Saturday, April 25, 2015

Toshiba C50D-B-120 Part 3 - Firmware

On my Toshiba C50D-B-120 I have Installed the following packages:

amd64-microcode (2.20141028.1) 
firmware-linux (0.43) 
firmware-linux-free (3.3) 
firmware-linux-nonfree (0.43) 
firmware-realtek (0.43)

A warning message during installation about missing firmware


was asking for firmware contained in the Realtek package.

Of course I had to change my sources list file, which now looks like this:

#deb cdrom:[Debian GNU/Linux jessie-DI-rc2 _Jessie_ - Official Snapshot amd64 CD Binary-1 20150326-13:22]/ jessie main

deb jessie main contrib non-free
#deb-src jessie main

deb jessie/updates main contrib non-free
#deb-src jessie/updates main

# jessie-updates, previously known as 'volatile'
deb jessie-updates main contrib non-free
#deb-src jessie-updates main

# jessie-backports, previously on
deb jessie-backports main contrib non-free
#deb-src jessie-backports main

The entry for jessie-backports seems to be a bug fixed in Jessie RC3.

Toshiba C50D-B-120 Part 4 - Bluetooth

Everything seemed to work on my new install of Debian Jessie on my new Toshiba C50D-B-120 except for Bluetooth. I noticed a warning during boot about some missing firmware, which wasn't mentioned during the install, unlike the network adapter firmware, which was.

However, using dmesg allowed me to see the error messages and track down the missing firmware.

First I tried installing firmware-atheros, but this doesn't have the firmware for the adapter in this computer.

To cut a long story short, the required files are


and they go in


They are available from

 as described on the Ubuntu forum (thanks to Ephialta).

NB, the files go in /lib/firmware/ar3k/ in Debian and not in usr/lib/firmware/ar3k/ as described in the Ubuntu forum. Presumably that location applies to Ubuntu.

This information may be relevant to anybody who has the Qualcomm Atheros AR3012 adapter and has installed Linux, Googlebots please note.

Toshiba C50D-B-120 Part 2 - UEFI dual boot with Windows 8.1

I read a lot about people having problems dual booting Debian with Windows, and so worried about how it would go on my new Toshiba C50D-B-120.

In fact the installation with the Jessie RC2 installation CD was very easy- I used the graphical install and after choosing to install on the available free space, I simply used the default options, except for having a separate /home directory. The CD installed GRUB in the UEFI partition and when I rebooted I had Debian Jessie and Windows in GRUB!

Of course, to free up some space, I had to resize the Windows C: partition. Here's what the drive looked like:


I used


and clicking on the Windows partition gave me a Shrink option. It didn't let me shrink Windows as much as I would have wanted. There are partition managers that would have allowed me to move unmovable files in Windows and shrink the partition more, but I suspect I'm going to install again and use the whole disc for Debian assuming everything is working properly, which so far it is.

I also disabled Fast Startup in Windows as described in Option 1 here.

Secure Boot wasn't enabled in Boot options (F12 on this Toshiba), but disabling it is necessary for a UEFI install.

Now all I have to do is decide if I want to keep Windows. Windows 8 isn't too bad once you ignore the tiles and tablet-like apps and boot straight to the desktop (on a laptop at least).

But it's a pain as far as updates go. I had to look at a blue screen telling me that Windows was configuring and not to shut off the computer for half an hour today. This seems to be a typical and frequent event when shutting down or booting up.

About the only reason I can think of for keeping it is that Toshiba puts out BIOS updates in .exe form- I have installed one already- a very easy process from Windows, maybe not so easy from Linux.

However, everything seems to be working, and I've just downloaded the Debian Jessie RC3 CD, so a reinstall using the whole disc may be immanent.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Toshiba C50D-B-120 Part 1 - Windows (upd)8

My first laptop cost me £950 back in 2003, my second £800 in 2005, so I was interested to see a laptop for less than £200 on the Argos Website. Looking through the reviews, I noticed that many of them were dreadful, complaining about the mouse pointer freezing or seeming to have a mind of its own. The laptop has a low powered CPU- basically a netbook CPU- but could it really be that bad?

Towards the end of the reviews I noticed one from somebody who had contacted Toshiba and been told that the problem was a buggy touch pad driver.

PCWorld was selling a similar Toshiba for the same price but with a slightly more powerful Intel CPU. Again the same reviews complaining about sluggish performance. One reviewer said that the laptop performed well after being updated.

My old laptop only has an 80GB hard drive, and the Toshiba C50D has a 500GB hard drive. I don't do anything on my PC that requires a powerful CPU, so I wondered if the problems reviewers had identified were in fact down to software problems, and if these computers might be a bargain.

Over Easter PCWorld offered their Toshiba for £180, with a reconditioned item for £150. I was tempted but the offer disappeared before I could make my mind up. I regretted not going for it.

Then I saw the C50D-B-120 on LaptopsDirect for £150 reconditioned and snagged one. (The buggers then reduced it to £145 the next day!)

Mine was in A1 condition as stated, but yes, the mouse pointer was slow to respond and did seem to have a mind of its own.

Windows update told me that there were more than 100 updates available, but clicking the install button seemed to do nothing- downloading 0% was the constant message.

I suspect that Windows was trying to update in the background and that the manual update failed because the automatic update process had a lock on the process.

This was confirmed when I went to shutdown later and saw a "Shutdown and install updates" message.

Windows configured some updates when it was shutting down, and then configured some more when it was booting up again.

This process- background download of updates which I as the user was unaware of until prompted to install updates when shutting down- repeated several times before Windows Update confirmed that all the available updates had been installed.

Whereupon the computer now works just fine. The mouse pointer is responsive and for simple tasks like web browsing it is perfectly snappy.

Of course most computer users, especially new computer users, to whom this computer is marketed, are just going to turn the computer on and find it doesn't work.

Sorry Toshiba, you didn't really deserve the abuse heaped upon you.

For anybody looking for a really cheap laptop that does basic computing really well, yes, you can get one.

(PCWorld was offering a reconditioned C50-B for £140 at one point.)

But you may have to spend a bit of time updating the software before it will be usable.

Microsoft, you do deserve the abuse heaped upon you. Why is this process so painful?

Of course anybody who read this blog will know I am a Linux user. The Toshiba C50D-B-120 is now running Debian Jessie, dual boot with Windows 8.1 for the time being as an experiment in UEFI dual booting. This post was made from Debian with the computer performing perfectly satisfactorily.

Future posts will look at the Debian installation process and hardware issues with this computer.

But to conclude I will say that the Toshiba C50D-B-120 so far seems to be the equal or better of either of my previous machines which cost far more, at least in the tasks I put it to. The most noticeable improvement is its much greater efficiency: the power adaptor is half the size and a third of the weight of my previous laptop's adaptor and doesn't get nearly as hot: a green machine.