Ubuntu 10.10 64 Bit on an HP ProBook 4720s

Update: Ubuntu 11.04 seems a good improvement over the previous one. Read my adventures here installing it on the same laptop.

The HP ProBook 4720s is what you’d call a business workhorse: metal casing, fast WLAN, 6 hours+ battery duration, a Core 3 and a matte (anti glare) 1600×900 LCD screen for a fair price that comes preinstalled with 3 GB (2 + 1) RAM. I just spent my allowance on another 4 GB of RAM only to find out, that my HP 4720s had only a 32bit Windows 7 installed – so 3 GB wasted out of the total 6 GB now installed. Since I’m mostly programming and surfing the net with this HP, I can’t go wrong with a Linux distro (or so they say [3] ), so I picked an Ubuntu 10.10 64 bit Desktop edition. In the end, everything worked either straight away or after some tweaking:

[x] LAN
[x] WLAN
[x] SD Card
[x] Graphics
[x] Webcam
[x] USB
[x] Touchpad (reduced functionality)
[x] Hotkeys (sound, brightness)
[x] Screen brightness
[x] Internal microphone

Things that, so far, I couldn’t get running:

[ ] External microphone (line in)
[?] External screen (untested)

After downloading and installing on a USB stick it boots quite fast and gets down to business.

Obstacle 1: no WLAN during installation

It turns out that, unfortunately, Ubuntu doesn’t fully cooperate with the Ralink RT3090 WLAN chip – I didnt fix that during the installation but afterwards. In my first take, I tried to install the OS on an 8GB class 10 SD card, which not only took forever (more than an hour), but also booting from the SD card (yes! the HP can do that) was surprisingly slow. Thus, in a second attempt, the Ubuntu was installed on the 320 GB Harddisk.

Obstacle 2: no WLAN after installation

The WLAN woes lasted past the installation phase and several package updates didn’t fix the problem either. This is apparently a known issue related to 64 bit with a couple of workarounds [4], [5]. I tried the solution offered in [5], comment 16 which at first crashed the laptop. After a reboot however the WLAN works (almost) nicely, with some rare disconnects.

[Update 2010.01.30] The WLAN is unusable during high workloads and keeps disconnecting. The following sequence of steps seems so far the ultimate solution:

1. Follow the instructions in [6]. This will install the Ralink rt2x00 drivers which apparently also work for the rt3090. However these cause an unstable WLAN.
2. As per [6] you should add

rt3390sta

to /etc/modules

3. Contrary to what [6] claims, I had to blacklist the rt2860sta driver in /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf, meaning that the only line related to ralink modules is:

blacklist rt2860sta

4. After rebooting the keyboard Wifi LED was blinking indicating WLAN activity which I disabled by following the instructions in [7] by adding to /etc/modprobe.d/wlan.conf:

options iwlcore led_mode=1

[Update 2011.02.06]  Can’t get WIFI to work on channels 12 and 13

Obstacle 3: no right-click with touchpad

The last, and yet unsolved, problem remains the missing right-click functionality of the integrated touchpad. While in terms of sensitivity, speed and accuracy (even edge scrolling works) little is left to be desired, I couldn’t get right clicking to work. While [3] (see comments) suggests this fix:

sudo su
echo options psmouse proto=exps > /etc/modprobe.d/psmouse.modprobe
(reboot)

the side effects include a disabled edge scrolling and very low pointer speed which, at least for me, is grave enough to disqualify it. If you tried it and want the old setting back: just empty the contents of psmouse.modprobe and reboot.
[Update 2011.01.25] A strange thing seems to be going on: while right clicking doesn’t work, right tapping seems to be possible when executed with diligence. To get it working, one has to exert the right amount of pressure (it’s more than you’d use for a regular tap) at the very bottom right edge with precision and quite some speed. I’m using the following script executed at startup which reconfigures the synaptics driver to allow for easier clicking which resizes the clickable area and increases click timeouts:

synclient RightEdge=5500
synclient BottomEdge=4329
synclient FingerLow=24
synclient FingerHigh=30
synclient FingerPress=100
synclient MaxTapTime=500
synclient MaxTapMove=400
synclient TouchpadOff=0
synclient RBCornerButton=2
synclient ClickFinger2=2
synclient ClickFinger3=3
synclient TapButton2=2
synclient TapButton3=3
synclient AreaRightEdge=6000
synclient JumpyCursorThreshold=100

[1] HP ProBook 4720s Linux drivers
http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/SoftwareIndex.jsp?lang=en&cc=us&prodNameId=4145205&prodTypeId=321957&prodSeriesId=4145330&swLang=13&taskId=135&swEnvOID=2020

[2] Ralink Linux drivers
http://www.ralinktech.com/support.php?s=2

[3] Linux checklist for HP ProBook 4720s
http://www.linlap.com/wiki/hp+probook+4720s

[4] Ralink 3090 wifi connect problems in 10.10 64 bit
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1600498

[5] Bug 659143
https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/659143

[6] Ralink 3090 wifi connect problems in 10.10 64bit
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1600498

[7] Stop anoying blinking wifi led
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1595290

[8] X Updates for ubuntu
https://launchpad.net/~ubuntu-x-swat/+archive/x-updates


Linux On Laptops

4 thoughts on “Ubuntu 10.10 64 Bit on an HP ProBook 4720s

  1. Thanks for this great post!

    I'm considering to buy a 4720 and as I mainly use Ubuntu your entry is really helpful.

    Anything else you recommend to get Ubuntu running nicely?

    Like

  2. Hello Fabian,

    Sorry for the late reply. I hope you didn't get that HP yet or if you did, that you'll be luckier than me. I have not been able to solve the microphone and right-mouse issues. I'm trying out Ubuntu 11.04 tonight and will let you know of my findings

    Like

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