Using Linux with the Acer Aspire S3 391
Published 02 September 2013 under how to, acer, aspire, linux
If Linux on an Acer S3 laptop is critically important to you then this post tells of our experiences. In the end most is good news.
The test laptop is an Acer Aspire S3 391 (manufactured May 2012) and we used Linux Mint 15 using kernel 3.8.0-19-generic.
There are several sources of useful information:
Of these the 2nd is probably the most useful. Even though it is about the S3 591, all of it appears to apply equally to the S3 391.
As shipped the only major problem I had with Mint 15 was that the display would regularly lock up. ssh showed that it was still running but I couldn't see what was the error was. The solution to this appears to be BIOS upgrade. The S3 591 post mentions that this upgrade will improve battery life as well.
The Mint installation makes encryption of the installation extremely painless and I would strongly suggest that you use this to protect your valuable data.
The BIOS version shipped was 1.16, the current latest is 1.29 which suggests they got a few things wrong! The update seems to completely solve the display lock up problems.
Warning: This may invalidate your warranty.
If your S3 didn't come with an SSD then this upgrade is well worth the expense and effort. Changing the hard drive is not difficult but Acer clearly don't really want you to do it. There are 12 screws to be removed on the back of the laptop and this allows the whole back to be removed. There is then one screw holding in the hard drive.
Once you have an SSD, don't forget the various changes that are needed to ensure the longetivity of the device. Some of these can be found at http://chriseiffel.com/everything-linux/how-to-set-up-an-ssd-on-linux/
The touchpad is an ETPS/2 Elantech on this laptop. Use
to list all of the X input devices. I had real problems get middle button (button2) going. Various tools such as gpointing-device-settings don't mention it. Most people suggest using synclient
gives a list of the parameters that can be set. For me the TapButton settings were all zero
TapButton1 = 0 TapButton2 = 0 TapButton3 = 0
I had to run
to get a double tap (not double button press) providing the middle button emulation. I found a very useful tool for seeing what was happening is xev. Run
xev | grep -i button
then go to the xev window and start pressing buttons and double tapping etc. You should see something like the following:
ButtonPress event, serial 38, synthetic NO, window 0x4200001, state 0x0, button 1, same_screen YES ButtonRelease event, serial 38, synthetic NO, window 0x4200001, state 0x100, button 1, same_screen YES ButtonPress event, serial 38, synthetic NO, window 0x4200001, state 0x0, button 2, same_screen YES ButtonRelease event, serial 38, synthetic NO, window 0x4200001, state 0x200, button 2, same_screen YES ButtonPress event, serial 38, synthetic NO, window 0x4200001, state 0x0, button 3, same_screen YES ButtonRelease event, serial 38, synthetic NO, window 0x4200001, state 0x400, button 3, same_screen YES
One thing to watch out for is if you have two finger scrolling turned on i.e. VertTwoFingerScroll or HorizTwoFingerScroll set to 1 as this will stop the middle button emulation.
The Acer Aspire S3 is a nice light laptop that can be found for reasonable prices. Is this because laptops seem to be sprouting touch screens? Why on earth would you want a touch screen on a laptop?
As others have commented, the fan seems to come on very frequently, certainly far more often than other laptops.
It is fairly clear that Acer don't expect you to upgrade the your hard drive, 12 screws to open up the back and tape over parts of the disk.
Wifi range is not wonderful, worse than Samsung Series 5 or Dell laptops. A USB ethernet adapter is well worth the small cost e.g. USB 3.0 version from CPC. To use this with Mint 15 you need to install the package for the ASIX USB Ethernet adapter ax88179. This can be found at https://launchpad.net/~qji/+archive/ax88179/+packages
Having the USB ports on the back is an annoyance. It probably makes a slightly thinner case possible, but it damages the usability badly. Use a USB hub if this really is a problem.
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