Archive for the ‘HP 510’ Category

A brief review of the HP 510 laptop

June 2, 2007

Picture of the HP 510
I got a little less time than expected to write this review, so it will be short.

The specifications of the 510 model I have here:
CPU: Celeron M 1,4 ghz
Memory: 512 MB
Disk: 60 gb
Wireless 802.11g
2x USB ports
Sound in/out
PCMCIA slot (at least that’s what it looks like to me)
VGA out
Ethernet plug
Modem plug

I have been using Ubuntu on this machine – as mentioned in a previous article, a few steps are required to get the hardware working correctly.

Build quality: This thing screams plastic. The lid is quite sturdy, though, stiffer than the one on my Macbook. The hinges are quite firm – to open the lid, I have to hold the bottom part of the laptop. The ports seem OK. The keyboard is about average to type on (I’m using it now) – except for a tendency to squeak on a few of the buttons in the middle, I have no objections. The CTRL button is to the left of the Fn key – a plus in my opinion. The squeakiness might be an annoyance for some users (of course, it could be that I was unlucky with this specific machine).

Performance: I haven’t tried anything apart from Ubuntu on this machine. Desktop effects in Ubuntu work and look nice, but slow down performance a bit. Remote desktop over VNC doesn’t work with them on – I can connect, but the image on the remote machine does not update. If I didn’t need VNC functionality I would probably have enabled desktop effects. Overall, the machine feels quite snappy in Ubuntu, though I have not done anything more heavy on it than 10-20 firefox windows, Flash videos, Gaim and OOO Writer.

Noise: The fan starts when I play youtube videos, but isn’t particularly noisy. It is audible, but pretty low frequency.

Heat: I put “laptop” in the title for a reason – I am writing this with the machine on my lap. This works just fine, and that’s probably because of the pretty weak CPU and relatively roomy chassis, allowing for decent cooling. The machine gets warm, but not overly so, and nowhere near as hot as my Macbook.

Speakers: These can play pretty loud, but with distortion. Given the price point, I am happy with them. The sound is tinny. I won’t make any calls on the sound quality of the headphone out – it works and I couldn’t find any immediate cause for complaint.

Screen: This is bright and with a decent viewing angle. It is reflective, in principle like the Macbook screen, but this manages to be glossy without reflecting the surroundings as much as the MB screen. I’m quite happy with it. (1280×800 resolution.)

Battery: The battery lasts about 1 – 1.5 hours with desktop applications and wifi usage. HP sells one with twice the capacity, I believe.

Trackpad: I have never seen a trackpad with this design before. It is just an array of small holes in the chassis. It works well for me, though. Also has a vertical section on the right for scrolling.
HP510 trackpad
The machine also has a dedicated button for wifi on/off.

Overall, this is great value for 3995,- NOK (which tends to be about 400$). It is certainly the cheapest full-featured laptop I have seen, and it is actually usable too. I would have liked a keyboard without any squeaking (maybe it will improve with use?)…. and, well, that’s about it really. Of course bluetooth would be nice, but once you go down that road, you want to have firewire, digital sound in/out, DVI and so on, and that’s not what this laptop is about.

That’s about it, I think. Feel free to add questions in the comments, of course.


Installing Ubuntu 7.04 on a HP 510 laptop computer

May 26, 2007

I’ve just finished installing Ubuntu on the HP 510 laptop. It’s a very cheap machine – I got it for 4000 NOK (I believe it’s priced around 400$ in the US).

Installing off the Live CD, I was a bit annoyed that Ubuntu couldn’t resize the existing XP partitions, but considering that they are NTFS I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess. Being able to dualboot isn’t that important for this machine, so I used the entire disk for Ubuntu.

The out of the box-install has a few problems, namely:

– The display runs at 1024×768 and not 1280×800
– The trackpad doesn’t work
– The WiFi apparently doesn’t work

I found this solution at this website: Alik’s site on how to fix the issue with Ubuntu 6.10 and a HP 500 laptop. I found that I could skip a step from his howto, so that I only needed to do the following on the command line:

Update the software:

sudo aptitude update

Install 915resolution utility:

sudo aptitude install 915resolution

after installation is finished, you need to set 915resolution tool:

sudo gedit /etc/default/915resolution

Change the following values in the file:


Save the file, close the program and reboot the computer. The resolution should be the correct one.

These instructions are also from Alik’s site on how to fix the issue with Ubuntu 6.10 and a HP 500 laptop (well done, mate!).
To fix this, we have to download the latest kernel source code, make a tiny change in it, and compile a new kernel. (This sounds scary, but is actually easy, although more time-consuming than I would have thought.)

First, get the kernel source:
sudo aptitude install linux-source-[you get latest source code using TAB key]

The version I got was 2.6.20.
Now, we want to unzip (untar) it.

cd /usr/src/
sudo tar -xvjf linux-source-[your kernel version]

After this command you will have source codes in /usr/src/linux-source-[your kernel version] directory. We will now make a small change in the source code of the keyboard/mouse driver.

sudo gedit linux-source-2.6.17/drivers/input/serio/i8042.c

In the 2.6.20 source, the line you will add is at line 576. If you get a newer kernel, the function we are changing might have moved/changed slightly. Search the file for i8042_check_aux(void) if you can’t see it. Make an empty line and write

return 0;

See the screenshot if you are uncertain:

Screenshot of the kernel function

Now we have to get all the software we need to compile a kernel. Run the following commands:

sudo aptitude install build-essential
sudo aptitude install bin86
sudo aptitude install kernel-package
sudo aptitude install gcc
sudo aptitude install gcc-3.4
sudo aptitude install libncurses5
sudo aptitude install libncurses5-dev
sudo aptitude install libqt3-headers
sudo aptitude install libqt3-mt-dev

Now, we want to move into the directory where the kernel is untar/unzipped to, and start making it.

cd linux-source-[your kernel version]

sudo make xconfig

Alik has some suggestions to changes you can make in the QCONF graphical tool. These can be found in the Processor type and features section, and are:

disable Symmetric multi-processor support
select Pentium M processor family
disable Generic x86 support
enable Local APIC support on uniprocessors
enable IO-APIC suport on uniprocessor
disable Toshiba + Dell laptop support
disable Enable X86 board specific fixups for reboot
disable /dev/cpu/microcode – Intel IA32 CPU
Hight memory support – set to OFF
set Timer frequency to 1000Hz
disable kexec system call

Select Save from the File menu and quit QCONF.
Now we can make the kernel:

sudo make-kpkg clean
sudo make-kpkg --initrd --stem linux --revision=hp510.1.0 kernel_image

This will take quite a while. I didn’t pay too much attention while it compiled, but I think it took at least 10 -15 minutes.
Then, we have to decompress the kernel, so that it will be found at boot (the linux-image name below will vary depending on the kernel version you are using):

cd ..
sudo dpkg -i linux-image-
sudo reboot

When rebooting and entering the GRUB boot menu, you will notice that you have a new choice, ending with -ubuntu1. This was automatically selected for me. The trackpad should now work.

Note: Fixing this by modifying the kernel obviously means that a new kernel might re-introduce the problem. Unless the new kernel fixes the underlying issue (which we are merely avoiding by exiting this function), we will have to modify the kernel again. Thus, this is not an ideal solution. Béranger pointed this out and suggested to pass the i8042.noaux parameter to the kernel instead; unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make this work.

There are two different issues causing WiFi problems. First, the DHCP appears to be not working, so the IP address must be set manually. This can be done in the System -> Administration -> Network window. Double-click on the WiFi connection, enter the password and add an appropriate IP address (ie, if the IP address of your router is, you could use and set as the gateway address).

The second is that after creating a new kernel (above), the new kernel cannot find the firmware required by the WiFi card. The kernel goes looking for it in /lib/firmware/[kernel-name]. Thus, we create a symlink from the new kernel name to the firmware we already have (in the old kernel’s FW directory).

cd /lib/firmware
ln -s 2.6.20-8-generic 2.6.20-ubuntu1hp510

The second part of the last command must correspond to your kernel name and version. If you have kernel 2.6.21, that should be reflected.

A big, big, big thank you to Alki and his website on the HP 500 and Ubuntu 6.10 as well as the people on this thread on the trackpad, wifi and resolution issues over at the Ubuntu forums. Also, thanks to Hexen for the extra googleability. It is a pity that we still do not have complete out of the box functionality, but thanks to the community, it is possible to get pretty close to 100% when you put in some work :)

PS: Here is a short review of the HP 510.