The Panasonic CF-Y5 (the laptops in the CF-R/T/W/Y series are sometimes called a "Let's Note" or "Toughbook") is currently produced only for the Japanese market, but can be bought from companies that specialize in providing just such products for the US, European, and other markets. (Such companies include Dynamism, GeekStuff4u, Kemplar, etc.) I bought mine from GeekStuff4u, in part because it was the only supplier I could find that would sell it to me "naked" -- without an installed copy of Windows. (Of course, that choice means that I cannot test components under Windows.)
Note added June 2006: the machine is now sold in Europe and the US through a few "regular" retailers and in these versions actually appears to include Bluetooth 2.0, which is noticeably (and surprisingly and annoyingly) absent from the Japanese-market versions.
The CF-Y5 provides a super tough (said to withstand a 3ft drop and a 100lb pressure test -- I obviously did not test those claims!), super light (3.3lbs with battery), 14.1" laptop with built-in DVD R/W and very long battery life (I am seeing 5 hours on constant wireless, 6-7 hours without wireless, but with a lot of disk activity, and nearly 8 hours with wireless off and the DVD de-powered through the BIOS). The Y5 is the 2006 iteration (available since June 2007 is the Y7, with a Core 2 Duo L7700 and, more importantly, a SATA disk for up to 250GB at 7200rpm) and comes with an ultra-low voltage Core Duo processor (mine is a L2300), a spill-proof keyboard (another feature I did not test!), faster memory, etc.; it also has a convenient hardware switch (a slider on the front edge) to turn off and on the wireless device. Here are the main components in mine:
Because the machine is for the Japanese market, the standard keyboard for export is the Japanese International keyboard, which has more keys on it than the standard US keyboard and puts a number of punctuation marks and other non-alphanumeric characters in different places. I touch type, so I just ignore what's written on the punctuation keys ;-) The extra keys mean that the space bar is noticeably smaller than what I am accustomed to on US-market laptops -- it took me a couple of hours to get accustomed to it.
Below are tips on how to get things working under Debian. Since it took me some effort to set it up (not a lot more than for my several past Dells, NECs, and Sharps, all of which were also bleeding-edge in their time ;-), I thought I would share the experience. If you prefer to use a full distribution that still provides you with most of the advantages of Debian, use the Ubuntu distro -- it is unequalled among Linux distros, especially when it comes to bleeding-edge hardware; and if you want to do that, consult Dave's report on his recent install.
Here is the status in a nutshell. Green means working out of the box, purple means easily done, but with some downloaded software not packaged under Debian, orange means working with some issues, and red means not supported. (Note that, when I write "Out of the box", I do not mean that the stock kernel in the distro will do it, just that it only takes compiling a new kernel to have it working.) It is quite a tribute to the Linux community that pretty much everything works: the one orange denotes an issue related to the peculiarities of the Intel integrated graphics subsystem -- and this subsystem has proved difficult under Linux on many laptops.
|Dual-Core Support||out of the box|
|Sleeping to Disk||works using the tuxonice (suspend2) package (easy to use, but requires kernel patch)|
|Sleeping to Memory||out of the box (both from X and from console) with kernel 2.6.23 and later, but not all that robust|
|ACPI Events||out of the box|
|Frequency Management/Power Management||out of the box|
|Video||out of the box, but through X, not through BIOS|
|Hotkeys||works, but requires installing PCC-ACPI driver|
|Ethernet||out of the box|
|DVD R/W||out of the box|
|Touchpad||out of the box|
|Sound||out of the box with kernel 2.6.20 and later, but speakers may not work under every kernel/ALSA combo|
|Wireless||works, but requires installing the IPW3945 or iwlwifi driver|
|PCMCIA||out of the box|
|SD Card||out of the box with kernel 2.6.20 and later|
|Modem||works with sl-modem package|
I currently (June 2008) run kernel 220.127.116.11; here is the .config file for it. I had to download and install the following packages so far:
Hibernation via tuxonice works fine, but you need the xf86-video-intel driver from Xorg (Debian package version ≥ 2.,.0), standard in the Xorg 7.3 release, rather than the 1.7.2 that comes with the regular Xorg 7.2. If you are using the iwlwifi driver (see above), it will not reconnect on its own as the machine comes back up.
There is a cute icon on F10 (a very small "z" and a multiple disk platter ;-) for sleeping to disk; you can use it through the hotkeys mapping.
Now, /sys/power/state will show two possible states, disk and mem -- it does not identify a state standby.
The usual command
echo -n "mem" > /sys/power/state
will put your machine in sleep-to-memory mode; sliding the power button will wake up the machine; both are very fast (3-4s in each direction). It works with no precautions at all (even not using any script to shut down and restart various applications and daemons), but I do have audio and pcmcia (and of course, wireless and modem, but for those it's not a choice) compiled as kernel modules rather than built-in. On resume, the consoles do not work as well as might be desired; and so far I have not been able to go through more than a few sleep/resume cycles before the machine fails to come up at resume.
There is a cute icon on F7 (a very small "z" and a memory chip ;-) for sleeping to memory; you can use it through the hotkeys mapping. (I use it to put my machine to sleep and the ACPI lid opening event to wake it up. ACPI and sleep/hibernation scripts are part of the Debian packages for acpi and for suspending.)
For monitoring power consumption and for many great tips for power savings (and patches, if you feel so inclined), you should definitely consult the powertop page. For power savings with the wireless, see that section.
Still on the issue of the X software suite, you will need to check that your setup supports direct rendering (assuming you need it: 3D direct rendering will cause extra power consumption). For that, you may need to download and compile the latest drm and mesa libraries, although that was not needed with 2.6.22 kernels and the Debian "unstable" packages.
The second issue is brightness control, through the hotkeys. For that, see the hotkeys section below: it can be done easily.
The last issue is switching between laptop screen and external monitor or projector. The hotkeys package will enable you to get the key with the switching icon (F3) detected, and the i810switch package should, theoretically, be able to support the switch, but so far I have not been able to get this type of switching working. On the other hand, as long as you use Xorg 7.3, all you need to do is to connect the external display/projector and restart X; X detects the external display, queries it, and chooses an appropriate resolution. This works easily and with every modern projector or display I have used; a minor problem is that, with most projectors topping at XGA, you will have a bad resolution on your laptop screen unless you set up a full X environment at XGA or SVGA resolution.
#!/bin/sh SPAN=1 grep -q off-line /proc/acpi/ac_adapter/*/state if [ $? = 0 ] then INTERFACE="dc_brightness" else INTERFACE="ac_brightness" fi BRIGHTNESS=$(( `cat /proc/acpi/pcc/$INTERFACE` + 0 )) MAXBRIGHT=$(( `cat /proc/acpi/pcc/"$INTERFACE"_max` - $SPAN)) MINBRIGHT=$(( `cat /proc/acpi/pcc/"$INTERFACE"_min` + $SPAN)) if [ "x$1" = "xdown" ]; then if [ $BRIGHTNESS -gt $MINBRIGHT ]; then BRIGHTNESS=$(( $BRIGHTNESS - $SPAN )) else BRIGHTNESS=$(( $MINBRIGHT - $SPAN )) fi echo $BRIGHTNESS > /proc/acpi/pcc/$INTERFACE elif [ "x$1" = "xup" ]; then if [ $BRIGHTNESS -lt $MAXBRIGHT ]; then BRIGHTNESS=$(( $BRIGHTNESS + $SPAN )) else BRIGHTNESS=$(( $MAXBRIGHT + $SPAN )) fi echo $BRIGHTNESS > /proc/acpi/pcc/$INTERFACE else echo >&2 Unknown argument $1 fi
Note that getting the speakers working is nearly pointless: they are tinny little things you do not really want to hear anyway -- if you want decent sound from this laptop, use headphones!
There is a report for the related CF-R5 that the HDA driver should be set up as a module so it can be unloaded in order to get the machine to sleep and wake up properly; I have not verified the necessity, but my ALSA/HDA subsystem is compiled as modules.
However (see notes above) ipw3945 is no longer supported and, starting with the later 2.6.24.x kernels, will not compile, so you need to switch to the iwlwifi package, with module iwl3945. This works fine, but see notes above for some of the issues.
By default, the wireless will run all the time and it is a significant power drain. To save power, you need to enable powersaving mode for the 3945 through the iwpriv command:
There is a report for the related CF-R5 that the PCMCIA driver should be set up as a module so it can be unloaded in order to get the machine to sleep and wake up properly; I have not verified the necessity, but my PCMCIA subsystem is compiled as modules.
Note that I was unable to get the Toshiba/Palm Bluetooth SDIO card to work. The system notes that a card has been inserted and correctly identifies it, but that's it -- a driver for Linux does not seem to exist.
I'd advise changing the disk, though: 4200rpm is definitely substandard these days (over 7ms latency); if you have the Y5, you need an ATA drive, so you get a choice of 160GB (max) at 5400 rpm (Seagate, Samsung, Western Digital, latency around 5ms) or 100GB (max) at 7200rpm (Seagate, Hitachi, latency down to 4ms). These disks all draw the same amount of power as the Toshiba delivered with the machine, which is listed at 4.5W start, 2W active, 0.5W idle. (If you have a Y7, you should still change the disk: the Japanese-market SATA disk is also curiously slow; with SATA, however, you have many more choices for replacement, including higher capacities and speeds, than with ATA -- you can get up to a 250GB 7200rpm disk.) I changed to a Western Digital Scorpio 160GB at 5400rpm. Everything works fine, I cannot tell any difference in temperature or battery usage, but disk-intensive operations are now faster (it is variable, of course, but I've seen speedups up to 1/3 faster -- more than the ratio of latency times would suggest, perhaps due to better buffers). Not to mention that I almost doubled my storage space...
In a perfect world, the screen would be 16:9 rather than 4:3 -- i.e., 1680x1050 instead of 1400x1050 -- and the machine would have an NVIDIA graphics subsystem rather than the problematic Intel integrated graphics; I would also prefer a glossy "TrueLife" display to the non-reflective matte display -- glossy displays have much better contrast, even outdoors. A SATA disk would be better (faster and using no more power) than the ATA disk (it is now standard on the new CF-Y7). And it is surprising and somewhat disappointing that the Japanese versions do not have built-in Bluetooth (but note that the US and European versions now available, although usually a couple of generations behind, do have it).
But these are minor quibbles: in today's market, the overall package simply cannot be beat. The only two machines that are vaguely comparable are the Sony Vaio SZ95 (has "real" video card, but slightly heavier, with screen a bit smaller at 13.3" and 1280x800 resolution, and significantly more power drain) and the new Lenovo X300 (slightly lighter, but disk is limited to 64GB solid state and screen is also smaller at 13.3", although with widescreen aspect at 1440x900); but neither one appears to have the robustness of the Panasonic.