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Summary: Herein the author documents his installation of Linux on his new laptop.

I bought an HP Pavilion ze4500 laptop this week. The ze4500 is the custom built model number of the ze series. I think that all ze series laptops use similar hardware. Here is my configuration:

  • Intel Celeron Mobile 2.4 GHz
  • 256 MB(1X256)DDR SDRAM
  • 20 GB 4200 RPM Hard Drive
  • 8X DVD Drive
  • ALi Corporation Intel 537 56K Modem (built in)
  • National Semiconductor Corporation DP83815 (MacPhyter) 10/100 Ethernet (build in)
  • 10/100 LAN
  • 15.0” TFT SXGA+ (1400 x 1050)
  • ATI Mobility Radeon 7000
  • ALi Corporation USB 1.1
  • Texas Instruments TSB43AB21 FireWire (IEEE 1394)
  • ALi Corporation M5451 Audio Device
  • Micro, Inc. OZ6912 Cardbus Controller

I have tried two Linux distros on it, and have found both very satisfactory (so far). I have included more details below. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to give you all the details that I would like to share. For more information, check out


I installed the Fedora Core 1 beta (0.95 severn) and the installer took care of setting everything up right out of the box. There were a few tricks though:

  • HP laptop keyboards are known to fail hardware detection. To have a usable keyboard, make sure to generate events (tap a key) while the installer kernel auto-detects your hardware. This means that you should tap the spacebar from the time the computer boots off the CD until the installer is completely loaded. Once the system is installed, this is no longer necessary.
  • I had to append vga=795 to my kernel parameters in the boot loader to use the full screen with the virtual terminals.
  • I had to append apm=no and acpi=force to my kernel parameters in the boot loader so that acpi would load.
  • I had to manually add the resolution “1400x1050” to my mode list in XF86Config and remove all other resolutions to get X to use the whole screen.

I verified that these things worked before moving on to another distro:

  • Sound
  • X (though I didn’t test 3d acceleration)
  • Ethernet
  • CDROM abilities of the DVD
  • ACPI—I could check battery life and capacity, but I couldn’t suspend
  • Touchpad with scroll wheel area (it looks just like an Intellimouse to Linux)
  • Fn Keys to change contrast on LCD
  • DVD player

Written November 5, 2003


I have had a harder time getting things set up in Gentoo, mostly because I can’t find much good help on the web. Here are my hints:

  • make.conf settings:
    • CHOST=”i686-pc-linux-gnu”
    • CFLAGS=”- O3 -march=pentium4 -fomit-frame-pointer -pipe” [note: you’ll have to use pentium3 instead of pentium 4 to emerge OpenOffice.]
  • Don’t use initrd to do hardware detection (genkernel’s default), or every time you boot you have to keep tapping the keyboard so that it gets detected. Instead, compile your own bzImage.
    • Update: initrd will correctly detect your keyboard if you disable “Legacy USB Support” in the BIOS. Once you get X running, you can turn legacy keyboard support back on, and each bootup when X starts it will reconfigure the keyboard correctly (works in the virtual terminals as well). Just remember to tap the keyboard if you have to turn X off on bootup for some reason.
  • Don’t compile any support for pcmcia devices into you kernel. Instead, emerge pcmcia-cs and add it to the default run level.
  • Emerge acpid and add it to the default run level.
  • Add natsemi to you modules.autoload for onboard ethernet support.
  • A link to my XF86Config. Beware, I don’t know much about configuring this.
  • Use ALSA for the sound, driver = snd-ali5451.
  • I used xbindkeys to get the volume up, volume down, and mute button (fn+backspace) working. I can’t get the mute button on the side of the laptop to generate any events.

I hope to get time to add the other things that I had to play with.

Written November 6, 2003


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