HP Pavillion zt1121s - SuSE Linux 7.2

Change log
Last updated 11th August 2002
Adrian West

Here are my notes on on getting Linux (SuSe 7.2) running on a HP Pavillion Notebook - zt1121s. It has since been bolstered by information others with zt1xxx's have kindly shared. Most of my own experience was in putting suse7.2 on, around April 2002; so this will date a bit until I get around to updating that at some point. As its working very well for me however, there's no immediate need to change anything.

I tried to get information about how well this machine takes to linux, before taking the plunge and buying it - there wasnt any, but I went ahead anyway. So, here's my small attempt to help others thinking of acquiring one for linux use.

Thanks to those who have reported their successes and failures - I've updated this report information people have send me, and noted that in the change log at the end.


Issues summary

Brief list of things I havnt got working yet. Let me know if you have.

The spec for the Pavillion

The pavillion (zt1121s) has a celeron 1066mhz processor, and is based around the VIA ProSavage S3 PM133 integrated chipset (2-chips: VT8605 North, and VT8231 South, bridges) providing the graphics, 10/100 ethernet, AC-97 audio, modem, super-io, flat-panel driving, 4 usb ports (3 available on the pavilion) and power management. VIA seem quite linux friendly, and have linux support documentation on their pages for different distributions, including drivers. See their news pages, for example the april 12th entry.

General Impressions

A nicely built machine, feels solid, with a pleasant textured casing. It's light for a pretty full featured box with 14" screen. The synaptics touch pad is a very nice inclusion, and has a useful side-pad which gives wheel-mouse functionality. Aesthetically, and physically, its a nice machine to use.

The button to disable the touch pad is an excellent idea; more so in environments where you are not forced to do everything by mouse all the time (e.g. emacs), and stray touches of the pad are unhelpful. It also has some cute violet lights around the pad to let you know it is activated (this is actually useful. I've caught myself thinking the machine has locked up, when in fact I'd disabled the mouse earlier - sad I know.).

The down side is that the disable feature doesnt work under linux. (see mouse problems) - the "wheel" feature also sticks going past some page boundaries under win xp for the applications supplied.

The keyboard is very pleasant to use - my opinion of course.

Cooling is by a fan that vents to the side and rear of the case, which is more sensible than the under-case venting that vacuums your clothes. In use, the hand-area does not get noticably warm.

Overall, I would say this is a nicely put together machine.


In the context of the overall positive impression, the most obvious negative in general use (any o/s) is graphics performance. The machine does not have dedicated graphics memory, and suffers visibly for this; also the S3 Twister does not support OpenGL. Serious 3D seems out of the question, but surprisingly 2D performance is quite poor too. As delivered, smooth DVD playback is not possible at full screen resolution - sound-sync gets completely lost if you try that. This despite the chipset having hardware decoding. My older slower machines (with dedicated graphics but no hardware decode) do a lot better in this regard.

Ian Gregory (a zt1150) has one way around this - using the s-video port and a tv. Thats one way of by-passing the graphics! Another hope is that video under linux is reported to run ok full screen (see video later). Another solution is to reduce the colour depth from 32 to 16 - it plays DVD's under win without problems that way. Peter Letford reports his zt1121s runs DVDs in 32 and 16, but he removed XP on delivery in favour of win 2k so we are unsure about his XP experiences. On win, he is using the PowerDVD player, so perhaps it is a sofware issue there - at least this is a hopeful report that its possible. He also suggests downloading the VIA updates http://viaarena.com/?PageID=2, as these apparently make a significant difference.

The synaptics touch pad really has potential - its just very usable. A downside under MS XP is that sometimes the "wheel" just stops working - you can re-engage it by changing something on the synaptics driver application, and applying that. More seriously, some applications such as dreamweaver, cause the mouse to disappear altogether sometimes if you use the wheel - necessitating a complete reboot. A trivial technical issue I'm sure, but from a user perspective transforms this very nice idea into an irritant (remember not to touch the mouse-wheel pad if you are using such applications!)

It does seem slow starting applications too, though I have not isolated the issues there.

The synaptics mousepad has great potential, and combined with the curved front of the pavillion, has a style which one might call "Federation". That impression is unhindered by the glowy violet lights at the top corners, to which this picture hardly does justice.

Linux Install


Factory config - all the disk given over to XP, with the exception of a small hidden partition at the start of the disk for hibernation.

Partition Magic 7.0 repartitioned this successfully to bring the XP partition down to ~10G; create an extended partition in the freed-up second half of the drive; and create two logical partitions within that: a 9.7G ext2 linux home, and a ~300M linux swap.

Good advice at this point is to create a vfat (fat32) partition too because current linux cannot write to ntfs partitions. By having say a 1G vfat partition you will have something you can read/write to from both linux and win.

If you end up repartitioning later, then I've put some notes together on how you get linux going again after a repartition.

SuSE 7.2 install

Why SuSE?

I've used redhat quite a lot, but in recent times we have been going for SuSE professionally as it seems a lot more stable (especially when new versions are released!). To date, I have found SuSE installs to be comparatively trouble free.

As the pavillion comes without a floppy, you rely on booting from DVD for installs and rescue, which works fine. (Even when the usb floppy arrives, I've no idea how well that will sit with conventional floppy-boot-rescue operations). Tom Berkey says it worked fine under suse7.3, but suse8.0 wont create a boot floppy on the usb floppy drive.

Now reboot with the SuSe DVD in place.

I chose a standard install (without star office). This went very smoothly indeed.

I used the manual options to point it at the newly created home and swap partitions, and had it format those.

Some minor points to watch

What works

CD'splay fine under kde's cd player, once the volume is turned up using the kde sound mixer.

bios volume control (fn-page{up/down}), does not do anything to change the volume, but mute (fn-backspace) toggles ok.


Outstanding issues

Not Tried

Things I havnt tried yet.


Getting the bios's attention (F2 et.al.)

This is actually harder than it sounds (well, it was for me). The boot prompt flies by very quickly, and it takes a few goes to realise it's saying hit esc for bios set up, F2 to select boot device. In fairness the manual says this too - hey, I was in a hurry.

However, timing is of the essence here. Too soon or too late are no good, you have to hit F2 10-20 milliseconds after the HP logo has appeared. If it doesnt seem to be working for you, just persevere. Even after succeeding, I later thought the linux install had somehow disabled the engage-bios facility (desparate hypothesis), but I'd just not got the timing perfect again. Comes with practice. (by which I mean if you practice on tomb-raider for a bit, you develop the general skills and timing required).

As with many things, once you have developed the nack, you wonder why you ever thought it was difficult.

Eric Johanson suggests trying "pause, f2, pause, f2, pause f2. press those two as fast as you can and you're in the bios".

Other linux distributions on the pavillion

Mandrake 8.2: Andrew Godley has a zt1180 with Mandrake 8.2 on it, apparently working. They have no apm either, and currently have extra problems with sound. Thanasis Misaridis also reports success with Mandrake 8.2 and says sound is working fine.

Redhat 7.2: Jingcao Hu reports on his ZT1180 that "everyting works fine, except the sound, and the apm (don't mention modem of course)". Andrew Melville reports "no problems at all. absolutely none" with redhat 7.0, and a subsequent upgrade to rh 7.2 - that is used without problem on a home network with nt server, and xp/2000/98 clients.

FreeBSD 4.5 Gaston reports that freebsd 4.5 installs fine, though has not set up X yet as the graphics card does not appear listed on that installation.

Debian 3.0 Will Dukes is very positive about his debian experiences on his zt1170, and has written quite an extensive summary of his impressions, which I have put here. There is also a site about Debian on an omnibook xt1000, which is very helpful.

Suse 8.0 Tom Berkey has had some problems with suse8.0. I havnt tried this yet. For him, pcmcia no longer works, and he hasnt been able to get yast2 to make a boot floppy using the usb floppy drive (which worked under suse 7.3/yast2.

DCOP server failure

This isnt specifically related to the install, just a mistake I made that it took toooo long to figure out the answer to. Having installed, I changed my own uid from what SuSE gave me, to the one I use on my network. Thereafter I couldnt start kde, which gave a:

Please check that the "dcopserver" program is running!

What this is, is actually a permissions problem (in my case, but I can see how this will hit quite a few people in just this way). It needs to write to your home directory as "you", which it couldnt as I had neglected to chmod my home dir at that point. It took a long time to find that permission problem and its likely you will fall over on this too sometime - as starting/restarting your desktop may well be one of the first things you do after hand-creating a user or modifying your setup. So, if you get the Cannot start dcopserver message, check that you have permission to write to your home directories, and similarly that the .DCOP... files therein are also writeable by you. A good symptom for this is that you can start KDE as root, but not as a normal user.


Other resources

There are a couple of links worth noting:



Most of my opinions are not my own. It takes a while to realise this, but if you think about it, where do your own opinions really come from?

Anyhow, if there are factual inaccuracies on this page, then I'm sorry about that. If you do notice any, then please let me know and I'll fix it - dont want to mislead anyone after all.

Finally, the pavillion doesnt get excessively hot, but if you have sensitive enough paws the heat levels are still adequate.

Change Log

Below is the chronological list of updates made to the text above, usually in response to information received.(thanks).

Adrian West, March 2002.
email: adrian.west@which.net