On The IPC Topnote F
First thing is to clarify the actual
machine we are talking about here! From reading the various
entries in the Linux On Laptops database, there appear to be several
variations on the Topnote models.
In the UK, this model is the IPC ( or Archtec ) Topnote F (219 ).
Intel Celeron 1GHz CPU
128 MB SD-RAM
20GB UDMA Hard drive
32MB shared SiS Graphics
14.1" TFT Screen
56k V90 modem ( Its a Smart Link job )
It comes pre-installed with Windows XP Home Edition and various bits
These machines were being sold by Staples UK under this name in 2002,
and appear to be the same machine as sold by various other PC shops in
the UK under their own particular brand names ;-)
Archtec UK are pretty helpful when it comes to assistance, although
they don't officially support Linux. At least one of the Tech staff is a
Linux user, so thats a start.
Running with Linux
I installed Mandrake 9.1 on this machine - no problems at all
during the install, though I would recommend not selecting the option to
boot directly into X just in case!
Mandrake allows the selection of the SiS 630 graphics driver which is
ideal for this machine. Leave the 3D for now :-)
Once the system is installed, reboot and log in to X ( type startx at
Now go to the graphics setup in the Mandrake Control centre and choose
the option to use the 3D acceleration option. It works after a fashion!
Not ideal but you may have more success. Earlier kernels seem to
struggle with the 3D on SiS chip, so go for the 2.4.20 or later kernel
if possible - especially if you want 3D - although its perhaps not so
important on a laptop as a desktop machine.
There was a strange quirk in the way the keyboard seemed to set itself
during boot. The standard setting in Mandrake is for the Numlock to set
itself on by default. This causes the Function key to set itself on -
thus making the keys with the blue secondary functions to operate in
that mode. So for example, the letter I will print 5 instead! Not
ideal when trying to log in! Once you realise this, you can press the
Function key to turn it off, type in your password as usual, start X
then go to the Mandrake Control Centre, select System, then choose the
DrakXServices option and disable Numlock on boot. That stops this
The ethernet card works fine - it will use the RTL-8139 driver and is
detected correctly during the install.
Sound is again detected fine.
The modem is usually the source of great concern on laptops, but the
modem used in the IPC TopnoteF is a SmartLink 56k one.
Drivers are available from http://www.smlink.com. SmartLink now
claim to support all their products under Linux, although the slmdm
driver is not open source :-( On Mandrake 9.1,
the driver I used was slmdm-2.7.8 Simple enough to install -
simply follow the instructions from the included Readme file. For new
to Linux users, remember to install the kernel source package for your
distro before trying to install the modem driver or it will fail.
This cheap and cheerful laptop has worked fine without any
problems ( well - apart from my own damaging of the power adapter
socket! ) with Linux for over a year. Originally, I had Red Hat 7
installed, which proved a lot more fiddly to set up - I ended up using
the Vesa driver. The SiS chip would not work otherwise - I kept getting
the " melting screen " mentioned by other laptop users. Since then I
have successfully run Lycoris , Mandrake 9, 9.1 and SuSE 8.2 without any
As mentioned earlier, I would always start by not choosing to
automatically log into X - that helps to sort out any snags should your
X configuration need tweaking!
The modem is fine - I have no problems at all with it. Having said
that, I found it easier to use a firewall such as Firestarter rather
than the Mandrake firewall, which will not detect the modem - all down
to it being a "winmodem" .
This model is now no longer on sale in the UK - I would imagine it has
long since vanished from the shelves, but there may be some available
second hand. Its a fairly pleasant model to use and seems to be
reliable. The battery life seems to vary quite dramatically between one
unit and the next - my original battery was good for a couple of hours,
but following repair ( the power adapter problem mentioned above), I
received a different casing ( and battery! ) which is much less
However, the machine works well if plugged in to the mains.
Power display works - giving indication if running on mains or battery,
as well as charge left in battery. All in all - a nice cheap
laptop which works well with Linux. No bells and whistles, but for the
price, it is fine .