Linux on the Acer E3-111 – Aspire E3-111-C5FN

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E3111silver3-800x800I gave up on using a tablet and sold mine some time ago. My old toshiba m100 laptop was to heavy and too old to lug around when on holiday (mainly to download photos) so I decided to buy a small laptop to replace it. 10′ is too small for me and so I decided on an 11′ low cost system.

I bought an Acer Aspire E3-111 instead of competing models from Asus and others because I found a good deal on it and because of the quad core CPU –  Intel® Celeron® N2930 – that I couldn’t find on any other machine.

It came in a 2GB RAM (I upgraded to 8GB), 500GB hdd configuration with some version of linux installed.  Following are a few tips and tricks for running linux (I chose slackware64-current but should apply to most versions)

Below are some tips and tricks on running linux on it:

BIOS

  • BIOS can be updated only from a Windows Only utility; I couldn’t find any alternative. Fortunately a Windows 8.1 Enterprise Evaluation can be downloaded from Microsoft and that can be installed on a USB hard disk using this tutorial.

Booting

  • I didn’t want to bother with UEFI and so I switched to legacy in BIOS. The laptop sometimes fails to boot (kernel loading hangs at some point) and I have to powercycle. I will have to test and see if using UEFI helps
  • I cannot boot using kernel-generic, only kernel-huge
  • I added the following parameters to the kernel command line: acpi_backlight=vendor in order to get backlight shortcuts to work

Keyboard

  • Sometimes the arrow keys didn’t work and more the “UP” arrow would trigger the Disable Touchpad shortcut. The only fix was to poweroff & boot over and over (sometimes 2-3 times) until the arrow keys worked. I added a second entry in LILO just to be able to test the arrow keys.Update: Bios update 1.29 from 2014/10/28 seems to fix this!

Sleep

  • I can get the machine to enter sleep either using the shortcut or closing the lid but I cannot get it to wake up
    Update: by blacklisting dw_dmac and dw_dmac_core I can now enter and resume sleep without issues.

Ethernet/WiFi

  • Both work fine without probles, my version has an Atheros wlan card

Sound

  • It works out of the box

Video

  • I didn’t test yet how video playing works.
    Update: at least normal files play well, including hd files. I tried some streams in browser from twit.tv and they were dropping frames badly, but in vlc they work fine.

Misc

  • The laptop is passively cooled and during heavy use (compiling, etc) it gets pretty warm
  • RAM upgrade is not that easy (motherboard has to be removed, see: http://www.myfixguide.com/manual/acer-aspire-e3-111-disassembly/
  • There is enough space between the WLAN card and the HDD to mount something there. If someone finds a free usb header on the MB I would get a blinkstick in there

Conclusion

Not the best laptop to be using with linux, but for the price I can live with the shortcomings. Though I was a bit disapointed as a few years ago the experience with linux on various laptops was better. I expected things to improve over time, not go sour.

I will keep updating this post as I continue using it.