get suspend to work) what is out there works more then well enough for me.

                    TTYL

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      @repatch

                      I just installed 11.1 Catalyst on OpenSuSE 11.3 and it works! CC has fewer controls than the Win7 version, but does have Powerplay and that was my only real concern.

                      Strange about Ubunutu 10.10. I only booted Ubuntu as a live CD, did not actually install it.

                      Still no wireless, and not sure about sound.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Wireless driver

                        On OpenSuSE 11.3.

                        Driver is at http://www.broadcom.com/support/802.11/linux_sta.php

                        ~> make
                        ~> make install
                        ~> modprobe lib80211
                        ~> modprobe wl
                        ~> wpa_supplicant -Dwext -ieth1 -c /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
                        ~> wpa_gui

                        Then scanned for APs to find my AP. Works great.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by repatch View Post
                          I got mine a few days ago, works GREAT under Ubuntu10.10.

                          ...
                          Does the wireless work for you with Ubuntu?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It works great with linux

                            I've got the Aspire One 522 without Windows 7 and without bluetooth, but with an ram upgrade (2GByte) for 250 EUR, which is a fair price.

                            I installed Gentoo Linux and after some trial'n error everything works great despite the internal microphone.

                            Some tips:
                            * grab the latest development kernel (2.6.38-rc4 and apply Radeon DRM/DRI/KMS and loading of the Radeon Firmware)
                            * install libdrm, xf86-drivers-ati and mesa from the latest snapshots (for Gentoo you can use x11-overlay and unmask these packages)

                            Now you can enjoy hardware 3d support, clean suspend/resume, working mplayer vo=xv,gl2,gl and working webcam in skype.

                            Without this using the propietary frglx-driver I could not use mplayer and skype-webcam, no resume (screen was black), could not switch to the vt and had a lot of strange effects on the screen when logging of. Also I had big trouble with the wlan, which often froze the computer when using frglx.

                            The issue left over is about the sound. Using kernel alsa drivers I can hear the internal microphone but it is terrible background noise. Also I can use external head-set and mic, but internal speaker will not turned off. I could not test hdmi-out yet.

                            However when using the more correct Conexant configuration in alsa, then I get no micro and no external headset sound and I have a lot of strange buttons under also (Mic-B, Mic-C, Mic-E and Mic-F). I also tested alsa-drivers 1.0.24 but it is the same.

                            Would be great if someone has some information about this. Related to the graphic settings of course I am glad to help out as I am very happy it is working so smooth and stable now.

                            The best part is: even with wifi-on I get now 6 hours of usage when display is dimmed down. Great for travel!

                            Best regards!

                            BTW: the charger is but-ugly! any chance to replace it with a small and slim and nice generic charger? Any recommendations?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Wireless

                              Related to the wireless: I have definitely an Atheros-chip on-board which works great with the ath9k driver. It even creates(!) ad-hoc networks which can be connected.

                              So I wonder why you refer to Broadcom?

                              best regards1

                              Comment

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