The A531 is a laptop made by ECS (Elite Group). It is a low cost laptop, using a Transmeta TM5800 CPU.

Manufacturer's website about these:

These are for sale in NewZealand: for example, DSE has them (calling it a "TM5800 Laptop") for $NZ 1499, and the online store Ascent has them slightly cheaper ($NZ 1432 at time of writing).

Helpful pages on the very similar A530 model (using a TM5600 CPU):


  • The machines are sold without an OperatingSystem installed.
  • Built-in network card, combined DVD Reader / CD Writer drive.
  • Upgradability may be a problem for some people; it comes with 4 USB ports but no FireWire or PCMCIA slots.
  • No floppy disk drive (but that isn't really much of a loss)
  • Considering it uses a low-power Transmeta CPU, the battery should last much more than a mere 2 hours per charge.
  • Mostly works fine with standard Linux distributions. Specific problems included:

    • The mixer (ie changing the volume)
    • Using a graphics driver other than the plain VESA driver.
    • The scroll buttons on the touchpad required a separate (but open sourced) driver.

Technical Details

I installed Debian Testing on this laptop, after booting up with Knoppix. I also installed LinuxKernel2.6, so some of my experiences may be due to that.

  • ACPI power management support, no APM support.
  • No IO-APIC.


The built in Ethernet network card uses a Realtek 8139C chip. The standard "8139too" support of the kernel works fine.

The kernel config parameter is called "CONFIG_8139TOO"


Since I use Ethernet, I didn't need to use the modem. Apparently it can only be used under linux with a closed-source driver.


Kernel options "CONFIG_USB_EHCI_HCD" and "CONFIG_USB_OHCI_HCD". The "lspci" command claimed that 3 of the 4 ports were USB1.1 OHCI ports, and 1 was a USB2.0 EHCI port.)


The graphics chipset is an SiS 315. From what I can determine, the "sis" driver in XFree86 version 4.2 (the version in Debian Testing) and version 4.3 does not support this chipset, so I used the "vesa" driver.

The laptop also had an Svideo out (eg for a TV), but I didn't try or test this.


The touchpad will work fine as a PS/2 mouse, but the 4 scroll buttons will not work (by default). (Obviously you need "CONFIG_INPUT_PS2" support in the kernel).

I downloaded the GPL'd Synaptic touchpad driver (from and compiled it (this needs development tools and libraries installed, eg xlibs-dev), installed it into /usr/X11R6/lib/drivers, and then changed my mouse section in /etc/X11/XF86Config to have

Section "!InputDevice?"

Identifier "Mouse0" Driver "synaptics" Option "Device" "/dev/psaux" Option "Protocol" "auto-dev"

  1. settings for speed

Option "!MinSpeed?" "0.06" Option "!MaxSpeed?" "0.12" Option "!AccelFactor?" "0.0010"

  1. Option "SHMConfig" "on" # shared mem for "synclient" cmdline
This driver requires the kernel to have "CONFIG_INPUT_EVDEV" support for the "generic input event" devices. You also need to make sure that the /dev/input/event* files exist (but don't do this if using the Deprecated devfs support)
cd /dev && ./MAKEDEV input # run this command as root


The card identifies itself as "ALi M5451", and apparently uses a CMedia "CMI 9739" chip.

Kernel 2.6 ALSA drivers have direct support for this card ("CONFIG_SND_ALI5451" Sound -> ALSA -> PCI Devices -> ALi PCI Audio M5451). If using OSS instead of the recommended ALSA, the driver to choose says "Trident 4DWave DX/NX, SiS 7018 or ALi 5451 PCI Audio Core".

As mentioned on the other pages linked to at the top of the page, the Mixer volume was ignored, other than complete muting.

The card (and the ALSA drivers) support hardware mixing of multiple audio streams, so I didn't need to fiddle around with setting up software mixing for apps.


The lmsensors package in Debian Testing didn't work with 2.6 kernels, so I didn't bother trying too hard to get this working. But the specific kernel support you need is
Char devices -> I2C Support -> Hardware Bus Support -> ALI 1535 ("CONFIG_I2C_ALI1535")


I2C -> Hardware Sensors Chip support ("CONFIG_SENSORS_ADM1021")

as well as the generic "-dev" and "bit-banging algorithms" I2C stuff required for lm-sensors.