Migrating a Business to Linux — 3

The first laptop to convert in our migration effort was a Panasonic Toughbook CF-52. Durable and rugged.

The keyboard lacks a right-side Ctrl key. I find that quite frustrating because of years of memory muscle — often I press the Ins or Del that are located where the right-side Ctrl should be.

I installed and configured my new image partitions.

The native screen resolution is 1920x1200, which is quite high for a 15 inch laptop. This high resolution creates desktop font configuration challenges. I configured the display to 1440x900 to avoid issues, such as text boxes not rendering correctly.

A bigger challenge is the laptop is not fully Linux compatible. ACPI support is abysmal.

Almost always, selecting the Restart option resulted in the system instead powering down. At that point the system would not power on with the power button. I had to pull both AC and the battery to reset the system. The laptop then would boot.

Another quirk is when the system did happen to restart, the wireless would always be hard blocked. Running rfkill unblock all would not release the block. The only way to release the block was performing the following litany:

  • rmmod athk52
  • rmmod athk
  • rfkill unblock all
  • Flip the wireless hardware switch off.
  • Wait about 10 seconds.
  • Flip the wireless hardware switch on.
  • modprobe athk52

At that point the system usually remained stable but occasionally the wireless blockage returned.

I wrote a short shell script to automate those steps. That kind of work-around might cause geeks to radiate and salivate, but the solution was unacceptable for the field techs. In the real world time is money and this kind of solution is laughable. I never bothered the techs with the script.

Another quirk is suspend-to-ram might or might not succeed. When successful everything was a non-event. Most of the time resuming from sleep mode failed. Often the laptop went through all kinds of contortions and booted to the login manager rather return to a locked desktop dialog.

I could boot the system with the acpi=off boot parameter. This solved all ACPI related quirks but killed all power management features. This was not palatable because although the field techs did not need suspend-to-ram, they did want the ability to adjust the screen brightness when working outdoors.

I tried the acpi_osi boot parameter. No success.

Visiting the Panasonic web site revealed no BIOS updates that might resolve the problem. Even if a BIOS update was available, an idiotic caveat is the BIOS can be updated only from Windows. I had preserved the original Windows partition and MBR. I had a spare laptop drive. I could temporarily restore Windows, but update from Windows only? Really?

I fiddled and experimented for several hours. In the end I found only one acceptable solution.

  • Do not restart or suspend.
  • Only shut down.

I configured the MATE power management to not suspend when closing the lid.

I found a way to configure the LightDM login manager (and respectively the MATE Shut Down dialog) to not display the Restart, Suspend, and Hibernate options for non-root users.

With those restrictions there were no other ACPI issues. Not ideal because suspend-to-ram and restarting should be available.

A little digging around the web indicates the ACPI issues are known.

The CF-52 is an old model. Perhaps newer Toughbooks are more compatible with Linux operating systems. Perhaps not. Regardless, I am unlikely to consider or recommend Toughbooks.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Migrate, Ubuntu

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