Fg laptop build procedure

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FG Laptop Build Procedure

1. Pick any machine from the shelf labelled Ready to Build that has a Build Sheet taped to it.

2. Examine the Build Sheet. The Evaluator should have filled in the O/S (i.e. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS 32-Bit), the BIOS Entry Key, the CPU, the Hard Drive size and type, and possibly the RAM.

3. Turn the machine on.

4. Get into the BIOS. (On the laptop's logo or “splash” screen there will – usually – be a message line or two indicating which key or Function Key to press to get into the BIOS. This is often called “Setup”.) 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. Protip: pressing Esc+F1+F2 simultaneously will upset the machine enough that it will insist that you go into Setup and will tell you which key to press. Remember to record the BIOS Entry Key on the Build Sheet if it has not already been done.

5. You can begin filling in the Build Sheet with information you find in the BIOS, if it is presented. (Dell's BIOS contains the most information, Toshiba's the least.) Often you can find at least the CPU specs, i.e. Intel Pentium M @ 1.7 Mhz.

6. 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)

7. Save changes and exit the BIOS. Let the machine boot.

Run the Quality Control (FGQC) Script

If the machine you are building is a PowerPC Mac such as an iBook or a PowerBook, install fgqc and other Mac/Debian fixes by following the Apple Debian PPC build procedure first.

1. Open a terminal (Control+Alt+T). At the prompt, type fgqc, then when prompted for the password, oem.

2. Wait for the script to load. Enter your volunteer number when asked.

3. Follow the script in order. At each point there will be one or more tasks or items to test. Each of these is dealt with in its own section below.


Select Updates and press Enter. Let the update script run. (It can take up to several minutes, depending on how long ago Ubuntu was installed on the hard drive.)

When updates are complete, check off that line on the Build Sheet and enter the date. (Month-day is fine)


Select CPU and press Enter. Write the CPU details on the Build Sheet: Vendor, model name and/or number, and speed. Example: Intel Pentium M @ 1.73 GHz.

RAM Select RAM and press Enter. The script will do a bit of processing, then display the RAM details. Write these on the Build Sheet, beginning with the total RAM (System Memory), then the details, including the RAM type and speed.

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

Note: the script may not provide all the details you need. The type (DDR or DDR2) could be missing, as could the speed. To get these you will need to open up the machine and look at the RAM chips.

Near the bottom of the Build Sheet is a line labelled “Slots”. Usually there are 2 RAM slots, though on some older machines and Macintoshes there is only one. Note the number of slots and the RAM type: SDRAM (almost obsolete except for some Pentium III machines), DDR, or DDR2. The table below shows the types and speeds.


DDR_____2100______266 MHz

DDR_____2700______333 MHz

DDR_____3200______400 MHz

DDR2____3200______400 MHz

DDR2____4200______533 MHz

DDR2____5300______667 MHz

DDR2____6400______800 MHz


Select Operating System and press Enter. The O/S name will display. Write the O/S down on the Build Sheet (near the bottom). Example: Ubuntu 12.04 LTS 32-Bit.

We are now using Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) as our standard installation. It comes in two versions: 32-bit and 64-bit. It is very important that you note which version is being used. (The Evaluator should have written the O/S details on the Build Sheet after the machine was OK'd for build, but you must check to see that it was recorded correctly.)

How do you tell which version is which? The FGQC script will display this for the 32-bit version: i386 Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, and this for the 64-bit: amd64 Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.

Note: in rare cases, such as a machine that is otherwise working but is simply too underpowered for Ubuntu 12.04, we may install Lubuntu 12.04 as an alternative. Lubuntu is basically a “light” version of Ubuntu. Candidates for Lubuntu are typically laptops with Celeron CPUs, or Pentium 4's with processor speeds less than 2.8 GHz or so.

Hard Drive

Select HDD and press Enter. The script will process for a bit then display the hard drive's details. The only part we're interested in is the first line that shows the total capacity of the hard drive, e.g. 40 Gb, 60 Gb, 80 GB, 100 Gb, 120 Gb, and so on.

On the Build Sheet write down the capacity. If the hard drive is SATA, rather than IDE, you should note that also. Later, when you run sudo lshw, you can find and write down the hard drive's brand.


Select Video and press Enter. The script will display the details of the video card the laptop is using, for example: nVidia C51 (GeForce Go 6150). You can write this on the Build Sheet now, or get it later when you run sudo lshw.

Press Enter. The script will display "We're going to run the video now". Press Enter again. The video will load, then run in Movie Player.

Things to check: Does the video run smoothly? (No choppiness, no skipping.) Is there sound? Do the controls in Movie Player (stop, pause, play) work?

You can check several other parts of the machine at this point, by running and re-running the video as you check them off.

VGA Port and “Toggle”. Testing the VGA port requires you to connect the laptop to an external monitor. (Make sure the monitor is turned on.) Now this next part can be difficult. Most laptops will light up the external monitor as soon as you plug it in to the VGA port. If this is the case you can check off the VGA port OK checkpoint right away, and proceed to testing the toggle. In other cases the external monitor will not light up immediately: you will usually get a message saying No Signal.

If you get the No Signal message from the external monitor, try the toggle first. This will be a Function Key combination, Fn + F?. Typical combinations are Fn+F4, Fn+F5, Fn+F8. The function key will usually be labelled with either (a) LCD/CRT, (b) an icon that looks like a screen, or (c) an icon that looks like two screens.

Press this combination and see if the external monitor responds. In most cases it will, and you can then proceed to test the rest of the toggle function. If the toggle gets no response, then try “kicking” it by opening up the System Settings --> Display dialog box. This usually gets the external monitor to light up. If not, try changing the settings in the Display dialog box and see whether you get a response from the external monitor or not.

If none of these procedures work, you must power off the laptop and restart it with the external monitor plugged into the laptop and powered up. If you get any signal from the external monitor, then you can check off the VGA port OK checkpoint, but you must make a note of it in the Notes section of the Build Sheet, example: VGA port OK but external monitor must be connected at start-up.

Testing the Toggle: the external monitor toggle will usually have 3 or 4 different modes. Pressing the key combination will “toggle” the laptop and external monitor screens through these modes one by one, cycling through the modes 1-2-3, 1-2-3, and so on. For a three-mode toggle, the settings are: LCD (laptop) only, LCD and CRT “mirrored”, and CRT (external monitor) only. For a four-mode toggle, the settings are: LCD only, double screen (both LCD and CRT share the same desktop, and the mouse can move across both screens), LCD and CRT “mirrored”, and CRT only.

The number of modes doesn't matter; we are only interested in whether the toggle works or not.

Audio: now is a good time to check the volume controls. These can be (a) function keys, (b) dedicated buttons (c) soft-touch “buttons”, or (d) a physical knob or wheel (typically Toshibas have these, also some older models of Dell). Sometimes a machine will use both dedicated buttons and function keys. Test them both. Don't forget to locate the Mute key and test that too. On the Build Sheet, note whether the Volume Control is OK, and write in what it is (knob, dedicated button, function key, soft-touch key), and where it is (front, side, above or beside keyboard).

Optical drive

Before you test the optical drive check the markings on its front plate to see what it claims it can do. The only drives we install are Combos (CD Read/Write and DVD Reader) or DVD Writers (CD Read/Write, DVD Read/Write). If the drive is lacking any of these (for example, it's a CD Reader or DVD Reader only), pull it out and install a better one.

Test all the functions the optical drive claims. Use a Music CD, blank CD, and movie DVD for the Combos, and a Music CD, blank CD, movie DVD and blank DVD for the DVD Writers.

Music CD. When the laptop shows that the CD is mounted, open it with Rhythmbox. Play at least one track. Test the volume controls again, including the Mute. If the laptop has controls for Play/Pause/Stop/Skip Forward/Skip Back, test these as well. (Some laptops will have no such controls. Other will have them as function keys. Still others will have dedicated buttons, often as part of an array with the volume buttons.) If the Play/Stop etc controls work, make a note in the Notes section. If any of them do not work, note that as well.

Headphone Jack. Now is a good time to test the headphone jack. Find the portable speakers or a set of headphones and plug them in as the CD is playing. Check the volume controls again. Check to see that the laptop's onboard speakers shut off when you plug in the headphones. If they do not, you may need to change the system's audio settings until you find one that works. If nothing works, note that in the Notes area of the Build Sheet.

Blank CD. When the blank CD mounts the system will ask if you want to open it with Brasero. This is all we need to know: that the drive recognizes a blank CD. Eject it.

Movie DVD. When the movie DVD mounts, open it in Movie Player. The system will try to search for plug-ins to play the DVD; cancel that. All we need to know is that the system recognizes a DVD. Eject it.

Blank DVD. When the blank DVD mounts the system will ask if you want to open it with Brasero. This is all we need to know: that the drive recognizes a blank DVD. Eject it.

On the Build Sheet write: CD R/W, DVD Reader for Combos, CD R/W DVD R/W for DVD Writers. Make sure you check both boxes in the Build column, one for CD, one for DVD.

Did the optical drive fail any of the tests? Try a different CD or DVD or blank and see if that works. Remember, our test disks are used, often old or scratched, and not every drive can read every disk.

If trying a different disk doesn't work, pull the drive out and try a different one. Some drives come out easily, like Dell Latitudes and some IBM Thinkpads: all you have to do is press a release catch and it pops out. Others are held down by a locking screw, usually on the bottom of the machine but sometimes under the keyboard: remove that and then pull gently with your fingernails or pry with a slot-head screwdriver. A few models will have two locking screws, one on the bottom of the machine and one under the keyboard. You'll need to take out both.

If a new drive – or two -- doesn't fix the problem, it probably means that something on the motherboard has failed. The machine may still be saleable, but you must note that the optical drive doesn't work in the Notes area of the Build Sheet.

Note: Most netbooks don't have an optical drive. For these, just put N in the Present? column and leave the rest of the line blank.


By now you have tested the audio twice, once when you played the video and once when you tested the optical drive with a CD. That ought to do it.


Ensure that the laptop has an Ethernet cable plugged in to the network port.

Select Network and press Enter. The script will “Ping” a selected website three times, then indicate a Pass. If it fails, check your connection. If that's OK, try a different cable. If that doesn't work, check to see that our network is up. If all else fails, try an Ethernet PCMCIA card.

If the network connection does not work, note this on the Build Sheet.


Test this right after you test the Ethernet connection. Unplug the Ethernet cable and wait for the system to tell you that the Wired Connection is disconnected. Then select Network again and press Enter. The script will “Ping” a selected website three times, then indicate a Pass.

If it fails, there are several possibilities:

1. There is a physical Wifi on/off switch that is turned off. Locate it (if it exists) and switch it on. Wait a bit to see if the Wifi icon shows activity. Typically these switches are on the front or side, often near the volume control or the headphone/microphone jacks, but in fact they could be stuck in anywhere around the rim of the laptop, and can be hard to spot. Look carefully.

2. There is a “software” Wifi on/off switch that is turned off. This can be a Function Key (typically Fn+F2), or a dedicated button or soft-touch key. Try pressing this key or combination firmly – ONCE! Resist the temptation to mash it or press it repeatedly. If it's going to react at all, one firm push will do it. Be prepared to wait a bit, even as much as 30 seconds, before you see a reaction. Some Wifi cards react immediately to the switch, others take time to wake up.

3. The Wifi is disabled in the BIOS. (It shouldn't be; the Evaluator should have checked, but it can happen.) Power off, restart, and check the BIOS.

4. The Wifi card itself has failed. Power off, open the machine up, and replace the Wifi card. If the Wifi card is made by Intel, then you should be able to replace it with any Intel card. Some Dells, Toshibas and IBMs insist on “compatible” cards; fortunately, these are marked with Dell, Toshiba and FRU (IBM) part numbers, respectively, and these can be found, pre-sorted, in the Wifi Card box.

Other machines will have Broadcom cards, or Atheros, or even lesser-known brands. These can usually be replaced with Intel cards, but not always. Some Dells and HP machines insist on Broadcom cards and no others, and will refuse even to boot if they detect an “incompatible” card. Fortunately, we have a stock of Dell and HP compatible cards pre-sorted in the Wifi Card box.

5. If none of these fixes work, then the Wifi is dead. If possible, use a PCMCIA Wifi card, and note on the Build Sheet that the Wifi is dead.

If there is a physical or software Wifi switch or both, note it on the Build Sheet. Be sure you test that it both turns the Wifi ON and OFF.


Using a USB mouse, test each USB port. On the Build Sheet, indicate where they are on the laptop (2 Right, 2 Left). If any don't work, note that along with their location.

Stress Test

Run the Stress Test. Select Stress Test and press Enter. The script will run a program that stresses the CPU for 3 minutes. You may hear the laptop's fan spin up during the test – this is normal. Usually the machine will pass the test, so mark it off on the Build Sheet.

If the machine fails the test, there are a couple of things you can try. It could be that it was overheating, so try cleaning out the fan and vent area. If a can of compressed air is available, give the vent a blast or two. You will probably see dust fly out past the fan. Pull out all the dust you can find, or use the vaccuum cleaner.

You can also prop the laptop up with something under the bottom at the back, to allow air to circulate better. If neither of these things work, and the laptop fails the stress test, Fail it and recycle it.

You are now done with the FGQC script. Click Finish.

Use sudo lshw to fill in the Build Sheet component details.

After you finish the FGQC script you will still have a terminal open. At the prompt, type sudo lshw and press Enter. The system will process for a bit then display a list of all the hardware it can detect.

You are looking for details on the following:

CPU (if you haven't written it on the Build Sheet already)

RAM (same)

Hard Drive (brand name, i.e. Fujitsu, Toshiba, WDC, etc.)

Optical Drive (brand name, i.e. TSSTCorp, Pioneer, SONY, etc.)

Video Card

Audio Card (listed in lshw as “Multimedia”)

Network Card

Wifi Card

See the sample Build Sheet to see what to write down. In general, you want to write down the Vendor, Model Number, and any details.

Test the Lid Close

First, check under Power Settings that the Lid Close action is set to “Suspend”.

Close the lid. Wait. Watch the power lights on the laptop (if they are visible). You should see the Hard Drive light flicker, then stop, then see the Power light begin to pulse, or change colour. This tells you the laptop is in Suspend mode.

Open the lid. Some models will react right away, and you will see the screen light up, then see the Login dialog box. If it doesn't react in a reasonable time (count of five), try to wake it by tapping on the space bar, or the touchpad, or moving the mouse. This almost always works.

Issues: sometimes the machine will wake but the screen will not light up or the video will be complete hash. Sometimes it will not wake at all.

Solution: Change the Power Settings so that Lid Close is set to Do Nothing. Test it again to make sure this actually works.

Write the result in the When Lid Closes line on the Build Sheet.

Battery Strength

Click the Battery icon and then click on the line that says Laptop Battery Charging (or Discharging). This brings up the details about the power system. Click on the Battery line. Look for the item labelled Capacity. This tells you what the actual capacity of the battery is, compared to its original capacity when it was new. The capacity is expressed as a percentage: 62.7%, 33.4%. and so on.

Write Capacity: XX% in the Battery Strength line of the Build Sheet. Always round down to the nearest whole number.

Finally, test the battery. Unplug the AC adaptor and see what the machine does. It should just stay on, perhaps dimming slightly. The Battery icon should change, showing that the battery is now discharging. Plug the AC back in, and ensure that the Battery icon changes to show that the battery is charging.

If the laptop dies when you unplug the AC, the battery may be dead, regardless of what the system tells you about its state. You can try to put in another battery (assuming we have one) and see if that fixes the problem. If not, note on the Build Sheet that the battery is dead.

If the laptop goes dark when you unplug the AC, it could be reacting as if you had closed the lid, and gone into Suspend mode. If you can wake it, say by tapping the keyboard, then simply note this on the Build Sheet.


If the laptop has a webcam, note this on the Build Sheet.

To test it, you must install Cheese Webcam Booth. From the Launcher, open Ubuntu Software Center, search for “Cheese”, and install it. Once it's installed you can try to launch it. In most cases the webcam will work right off, but sometimes you need to restart the laptop before it will work. In one case, a newer model HP, we needed to install an nVidia driver – and restart – before the webcam would work.

There are also some models of SONY laptops that need a special driver to work with Ubuntu.


A few laptops will have Bluetooth. We test this with a Bluetooth mouse, found in the Lockbox. You will need to turn Bluetooth on first, then Install New Device, test it, then Remove the device from the Bluetooth devices list.

Slots and Ports

By this point you should have noted the number of RAM slots and their type, and the VGA port. There are usually other slots and/or ports that need to be documented.

PCMCIA slot. This is a standard expansion slot found on most laptops. Most often there is only one, less often two stacked one on top of the other. Note the number on the Build Sheet. You can test this slot if there is a suitable PCMCIA card available, for example a USB card.

SD slot. This a slot for a memory card, such as you find in a digital camera. It is often difficult to spot, being under the rim or even hidden under a removable rubber protector. Test this with our sample SD memory card, found in the Lockbox. Simply push the card, label up, into the slot until it clicks. You should see it appear on the desktop and open. (It's full of astronomy pictures.) Close the window and Unmount the card from the Launcher, then remove it.

DVI port. This is a video port for an external monitor, sometimes in addition to the VGA port, sometimes instead of. We have adaptors that will fit on the VGA cable, so you can test this just as you would the VGA port.

HDMI, S-Video, Firewire, Express Card, HP Expansion Port. Currently we have no means of testing these. Simply note them on the Build Sheet under Other.

Memory Test

The last thing to do is the Memtest. It's time-consuming, which is why we leave it to the last. You can start your Memtest and go on to something else while it's running.

To run the Memtest you need to enter GRUB (Grand Universal Bootloader).

To begin, power off, then restart. When the laptop's logo screen goes away, press and hold down the left-hand Shift key. Wait until you see “Grub loading”, and keep holding the key down. Soon a menu will appear. Pick the third choice, Memtest, and press Enter. The Memtest will begin and you can walk away. Check back in 15 to 30 minutes to see if it has completed.

In rare cases a machine will refuse to run the Memtest. All you can do with these is pull out the RAM, put them in another machine, and test them there. (We may also have pre-tested RAM available.)

Finish Up

Check the Build Sheet to make sure you have filled in all the details and checked all the boxes. Ensure you have removed all OS stickers, both on the top and bottom of the machine, and cleaned off any glue or scum.

Clean the machine with either alcohol or lens cleaner, paying special attention to the screen, touchpad, keyboard, and any dirty spots.

Fill out a System ID sticker with your first initial, volunteer number, and the build number (i.e. If this is your 25th build, the build number is 25) and stick it on the bottom of the machine in a sensible spot.

Put a yellow dot on the Build Sheet, to indicate that the build is finished. Tape the Build Sheet to the laptop lid, coil the AC Adaptor cords, and tape them to the laptop. Put the whole assembly on the shelf labelled Ready to QC.