Linux on the Toshiba U505-S2960

Author: Michael Minn (www.michaelminn.com)

21 January 2017

Describes how to set up a Debian 8 (Jesse) Linux operating system on a Toshiba Satellite L745-S4210 notebook computer.

1. Introduction

Toshiba Satellite L745-S4210

This page describes how to set up a Debian 8 (Jesse) Linux operating system on a Toshiba Satellite L745-S4210 notebook computer.

The machine that I purchased on 22 December 2011 features:

2. Network Install

A network install after booting from a flash drive is fairly straightforward except for partitioning. The following are my choices and you may need to choose other options depending on your situation.

This install assumes you have a wired ethernet connection.

This installation assumes that you will be building a system that can dual-boot into either Windoze or Linux. For systems that can run both simultaneously, you will need to explore virtualization software like VMWare.

Defrag: Prior to installing Linux, you should boot into Windoze at least once and defragment the drive. I'm not sure if this is still necessary to maximize available disk space, but it can't hurt. If you've been using Windoze on this box for awhile, you might also consider doing a fresh install, although that takes almost three hours from the recovery disks.

Download: the small installation image from Debian.org and use it to create a bootable flash drive. Assuming you already have a Linux box, the ISO can be directly copied to the flash drive device. Assuming the device is /dev/sdb (you can check with the dmesg command), all you need is a simple copy:

sudo cp debian-8.5.0-i386-netinst.iso /dev/sdb
sync

Boot from Flash Drive: Insert the flash drive into an USB slot and reboot When the American Megatreds BIOS splash screen comes up press F-12 and choose the USB device.

The machine takes a few seconds to load the OS. You can press ESC to view boot messages, although there aren't alot of meaningful ones issued anymore.

Boot Menu: Select Install

Select a Languate: Your choice (mine is English)

Select Your Location: Your choice (mine is United States)

Configure the Keyboard: Your choide (mine American English)

Hostname: Arbitrary choice that doesn't matter much unless you're setting up a web server. You can change it later in /etc/hostname

Domain Name: Another arbitrary choice that doesn't matter much unless you're setting up a web server

Root Password: Choose the way you choose a spouse: memorable but strong

First User Full Name: You may want to use a fake name to preserve anonymity

Username: This will be what you normally log in with

Password: Ditto

Time Zone: Your choice (Pacific)

Partition Method: These were my choices. The partitioning utility will handle splitting the NTFS partition for dual booting.

This left me with the following partition table, which includes three residual (and mysterious) NTFS partitions.

Disk /dev/sda: 596.2 GiB, 640135028736 bytes, 1250263728 sectors
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disklabel type: dos
Disk identifier: 0x4e59e2af

Device     Boot      Start        End    Sectors   Size Id Type
/dev/sda1  *          2048    3074047    3072000   1.5G 27 Hidden NTFS WinRE
/dev/sda2          3074048  198386547  195312500  93.1G  7 HPFS/NTFS/exFAT
/dev/sda3       1221472256 1250263039   28790784  13.7G 17 Hidden HPFS/NTFS
/dev/sda4        198387710 1221472255 1023084546 487.9G  5 Extended
/dev/sda5       1205143552 1221472255   16328704   7.8G 82 Linux swap / Solaris
/dev/sda6        198387712 1205143551 1006755840 480.1G 83 Linux

Installing Base System: The installer will run for a few minutes

Configure the Package Manager: This determines which mirror server to use. Closer is better. I chose United States and my Alma Mater, debian.cites.illinois.edu

HTTP Proxy: If you're in a corporate network, you may need one. Home folks can probably leave this blank

Configuring Popularity-contest: Sounds too Windoze-phone-home for me (NO)

Software Selection: Another personal preference. I use IceWM as a window manager with no desktop (see below), so my choices were the Debian Desktop, no graphic desktop, no print server, standard system utilities.

Package Installation: With my choices, the system had to retrieve 1468 files, which took around 20 minutes

Install the GRUB Boot Loader on a Hard Disk: Yes

Device for Boot Loader Installation: /dev/sda

Finish the Installation

3. Intense Processor Activity (GPE Storm)

You may notice intense and continuous processor activity that heats up the machine and chews up processor capacity. On my machine this was visible as a very active kworker process, and I found this was caused by a GPE Storm, which is caused by an embedded controller sending bogus ACPI events to the kernel. Seems to be a firmware bug.

The solution is to add the following line to the /etc/rc.local file, which disables interrupt 1D:

echo disable > /sys/firmware/acpi/interrupts/gpe1D

You can also run that line from a terminal to disable that interrupt on a running system:

sudo echo disable > /sys/firmware/acpi/interrupts/gpe1D

4. Wireless

Network Manager: This version of Debian comes with a driver for the internal wireless network interface, which appears as wlan0. I prefer to start and stop my networks manually, and removed the network-manager to avoid conflicts and problems encountered on other machines:

sudo apt-get remove network-manager

The wireless network can be started with the command "ifup wlan0" and stopped with "ifdown wlan0". Don't forget to turn on the wireless switch on the front edge of the machine (next to the antenna graphic).

Access points can be displayed with the "iwlist wlan0 scan" command and configured with "sudo iwconfig wlan0 essid <ESSID>". If you use a specific ESSID regularly, you can add an entry for it to the /etc/network/interfaces file (replace ESSID with the name appropriate to your network):

iface wlan0 inet dhcp
wireless-essid <ESSID>

5. Webcam

The webcam is /dev/video0 and you can look at yourself with:

mplayer tv:// -tv driver=v4l2:width=640:height=480:device=/dev/video0

To access the camera, you need to add yourself to the video group:

adduser <username> video

6. Burning DVDs

Data DVDs can be burned on-the-fly with the growisofs utility from the dvd+rw-tools package. Assuming your files are in <directory>:

growisofs -Z /dev/sc0 -R -J <directory>

7. Removing systemd

systemd is an init system that bootstraps user space and manages processes. It has largely replaced the UNIX System V init systems on most distributions, with the objective of unifying basic Linux configurations across distributions. systemd has provoked considerable controversy because of its complexity and violation of fundamental Unix dependency philosophy.

It is actually fairly easy to remove and replace with classic Sys V, as described in these instructions. As with any major system change, full backup is recommended before proceeding.

  1. Install the System V init packages:
  2. sudo apt-get install sysvinit-core sysvinit-utils
    
  3. Copy the new inittab booting run level file:
  4. sudo cp /usr/share/sysvinit/inittab /etc/inittab
    
  5. Add this line to /etc/default/grub with this line (not sure this is necessary):

    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="init=/lib/sysvinit/init text"
    
  6. Update the GRUB bootloader:
  7. sudo update-grub
    
  8. Reboot
  9. sudo reboot
    
  10. Remove the systemd package:
  11. sudo apt-get remove --purge --auto-remove systemd
    
  12. Create the /etc/apt/preferences.d/systemd file and add these lines to it:
  13. Package: systemd
    Pin: release *
    Pin-Priority: -1
    Package: *systemd*
    Pin: release *
    Pin-Priority: -1
    Package: systemd:amd64
    Pin: release *
    Pin-Priority: -1
    Package: systemd:i386
    Pin: release *
    Pin-Priority: -1
    
  14. Verify systemd is gone from your system. It is an insidious package that is a bit difficult to confirm is gone:
  15. aptitude search systemd
    
    	The systemd package should be listed with a 
    	"p" beside it, indicating it is
    	a package that is not installed
    
    pstree -p
    
    	The root process should be init rather
    	than systemd
    
    ls -l /sbin/init
    
    	The file /sbin/init should be an executable 
    	binary (ELF) file rather than a symbolic link
    

8. Removing the Desktop

If you're hard core command line and don't want the clutter and delay of the a desktop, you might consider getting rid of the desktop altogether and just using a window manager to manage xterms and X applications started from the xterms. This will speed your boot time a bit and get rid of some annoying background daemons.

IceWM: Although I used the venerable Motif Window Manager (MWM) for a number of years (from the motif-clients package), this version of mwm locks up when X is started. So I switched to the ICE Window Manager, which has a few more features (like a task bar with graphical system monitoring) but is still fast and lightweight:

sudo apt-get install icewm

.xinitrc is a file that is executed when X is started. Create a .xinitrc in your home directory (/home/<username>) and type the following lines. This creates a couple single terminal window, sets the "desktop" color to pleasant shade of greenish grey blue and starts the window manager. When you type "startx", from the text login, it will start an xterm, in which you can type commands to start other programs. You can create additional terminal windows from a popup menu when you right-click on the desktop.

I found the full brightness to be a bit much, especially in contrast to older, dimmer LCD displays. The backlight doesn't seem to be accessible through ACPI, but the xgamma command adjusts midtones (gamma) and warms things up a bit, although this is optional.

xgamma -gamma .7
xsetroot -solid "dark slate gray"
xterm -geometry 128x24+10+10&
xterm -geometry 128x24+10+375&
exec icewm
xgamma -gamma .7

PulseAudio is a nasty sound server that adds latency and eats up CPU. If you don't have the desktop you can ditch it.

sudo apt-get purge pulseaudio

However, you will need to deal with protections set up for ALSA that will keep your applications from being able to access the sound devices. Add yourself to the audio group:

adduser <username> audio

Configure GRUB for terminal mode start: It is helpful to see what is goin on during boot rather than have boot messages hidden behind the splash bitmap just in case there's a boot problem (which used to happen alot). Adding this line to the /etc/default/grub file will cause the machine to boot in console mode:

GRUB_TERMINAL=console

Then run:

sudo update-grub

After these changes, on boot you will see the system startup messages and then be greeted with a console login prompt. After logging in, you can use the startx command to start the graphical desktop.

startx

9. TrueType Fonts

The X window server supports TrueType (tm) fonts, although installing them via the command line is a bit more cumbersome than with an installer program or package. If you've got some on a Windoze box, TrueType fonts tend to look quite a bit better than the fonts that come with the distributions. And if you're doing any web development, you need them to have at least a guess as to what your pages look like on a Windoze box.

Unfortunately, the FontPath configuration that specifies the directories where fonts are located is compiled into the X binary and is not configurable. While "xset +fp" can add a directory to the font path, that setting is not permanent and is lost when you reboot. xset cannot be added to a local configuration file like .xinitrc. This is not a problem for newer applications that use fontconfig, but this may represent an issue for older applications that only use the X font paths. The kludge is to copy the fonts you want to add into one of the configured truetype font directories.

Copy the fonts into a shared font directory: You can do an "xset -q" to find the configured Font Paths for your X configuration:

xset -q

Chose one of the directories listed in "Font Path" and copy your .ttf font files into that directory. In my case, I chose to use /usr/share/fonts/X11/misc. While you could create a new directory under /usr/share/fonts, fonts installed there would not be visible to xlsfonts or older X applications.

sudo cp your-fonts/*.ttf /usr/share/fonts/X11/misc

Then run mkfontscale to create the fonts.scale file and mkfontdir to create the fonts.dir files used by the X server. You should also change the owner of all the files to root to avoid permission problems. The mkfontscale and mkfontdir steps are critical if you want to be able to list your fonts with xlsfonts or other legacy X applications.

cd /usr/share/fonts/X11/misc
sudo mkfontscale
sudo mkfontdir
sudo chmod 644 *.ttf
sudo chown root:root *.ttf

You can check to verify the fonts are loading by starting an X application (like gimp). The xlsfonts command lists fonts available directly from X and the fc-list command lists fonts available through fontconfig.

xlsfonts | less
fc-list | less

The listing will likely be long, but if the fonts are loading correctly, you will see X font names like these (for Arial and Garamond, respectively):

-monotype-arial-medium-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1
-monotype-arial-medium-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-10
-monotype-arial-medium-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-15
-monotype-arial-medium-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-2

-monotype-garamond-medium-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1
-monotype-garamond-medium-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-10
-monotype-garamond-medium-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-15
-monotype-garamond-medium-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-2

Most inventors and engineers I've met are like me. They're shy and they live in their heads. They're almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone ... Not on a committee. Not on a team. (Steve Wozniak)