Compaq Presario R3000 and Linux

I wanted a 64 bit laptop, and the local Office Depot had a sale on them for $800, so I went down and ordered one. I only use the plain old wired ethernet port (I think I ordered it without the wireless option).


It's nice and fast. I can build Wine from scratch while browsing a couple news sites, and I'm very happy with the speed.

Linux distros tested

I originally put a 64 bit Ubuntu on the laptop, but was annoyed at the lack of 32 bit support, so I went back to using 32 bit Linux distributions.

I've tested the 32 bit versions of FC3, FC4, FC5, and Ubunutu 05.10 "breezy badger". Of the four, only Ubuntu recognized the full size of the screen. The pcmcia slot is a particular problem; see Keith Hughes' r3120US page for details.

I have since updated to Ubuntu 06.06, and it's working very nicely (though I haven't tried the pcmcia slot).

Video Output

The video output jack of the r3000 seems utterly incompatible with all video projectors. Several web sites comment on this problem; one says the vesa driver helps. And sure enough, if you edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf to replace
	Driver "nv"
	Driver "vesa"
projectors work fine. (Believe it or not, it took me a long time to realize that's all one had to do to switch drivers...)


How do I hate the keyboard? Let me count the ways:
  1. Once every couple minutes, my finger will catch painfully on the side of a key on the upstroke, and the key will make a nasty little "tink" sound. For instance, when pressing the 'h' key, my finger often catches on the corner of the 'u' key. Makes me feel as if the key cap is going to come off any moment, or that I'm going to get a divot in my fingertip from using it.
  2. The touchpad gets in the way when typing, and I often find the cursor jumping to the other side of the page because I brushed it with my palm
  3. I'm used to Toshiba keyboards, which have wonderful full sized keys even for 'delete'; the Compaq has a little half-sized delete key, as if to say "real people don't use this key". This hits Linux users more than Windows users, since on Linux, they do different things, and I use both.
  4. The volume control buttons on the right side are evidently part of the keyboard, as pressing them interferes with the keyboard and vice versa (thanks to my two-year-old son for helping me discover this). They're ok, except that they don't work early enough during boot to let you silence the KDE startup noise.

Cables / Drives

The CD Rom drive often pops open unbidden when the laptop is sitting on the settee in the living room. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it sinks down just enough in the cusions to press the CD Rom button.

The power cable, for some reason, is constantly coming unplugged when the laptop is sitting on my lap. Usually, even on Ubuntu, I don't get any warning of this; the computer just shuts off because the battery has run out.

Reliability / Customer Service

The switch that turns off the backlight when you close the laptop failed after nine months, rendering the laptop unusable (you can't really use a laptop without a working backlight).

Compaq's telephone customer service was both good and bad. The first time I called, I got someone in India who was almost abusive, and was poorly informed. His main interest was in selling me another year of warrantee service. He did eventually agree to repair the switch. I realized the next day I'd given incorrect info, and called them back to correct it. This time I got a great guy who was very pleasant.

The repair service was quick, easy, and efficient; I did have to box the computer up myself, but UPS came to the door to pick it up, and the repaired computer was sent back extremely quickly.

I used the repair service a second time after I broke the ethernet connector by kicking the cable out. This time, even though I was still under warranty, it cost me $300. (Lesson: I should have tried epoxying it myself first. Oh, and be real careful to never kick the ethernet cable out accidentally!)


The laptop's performance and HP's customer service are good. However, the hardware issues (flimsy keyboard, power cable popout, cdrom drive popout) and Linux support issues (pcmcia, wireless) make this laptop a lemon. People considering Compaq laptops should check for these flaws before buying.


Updated 8 Dec 2007
Dan Kegel