A Few Notes on the P2214T Running Debian SID Linux

P2214T Medion Akoya 91804

TuxMobil - Linux on Laptops, Notebooks, PDAs and Mobile Phones

Medion P2214T Running Debian Linux
Kernel : 4.1.0-rc4
Sold:  Aldi Australia

This low cost  netbook/tablet combo works well running Linux.

The battery life is excellent, as are the ergonomics; suspend/standby is troublefree. It has a detachable touchscreen module (1920x1080) which includes the CPU, an inbuilt battery,a webcam, a micro USB 3.0 and a solid-state drive of 64G. The main docking station has a keyboard plus glidepad, 2 more USB connections, and a second inbuilt battery. All the inbuilt functions in the PC functioned correctly except multitouch on the glidepad. The glidepad is somewhat touchy.

There is no ethernet cable socket; an ethernet to usb adapter is required if cable connection is needed. The new style of micro usb socket on the tablet section is quite delicate, and a bit fussy, so be careful and gentle when connecting to it. The docking station keyboard requires a custom compiled kernel to function. I used kernel 4.1 with the patch described below. Earlier kernels do not fully support the WIFI when using WPA2. The wifi has proven reliable running on quite a number of different wifi hubs. The range is quite good.

All the information to load linux, and to get round bugs is available on the net in different places. What I found necessary is gathered here.

A number of steps were required, as follows, to get a bootable USB stick with a full debian Sid installation. This can be easily copied to either of the system drives.

The P2214T has a UEFI bios with no legacy boot option, the kernel must be 64 bit. To configure the bios the F2 key must be pressed after the power on button is pressed. The security option needs to be turned off. It makes sense to partition all installation drives (including usb sticks) as GPT.

The UEFI bios implements a shell interpreter which boots with the help of a shell script on a special "ef00" vfat formatted partition. There are various booting shell scripts available , eg grub-efi etc. rEFInd seems one of the easiest to use. Copy the files extracted from rEFInd-zipped-files to an EFI system partition (formatted fat32/vfat, ~100Mb) on a USB stick, and the PC boot will be able to find the startup script. This process replaces the MBR load used by earlier bioses. In my view the UEFI bios is mostly a big step backwards, overcomplicated, and therefore very hard to make secure.

I generated a Debian Sid OS from scratch, as follows, but any functional 64 bit os , such as Ubuntu should work equally well.

The OS was prepared on a 32 bit Debian host Linux system running kernel 3.6.9. This host system required the installation of a 64 bit kernel to allow chroot to function. This was a simple single install and did not require any other package upgrades. The 64 bit kernel can coexist with the 32 bit OS packages.

A basic Debian sid OS was downloaded using debootstrap Once the basic OS is downloaded this way , then chroot to the debootstrap download directory. Apt can then be used to install any extra necessary packages (linux-image,ssh,rsync,wifi firmware etc). It is necessary to edit "/etc/fstab" in this directory and make the root partition /dev/sda2.

Once all the packages are installed the directory can be copied to partition 2 of the USB stick, which will then be a functional rescue or installation tool. If the bios boot option is set , rEFind will give the options of booting either windows from the SSD, or debian from the USB stick. The USB stick OS will be quite functional , but will require an external USB keyboard until a new kernel as generated as below.

The onboard 64G ssd appears as /dev/mmcblk0, the 500G hdd as /dev/sdb and the installation USB stick as /dev/sda with root as /dev/sda2.

If MS-windows multiboot is required, then windows must be started and free space for new partitions created. Then Linux OS can be installed where desired, and a small (110M) ef00 partition for the rEFind or other extra boot manager.

Once the kernel is correctly installed, then the docking keyboard can be made functional by installing the kernel source package, unzipping the source (eg to /usr/src/linux-4.1-rc4/) and then building the kernel package as follows:

apt-get install build-essential linux-source kernel-package libncurses5-dev
apt-get install libgtk2.0-dev libglib2.0-dev libglade2-dev #for "make gconfig"

# extract the compressed source, which is put by apt-get into /usr/src/ (the format varies)

cd /usr/source/linux-source-4.1 # or wherever

make ARCH=ia64 defconfig # set to 64 bit architecture (amd64)

make oldconfig # take previous configuration to .config

gvim include/linux/hid.h # around line 370 change:
define HID_MAX_USAGES 12288
to: define HID_MAX_USAGES 65536
# See HID Parsing

The kernel Elantech clickpad patch might improve the clickpad function if the Elantech configure option is set. I could not get multitouch to function. The clickpad shows as 04f3:0400 with lsusb, but with name "ITE Tech" in /proc/bus/input/devices.

make-kpkg -initrd kernel_image kernel_headers modules # this compiles the kernel and builds the 2 packages

dpkg -i /usr/src/linux-image-4.1.0-rc4_4.1.0-rc4-10.00.Custom_amd64.deb

dpkg -i /usr/src/linux-headers-4.1.0-rc4_4.1.0-rc4-10.00.Custom_amd64.deb

reboot and the docking keyboard should now work. Hopefully these patches will not be needed in later kernels.

To run the tablet section standalone, a keyboard program is needed. "Florence","Onboard" and "xvkbd" are available. Onboard would not make for me, Florence is a bit buggy, and "xvkbd" is a bit light. In the end xvkbd proved the most dependable. I used "fvwm" window manager, increased the border and button sizes, as well as adding some title bar buttons, to make window repositioning easier. The tablet section became perfectly usable without the docking section using this setup.

The screen brightness can be adjusted by setting /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness

eg: cat /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/max_brightness # show max setting
cat /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness # show current setting

echo 2500 /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness # set to half max.

The touchscreen implementation under X11 is not yet as good as that under Android or Apple, but it is already quite good, and the OS is far more generally usable than either.
The touchscreen is a very useful adjunct, even with the docking station attached. The inbuilt stylus does not work as well as a finger tip, since the resolution of the touchgrid is a bit course for the stylus. This causes flickering when using the stylus (with both linux & Win8.1).

The wifi is an Intel iwl 3160 . It works well with WEP and WPA , WPA2 only worked once kernel 4.1 was installed..
Microsoft have surreptitiously removed support for WEP from their later windows versions, although it looks from their menus as if it is still supported.
The power supply is the (now) standard 19 volts DC. The power jack is an uncommon 3.0x1.1mm . Adaptors for this size to common jack sizes are readily available.

Aldi deserves a pat on the back for producing a notepad with a good balance of features at a good price, and which is Linux compatible.

My thanks to all who tracked down patches and software for this PC