Sunday, 27 March 2011

Ubuntu 10.10 on the HP Pavilion DV6-3131SA

I got my new laptop yesterday from the nation's favourite retailer, John Lewis. It set me back £649 and this is what I got for my money:

Processor: 2.1 GHz AMD Phenom II Triple-Core Processor N830 (Level 2 cache 1.5 MB)

RAM: 4GB DDR3 (2 x 2048 MB) Upgradeable to 8GB DDR3

Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 Graphics (switchable) with up to 2685MB total graphics memory with 1 GB DDR3 dedicated

Display: 15.6" High Definition LED BrightView Display (1366 x 768)

HDD: 500GB SATA 7200 rpm

Optical Drive: Blu-Ray ROM with Lightscribe SuperMulti DVD±R/RW Dual Layer

Network Card: Integrated 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN

Wireless connectivity: WLAN 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth

Sound: Altec Lansing speakers (Dolby Advanced Audio)

Keyboard & Pointing Device: Full size island-style keyboard & HP Clickpad supporting Multi-Touch gestures with On/Off button

Card Reader: 5-in-1 Digital Media Reader

External Ports: Ethernet, VGA, Headphones, Microphone-in, 3 USB 2.0, eSATA + USB port

Webcam: VGA HP TrueVision

And it comes with Windows 7. Which isn't a bad thing, but it ain't for me.

Here's how it looks:

It has a nice lid with an engraved pattern and a little HP logo which lights up:

The engraving is continued across the front where you will also find the power button and the fingerprint scanner There were three stickers on the right which I promptly removed. I'll get rid of the one on the left as soon as I can:

Ports on the left side from left to right are VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, E-SATA (which doubles as a USB 2.0), USB 2.0, Mic, Headphones, Card Reader:

Ports on the right side from left to right are, USB 2.0, Optical Drive, USB 2.0, AC Power Socket. There are also three LEDs here for Power On, HD Activity and Battery Charging:

Now, I should point out that this wasn't my first choice. I originally bought an Acer 5745 (i5 Processor), but having got it home and installed Ubuntu 10.10, it turned out that while the onboard HD graphics were available to me, the 1GB graphics card would probably never be available to use. This is because it uses Nvidia's Optimus Technology to switch the graphics cards and that can only be done using Windows 7. No, you can't use Vista or XP and it appears that no Linux distro will do it either.

So, how's Ubuntu 10.10?
Windows 7 never saw the light of day on this machine. I hooked up the AC power, inserted my Ubuntu 10.10 USB stick, powered up, hit ESC after the HP splash screen and chose to boot from USB.
Once it was up and running, I hit the installation icon. I chose to use the entire disk when asked.
When it was all done, I rebooted and inserted my Ethernet cable.
Then I opened Synaptic, reloaded and applied all updates. Then I installed the Broadcom and ATI restricted drivers and rebooted again.

At this point I discovered that the right-click on the touchpad didn't work. Luckily, a workaround was found for this issue. It's not very elegant and there's no multitouch but it restores the right-click, which is what I wanted.

And this is the only time I've had to use the command line during this install.

What's working? And just as importantly, what isn't?

External display ports work (connected via HDMI and VGA to TV).
Ethernet works (connected to router).
USB ports work correctly (tested with external HDD).
Display is at the correct resolution and sound via internal speakers work. Headphones also work.
The optical drive works (ripped a CD with RhythmBox), as does the eject button.
The card reader works (tested with an 8Gb SD).
Webcam and built in microphone work (tested with Skype).
Bluetooth also works (transferred a file from my Nokia N900).
Keys for display brightness (up and down), volume (up, down and mute) work.
Keys for Play/Pause, Next track, Previous track and Stop all work with RhythmBox.
On the left hand side of the keyboard, the Calculator key starts the calculator, the Email key starts Evolution and the Key with a globe on it (I assume this is supposed to launch the web browser) starts Nautilus. The other two keys don't appear to do anything.
Suspend on closing the lid works and it will come back correctly and connect to the wireless network correctly.

The key for toggling wireless connectivity sort of works. It will correctly toggle Bluetooth On/Off (the Bluetooth icon disappears and comes back) but it doesn't actually switch the wireless card off. It just disconnects/reconnects to the access point.

The fingerprint scanner doesn't appear to work, but I haven't researched how to get get it working, if it does at all.

The graphics card can be configured with the ATI Catalyst Control Centre which you can find under System > Preferences. I'm not too hot on this subject, so further testing will be needed.

With the patch applied, updates applied and restricted drivers installed, it was time to set up Ubuntu the way I like it.


  1. I think we have the same model, or one very close to that one. We used Windows seven though... it just bugs me that it doesn't have a numeric pad. It makes typing in Spanish a real pain as well as getting some other symbols that I am used to.

  2. I have a dv6-3010 with the same keyboard, using Mint 11 (ubuntu derivitive). Do the LCD Brightness keys (Fn1 and Fn2) work on yours? Mint doesn't even seem to recognize them, unless I'm using the Fn key to use it as F1 or F2

  3. @jaywayne86 I also have to use the Fn key with the function keys to adjust the screen brightness, volume etc., however this behaviour can be switched in the BIOS to using the function keys without the need for the Fn key.