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HP Compaq CQ20 notebook and Ubuntu Linux – great combination

This year, one of my goals is to put more time into my site so I decided that I should get a smaller notebook than the Compaq C700 I have. This way I can easily carry around a computer and put more time into blogging. I considered buying a netbook but just couldn’t get myself used to the smaller 1024 by 600 resolutions that normally came along with such portables. So I started surfing the Internet sites of local computer shops for a 12-inch notebook instead of going for a netbook. I found that the 12-inch Lenovo G230 has decent specs and a fair price so I off I went to get one.

I’ve used an IBM notebook before and was quite satisfied with it’s quality. When IBM sold it’s notebook business to Lenovo I must admit that I sort of hesitated on the idea of getting a Lenovo notebook. When I got to the store, the notebook was out of stock and I decided to get the G430 instead and went home.

I’m now ready to install Ubuntu on the machine but when I turned it on the screen was blank and the LED lights were on. The next day I went to the computer shop and ask if there was any 12-inch HP/Compaq notebooks available. It so happen that there was a 12-inch HP Compaq Presario CQ20 notebook so I had the G230 replaced with the Compaq CQ20 instead.


Arriving home, I started installing the Ubuntu 8.04 into the machine using a USB flash installer created with Unetbootin. The install went fine but after a while I got convinced that the X driver for the Intel 4500 graphics unit was giving me a choppy performance.

I created another installer but this time for Ubuntu Intrepid. After testing it’s performance using the Live version, I finally went for the current Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid) release instead of staying with 8.04. The installation went smoothly without a glitch.

In fact I am so happy to have gotten the Compaq CQ20 notebook because the devices worked like a charm. I have ethernet, wifi (without any need for compiling drivers), web cam, DVD drive and sound all working. I had to make a simple config change to make the sound thru the speakers working — thanks to this post of another ubuntu user with a Compaq CQ20.

I modified my /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base and included the following line:

options snd-hda-intel model=laptop

And rebooted — now sound is working over the notebook speakers. The Compaq CQ20 notebook’s built-in bluetooth worked well with my bluetooth mouse. The connection didn’t have to be a pain like when I tried Ubuntu 8.10 on the Compaq C700.

The function keys are working, well almost — what’s with these brightness keys 🙂 . The wifi button and even the dedicated volume control found on the Compaq CQ20 is also working in Ubuntu Intrepid.

Dual monitor is now much better in Ubuntu Intrepid. Detecting and configuring my dual-head monitor setup was easy and I don’t have to make any manual config file changes unlike in Ubuntu Hardy.

I’ve installed most of the other software that I need on my new Compaq CQ20 notebook. For now I’m just enjoying the portable freedom of the CQ20 notebook / Ubuntu combination writing this blog entry.

Gerry Ilagan

Gerry Ilagan is into mobile apps and WordPress development at @speeqs. He loves to write about electronics, the Internet of Things, mobile phones, and #crazyideas.



Wow! Thanks for posting this! This is exactly what I needed to read. I bought my CQ20 last December and I’m very happy with it. But I am using Vista at the moment. I’ve been a long time user of Ubuntu and I wanted to install it on my CQ20 but I am hesitant because the webcam might not work.

Now, after reading your post.. I’m gonna be installing Ubuntu later. By the way, about the Fn keys, are the brightness adjust buttons the only buttons that are not working? and have you got a solution for it?



Hi Ben,

Quite happy with Ubuntu on my CQ20. The webcam works great with Cheese. The multimedia function keys, volume control and mute works.

Haven’t gotten some time to hack the brightness though. I found out that if I adjust the brightness just before Ubuntu starts to boot I am able to set the proper brightness for me so I find it not so much of an issue.


I also installed Ubuntu (8.10, Intrepid) on my CQ20 with 4GB, dual boot with the factory-installed Vista and on the same partition.
In addition to the abovementioned, I found:
– Only 3 of the 4GB RAM are recognized. This seems to be a feature, not a bug, of 32-bit OS (Vista does the same!). Well, my Ubuntu so far never neede more than 1.5GB.
– On top of that, only 1GB swap space is supported – again a 32-bit limitation. My Ubuntu never needed to swap so far, but hibernating (i.e. storing RAM data on swap partition) is obviously impossible if swap is smaller than RAM.
– By installing the Linux bootloader, you lose the Media Button function (the circular arrow at the left of the wireless button above the keyboard), which enables playing music CDs without booting the PC. This function cannot be restored, according to HP, even if you uninstall Linux and return to Vista only!
– Hibernating (to disk) does not work, see above. Suspend to RAM works sometimes and needs some work, which I haven’t done yet.
– When returning from suspend, cooling fans run at full speed. Plugging power in and/or out fixes this (impractical if you are on the road).
– Controlling display brightness does not work. Modified scripts in /etc/acpi (contact me if you need them) execute without problem, but sending the new setting to /proc/acpi/video/GFX0/DD04/brightness seems to have no effect on actual lighting.
– The following function keys do not work out of the box:
fn-f4 video out (“sudo setkeycodes e06e 227” fixes that)
fn-f5 sleep (“sudo setkeycodes 0xdf 205” or maybe “142” is supposed to fix it, but not reliable, see above)
fn-f6 lock does not generate a keypress event, so I haven’t found a way to use it
fn-f7, fn-f8 diaply brightness (“sudo setkeycodes e017 225” and “sudo setkeycodes e012 224” enables the buttons, but the problem lies elsewhere – see above)
Media Button does not generate a keypress event, so I haven’t found a way to use it
– The laptop runs 2.5hrs with the standard 4 cell battery – compared to 3.5hrs in Vista – due to display brightness always 100% and other power control limitations of Linux

I am interested in workarounds for the above issues.



Hey Gerry!

Ubuntu works great on my CQ20 as well. I found out that my webcam and mic works perfectly. Well the brightness issue isn’t that much of a problem for me since I mostly use my laptop at the office and its plugged in most of the time. But having a fix for it will be great though. I’m still researching on the matter now. I’ll let you know if I find something.



I just installed Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty) and it fixes the most important problems I mentioned above:
– Display brightness control and the related function keys (fn-f7 and fn-f8) work now
– Fan control works now
– Suspension works now (also with function key fn-F5), but hibernation not (same reason as above)
The other issues mentioned above remain. Battery life should be much better now, because display brightness and fan speed work now, but I haven’t tested that yet.
Fazit: Progress, but not on all fronts!


Hi Frank,

Just got my copy of Jaunty and will be upgrading this weekend. Nice to hear a lot of improvements. Hope the upgrade will be a breeze. 🙂



After getting nuts of all viruses in windows I installed Ubuntu 10.10 on my Compaq CQ20, it works perfect but only one disadvantage, the temperature of the laptop, for some unknown reasons the laptop becomes very hot, after some hours the performance drops.

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