Gateway 3522GZ Laptop - Planet CCRMA/Fedora Core 3 and OpenSuSE 10.0

Last Update:  22 March 2007

1.0)  Background:

This page documents my continuing impressions over more than a year of using my Gateway 3522GZ notebook.   I am a musician and music lover, and use Planet CCRMA intensively on my systems for multimedia and music.  I have used Red Hat and Fedora (and several other Linux distributions) since April 1996.  See (5.0), Resources, below for how to obtain Fedora and Planet CCRMA At Home.  I will not do any politicking here, since I figure that, if you're reading this, you're at least already receptive to Linux.  See for further edification, please.

Initially the system shipped with a Toshiba DVD burner, 512 MB RAM, and 4200 RPM 60 GB Hitachi Travelstar hard drive.  On 30 December 2005,  I used Snappix and QTParted to resize the partition on the original NTFS filesystem down to 12 GB, using the rest for FC3, and am now running that 60 GB drive with XP Home and OpenSuSE 10.0 in multi-boot.  This allows me to select between Windows XP and OpenSuSE from the GRUB menu at startup, with SuSE being the default.

Installation of the Planet CCRMA-enabled distribution of Fedora Core 3 was uneventful in the main, with a few small problems as noted below.  I opted to replace Fedora Core 3 with SuSE after seeing how well integrated the SuSE offering is.  By and large, what was running well under Fedora runs well under SuSE 10.0

2.0)  Gateway 3522GZ System Specifications:

Item Description Linux Status Comments
CPU: Intel Pentium M 725, Centrino, 1.6 GHz, 256 MB L2 cache Nominal Decent performance so far - I have a tendency to set for max performance, though.
RAM: SODIMM DDR RAM, 512 Meg, 400 MHz FSB Nominal 256 on board, 256 socketed, no open sockets
GPU: Intel 852GME Integrated Graphics Device Nominal Shares 32 MB of main RAM
VGA: Standard HD-15 port on left side, 2048x1538, 32  bit, 75 Hz Nominal up to 85 Hz max refresh up to 1280x1024, dual display capable
TFT: 14" WXGA, 1280x768, 32-bit, 60 Hz max refresh Nominal Bright, narrow view angle.  Glossy overlay on screen.
HDD: 60 GB Hitachi Travelstar Nominal EIDE 4200 RPM 2.5" drive
FDD: NONE N/A No Floppy disk drive supplied.  Has not been needed so far
DVD: HL-DT-ST DVD-RW GWA4080N (16X multi-format DVDRW) Nominal Works well so far - have not attempted to use DVD-R/RW media as yet, just +R and CDR.  Cannot do double-layer media.
USB: 3 USB 2.0 ports, 4-pin, on right side Nominal Intel 82801DB-based controller.  Various key drives work well with this system, as does my HP PSC1410v multi function printer.
FIR: 1 Firewiree (IEEE 1394) Unknown TI 8032-based.  I don't use Firewire yet.
NIC: Broadcom Corp. BCM4401 100BaseTX Nominal Works great at the Holiday Inn Express!
WIFI: Intel Mini-PCI
Unknown Have not yet been able to properly configure this device in Linux
MDM: Integrated V.92 56k modem Unknown Have yet to attempt to use this device
HID: Synaptics touchpad with vertical scroll and 2-button controls Marginal Touch pressure a bit twitchy.  (There is a fix to turn off taps, though)
MMC Multi-format memory card reader Unknown Supports memory stick, memory stick pro, SD, and MMC memory card types.  Have yet to figure out where to mount this device in fstab (I don't use it much).
SND: Integrated ADI 1981B Nominal Use Intel snd8x0 AC'97 driver, see below.
PCMCIA: One type I slot, presently empty Unknown No PC Cards in use presently.

3.0)  Impressions:

This notebook has many desirable features, not the least of which is light weight for its size (5.9 lbs).  It has a low overall profile, being 1.25 inches thick, and a pleasant enough overall finish, being in a subdued silver with black keyboard and bezel work.  The silver finish tends to scratch easily, and application of a "skin" to this unit would do much to preserve it against this type of wear.  Over time, the built-in keyboard has acquired a tendency to cause the cursor to fly to unwanted locations while typing if even slight pressure is placed on the case in front of it. (For any serious typing chores I've recruited a USB keyboard which works nicely.) Case badges displaying the Centrino and Windows XP logos are not too intrusive given their obiligatory nature.  Indicating lights are a bright electric blue, but can be switched off from the keyboard via function keys (Fn-F1). (That's a nice touch when watching a movie.)

Battery weight and size are kept to a minimum, but the system gets about three hours battery life at current power settings (and that's running the DVD all the time...).  Built-in speakers are tinny, but clear enough for normal use, and sound quality on my California Acoustics 2.1 speakers is more than adequate.  (Fidelity on a set of Sony MDR-V150 headphones is exceptional!)

Overall, the system runs Fedora Core 3 well enough, but not perfectly.  OpenSuSE is somewhat better overall, but has more overhead.

The touchpad is somewhat annoying, and seems overly sensitive.  I'm using a GE wireless USB "mini-mouse" which eats AAA batteries like there's no tomorrow.  It works well enough, but batteries only last me about a month.

Under Fedora Core, the audio subsystem was a bit tempermental at first, but readings at Bugzilla (bug no. 123631), at (look for snd-intel8x0), and on the Planet CCRMA fora yielded some valuable insights into the problem.

It seems the ADI 1981B audio engine is a very versatile piece of hardware, and can be implemented in various ways by numerous vendors.  Gateway chose, in this case, to swap the headphone and Master mixer channels.  Fortunately, the folks who developed the snd-intel8x0 driver saw this one coming.  Entering the option line:

options snd-intel8x0 ac97_quirk=2

as the last option line for the sound card in /etc/modprobe.conf swaps these two channel of the mixer, restoring proper operation.

In OpenSuSE, using YAST to set this option is the way to go.  Mucking about with SuSE's highly complex modprobe.conf file is not for the timid, but the GUI tools in YAST work so well that it is seldom necessary.

Use of Xine for playing DVDs and multimedia files is flawless, and installation went simply enough.  I recommend using DivX for Linux with Xine to expand its usefulness.  Using that and the Win32 codecs and LAME encoder libraries for Xine, there aren't too many media files out there Xine can't handle.  (Note:  as of this writing, it is my considered opinion after much research on the subject that the w32codecs are not legal for use. is in the process of publishing a series of legally licensed codecs to allow Linux media players to play .wma and .wmv files, among others.  As yet, I have no experience with them.)

I recommend installing the latest Xine version available from Planet CCRMA At Home.  This seems to work better than the version shipped with FC3 or SuSE.

Glare on the glossy surface of the screen is evident and bothersome in certain lighting conditions (under normal room lighting from some angles).  Dimming the lights or moving away from a direct reflecting path will minimize this, though.  Overall, the display is bright, clear, and fast.  No ghosting was noted during movie playback.

I acquired this laptop in the period closely after Hurricane Katrina, as a replacement for my old desktop, a Dell Precision Workstation 220.  It has, in many respects, been much superior to that old workhorse, and that's saying a lot.

This unit didn't ship with a case, so I bought an Icon "Hacker" bag at Wal-Mart for under $30, and it has so far served me well despite the salacious name.  Anyone looking for a case for a unit up to 15.4" wide would do well to consider this bag - it's well laid out without being too bulky, yet affords plenty of protection for your laptop.

This system was purchased from Tiger Direct refurbished.  The tale of this purchase is noteworthy, as I at first wanted to purchase an Emachines M5312 (having heard elsewhere how well it runs under Linux) but the unit I bought was an "open box" system, which is Tiger's nice way of saying someone sent it back for some reason.  Well, the reason in this case was that the unit was unreliable on powerup.  At first, Tiger offered me an exchange to the M6805, but that has an Athlon 64 CPU, something I  wasn't sure would run Planet CCRMA's kernels.  After casting about, I found the 3522GZ, and selected it.  Overall, the experience was frustrating at times, especially with regard to the paperwork (I never received an original invoice for the first unit), and their phone support after sale is all but non-existent.  To their credit, though, Tiger did ship the exchange promptly, and eventually made good on this purchase despite having to deal with Hurricane Wilma during the initial timeframe of this purchase.

4.0)  Conclusions:

Overall, this unit's performance under Linux is very satisfactory, if not quite flawless.  My initial score for this machine on a scale from 1 to 5 was a grudging 4.5.  Over time, that rating has dropped somewhat, mainly influenced by the problems with unwanted cursor movement.  If the touchpad on this unit were of higher quality and the outer finish just a bit more durable, this would be a perfect notebook.  Still, for under $750.00 (including insured shipping) 18 months or more ago, this wasn't a bad deal. Okay:  4 out of 5.

5.0)  Resources:

The Linux on Laptops Page:
Planet CCRMA At Home:
The Fedora Project: