Last updated August 24th, 1999

Linux on AST Ascentia A laptops

I no longer actively maintain this page. In fact, my old Ascentia has long ago been retired. The information given on this page is probably outdated and useless, unless you have a really old laptop. You have been warned.

That said, this page is left here in the hope that it might be of help to someone.


Kai Puolamäki (

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Although I believe the information and advice on this document to be true and accurate at the date of its writing, I or people referenced cannot take any legal responsibility for any errors and omissions that may have been made. There is no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material on this document.

Bottom Line

Linux works on Ascentia A. X windows, PCMCIA, sound and CD work. There is a problem with some Advanced Power Management (APM) features.

About the AST Ascentia A

AST Ascentia A -series laptops are budget multimedia computers with large LCD display, internal sound and CD-ROM.

Ascentia A42 has the following features:

Not so nice aspects are a bit larger than normal size and maybe a somewhat shaggy construction (I would not use my laptop as a tennis bat, as they do in a competing vendor's advertisement...). The keyboard is well sized, but somebody might consider it sluggish. Of course that is a matter of opinion. The battery can get really hot when it is being charged and the power is on. I had to have the LCD display replaced due to blinking red pixels that blurred the display from time to time. (First time the warranty mainenance was unable to reproduce the condition. All together my laptop has been in warranty maintenance for months. :( )

AST and the local dealer from which I purchased my computer explicitly stated beforehand that they do not support any other operating system than the preinstalled Windows 95. Combined with AST's tendency of upgrading the advertised hardware chipsets without prior notice makes you really on your own with Linux.

The installation has been done on A42 with 32Mb RAM and 3COM 3c589D Combo PCMCIA LAN adapter.

Linux Installation

I downloaded the installation packages via FTP. First I tried RedHat 4.1, but then I ran into trouble with "PCMCIA probe failed" -errors. I got that solved, thanks to Jeff Carneal's fixed bootdisk. Few minutes later I found out that the installation disks do not support my 3c589 ethernet card. I switched to Slackware 3.1 and kernel 2.0.27, which worked fine. Currently I run RedHat 6.0 and kernel version 2.2.5. The RedHat default kernel works fine.

I deleted the W95 partition before installing Linux. You should not touch the /dev/hda4 partition at the end of the disk. It is presumably needed for the BIOS "rest to disk" -function. It is also probably better to change Large disk access mode from the BIOS setup from DOS to Other.

You must also disable "rest to disk" -option from the BIOS setup in order not to freeze the machine periodically.

Kernel config files

I got everything related to the kernel working except some APM features with these kernel configuration files (kernel 2.0.27). Björn Knutsson reported that he has APM functioning properly. He kindly sent me his configuration files. Till Strauman said that he had got APM working by defining APM_NOINTS in kernel setup (in current kernel releases CONFIG_APM_ALLOW_INTS) on Ascentia P55. Any of these advice didn't help me, though.

Otherwise the RedHat 6.0 default kernel configuration works fine.

X Windows

XFree86 after some adjustments on display frequencies. William H. Ball sent me his XF86Config, which should work with XFree 3.3.1 and Ascentia A60. He had to add "MemBase 0xfc00000" to the Device Section, apparently enabling the use of 16 bit color (just change the depth variable to "Depth 16"). You can also look at my XF86Config, which seems to function with the TFT display and supports 16 bit color. My XF86Config might not, however, work with the latest hardware.

Please note that incorrect display settings may (... or more probably not) physically damage your hardware - trust me with your own responsibility and RTFM.

Nota bene on LCD specifications

In my XF86Config the relevant modeline is:

ModeLine "800x600"     36.08    800  832  904 1000    600  608  616  694

Driver forces dot-clock to the closest predefined value 36.08MHz (of 25.23, 28.32, 31.5, 36.08, 39.99 and 41.16). Freqv is then 36.08*1000000Hz/(1000*694)=51.99Hz and hsync 36.08*1000kHz/1000=36.08kHz.

According to AST Nordic Support the vertical refresh frequency (freqv) is locked by BIOS to 52Hz if internal display is active. If somebody is interested, the document they faxed me also tells that maximum resolution on external monitor is 1024x768 with 256 colors. If only external monitor is active the frequencies are adjusted by the driver.

Nota Bene Duo on LCD specifications

People have sent their experiences on configuring the X-windows. I'll just list them in the following in the hope that they will turn out to be useful.

AST web support told Daniele Pogliani:

The video chipset in your computer is a Cirrus Logic GD7548.  The refresh rates
for the LCD in your system are as follows:

Screen Format  Horizontal Freq.   Vertical Freq.

640x480        38.6Khz            60Hz

800x600        38.6KHz            60Hz

Metrox X Server

Metrox apparently does not work, since Cirrus 7548 is not supported.

XFree and STN display

Marcel Giry has tried to install XServer and STN display with settings

            card type= Cirrus Logic GD754x (laptop)
            monitor = Generic Multisync
            video memory = 512
            no Clockchip
            Video Modes : 8 bit et 800x600 

He reports that this does work, but not very well. After startx one must enter Fn+F5 CRT/LCD once or twice to get rid of horizontal lines on the screen. This might be a frequency problem.


As far as I can tell, microphone, speakers and audio CD-player work without any problems. Just compile the kernel with the correct options. (See the Sound Howto.)

Power Management

Here is the trouble... BIOS should conform to the APM v1.2 standard and the Linux kernel should support it (more about APM in Linux). Some people have got their APM working with similar (or close to similar) hardware. However, I don't have "rest to the hard disk" - or Fn-F11 Rest - working properly.

The computer switches off the power after halt-command, as it should. The power gauge works fine; both Fn-F6 Gauge and the xapm from apmd-2.4 package. Only if one is using X-windows then in text mode Fn-F6 screws up the console... But from XFree86 the power gauge shows up as in W95. The hard disk goes to suspend as one would expect with reservation common to all Linux systems: there are jobs that write periodically to the hard disk and wake it up.

Rest to disk

By pressing Fn-F11 Rest or using "apm -s" command from the apmd-2.4 package one should be able to store the memory and register contents to a special hard disk partition and then switch off the power. As the computer is subsequently switched on it will be restored to its' previous state. All this works if I boot with W95 disk. However, in Linux the system just freezes. I have tried various kernel configurations, but they seem not to work. I do not know why. Any suggestions are welcome.

You must also disable "rest to disk" -option from the BIOS setup in order not to freeze the machine periodically.

Nota bene

Till Strauman suggested that option APM_NOINTS (in current kernel releases CONFIG_APM_ALLOW_INTS) could make the disk suspend to work. It didn't work for me though -- could be that I have too old hardware or something.



My LAN card (with RH 6.0) has worked without any complications with default RedHat settings. LAN adapters can however be a bit tricky to configure. The good thing is that once the LAN adapter works then it works without trouble.

Marcel Giry has installed RH 4.2. With RedHat the above modifications are unnecessary, but one should edit /etc/sysconfic/pcmcia with


If the Combo adapter doesn't play with the ThinNet connection it might be necessary to modify file /etc/pcmcia/network.opts (in Slackware) to contain line IF_PORT="10base2" - or to say "ifport eth0 10base2".


The CD-ROM drive is the standard ATAPI-compatible model. Mount it and it works, as described in CD-ROM Howto.

Docking Stations

Don't have one.

Other Network Resources

About This Document

This page was inspired by (=format shamelessly copied from) the Linux on NEC Versa Laptops and Linux on HP OmniBook 5000 laptops pages, as well as the understanding that for a cooperative effort like Linux to work, people who know things need to share that knowledge.

This page has benefited from the experiences of:

I would welcome any comments, additions, corrections or suggestions to this page (or life in general). Although I get quite a lot email nowadays, I will try to find time to reply at least to questions related to the Linux on Ascentia A or to the contents of this page.

Copyright © 1999 Kai Puolamäki (