openSUSE 15.1 on an Acer TravelMate B118-M

This document describes how I installed and configured GNU/Linux (64-bit openSUSE 15.1 distribution) on an Acer Travelmate B118-M netbook.

Technical specifications

The Acer TravelMate B118-M is available in various configurations. According to my retailer, my system's full model name is "Acer TravelMate B118-M-P98A", with the Acer article number NX.VHPEG.005.

ComponentDetails
CPU Intel Pentium Silver N5000 (4 cores, 1.10 GHz, 4MB cache)
RAM 4 GB DDR4 SDRAM
Hard disk 500 GB 5400 RPM SATA
Display 11.6" Comfyview; 1366×768 (HD) resolution
Graphics controller UHD Graphics 605
Ethernet RTL8111/8168/8411 PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet controller
Wireless LAN Dual Band Wirelass-AC 7265 (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac)
Sound Intel Audio Device
Touchpad ETPS/2 Elantouch Touchpad
Integrated camera unknown Quanta Computer device
Ports 1× USB 2.0
1× USB 3.0
RJ45 (Ethernet)
SD card reader
HDMI
combination headphone/microphone

Summary

Component or featureDetails
Suspend to disk not tested
Suspend to RAM mostly working; see below
USB works out of the box
Ethernet works out of the box
WLAN works out of the box
graphics mostly working; see below
HDMI not tested
hard disk works out of the box
sound works out of the box
memory card reader not tested
touchpad needs workaround; see below
camera works out of the box
BIOS update doesn't work; see below

Installation

The model I received apparently had no usable operating system installed; it booted into an arcane and unhelpful UEFI menu. The computer has no optical drive, so to install openSUSE 15.1 I used an external USB drive. In order to get the computer to boot from an external USB drive, it was necessary to hold down the F2 key immediately after powering on the machine. This brings up a BIOS-like menu that will allow you to select the default boot device order, or to enable a boot menu (activated by pressing F12 during system startup).

The touchpad was not detected during install, so I had to use an external mouse. I had YaST completely wipe and repartition the hard drive. I reserved 92 GB for the root partition, 4 GB for the swap partition, and the remainder for the home partition. (YaST also reserves a 500 MB UEFI partition.)

The installation completed without error, but afterwards the system went into an infinite restart loop. To break this it was necessary to press a key when the blue screen appears and then select "Always continue to boot".

Details

Most components and features work out of the box. Here is a description of some components with special considerations, or which I have not yet gotten to work.

Touchpad

The touchpad is not activated out of the box. According to dmesg | egrep "i8042|input", the kernel logs, it is detected but disabled:

i8042: PNP: PS/2 Controller [PNP0303:PS2K] at 0x60,0x64 irq 1
i8042: PNP: PS/2 appears to have AUX port disabled, if this is incorrect please boot with i8042.nopnp

As the message suggests, the solution is to add i8042.nopnp to the boot parameters; this can be done in YaST.

As with the TravelMate B115, the touchpad does not have separate left and right buttons; instead you can left click by pressing the lower left corner of the touchpad, and right click by pressing the lower right corner. It is not possible to press both corners at the same time, which means that the usual way of simulating a middle click (i.e., the third mouse button) does not work.

However, there is another way of producing left, right, and middle clicks which works out of the box:

This behaviour can be customized in KDE using the "Input devices" module of the Control Center.

Keyboard

Most of the special Fn+key combinations work out of the box. An exception is Fn+F3, which is supposed to disable wireless—this doesn't work, though I can still disable wireless on the command line or using the KDE network manager plasmoid.

To set up a keyboard shortcut for toggling wireless (i.e., airplane mode), create a script with the following contents:

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#!/bin/bash

wifi="$(nmcli r wifi)"

if [ "$wifi" = "enabled" ]; then
    nmcli r wifi off
else
    nmcli r wifi on
fi

Make sure you set the script as executable. You can then create a menu entry for this script in your desktop environment and bind a shortcut key combination to it. Unfortunately, it's not possible to use Fn+F3, or any other Fn combination, as the keyboard shortcut; this is most likely a problem with the keyboard driver used by the kernel. (See this discussion on the X.Org bug tracker for details.) I used Meta+F3 (where "Meta" is the key with the Windows logo).

Graphics

Under some circumstances, the laptop screen blinks on and off rapidly for several seconds. This happens whenever the Fn+Up or Fn+Dn keys are used to adjust the audio volume, triggering the on-screen display (OSD). The problem also occurs very frequently when running Windows 7 in VirtualBox. In this case, the problem seems to be triggered by clicking on certain icons in the Windows Explorer, but also when the virtual machine boots up or shuts down.

This turned out to be a bug in the Linux kernel (or more specifically its integrated Intel modesetting driver) which has since been fixed. The fix was backported to openSUSE Leap 15.1 in late 2019.

Suspend

The computer properly suspends when the lid is closed, and wakes when the lid is opened. However, it is not possible to properly suspend the machine while the lid remains open. If you try this, then the machine suspends but then immediately wakes again.

I discovered that in the BIOS menu, in the "Main" tab, there is a setting "Lid Open Resume" that is set to "Enabled". Changing this setting to "Disabled" will work around this problem.

BIOS update

BIOS updates are available on Acer's website. However, they are distributed as Microsoft Windows executables and so there seems to be no way of applying them without running Windows.