Linux on the Toshiba Satellite Pro 490XCDT


This page documents installing and running Linux on a Toshiba Satellite 490XCDT laptop. I go over Linux installation and setup, as well as some fun with the computer's BIOS (at the bottom of this page)

I also have another "Linux on Laptops" page for my Fujitsu Lifebook S-4546.

I purchased this 490XCDT off of E-Bay for $200 in October of 2002.

Top of the Page :: Installation :: X Configuration :: Sound :: Misc. Hardware :: Notes :: BIOS

Reasons for me choosing this computer:

  • I've owned 3 or 4 Toshibas myself, plus I used to fix them for a living, so I have a good idea of their strong/weak points
  • 13" Active Matrix LCD, it's super bright, clear and big
  • 1 serial port; I bought it so I could serial console into Sun machines I use at
  • keyboard has a feel that I like, I can go into speed typist mode very easily

The laptop I bought came with 96M of RAM, a 6G hard drive, and a docking station (cool!). I've added an Orinoco wireless card, an extra 3Com 3C575 network card, plus a Logitech USB optical mouse. The battery that came with the laptop will last for about 1 hour, which is good enough for me to walk around from office to office and plug my laptop back in when I get to where I need to go at work. New batteries would be $250US, which doesn't interest me right now. I don't know why I haven't linked this before, but here's the technical specifications for this laptop (PDF) from Toshiba USA's website. If you click on the tech specs PDF link above, you'll be re-directed to Toshiba's website, just click on the Back button in your web browser to get back to this page ;)

Software Installation

I installed the stable (woody) version of Debian GNU/Linux.

I think it was the 3.0r0 version of the CD that I created with jigdo. Install went good, it's a dual boot installation with Windows 98. I've documented the problems that I have with specific hardware (sound and video) below in their own sections. I've also posted my config files/driver listings so that you can compare if you have this model laptop.

X Configuration

The video chipset on this machine is the S3 Savage MX, which is supposedly a 3d accelerated video chipset.  I did try getting the XFree 'savage' driver to work, but it kept locking up the laptop.  There is also another X driver for the chipset, but I couldn't get it to work either; it's been a while since I've tried these drivers, so things may have been fixed.  I ended up just using the X 'vesa' driver, which works decent, but you can tell it's not an accelerated driver. Here's my XF86Config-4 file for the 'vesa' driver.

One thing to note is that the chipset really munges the console around (with text stretch mode enabled, haven't tried it without text streching), so that the 'login:' prompt gets pushed down off of the bottom of the display, which sucks if you are trying to log in via the console. Maybe turning on framebuffer support in the kernel would fix it, I'm not currently using it.


The whole time I have owned the laptop, I've been trying to get the sound working. I tried the ALSA 0.5 series drivers, the OSS drivers that come with the kernel source, and no luck. I ended up rebuilding my desktop recently using ALSA 0.9.6, and had good success with that, so I decided to give it a try on this laptop as well.

Lo and behold, I was able to get the damn thing to work (July 2003).

Here's the output of my lsmod, along with the lines I'm using in /etc/conf.modules. To use the conf.modules lines in Debian, just download and save that file to /etc/modutils, and then issue the command 'update-modules', and it will automagically add all that stuff to /etc/conf.modules. For all other distros, just hand-edit your /etc/conf.modules (or it may also be called /etc/modules.conf) and add the lines from my example, and life should be okay.

The problem with ALSA for both my desktop and this laptop was the ISA sound cards that are 'installed' (actually, they're built into the motherboards of both machines) into these computers.  My desktop has an ESS ES1868 and this laptop is a Yamaha OPL-3SAx, and when you insert the main ALSA sound module on either machine via insmod, you need to pass the 'isapnp=0' flag to the ALSA module, so that the module doesn't try to autoprobe for the soundcard, instead it uses the settings you pass to it when you load the module.

Misc. Hardware

The Logitech USB mouse works fine with the built-in PS/2 mouse running at the same time in X. The XF86Config-4 file above in the X installation section above shows you how I have everything set up.  The built-in PS/2 mouse does work on the console with GPM, with X receiving the input for that device using /dev/gpmdata.  Here's the kernel config for kernel 2.4.19 that I'm using on this laptop. I also have the CD-ROM set up as a SCSI device, using the ide-scsi translation module.


24Feb2004 - I received an e-mail from Jezz Pouill < pouill_j at epita dot fr > saying that his Toshiba Satellite 480CDT used port 0x370 as the Control port for the sound card. His conf.modules looks more like this:

options snd-opl3sa2 dma1=1 dma2=0 fm_port=0x388 irq=5 isapnp=0 \
midi_port=0x330 port=0x370 sb_port=0x220 wss_port=0x530

Here's another link to the lines I'm using in /etc/conf.modules, so you can get an idea of what's different between the two systems.

Toshiba BIOS Access
Also, just in case you didn't know how to get into the BIOS on a Toshiba, here's how it's done:

  1. Turn off the computer if it was already powered on
  2. Turn on the computer, then immediately hit the <ESC> key. Keep hitting the <ESC> key until the computer beeps at you with every keypress.
  3. Once the computer has finished it's POST (Power-on Self Test) process, you'll see the prompt "Hit <F1> to Continue".
  4. You're now in the BIOS.  Older computers have only 1 BIOS screen, newer computers have 2 screens.  Use <PgDn> and <PgUp> to navigate between the two screens if you have 2 BIOS screens.

Top of the Page :: Installation :: X Configuration :: Sound :: Misc. Hardware :: Notes :: BIOS

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