A few weeks ago I bought a brand-new laptop, BYON M3311 G/C. It is a cheap laptop, priced at Rp. 5,199,000 (about US$ 550), with a Celeron-M processor clocked at 1.86 GHz, 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM, a DVD-CDRW combo, Intel WLAN and card reader. The shop attendant told me it was upgradeable to Intel Core 2 Duo, and came with 2 years warranty.

After some poking around I found that this laptop is actually a HGL 31, made by Compal, the second largest notebook computer original device manufacturer (ODM) in the world. PT Leadvision Technology, an Indonesian company, marketed it under BYON trademark.

Because this model was sold without operating system I had to install it myself. I already have a reviewer copy of Windows Vista Home Premium, OpenSolaris DVD, and several disks of various Linux distribution. With only 512 MB RAM (DDR2) this laptop does not have enough juice to handle Windows Vista, and should only run Windows XP family. The computer shop where I bought the laptop also sells legal copies of Windows. So out of curiosity I inquired the price of an Windows XP copy. It turned out that they price it at about Rp 900,000 (about US$ 95). Not attractive enough for an old operating system, albeit a quite good one. I have made up my mind to install Linux on it anyway.

I have copies of Ubuntu 7.04, Fedora 7, Mandriva, OpenSUSE and Slackware. Having tested it on various machines I prefer Ubuntu, but I was intrigued by Fedora 7. I have tried it and quite liked the appearance, although I think it is not quite user-friendly as a desktop-oriented (or laptop in this case) OS. In the end I installed Fedora 7. I intend to learn some web development and Fedora seemed more suited to it.

Fedora 7 detected the Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 chip but could not connect to the Wi-Fi access points in my office. This I have anticipated. VoIP application Ekiga cannot detect the integrated web cam, modem and Bluetooth not functioning, and card reader behaving erratically.

Non-functioning modem and web cam does not bother me too much. I intend to buy cellular modem later, and I have no need of web cams. First priority is to solve the wireless LAN problem. Solutions I found mentions the need to compile kernel modules, or downloading some third-party RPM packages. I thought myself quite fluent in Linux, but I put off solving this problem and went on to tackle others.

Another HGL-31 user mentioned in a web forum that the Bluetooth problem can be solved by installing Windows and wireless switch utility provided by Compal, then activate Bluetooth (and Wi-Fi). After that Linux would have no problem in detecting the Bluetooth adapter. The card reader problem could be solved by using a new kernel. Thinking perhaps it also can make the wireless problem disappear, I decided to update the operating system and waited.

The updating took a while. I had to download some 447 MB of new packages). After installing the updates the card reader problem was cleared, but the wireless still doesn’t work.

A proposed solution was to use ipw3945 drivers. I tried installing it from RPM and from source, but nothing changes. NetworkManager was not able to connect to my office hotspot.

The wireless problem solved by using RutilT WLAN Manager. It was actually designed for Ralink hardware, but it works flawlessly with Intel chip. Not the most elegant solution though.