Linux on Acer Aspire 3613

Adevntures in loading Linux on an Acer 3613CLi, January 2006

This was the most economical laptop at COSTCO, at about CAD $730 + tax. Specs:

Celeron M 370 1.5 GHz
256 MB (shared) DDR2 upgradeable to 2 GB
40 GB ultra ATA/100
24x CD-RW, 15x DVD-R
15-in. TFT XGA
4-cell Lithium-ion battery, up to 2.1 hours
6.1 lb.
Loaded Fedora Core 4 from bootable DVD onto 3rd partition.

I was thinking of having the disk 33% Windows and 67% Linux, but it seemed easier to just use the existing partition rather than try to shrink hda3

Working out of the box:

  • DVD reader
  • Hard drive
  • Display (generic VESA)
  • Sound - plays test sound
  • USB - reads USB memory stick
  • Built-in Ethernet
  • Windows, via GRUB chainloader
  • Cardbus, I think. Orinoco card is recognized
With some tweaking:
  • Built-in wireless (802.11b, at least)
  • Battery monitor


The BIOS offers remarkably few options to tweak, and out-of-box offers a tiny time window to press F2 before it boots Windows (which won't come up in safe mode until you have accepted the EULA). I disabled "quiet boot" (I like to see what's happening), and enabled "multiboot". With multiboot, you can leave a CD or DVD in the drive, but boot from it by pressing F12 on boot.

Windows Notes

The laptop ships with Windows XP Home edition, plus some custom stuff to do emergency restore. The D: partition is reserved for a disk-to-disk backup procedure (presumably guarding against screwups rather than disk failure of theft ...)

Initial disk setup:
hda11-383Compaq diagnosticsFAT323G2.2G
hda2384-2598Windows XP C:FAT3217G3.2G

CPU: Celeron M 1.50GHz 1M cache
VGA: Intel Mobile 915GM/GMS/910GML Express rev 03/Acer 006a
Audio: Intel 82801FB/FBM/FR/FW/FRW AC'97 rev 03/Acer 006a
Modem: Intel 82801FB/FBM/FR/FW/FRW
Wireless: Broadcom 4318/AMBIT 0312
Ethernet: Realtek RTL-8139/8139C/8139C+ rev 10
Cardbus: ENE CB1410 rev 01

Random security thoughts:

  • Microsoft recommends NTFS on XP. Why don't Acer use it? It's more secure (file ownership etc.)
  • XP home edition sets up a single user with administrative privilege if you just follow the line of least resistance. This is proven to lead to 2000% more malware infections than following the Unix model of an unprivileged user and privileged administrator account


No native Linux driver for Broadcom devide, so try Ndiswrapper. What worked was the bcmw15 driver in SP30676.exe - which I can't remember where I found. Exploded that under Windows (it's not a zipfile; it has an EULA to click first) then do something like:
ndiswrapper -i bcmw15.inf
ndiswrapper -m
modprobe ndiswrapper
iwconfig wlan0 essid Home key xxxxx none
I had trouble getting it to start on boot, and to connect to my old SMC router using WEP. First off, the Gnome applet system-config-network did not automatically show wlan0 as an installed device. So I created /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-wlan0 using ifcfg-eth0 as a template. Then the applet shows wlan0, but creates /etc/sysconfig/networking/profiles/default/keys-wlan0 with "KEY=s:xxxx" (an ASCII key) while what I need is "KEY=xxxx" (a hex key). Also, I needed to add "SECURITYMODE=open" to ifcfg-wlan0 as it defaulted to Restricted, which did not work. The GUI does not know about this parameter.


Install comes up in 800x600. Display on CL model is 1024x768. I used the GUI to select the generic LCD 1024x768 monitor with VESA driver. The i915 driver with FC4 did not work.

ACPI Power Management

The battery monitor did not work (Gnome applet), and /proc/acpi/battery was empty. Adding the kernel option ec_burst=1 fixes that. The "apm" command (which works on my old Inspiron) used by the applet to suspend the system does not work as APM is not implemented. I'm not sure what the equivalent ACPI command is.

Reportedly, "noapictimer" may be required to fix some timing problems playing DVDs.

To do: Add "iwconfig wlan0 power on" to /etc/apic/config or something. See what can be done about low-power modes, suspend etc. Currently the only entry is to tie the power button to "shutdown -h now".