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Solaris On Toshiba Tecra 550CDT

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   [ Tecra Picture ] This part of my Web site is dedicated to setting up and running Solaris/x86 on Toshiba Tecra 550CDT laptop. The page you're on now is a sort of summary: it gives an overall picture. If you want more detailed descriptions, follow the links: there're other pages that discuss possible problems and the ways they can be solved.

Everything on these pages can be equally applied to both Solaris 2.6 and 7: in fact, my first installation on Tecra used 2.6, and then I reinstalled everything from scratch with Solaris 7. I didn't try to put earlier versions, like 2.5.1, on my laptop, however, so I can't tell whether their behavior or requirements would be any different.

In short words: yes, it's possible to have a complete portable replacement for the desktop running Solaris/x86. It's gonna cost you some extra time and money, but the result is way worth the efforts. As with any UNIX on any laptop, there're numerous gotchas and specific problems related to various important system components, but they all can be resolved or worked around without compromising the usability and usefulness of the portable system.

Why exactly Tecra 550CDT? Follow this link to find out how I was making my decision.

Hardware

Configuration of Toshiba Tecra 550CDT laptop is pretty much fixed: it's a compact 6.7 pound PCI based system with
  • Pentium MMX 266 MHz CPU with 512K cache;
  • up to 160M of RAM (this is what I have);
  • removable approx. 4G EIDE hard drive;
  • removable 20X CD ROM;
  • external/removable floppy drive;
  • all the usual ports, including USB;
  • built-in (but unusable with any UNIX) modem;
  • stereo sound and
  • hi-res video on 12" display (believe me, it's more than enough).

Detailed specs can be found at Toshiba's Computer Systems Division Web site, so I won't go into details any further here.

Basic Installation

Before you start the istallation, you'll need to take care about the laptop BIOS settings: the allocation of IRQs and PCMCIA controller mode are the most important things that must be set properly.

After that, there's not really much to say. Solaris/x86 2.6 sees and treats external floppy, EIDE CD ROM and hard drive and most of the other devices as usually. The entire installation process goes smoothly and without any surprises.

The only thing to be kept in mind is that you should not try to configure video and networking during the installation but postpone it until you have working Solaris system and all additional software and hardware properly installed.

Please follow this link for more detais.

Video

Solaris doesn't include support for Tecra 550CDT video based on S3 Virge/MX chipset, neither in its standard configuration nor in any of Video Driver Updates. To get a normally working X Window system, you have these choices:

  • X-Accelerated Server for Laptops from Xi Graphics, Inc.. This is what I use and therefore have some experience with.

  • XFree86 server available from The XFree86 Project, Inc.. I've never tried it on Solaris, but I'm almost sure that it supports Tecra's video chipset, too, and it's ... well, free.

See this page for more information about setting up X-Accelerated Server.

Audio

Tecra 550CDT has Yamaha OPL3-SA3 compatible audio system that uses CS4231 chipset, and, as you probably guessed already, all that stuff is not supported directly by Solaris/x86. It's compatible - to some extent - with SoundBlaster, and you can make it work with Solaris as a regular SB card. But the results are going to be very disappointing, so don't do it.

Instead, get yourself OSS driver from 4Front Technologies. It's a little bit tricky to configure, but it works well and besides it's currently the only choice, in fact. See this page for additional information on my experience with OSS driver.

Network

Tecra 550CDT doesn't have a built-in networking, so you'll need to add a PCMCIA network or modem/network combo card.

My choice was 3Com 3C589D - Solaris recognizes and configures it automatically (but only after the installation is completed), no DUs required. The card works fairly well for me, although somewhat slow (approx. 500 KB/sec max, but maybe the real culprit here is my hub).

Additional - very important - details about setting up the network can be found here.

Modem

Well, there is a built-in modem in Tecra 550CDT, but unfortunately it's a piece of junk called Winmodem which precludes any possibility to make use of it under any OS other than MS Windows. So you'll need another PCMCIA - modem or modem/network combo - card if you plan to dial out.

I use 3Com 3CMX556 x2/v90 PCMCIA modem (the one with XJACK connector). Solaris works with it quite well, no problems dialing out or setting PPP connections, although I didn't push it to the limits and can't tell if it's as robust and efficient performer as my Courier V.Everything.

Please see this page for important details.

Power Management

There's nothing in Solaris/x86 that directly supports power management features of the hardware the OS runs on.

However, the most important procedures - suspend mode and low battery state signalling - are performed by Tecra's BIOS on its own, even without cooperation on the OS side. So even with APM-illiterate Solaris, the laptop suspends and resumes correctly, and when the battery goes low I get the warning enough in advance to either plug in adaptor or go to suspend mode.

Some important details on APM can be found on this page.

© ynp - page last updated 11/10/07 at 18:43 EDT

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