FG Laptop Evaluation Procedure

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FG Laptop Evaluation Procedure

Automatic FAIL

Pull these out first. Remove the hard drives, mark them with their size in Gigabytes, and put them in the tray for the wiping station.

HP Pavilion DV Series with AMD CPU and nVidia video card

Remove RAM and Wifi card, put in Failed Laptops for Wholesale bin

Compaq Presario V Series with AMD CPU and nVidia video card

Remove RAM and Wifi card, put in Failed Laptops for Wholesale bin

Any Macintosh prior to MacBook line

Remove RAM and Wifi card, put in Failed Laptops for Wholesale bin

Pentium II or lower

Remove RAM, Wifi card, any Combo optical drive, battery, and put in Dismantle bin.


Pentium III or Celeron, save these for Reg's Nicaragua project, unless they fail otherwise (see Inspection and Try to POST, below.) If they POST, pull their hard drives for wiping and set them aside on the Pentium III shelf.


Hinges Broken? --> FAIL

Cracks in Case --> Too big or too many? --> FAIL

Missing parts ---> Cover plates, HD Caddy --> To Issues shelf

Screen damage ----> Broken? --> FAIL

Power switch ----> Loose or no response? --> FAIL

AC Socket ----> Loose or missing? --> FAIL

Keyboard ----> Missing keys? --> To Issues shelf

Try to POST

Find the appropriate AC Adaptor (charger), and plug it in. Try to turn the machine on. Doesn't turn on? Try:

* A different charger.

* Pull out the battery.

* Swap out the RAM with tested RAM.

* Pull out the Wifi Card.

Turns on but no image on the screen?

* Plug in an external monitor and reboot.

No image on the external monitor? FAIL

Image on the external monitor? To Issues shelf


1. Is there a Power-On Password? YES FAIL

2. Get into the BIOS. (On the laptop's logo or “splash” screen there will – usually – be a message line or two indicating which key to press to get into the BIOS. Typical keys are:

Dell = F2, HP and Compaq = F10, IBM and Toshiba = F1, Others = F1, F2, Esc, Del.

Note that it may take several attempts to find the right one. Pro Tip: pressing Esc+F1+F2 simultaneously will upset the machine enough that it will insist that go into Setup and will tell you which key to press to get into the BIOS.

3. Check the following:

Date and Time (set them to the correct date and time if they are wrong)

Boot Order: CD drive before Hard Drive, Hard Drive before Network

Wifi Enabled

Wake on Keyboard (if it exists) Enabled

Dual Core Enabled (on dual core machines only, of course)

Admin Password? This is not an automatic fail. If everything else on the laptop functions without having to change the BIOS settings, then simply note on the Build Sheet that the machine needs an Admin password.

4. All OK so far? Then continue.

Install Ubuntu HD

1. Remove the donor's hard drive, mark it with its size in Gigabytes, and put it into the tray for the wiping station. Drives less than 20 Gb, mark as failed (big black X).

2. Select an appropriate hard drive from our stock. Try to match the size that came out of the machine, unless it's wildly off our specs. Remember we have two versions of Ubuntu 12.04: 32-bit and 64-bit. Choose the one appropriate for the CPU in the machine.

3. Turn the machine on. Did it boot? If not, try another hard drive. The first one could be a bad image. (If that turns out to be the case, pull the green dot off it and put it in the wiping station tray to have Ubuntu re-installed.)

It could also be that you have a 64-bit Ubuntu image for a 32-bit machine. If this is the case you will see the screen light up with a purple background but do nothing else. Try a 32-bit drive.

4. Once it boots, check these:

Wifi Can you get a signal and connect to the FreeGeek Laptop Build router?

Battery Is it charging? Low capacity? Dead?

Screen Is it bright? Dim? Are there lines or patches? Do the brightness controls work?

Audio Did you hear the Ubuntu boot-up sound?

5. If there is an issue with any of these, you have to troubleshoot (see below). If these tests are all OK, you can move on. Get a Build Sheet. Check off that the OS is installed, and write in what it is. Fill in the BIOS Entry Key, CPU, HDD size (and if it is a SATA drive, note that as well). If you know what RAM is in the machine, fill that in too. Please use the proper formats for CPU and RAM, like this:

CPU: Intel Pentium M @ 1.73 GHz

RAM: 1 Gb = 2 x 512 Mb DDR2 @ 667 MHz.

6. Tape the Build Sheet to the laptop lid. Coil up the charger cord and tape it to the laptop. Put the whole assembly on the shelf labelled Ready to Build.


Screen problems

Does the screen have vertical lines on it? FAIL

Is the screen too dim, and brightness keys don't work? Check the BIOS settings, there may be a brightness setting you can increase. If not: FAIL

Does the screen image look funny? For example, the fonts are odd-looking, or the icons look rough-edged or pixelly. Try changing the screen resolution in System Settings > Display. Or, look to see if there is an additional graphics driver (nVidia cards recommend one), and install it. If this doesn't fix the problem: FAIL

Wifi problems

No Wifi signal? Check these, more or less in this order:

1. Is Networking enabled? Check the Wifi icon and enable it.

2. Is Wireless enabled? Again, check the Wifi icon and enable it.

3. Is there a software switch? Look for a Function Key combination. Typically it's Fn+F2, but there could be other possibilities. Usually you will see the key labelled with an antenna icon, but sometimes it's blank. Try it. Remember, use a firm push – ONCE. Resist the temptation to mash it or press it repeatedly. One good push should do it.

4. Is there a hardware switch? This can be a button on or around the keyboard, a soft-touch key near the keyboard, or a switch of some kind somewhere on the rim of the laptop. Buttons or soft-touch keys are usually marked with the antenna icon. Switches may be marked but the mark is black-on-black and difficult to see, or they are marked only with a tiny light that, when the Wifi is off, is also off.

Buttons need just a firm push. Soft-touch keys usually need only a tap. Switches will usually be labelled On and Off: move it to the On position and wait.

Remember, some Wifi cards will respond immediately, as soon as you turn the switch on, but others take some time, up to 30 seconds, to wake up.

5. Is the Wifi enabled in the BIOS? Most BIOS have a setting for wireless, enabled or disabled. Most also have a setting for the wireless hotkey or function key. Check for these and ensure they are enabled.

6. Is there a special driver? Broadcom Wifi cards need an additional driver. The system will usually inform you if you need an additional driver, but not always. Go to System Settings > Additional Drivers to check.

Note: Even if you install the Broadcom driver it may not have any effect. In fact it might make the wireless disappear completely. There is a fix: remove the Broadcom driver, then open a terminal and enter this: "sudo apt-get install b43-fwcutter firmware-b43-installer", then reboot.

7. If all else fails, it could be a bad Wifi card. Put in a new one. Try to match the card as closely as possible: Intel for Intel, Broadcom for Broadcom, Intel for everything else. Note that some machines insist on “compatible” cards (HPs won't even boot if they don't like the card). You will find in the Wifi Card box some pre-sorted bundles of both Intel and Broadcom cards with Dell part numbers, Toshiba part numbers, IBM (FRU) part numbers, and HP-compatibles. Good luck!

8. If ALL THAT fails, your last resort is to use a PCMCIA Wifi card. This should work on any machine, so long as the PCMCIA slot is working, except for certain HP machines that do not use a PCMCIA slot, but instead have something called an Express Card slot. Your standard PCMCIA card won't fit into this, so unless you have an Express Card Wifi card, you're hooped. The machine is still saleable (there are USB Wifi cards), but has to be sold as Wifi-less. As always, note this deficiency on the Build Sheet.

Broadcom issue

FreeGeek Laptop Broadcom Wifi Card Firmware Issue Solutions: see => Blacklist

Audio problems

No Audio? Check these, more or less in this order.

1. Is Mute on? Check the audio icon.

2. Is there a physical volume control? Mostly only Toshibas have this, usually a wheel. Move it right to increase volume, left to decrease.

3. Is there a Mute key? These can be anywhere, either a Function Key combination (typically Fn+Esc, but also Fn+End, or other weirder choices), or a dedicated button. Try them all.

4. Try the volume controls (buttons, Function Keys, whatever) and push the volume to the max.

5. Check the audio settings in System Settings > Sound. You may find that that are a number of choices for “output devices”, only one of which will work. Try them all.

6. Check to see if you get audio out of the headphone jack, if not the onboard speakers. The machine is still saleable if this is the case.

7. If all these fail to get audio, then: FAIL.

Finish up

If the machine is good enough to build, tape the Build Sheet to it. Make any deficiency notes on the masking tape, not on the Build Sheet itself (you never know, the Builder might be able to fix something). Deficiencies include: dead or low-capacity battery, non-functioning audio, Wifi or network, case cracks, missing parts (i.e. missing cover plate or HD caddy).