Avoiding Linux Installation Problems on the HP Mini 110 and Mini 210 Netbooks

By Caitlyn Martin
June 13, 2010 | Comments: 30

I've had my HP Mini 110 netbook since October of last year and I've been entirely satisfied with it. It really has worked flawlessly for me. It came with Ubuntu 8.04 LTS and HP's now defunct Mi interface preloaded. (For those who want more info on this system see Ladlislav Bodnar's review for DistroWatch.) Since then I have tried newer versions of Ubuntu as well as a variety of other Linux distributions on the little system. Most have worked well in the end but installation has been challenging at times.

I first ran into what turns out to be a recurring problem when I installed Pardus 2009 last fall. The installer would lock up at

 *populating /dev

Since then I have run into an almost identical problem in openSUSE 11.2, Slackware 13.1 and SalixOS 13.1, a Slackware derivative. In SalixOS, for example, the installer freezes at:

Starting udevd: /sbin/udevd --demon
Triggering udev events: /sbin/udevadm trigger

Another SalixOS user has reported the exact same problem with the newer HP Mini 210 netbook. Both of these systems have Broadcom 4312 wireless chipsets which are incompatible with the b43 kernel module and the ssb module on which b43 depends. It appears that the wireless chipset as implemented in these netbooks conflicts with the ssb module, causing the system to freeze. This problem may exist in other systems using the same wireless chip or similar Broadcom models.

As you might expect, the Ubuntu installer does not have this problem on the HP Mini 110 and the correct driver is offered for installation automatically. There are definite advantages to having worked with the vendor on a preloaded version of a distribution. In fairness I should add that Ubuntu, in general, does an excellent job with hardware detection.

The solution in all of the distributions I've tried where the installed locked up is one I learned after asking for help in the Pardus Worldforum last October. It should work for most if not all Linux distributions that have the same issue. Pass ssb.blacklist=1 to the installer as a kernel parameter and installation proceeds normally. You also need to pass the same parameter after installation at first boot or the OS will freeze just as the installer did.

Once your newly installed Linux distribution boots up you still won't have functional wireless. To make it work you need to install and enable the proprietary Broadcom STA driver. Some distributions, including Pardus and Ubuntu, have packaged the driver and included it in their repository. Others, including Fedora and openSUSE use packages provided in third party repositories. For Slackware 13.x and SalixOS 13.x you can find build scripts and links to the source code at Slackbuilds.org (13.1, 13.0). You will need to be certain that both the b43 and ssb drivers are blacklisted. Simply add

ssb
b43

to the end of /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf. Both the packages generated by the Slackbuild scripts and the binary packages in the other distributions I have used will configure the system to load the wl driver automatically at boot. You can check this with the command:

lsmod | grep wl

It should return a line for wl and a line for lib80211 with wl appended at the end. You can determine which interface your wireless is assigned to with the command

ifconfig -a

on my HP Mini 110 it has always been eth1. You may also need to configure whatever software you are using to manage wireless, such as wicd or networkmanager, to use the correct interface.

I'm pleased to say that once the various distributions were correctly installed and configured they worked quite well, with openSUSE 11.2 being the sole exception.


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30 Comments

Or, you could just get a mac. I like Linux but till it's fit for humans it's not fit for humans. Sorry.

Pardon me? The Linux installation that came preloaded on my netbook just worked. Upgrading Ubuntu just worked. There is nothing harder about Ubuntu when preloaded that a Mac. Nothing at all. Turn it on, point and click, do what you want.

This article is about changing operating systems. It's written for technically oriented, competent Linux users, not for the typical end user. It certainly wasn't written for you. I'm a developer. It was written for other people like me. Huge clue: developers are human.

Could I get a Mac? Sure, for four times the price. Would it do anything my Linux system can't do? Not a blessed thing. I'd also be locked into expensive, proprietary software I don't want.

Tell me, if I got a Mac would it be any good for my Linux development work?

Caitlyn
You can take a breath now. I really do like the way you respond to (not so smart) people. Two thumbs up, and please keep up the good and high quality of work that you do do.

Thank you for this very useful article. I appreciate the quality articles that you write. You sometimes sound like a mummy hen directing her brood of chickens in the exciting and curious world of Linux. That was of course a complinent. I live in a 3rd world country and maybe its a good thing that i don't have the money to make Mr Jobs richer than he already is. My assembled desktop and second hand Lenovo laptop with Ubuntu Lucid is as efficient and user friendly as a Mac. I love my machines and my freedom as much as i hate Jobs for trying to restrict freedom and keep people dumb.

@Surja: Mother hen? LOL. Thank you for giving me something to laugh at today. I needed it.

Getting wireless to work on the HP mini 210 seems like a lost cause. Followed these directions, but a few days later my mini is back to not recognizing the card or any wireless networks at all. This is on peppermint OS: I also tried ubuntu 10.04, and the laptop came with windows 7 ultimate, which had the same problem. The only operating system I have heard of the wireless working is windows 7 starter.

I have had zero problems with wireless running Linux if I stick with a distribution which uses wicd to manage wireless. I've seen issues with NetworkManager and Broadcom chipsets in the past. I've also had issues with the latest iteration of Ubuntu locking on boot after an upgrade. As I've described previously here, I consider Ubuntu to be generally a mess with lots of bugs. Peppermint is repackaged Ubuntu. You could and would do better with a different Linux distribution. Your wireless chip is identical to mine so there is no reason it cannot work perfectly with Linux.

I recommend Puppy Linux. Great support from a team of amazing volunteer developers. If they don't already have a solution to this they will find one fast!

There are Puppy versions designed to tap the Ubuntu repository, two that tap the Slackware repository, at least one that taps the Debian repository, and probably others.

There is one that is customized for 64bit dual-core processors.

There are also a couple that are optimized for Netbooks.

I seriously doubt that it is possible to do better using any OS than you can with Puppy.

I have 7 different versions running on four different laptops ... OK, so I have several on the laptop I use the most ... can't help it they are so much fun to explore!

Last I heard Puppy Linux supported neither the Broadcom wireless chipset nor the 3G modem in the HP Mini 110 and HP Mini 210. Has that changed?

I would not recommend Puppy Linux to my worst enemy, let alone anyone who wants a decent experience with Linux. First, they ignore even the most basic security principles. Second, they have the community from hell.

See: http://ever-increasing-entropy.blogspot.com/2009/11/some-people-dont-know-when-to-leave.html
and http://www.oreillynet.com/linux/blog/2007/10/a_death_threat_from_a_puppy_li.html

Hi edoc. I am a struggling new puppy 5.1 user and despite what they say on the puppy forums, this distro although it has many good points, is a bear to learn for someone new to Linux. I am running it on a HP 110 net book with RaLink RT3090 wifi chipset. Could you direct me to where I can find info on how to get it to work in Puppy more specific than just "seach the forums". I certainly would appreciate it. Thanks.

I am relatively new to Linux. I used Ubuntu for a few years and it is an exceptional OS. I started using Puppy Linux about six months ago and I am a dedicated Puppy Fan now. My background is in main frame maintenance. I really don't understand a lot about modern laptop and HP mini computers or software. I have tried many difference Linux distros and keep coming right back to Puppy. Puppy just works and does everything I need plus more. As far as security concerns, security is a problem for anyone with any software on the Internet. MT250 I hate to tell you this but the forums are a great place to collect a lot of information about any Linux distro. Linux is a learning experience, don't expect all distributions to work perfectly for your application. I really enjoy using Puppy Linux. After reading through this blog I am tempted to go buy an HP 210 mini and run Puppy Linux on it. Caitlyn this is a great place to learn new things. Thanks for all the information and thank you to all those who contribute. This is how we can work together to answer our individual questions, and it if fun. Again, Puppy is a great Linux distribution and I plan on using it as my primary operating system on every computer I use.

For those of you with an HP mini 110-3050 SS: your wifi device is a Ralink RT3090. It's not supported off the box by the last Ubuntu version -so far, Lucid Lynx (10.04)-, but a couple of easy steps will solve the issue.

First, install this package:
https://launchpad.net/~markus-tisoft/+archive/rt3090/+files/rt3090-dkms_2.3.1.3-0ubuntu0~ppa1_all.deb

Second, write this down @ the terminal:
sudo mkdir -p /etc/Wireless/RT2860STA/
sudo touch /etc/Wireless/RT2860STA/RT2860STA.dat
sudo service network-manager restart

That did the trick for me.
Hope it helps.

Enric G. Torrents
www.aiworld.co.uk

I recently purchased an HP Mini 210. I tried Ubuntu Netbook Remix and Easy Peasy on my netbook - neither could detect my wireless card (Broadcom) I spent two days following specific directions from Linux support but I never could connect wirelessly? I gave up!

Im running Jolicloud now, but my multi-touch trackpad is lacking functionality (again cant find a fix that works?) Jolicloud was able to connect wirelessly however

What do you recommend I install on my HP Mini 210? I cannot live with Windows 7 Starter & the Linux distros Ive tried are not fully functional on my netbook.

I have a 210-1018CL, and like many here was unimpressed with Windows 7 Starter. I have Ubuntu 11.04 (which everything worked easily with) and Debian 6.0.1a (which is giving me problems). The chip in this HP Mini is a Broadcom 4312, wifi works in Ubuntu, does not work in Debian. I've tried and tried to figure out how to fix it but can't get any straight directions. Help?

@Leah, try this fix:
Create a file /etc/modprobe.d/psmouse.conf and put this line in it:
options psmouse proto=exps
Do this in sudo gedit for permissions.

Found: http://home.christianhanlon.com/blog/2011/02/debian-squeeze-gnulinux-on-the-hp-mini-210/

Ubuntu should have correctly detected the Broadcom chipset. What you will have to do with most distributions is manually install the Broadcom-STA driver from the Broadcom website. That means going outside your distributions package manager and compiling from source code at the command line. Broadcom is notoriously not well supported by Linux and the chipset in the HP 210 does require the proprietary driver.

Ubuntu and Pardus do have packages in their repositories for the STA driver. You will then need to go into NetworkManager or WICD and configure for the correct device, most likely eth1. Those two distributions would probably be the easiest for you but there are still manual steps involved. Folks in the forums for either distribution will be happy to help you. I've found the Pardus forum particularly friendly.

Good luck!

In PClinuxOS wireless works out of the box on my HP 210.

That's good to know. As the article notes, some distros do handle the Broadcom 4312 chipset correctly, including Ubuntu. I hadn't tried PCLinuxOS.

New Peppermint Ice based on Ubuntu and Mint also works if you install broadcom restricted driver. Peppermint One on the other hand didn't work for me. Maybe it will work in next release.

The Broadcom STA driver will work in ANY Linux distribution. The only variable is whether it is all automatic or whether you have to do it manually. In other words, if you follow the steps I suggest you can make Peppermint One or any other distro work.

I tried installing Ubuntu Netbook Remix on my HP 210 1191NR with the BCM4313 chip. Once I got it installed, it wouldn't detect any networks. The bcmwl-kernel-source or whatever it was was installed via the install media that I used to install Ubuntu. I followed the directions from the Broadcom website and could never detect a network. The wireless button light would never come on also. I switched to Jolicloud and the wireless worked immediately after install. The trackpad seems fine to me (except for multitouch and right clicking), but flash and javascript plugins weren't working out of the box, even in the jolicloud apps that required flash. This would all be academic if only I hadn't overwritten my win7 boot information with the Ubuntu swapfile. Now I have to get some sort of linux to work or my compy will be useless. Oh well, jolicloud is working out okay now.

@Daniel: Is that a 4313 chipset or a 4312? AFAIK the 4312 is used in the HP netbooks. Has that changed?

Which version of Ubuntu are we talking about. I know it worked under 10.04. Are you running 10.10? Perhaps it's an issues in the new version.

One thing I really, really need to say again. Linux is Linux is Linux. If it can work in Jolicloud for you or SalixOS for me it can work in any version of Ubuntu. The issue of "out of the box" is completely different. That is a distribution specific issue as the tools for wireless connectivity do vary as do the packages included.

If you followed the instructions on the Broadcom website those will only work if you blacklist the ssb and b43 modules regardless of distribution. Please check that as your next step.

If you install Ubuntu on the 210, do you still have the instant Quickweb on startup?

Windoze7 starter is a total waste of time, at the moment I only use quickweb

Thansk

@Steve: I don't have the 210 so I can't be 100% certain. I believe Quickweb is a separate partition with Linux (Splashtop). So long as you don't touch that partition you shouldn't lose anything but you may need to add that to the grub2 bootloader manually.

A few weeks ago, I got an HP 210-1142CL and put ubuntu 10.10 desktop on it. It worked (works?) great. Yesterday, I went back to get another one, and they had replaced it with the HP 210-2072CL, so I got that instead. Unfortunately, on the 2072, when I boot from the *same* CD (that I used to install the 1142), I only get the "ISOLINUX 4.01 debian-20100714 ETCD Copyright (C) 1994-2010 H. Peter Anvin et al" message at the very initial startup, and nothing else. I figure it's a driver incompatibility or something, but I have no idea how to diagnose further. Any ideas?

Turns out, I solved my own problem.

On the 1142, even though I changed the boot sequence in the BIOS to "Boot from CD first", it never would. It always booted into the funky little "minimal" environment that HP provides, and then that would boot into Windows. So, on that machine, I had to press esc (at powerup) to get to a menu that would (among other things - like take you to setup bios) take you to a screen where you could force it to boot form a specific device. If I picked the "Boot from USB CD" on that menu, everything worked fine.

I assumed that I would have to do the same thing for the 2072.

So, although I also set the 2072 boot sequence to "Boot from CD first" in the BIOS (just like before), I also went to the same menu item (later) and selected "Boot from USB CD" - that's when it would hang at the prompt I mentioned. Hard repeatable.

After someone else suggested possible hardware issues with the CD drive, I decided to boot into Windows, and see if I could access the CD drive, as a way of verifying that the h/w was ok. But, after I powered it on, I went to get coffee and got sidetracked on a couple of other things, and when I came back, it had booted into Ubuntu. I ran it in "Try it out" mode, and everything seemed to be fine.

So, (just because I like to nail down causes of problems) I tried the "Boot from CD" again - same hang. Then, I booted and just let it run, and it ended up in the HP environment, and then I selected the option to continue booting "into windows" (figuring that this might be the point where it consulted the BIOS about where to boot from). It froze there. I rebooted again, and let it go into the HP environment and then I let it just time out. When it timed out (15 sec), this time it booted from the CD - and came successfully to the "'Try It' or 'Install It'" screen.

i have a HP mini 110-3053, 250gb, 1024mb. I upgrade my ram to 2go(2048mb). my computer recognize 2 go of ram(2048mb) is still the same i think. The chipset was a Kingston 2GB. what do you think please.

la_taupe@live.ca

What do you mean by "still the same"? What change did you expect? If the system recognizes the 2GB RAM now it isn't the same. However, you won't notice an improvement in performance on all tasks. Rather, you will only see it on tasks that would max out the RAM.

@ Daniel and Caitlyn the Mini 210-1191NR uses the BCM4313 I am running Linux Mint Debian Edition on mine and it took some working to get it running (I had hackintoshed it and actually am using an Airport card in it also because Mac will not recognize the 4313) using the steps here I got BOTH cards recognized and working (if I swap the antennae wires from one to the other) using these steps. http://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/218---LMDE
Once you get the broadcom package you have to blacklist the "legacy" b43 cards to get it to work.

Thanks Very Much
Great write up and _accurate_.

Very very happy with HP 110 mini.
Had it for over a year. All still well.

Everything works (simply) except bluetooth. (well it will sort of but no wireless)

Enabling it creates havok with the automated networking tools as well.

Guess this may be a core issue for some.
Apparently there are dongles for his sort of thing :)

Will just treat it as a security feature :)

(and continue using wireless / ethernet for data transfers)

Running Ubuntu Netbook remix.

(normally a deb guy but on this sort of gear Ubuntu is a great choice)

Why on earth you would keep the OEM OS ...
It gets it to your house that's all.
2 days and my daughter was ready to chuck the thing out.

Yep it meant losing bluetooth but gaining in every other area.

Best features are the keyboard (which is better than many laptops I have used) and the sharp display, really clear in most lighting.

While we wont be rendering movie's or running a multimedia studio ... for general Net and (most) office uses this little fella is fine, portable and the battery life is excellent.

Oh and my daughter loves the look of the case, she is actually fond of this machine.


I got a HP Mini 110-3612 this week and installed Mepis 11 on it. Everything seems to work out of the box. To be 100% honest, I haven't tested the card reader or ethernet port yet but everything else including wireless and webcam seems to be present and correct. Having used it for a couple of days so far, I have to say it does seem to be a wonderful bit of kit.

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