A mostly working Lenovo x230 running Ubuntu and Gnome3: Two weeks later

I’ve been planning to switch to a Linux laptop for a while, either for work or as my own laptop aged out. So, joining Mozilla was the perfect opportunity to switch over. And, I’m happy to report that I’m fully converted, enduring a few bugs that need some help, and seriously considering Gentoo to handle all the weird driver issues I’ve got.

Overall, I’m liking the new setup. It’s easier to install all the developer stuff I need like new versions of Python or PostgreSQL. Having real package management instead of adhoc messy MESS of installers is an incredible relief.

I’m using Firefox for my primary browser instead of Chrome, which has made me realize how broken lots of websites I look at regularly are for most people. Also, I am exploring more plugins as a result.

My favorite feature in the Gnome window manager (and lots of window managers support this) is the ability to automatically snap windows to 1/2 or full size with the ‘window’ and arrow keys. It saves an incredible amount of time vs using a mouse to resize.

Unfortunately, I lost the epic rundown of all the problems I encountered on installation, as I encountered them. I can sum up with: the experience of desktop linux has significantly degraded in the seven or so years since I last tried to have a linux laptop as my primary workstation. Talking with friends about this has caused several to remark that Apple got it right with tightly controlling vendors and having full control over the hardware used with it’s operating system. Without a real commitment from a vendor toward supporting drivers, the situation seems unlikely to improve. I think the strongest hope for this is ZaReason, but they weren’t an option for my corporate laptop.

Here’s a few tidbits that might be helpful to a future x230 owner, wanting to run Ubuntu:

I’m running 12.04, Precise Pangolin.

Installed from an Ubuntu netinstall image created with: http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/.

Here are a bunch of ppas I used, from my /etc/apt/sources.d directory:

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/andreas-diesner/lightdm-fix-temporary/ubuntu precise main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/andreas-diesner/lightdm-fix-temporary/ubuntu precise main
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/andreas-diesner/lightdm-fix-temporary/ubuntu precise main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/andreas-diesner/lightdm-fix-temporary/ubuntu precise main
deb http://linux.dropbox.com/ubuntu precise main
deb http://linux.dropbox.com/ubuntu precise main
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/fkrull/deadsnakes/ubuntu precise main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/fkrull/deadsnakes/ubuntu precise main
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/fkrull/deadsnakes/ubuntu precise main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/fkrull/deadsnakes/ubuntu precise main
### THIS FILE IS AUTOMATICALLY CONFIGURED ###
# You may comment out this entry, but any other modifications may be lost.
deb http://dl.google.com/linux/musicmanager/deb/ stable main
### THIS FILE IS AUTOMATICALLY CONFIGURED ###
# You may comment out this entry, but any other modifications may be lost.
deb http://dl.google.com/linux/musicmanager/deb/ stable main
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/hannes-janetzek/enlightenment-svn/ubuntu precise main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/hannes-janetzek/enlightenment-svn/ubuntu precise main
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/hannes-janetzek/enlightenment-svn/ubuntu precise main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/hannes-janetzek/enlightenment-svn/ubuntu precise main
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/pitti/postgresql/ubuntu precise main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/pitti/postgresql/ubuntu precise main
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/pitti/postgresql/ubuntu precise main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/pitti/postgresql/ubuntu precise main
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/upubuntu-com/chat/ubuntu precise main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/upubuntu-com/chat/ubuntu precise main
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/upubuntu-com/chat/ubuntu precise main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/upubuntu-com/chat/ubuntu precise main

There’s a painful lightdm problem fixed by a package the first source in the above list.

I also compiled a new kernel for myself to try to fix a bad video flickering problem I’m having with my external monitor. Jury’s out on that – the flickering hasn’t entirely gone away, and it doesn’t happen to my coworker who’s got a x220 and is running Gentoo, but a different kernel.

Also, my video camera doesn’t work, and I actually need it. Skype seems to work ok for voice, but not video. Vidyo, however, doesn’t work at all.

Wish list for the future:

  • Camera working
  • A Skitch replacement
  • Vidyo working
  • A package for my .bash_profile, .ssh and .gpg directories that I can install in any new system
  • A better driver for the touchpad that doesn’t let my mouse jump around while I’m typing (Yes, I have already enabled the feature, and it doesn’t work so great. Friends suggested it might be a hardware limitation.)
  • Change configuration to have the mouse behave like the latest OS X (reverse scrolling)

Here’s a few other sites that helped me out:

And, I don’t recommend trying out Enlightenment as your only window manager on your first try. You’ll need something else anyway to get your wireless configured, and if you do something stupid like trying to install ‘econnman’ and you blindly say ‘yes’ to uninstalling some packages you don’t know anything about, you’ll end up accidentally removing your wireless devices. So, start with Gnome, read up and switch to E later.

14 thoughts on A mostly working Lenovo x230 running Ubuntu and Gnome3: Two weeks later

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  1. Sad to hear the out-of-box experience with Ubuntu on the X230 was so bad. I was really pleasantly surprised early this year when I bought a cheap “open box” T420s from Newegg and dropped 12.04 on it: basically everything worked, including the WiFi, audio, webcam, and power management.

    I’ve since been lured back to the Apple world by the screen on the Retina MBP (OMG so many lovely pixels!) but I still miss “apt-get install ” just working. Debian (and later) Ubuntu have been my go-to hacking environments since roughly 2001, and OS X is still way behind when it comes to low-friction package management.

    • Friends tell me that the biggest issue is that the hardware combination is a bit new, so there’s no real guide complete yet for using these things. I am finally seeing new blog posts and comments pop up about this laptop, so I imagine by January, most of the kinks will be smoothed out. Someday, we’ll get desktop hardware vendors that care about Linux.

  2. Have you given Arch a look? It’s been running mostly-drama-free on my x200. ps… I really miss E it was my goto WM for so many years, then I got hooked on xmonad. I should install E again and just play, it was fun.

    • A couple people have recommended Arch. One thing I left out is that I tried to immediately switch from my Air to the x230, which was pretty disasterous the first day. :D I’m finally feeling productive about a week into putting my Air away – which provoked the blog post. I’ll give Arch a try after I’ve settled in a bit more. Thanks!

  3. It’s a shame that you were stuck with Lenovo. I was recently in the market for a laptop and wanted something that would run RedHat Enterprise 6 with everything working. I am fortunate enough to live in the same city as a Micro Center (actually, the original Micro Center), and they were more than happy to allow me to boot their laptops with a Live CD.

    I was looking at a Lenovo, but none of the Lenovo units in my price range had working WiFi or audio with CentOS. I ended up buying an HP Pavillion.

    • A few reasons:
      * I work on free and open source software and like to support other similarly licensed software
      * I’d been using the same operating system for many years and didn’t want to be stuck in a rut
      * Installing and upgrading system-level software like databases is not great on a Mac, but really really awesome on Linux
      * I mostly work with databases

  4. There is balance in the universe.

    I’m too weeks into owning my first mac – I wanted a retina display a lot. I hate going back to downloading from web pages and running installers, it feels so primitive… but running an Ubuntu server VM lets me approximate having an osx gui and a linux when I open a shell.

  5. The hannes-janetzek repo is extremely out of date. The latest Debian-based repo for E17 can be found here: http://ppa.launchpad.net/efl/trunk/ubuntu precise. Greatly recommended if you’re still using E (or just want to play with an updated build) and Hannes is part of the team working to have this repo stay up to date. Just be sure to remove the packages from the first repo and remove/rename ~/.e or you will have problems; they’re surprisingly incompatible. The newest repo also doesn’t have all the modules and plug-ins yet, but it is currently still an (amazing) alpha build of E17. I just kind of miss some of the extra modules the other repo offered, but not enough to keep using it.

  6. for the touchpad part, I think you can simply have it disabled, if you don’t use it all. Search for the “touchpad” in the “dconf editor”