Setting up Linux on a Compaq Evo N400c laptop

This page describes the various steps I have followed to set up a GNU/Linux Debian Woody system on a Compaq Evo N400c.

Installation context

Having moved in and out 3 times in the 3 last monthes, I couldn’t find my Debian installation CD, so I decided to install Linux through Internet, using my home-L.A.N. with DHCP.

For this purpose, I used the mobile base of the laptop to be able to read floppy disks, and 6 setup disks as described in the Debian installation manual:

  • the rescude disk to boot
  • The root disk with the base system
  • and 4 drivers disks

To create the disks, I used rawrite2.exe for MS Dos with the instructions given in the install manual.

Setting up process

The only installable version of Debian right now is Potato. So I installed first this version through the network.

This install is done classically by answering to the installer's questions, with the following noteworthy points:

  • I asked to set the PCMIA system before the systems modules (is that necessary?)
  • I chose to install the following modules: usb-uchi to support the USB ports and eepro100 for the network card
  • I selected the packages installation through the network: LAN with DHCP
  • due to my geographical position, I chose the Debian French mirror for the installation; see the list of mirrors
  • I selected the following meta-packages ("medium" level of installation): C Development, X Window system, Laptop tools, GNOME, @@@
  • Configuration options for the packages: mouse PS/2 (device /dev/psaux), graphic card ATI Mobility, @@@
  • les méta-paquets que j’ai sélectionnés : Developpement en C, Système X window, Outils Laptop, Gnome, @@@

N.B.: the metapackage Laptop tools has a package to install a connection SLIP; this package messed up my ethernet network setup. Without looking deeper into this, I just removed this package and everything was fine again.

The next step was to upgrade from Potato to Woody: I edited /etc/apt/sources.list, replaced stable by testing (the current status of Woody), ran apt-get update, then apt-get dist-upgrade, and some apt-get -f install when necessary.

XFree 4.x was not installed by default, so I ran apt-get install xserver-xfree80 xbase-clients xfonts-base xfonts-base-transcoded xfonts-100dpi xfonts-75dpi xfonts-transcoded-100dpi xfonts-transcoded-75dpi (the -transcoded fonts were for euro support). The driver for X is "ati", the maximum resolution for the screen is 1024x768 (at 75 MHz?) (cf XF86Config-4 file).

Finally, to get a good USB support and more generally to have a recent kernel, I decided to install a 2.4.17 kernel with a patch to support the ext3 filesystem. The way from 2.2 to 2.4 is not always easy, even if make oldconfig can help. The modules you shouldn’t miss to select : ide-disk so that you can reboot :), hermes wavelan [well, this one is for my wavelan PCMCIA card], PCMCIA support, ESS Allegro sound card (maestro3 module), APM support, USB-UHCI (plus HID to support the USB keybard, mouse,… convenient for a laptop). There must be obviously others I've forgotten.

My wireless connection worked immediately once the right module was inserted (I just had to run pump -i eth1).

To be able to use the non-standard keys (the 4 shiny keys at the very top of the keyboard), I installed the hotkeys package - at first, I planned to use FunKeys, but hotkeys is much easier to install, configure and use. Here is my $HOME/.hotkeys/hotkeys.conf configuration file:

# This defines the keyboard model: kb9963 is for Compaq's computers
# the "i" key is configured to display my ICQ window
Help = gnomeicu-client showhide
# the "home" key is configured to open a new tab in Galeon
WebBrowser=galeon -n about:blank
# the "mail" key opens a new mail window in Evolution
Email=evolution mailto:
# the "search" key opens a new tab with Google in Galeon
Search=galeon -n


Other resources


  • 2002/03/06: Creation
  • @@@: added links to other resources
  • 2002/05/27: added hotkeys configuration
  • 2002/09/08: added XF86Config file
  • 2004/01/12: added note about non-official DRI