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Novatech (MiTAC) 8355 Laptop Running FreeBSD (Unix)


Julian Stacey

(A lot of Laptop vendors sell variants of this laptop all based on same board).


Page started August 2010. Laptop board seems to have been around since about 2003.


Input 19V 7.9A
Model: 8355
MSL Made In China
Product Code: NNB-203

dmidecode reports various bits of hardware from MiTAC.

A very heavy ( Hardware manual (from cdrom from Mitac) says in spec. on page 111 of 117: 7.94 lb (3.6 kg) ) & hot laptop I wouldn't want on my lap, better on a desk. I removed the 80 G IDE disc with XP on NTFS & installed a 250 G Disc.

Hardware manual (from cdrom from Mitac) says in spec. on page 111 of 117
2.5-inch, 9.5 mm high, IDE, Ultra DMA 66/100/133 support
So I need to check dmesg for performance later.


Get to BIOS with Fn F2

BIOS announces: "Insyde Software SCU"

dmidecode reports:
Vendor: Insyde Software
Version: R1.08
Release Date: 06/08/2004
Summary: a primitive old BIOS, not many options, no option to boot off USB stick,

BIOS: Boot Sector Protect Mechanism Is Misleadingly Labelled

What initially prevented FreeBSD installation was a BIOS boot sector protect mechanism which used strange labelling. The BIOS has option "Security -> Hard Disk Boot Sector" with 2 states available: 'Ticked' & 'Not ticked = Underscore'. We had previously left it as Underscore, (wrongly assuming that meant no boot sector protection). it actually seemed to mean silently discard boot sector changes.
When changed to Ticked, (which we had wrongly assumed meant boot sector protect) it allowed install & boot from disc of FreeBSD (though it also complained on first boot (but not subsequent boots) of boot sector content change).

BIOS Upgrade

Nice if one was available ? as no USB boot, & dmesg reports strange things, eg:
  • CPU: AMD Athlon(tm) 64 Processor 3400+ (800.03-MHz K8-class CPU)
  • real memory = 8572108800 (8175 MB)
    avail memory = 1018789888 (971 MB)
  • 2 x "No handler for Region"
Hardware manual (from cdrom from Mitac) says un spec. on page 111 of 117 :
2 x 200-pin DDR SO-DIMM socket for expansion, up to 1024 MB; supports PC 2100/2700/3200 specifications
dmidecode data extracts (from the as-purchased system):

About dmidecode:

BIOS Information
        Vendor: Insyde Software
        Version: R1.08
        Release Date: 06/08/2004
                BIOS is upgrade-able
Base Board Information
        Manufacturer: MiTAC
        Product Name:
        Version: 5a
Chassis Information
        Manufacturer: MiTAC
        Type: Portable
        Lock: Not Present
        Version: S2054S
OEM Strings
        String 1: Insyde Software SM-BIOS For VT8383
Is BIOS upgrade available ? URLS to explore:


Posting to FreeBSD
A laptop here emits a puzzling dmesg to both 8.1-RC2 & 8.1-RELEASE:
>   real memory  = 8572108800 (8175 MB)
>   avail memory = 1018789888 (971 MB)
> BIOS reckons it has 1G. No panel to unscrew to inspect memory. 
> I don't believe 8G
dmesg with loader.conf boot_verbose="yes"
real memory  = 8572108800 (8175 MB)
Physical memory chunk(s):
0x0000000000001000 - 0x000000000009bfff, 634880 bytes (155 pages)
0x0000000000f1a000 - 0x000000003e19ffff, 1026056192 bytes (250502 pages)
avail memory = 1018191872 (971 MB)
x86bios:   IVT 0x000000-0x0004ff at 0xffffff0000000000
x86bios:  SSEG 0x010000-0x01ffff at 0xffffff8000007000
x86bios:  EBDA 0x09f000-0x09ffff at 0xffffff000009f000
x86bios:   ROM 0x0a0000-0x0effff at 0xffffff00000a0000
dmidecode --type memory
Did not work properly first time. After a cold reboot next day dmidecode worked OK.
Source to look at re dmesg memory 1G/4G size reporting discrepancy:
vi -c/reasonable /sys/amd64/amd64/machdep.c

NOTES To Source machdep.c.REL=*.diff


  • FreeBSD-8.4-RELEASE runs,
    FreeBSD-8.1-RELEASE runs, & has built many packages.
    ( ls -l /var/db/pkg | wc -l # 848 @ 17 Aug 2010 )
  • Video Outputs & X-Windows

    • I only have it running at 1024x768m but
      Hardware manual (from cdrom from Mitac) says in spec. on page 111 of 117 lists more :
      14.1/15-inch TFT, resolution up to 1024768 / 14001050 XGA / SXGA+
      & my particular screen is 15" so need to try harder.
    • Before X starts, Observations (I haven't got an SVGA connected to observe, just S-VHS connected)
      • Fn F5 (square, line under surrounded by another square - maybe a symbol for monitor ?) allocates video to S-VHS
        but doesn't seem to bring it back to LCD on 2nd push
      • Fn F10 (Multiple overlapping squares within a square) Seems to toggle LCD screen on & off.
      • I wonder if a switch is also buried in the lid latch hole
      • Fn F11 (2 vertical bar) Doesn't seem to do anything
    • xorg.conf
    • Xorg.0.log
    • If video is on S-VHS, then xinit, then screen switches to internal LCD OK,
      but after X finishes, video reverts to S-VHS, & TV fails to display properly (too high a frequency I guess)
    • I haven't got X working on S-VHS output.
  • Ethernet: OK. ifconfig shows: media: Ethernet autoselect (100baseTX <full-duplex> man vr does not show capability for 1G
  • Battery

    • Hardware manual (from cdrom from Mitac) says in spec. on page 111 of 117: 12-cell 6600 mAh / 14.8 V Li-ion battery
    • To remove battery you need to slide both release latches simultaneously (one is a 2 position, one is spring loaded).
    • Battery beeps & acpi message on console when low, "sysctl -a | grep battery": OK
    • sysctl reports 100 when running on battery, & still 100 after some discharge, as soon as you plug in mains power it reduces to a real number eg 51.
    • sysctl hw.acpi.battery.time while running on battery shows eg 165, as soon as you plug in mains power it changes to -1
    • sysctl hw.acpi.battery.state running on battery shows 1, mains power shows 2
  • CPU frequency: powerd -v shows a range of between 800 & 2200.
    • dev.cpu.0.freq_levels:
      2200/81500 2000/65000 1800/48000 800/19000
    • dev.powernow.0.freq_settings:
      2200/81500 2000/65000 1800/48000 800/19000
  • sound: Works, (but crappy horrible sound on internal speakers compared with Toshiba Satellite), Sound is fine if taken from 3.5 mm jack at front & fed to a TV phono. It reports via8235, I use snd_via8233.ko via loader.conf

    Hardware manual (from cdrom from Mitac) says in spec. on page 111 of 117 : AC97 v.2.1 codec, Sound Blaster Pro compatible.

  • To Do Later
    • USB : Works with a mouse. Not tried further if 1 & 2 & which ports provide power (1 port on my Toshiba Satellite does not provide power)
    • mbmon does not work.
    • if powerd runs, & a load, eg ports build in progress, sysctl hw.acpi.thermal.tz0.temperature jumps from 47 to 75 !
      See note in article by Adrian Allen: Take a look at that crummy foil TIM joint! When I was peeling it off, it seemed to consist of a layer of thin foil with a thick waxy thermal compound under it. No thermal compound actually contacted the CPU.
    • Screen Brightness (Yellow Num Lock Function Keys Fn F6 & Fn F7 Do work work under BSD ! The difference is slight, as the bell beeps too, one first assumes the key is rejected, & one assumes no difference, pay more attention, there is a little difference at each key stroke. The bell beeps up to 7 times per direction, indicating 8 states. No difference visible on output from sysctl -a. Hardware manual on CDROM says: The display output might be set to an external device. To switch the display back to the LCD, press Fn+F5
    • cpu suspend/ resume: Not tried.
    • Memory (camera size) slot at front: Not tried.
    • Firewire: Not tried.
    • Parallel port: Not tried.
    • WiFi: Not tried. Hardware manual (from cdrom from Mitac) says in spec. on page 111 of 117 : IEEE 802.11b compliant.

External Links

  •   Dis- Assembly & Over clocking by Adrian Allen
  • Paul quotes a user manual (from where?) with :
    • ROM BIOS - 256 KB Flash EEPROM (includes system and VGA BIOS) RAM - 2 \xd7 200-pin DDR SO-DIMM socket for expansion, up to 1024 MB; supports PC 2100/2700/3200 specifications System Video - 64 MB
  • Linux page (More useful, with multiple real URLs, & no pseudonyms unlike some forums for MS users

    AMD Athlon 64 3000+, 1024MB RAM DDR, Hitachi DK23FB 40GB HDD, TEAC DV-W22E DVD-R/-RW, 15" XGA, 4xUSB (2.1), Intel 537 Modem, VIA Rhine-II 10/100 LAN, Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 3B LAN, VIA IEEE1394 (FireWire), 15" XGA Display, ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 NP, VIA 8235 Sound, ENE Technology Flashcard Reader. Xeron have upgraded the WLAN in this machine: now they ship with the 802.11g chipset from Intel: ProWireless 2200 BG.

    This machine seems to be also sold by Yakumo as Q8M Power64XD and by Bullman though I can't remember the model name. The OEM model behind all these seems to be the Mitac 8355.

    by Sebastian Henschel }

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