Linux 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
20GB UDMA Hard drive
32MB shared SiS Graphics
14.1" TFT Screen
4x DVD-Rom
56k V90 modem ( Its a Smart Link job )

It comes pre-installed with Windows XP Home Edition and various bits and pieces.

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 the prompt).
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 irritating problem!
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 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 bother.
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 enthusiastic!
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 .