Original document: June/16/2001

Updated: April/23/2004

Hardware & Software

This notebook was offered by ALDI, an ordinary supermarket normally selling grocery. It was such a good offer I just could not resist buying it. So I went early in the morning to a shop close by. When the supermarket opened a huge que had already assembled behind me. Luckily I got a notebook, they only had 5 pieces in that particular shop!

The brand is Medion, but the german computer magazin c't soon discovered that the notebook is based on a Asus L8400-K notebook, Medion only put a harddisk, memory and a processor onto the mainboard. My notebook is equipped with a 10Gb HDD, 128Mb RAM, an 8Mb Savage/MX graphics accelerator with TV-out and a vga connector, a floppy disk drive, an ESS Allegro sound chip with modem, a Realtek 8139 10/100MB Ethernet adaptor and a 8X Toshiba DVD-ROM (Toshiba SD-C2502 PS). Of course there are two PCMCIA slots (RICOH), a FIR irda port, the usual two USB ports, PS/2 and one serial as well as a parallel connector. The memory is onboard, a free slot can take up SO-DIMMs with a size of up to 256Mb, thus the maximum amount of RAM is 384Mb. I you want to add a 256Mb module be sure it is equipped with 16 128Mbit memory chips, newer SO-DIMMs with 8 256Mbit chips will not work, the Intel BX chipset will recognize only half of the memory! The processor is a desktop Pentium III with 850MHZ, thus enough processing power is available. Such a desktop processor does not feature SpeedStep technology, but the battery powers the notebook for over 2 hours anyway.

Here all the PCI devices as lspci show them:
00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation 440BX/ZX - 82443BX/ZX Host bridge (rev 03)
00:01.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 440BX/ZX - 82443BX/ZX AGP bridge (rev 03)
00:06.0 Multimedia audio controller: ESS Technology: Unknown device 1988 (rev 12)
00:06.1 Communication controller: ESS Technology: Unknown device 1989 (rev 12)
00:07.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation 82371AB PIIX4 ISA (rev 02)
00:07.1 IDE interface: Intel Corporation 82371AB PIIX4 IDE (rev 01)
00:07.2 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82371AB PIIX4 USB (rev 01)
00:07.3 Bridge: Intel Corporation 82371AB PIIX4 ACPI (rev 03)
00:08.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RT8139 (rev 10)
00:0a.0 CardBus bridge: Ricoh Co Ltd RL5c476 II (rev 80)
00:0a.1 CardBus bridge: Ricoh Co Ltd RL5c476 II (rev 80)
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: S3 Inc.: Unknown device 8c10 (rev 11)

There was a huge software package included, WindowsME and other Microsoft stuff. I immediately started to install Linux, to escape from this software monopoly. I have used many Linux distributions, but now I have arrived at Debian, in my eyes the most flexible distribution and well suited for notebooks.

What works, what doesn't

Good news: everything except the (sigh!) internal faxmodem, which of course is a winmodem (see the Modem section).


Prior to attempt to install anything you have to change a few BIOS options: I installed Debian, release 2.2r3 on my notebook over the internet (Yes! I have DSL!). Installation is straight forward, except that this release of Debian lacks support for the new kernel 2.4 and XFree86 4.0, thus I upgraded the distribution. If you intend to use Debian too, I would advice you to do the same, otherwise you can skip this section and look at the parts with a detailed description on how to get the hardware running. Prior to installation you should also look at the APM section, as it contains instructions on how to use the suspend-to-disk feature of the Phoenix BIOS. You have to create a new partition for that purpose. For the new kernel many new packages are required, just add the following lines to your /etc/apt/sources.list:

#Kernel 2.4 utils for potato
deb potato main
deb-src potato main

#XFree86 4.0 Packages are available from Charl P. Botha:

#XFree86 4.10 for potato
deb xf410_potato/i386/
deb xf410_potato/all/

#I prefer KDE over Gnome, if you do the same just add this to your sources.list:

#Kde 2.1.2
deb potato main crypto optional

Now you have to call 'apt-get update' which will retrieve the package lists and 'apt-get dist-upgrade' which will replace old packages and makes the distribution ready for the new kernel 2.4. If you are impatiend you can grab my kernel configuration here, (just place it into the base directory of the source) but I encourage you to read through the device section of my little HOWTO to be able to fine tune some options for your needs.


The ethernet controller shares a connector with the modem, consequently you cannot use the modem and network simultaniously. Luckily the modem is not supported so you will not have to worry about that ;-).
The Realtek 8139C chip is supported by many kernels, with the kernel 2.4 I could use the network even after a susepend-to-disk.
If your distribution has problems with the network interface, read this Linux & the RealTek 8129/8139 chips page.


The S3 Savage/MX graphics chip is supported by XFree86 4.0.3. I have spent some time configuring XFree86, so if you like you can use my XF86Config-4. If you do not have a German keyboard, you should change the layout.  It seems to be important to run the server with a color depth of 16, with 32 I ended up with a corrupt screen. Just put "DefaultColorDepth 16" in your config or use mine. It is advisable to set the resolution of the XServer to the default of the LCD, which is 1024x768.

Important notice: If you intend to run StarOffice, you have to set the environment variable:


prior to running X-Windows. Otherwise X will freeze already during installation. You should place the line with a preceding "export" into the file "/etc/profile". Then it will be set automatically.


The audio chip is made by ESS, it is called Allegro (1988). The kernel 2.4 provides the module maestro3. When you load the modules the ac97_codec modules is being loaded too. I advice you to use modconf to automatically load the driver.


You have to enable APM support in the kernel configuration, it then runs flawlessly. The system autmatically shuts itself down if you issue a shutdown, nice feature especially for as I did not have an ATX machine before.
The command "apm" then gives you an account of the battery status or whether you are on AC power. Another cool feature is suspend-to-disk, which works very well on this notebook. It requires some preparations though. The Medion version of the notebook has no hibernation partition, you have to create one. I did this before installing Debian and used a single floppy Linux to boot the notebook. I prefer tomsrtbt for such purposes. You will also need lpdisk. The small utility "lpdisk" prepares the newly created partition, you can download it here. If you do not want to compile a static version (this enables you to use lpdisk with tomsrtbt) by yourself, I have put a static version on my webpage. Just extract it onto another floppy. Once you have tomsrtbt and lpdisk on two floppies, you boot tomsrtbt. Create a new primary partition with fdisk, which must be "/dev/hda4"! The size of the partition depends on the amount of installed system memory. For 128MB you should create a 160Mb partition, for more memory you have to make it even larger. The type of the newly created partition must be a0 (IBM Thinkpad Hibernation). Now you can run lpdisk (" "). Once finished, reboot, enter the BIOS setup program with "F2" and change the suspend type to "Suspend-to-disk". That's it! If you get bored with your superb notebook now just hit Fn-Suspend under Linux and the system will save its state in /dev/hda4.

Some devices do not deal well with suspend-to-disk,  I have difficulties with Irda, but surprisingly the network and the soundcard work without removing the correspondent modules. Debian however is well prepaired especially for notebooks and offeres "script execution on suspend". All scripts residing in the directory /etc/apm/event.d will be executed with "suspend" or "resume". Just create a script with the following lines:

case "$1" in
        /etc/irda/drivers stop
        /etc/irda/drivers start

This will remove or reinsert the appropiate irda drivers. For details see irda section.


The modem is a "winmodem" with very little intelligence  on its own (like everything connected to windoze ;-) ).
Sadly, no one has given the modem the required intelligence for Linux, but the Linmodem project has succeded in coding drivers for a few modems, but not for this one. It does not work.

The Winmodem Information Page lists a binary only driver for the ESS modem, which is unfortunately only available for some 2.2.x kernels, thus I did not try them. If you manage to make it work, just drop me a note.

Hard Disk

The hard disk is an IBM-DJSA-210, it works best with DMA enabled (as nearly all drives do). I have change some kernel options, so that DMA get enabled at bootup, you can grab my kernel config, or:


set these with your prefered interface.


The Ricoh PCMCIA controller works, but I lack PCMCIA cards, so I could not test it. USB support is quite god with kernel 2.4, the Intel controller gets recognized. Sadly I do not have any USB devices, so again, I cannot verify that they work, but I am pretty sure they will. This is taken from another HOWTO on an Asus notebook:

A user reported me that his USB mouse works, so you should expect that everything's ok. I'm still using an external PS/2 mouse, since connecting an USB one disables the internal pointing device (which is a true PS/2 "mouse"); the same should reasonably apply to USB keyboards.

I've played with a keyboard/mouse splitter (a Y-shaped cable which allows two PS/2 devices, keyboard and mouse, to plug in a single PS/2 port) and it works perfectly, so - again - I see no need of USB devices here.

I am succesfully using a cordless PS/2 mouse, really nice with a notebook!


I managed to syncronize my PALM III via its IRDA port. You have to download a new pilot-xfer package, the one shipped with potato cannot syncronize using the /dev/ircommnew0 special device.  Once you have inserted the necessary modules (irda, ircomm) issue a "irattach /dev/ttyS1 -s 1", this will load additional drivers and the port is up and running in SIR mode. To let Debian do this for you, you have to edit /etc/irda/drivers, but you can also grab mine .

If you use the nice suspend-to-disk feature of the Phoenix BIOS you have to unload/load the modules before a suspend, see the APM section for details.

The notebook has a fast Irda chip, which is a nsc. Inserting the modules nsc-ircc works, and the chip and a Sharp dongle gets recognized. I did not test it beyond this point, but I am confident the chip will work.

Dual boot / MS Windows

The Medion notebook is equipped with Windows ME , a nusiance with respect to network performance. But if you want to watch DVDs, play some games or use some legacy windows applications you hardly have a choice. I use vamos, which is in my view a superp bootmanager. If you cannot stand shareware you may use grub another good bootmanager.

CPU/Temperature Sensors

Unfortunaetly the Medion/Asus notebook is equipped with a desktop CPU. A mobile Pentium III does consume as much power as a desktop Pentium III under full utilization, but features more sophisticated methods to save power, like SpeedStep technology. Nevertheless I found it interesting to know how hot the CPU actually gets, so I installed the lm-sensors package, which can read out the two sensors of the notebook. Asus says that the fan starts to work at a temperature of 70° Celsius and stops again at 55°. With the sensors package you can verify this behaviour quite well.
For Debian just install the package lm-sensors via apt-get and compile the modules from the package lm-sensors-source in the directoy "/usr/src/modules/lm-sensors/lm_sensors2".  After installation load the module adm1021 for the built-in Analog Devices chip and put the following lines into the file "/etc/sensors.conf":

chip "adm1021-i2c-*-4e"
label temp              "Chassis"
label remote_temp       "CPU"

If you call the program "sensors" now you will get the current temperature of your chassis and cpu. There are some programs for X available, but my desired candidate khealthcare did not compile properly under Potato.


Here I compiled some links to other HOWTOs or laptop related sites.


I am content with my new notebook, although the fan is much too loud. Linux runs smoothly and supports nearly everything except the stupid Winmodem. The S3 Savage graphics adaptor with separate memory makes it fast, as most notebooks in this class come with a shared memory graphics chip I would always prefer this notebook. For a "All-In-One" notebook it was quite inexpensive and if you consider to buy it, just do it.

Finally, If you feel you have questions or comments just contact me at martin_asus  (at) . If you know German you may write me in German!

So long. And thanks for all the fish!

Martin Konopka Caution! Replace the (at) with the real @!