Debian on a Fujitsu S6520 laptop

Installation log

The following is an abbreviated log of trying to install lenny 5 (newly stable at the time of install in May 2009).

  1. The installation itself proceeded without problems.
  2. On booting the new operating system however, the screen went dead after the message "Saving VESA State...". After lots of Internet searching, and much failed attempts, a partial fix was found to be to use a live CD like SystemRescueCD. Then mount the hard disk and edit /etc/default/acpi-support to change SAVE_VBE_STATE=true into false. (Initially I changed script /etc/init.d/vbesave, but this is not really justifiable.)
  3. Having bypassed vbetool vbesave one way or the other, Debian lost the system disk. It was there one moment, and the next it could no longer be found. Not much booting can be done without a system disk.
  4. Based on a boot message that I caught flashing by, and much Internet searching on boot options (the installation manual tells you a few boot options you may use in case of problems, but not how to apply them, nor what they do), I enabled "irqpoll". To do so, when the boot system selection menu appears, press "e" to edit the boot options, then the down arrow to go to the kernel line, then append " irqpoll" (without quotes, but with the space) at the end of the line.
  5. Now the hard disk was no longer being lost, but the screen froze whenever an attempt was made to enter graphics mode.
  6. No amount of boot options or other obvious fixes could prevent it. Worse, if you go through the files you see that there is no single responsible agent for managing screen initialization and recovery. Lots of pieces of software do their own thing. Even if you manage to get around the boot problems, the same problems are likely to reappear when the responsibility is handed off to the next player.
  7. Based on web searches, I renamed /etc/rc2.d/S30gdm to K70gdm to disable entering graphics mode during boot. That produced a booted command-line Linux. However, trying to start xwindows freezes the screen. Fiddling around with with xorg.conf to disable the graphics state using just VESA was not successful.


Debian stable lenny 5.0 runs in text mode on the Fujitsu Lifebook S6520 laptop. It will not enter windows mode.

The installation manual tells you, and has been telling you for years that the installation will probably work out of the box. And if it does not, it is probably a matter of a small fix. That is not my experience. I have now tried installing Debian four times on three different machines.

  1. A Fujitsu Lifebook S6231 at home. The screen would freeze whenever the power was dimmed, i.e. after a few minutes. (The time to sleep could be set, but was ignored.) In other words, the machine was unusable. It would not properly shutdown either, just go dead.
  2. A run-of-the-mill Dell desktop at work. The screen would freeze on going into graphics mode as soon as the machine was booted.
  3. The same Dell, several years later, using just-released Debian lenny 5.0 stable (May 2009). This time, everything went perfectly fine. No troubles with the screen or other.
  4. A Fujitsu Lifebook S6520 using just-released Debian lenny 5.0 stable (May 2009). The story is above.
This makes 4 separate attempts to install versions of Debian claimed to be stable. Only one out of four produced a working system out of the box. Or 25% out of 100%.

The final upshot of the four attempts was:

Applies to software obtained May 2009.
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