Debian on a Fujitsu S6520 laptop
The following is an abbreviated log of trying to install lenny 5
(newly stable at the time of install in May 2009).
- The installation itself proceeded without problems.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Now the hard disk was no longer being lost, but the screen froze
whenever an attempt was made to enter graphics mode.
- 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
- 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
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%.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- A Fujitsu Lifebook S6520 using just-released Debian lenny 5.0
stable (May 2009). The story is above.
The final upshot of the four attempts was:
- Fujitsu Lifebook S6231. After about a week or so of hard work
web searches, and endless trying, I managed to get it to properly
shutdown using quirks (don't ask what they are). In addition, I
installed a non-Debian screen saver that I set to kick in after
only 5 minutes, i.e. before gnome would do its stuff hanging the
machine to save power. I used a black screen saver with moving
lines to prevent graphics mode from being exited. While this is
really a ridiculous way to do business, it worked, and I used it
happily for years. I may note that while I am a non expert, I do
have many years of experience with a variety of programming
languages, some experience with operating systems, and some with
computer hardware. I am sure that a less experienced user would
have been completely lost with the problems I experienced.
- Dell desktop. I was unable to get the graphics card to work
properly even after much Internet searching. Solutions found by
others did not work for me, except for one. Web sources noted
that the graphics processor can be kicked into a generic VESA mode
by setting that driver in xorg.conf. This of course essentially
disabled the graphics card, and Google maps complained loudly
about the machine not being up to its task. But it worked for me
since I am not a heavy graphics user. Again not something for an
inexperienced user to figure out.
- Dell desktop. No fix was needed.
- Fujitsu S6520. After a week of hard work I gave up. This was
beyond me. Debian problems seem to become worse by the year.
From not producing a usable system to not being able to produce a
system whose usability can even be tested. Although I would have
liked to have the same operating system on my work desktop and my
home laptop, I have only so much time. I may note that none of
the other Linux versions I tried on the same machine had any
problem with the graphics or lost the hard disk.
Applies to software obtained May 2009.
Return to Linux on Lifebook S6520