I first introduced the Qualcomm laptop in a previous blog post. But much has changed since then. I went to Bristol to chat to one of the lead developers, Lee Jones, and fulfill the dream of a lifetime: attend a Linux install fest.
Laptops are a hugely popular choice for developers. They are portable and powerful enough to run all the applications needed on a daily basis. Linux offers a further benefit: the tools and applications are typically freely licensed, which means they can be modified (if needed), built and released without needing to align with a third-party.
Linux install parties feel less common now than they were in olden times. They are so uncommon that I had to arrange my own in order to find one.
Modern Linux distributions download to a USB stick, boot without issue, resize existing OS partitions, install their boot loaders and maintain any pre-existing OS that was present before you chose to install Linux. Nevertheless, we were playing with a new platform in the form of the Lenovo Yoga C630 so I thought it made sense to invite Lee and some of his colleagues from Linaro along to help out and provide commentary.
I started using Linux in my spare time when serving in Bosnia in 2003. In a subsequent tour to Iraq, I mobilized specifically to work as a Network Engineer/System Administrator. That path led me to The University of the West of England, where I studied Computing for Real-time Systems, which was centered mostly around Linux.
I love the configurability and the fact that everything is available from the standard repositories. For instance, I need an File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server. This is trivial in Linux: install, add configuration, start the service. I like the control and dominance that you have over the entire operating system. The intrinsic openness means I can change things I dislike and fix errors as I encounter them.
That’s easy, it's Ubuntu. Although I must confess a bias as I joined Canonical as my second role out of University. That position involved developing and supporting the Linux kernel for the Arm based TI Beagle and Panda development boards.
We still haven’t dominated the desktop. This is a shame because Linux is huge in all other aspects: right from the smallest to the very largest platforms, microwaves to supercomputers. My father now uses Linux, as it’s easier for me to administer and maintain remotely. He bought a new laptop recently and his first request for me was to install Ubuntu because he couldn’t work out the complexities of Windows. I think the problem is not the maturity of the platform, but the resistance to change.
I have now!
Future firmware updates will probably be made available through the pre-installed Windows 10, so it is probably a good idea to maintain the installation. To do this, dual boot is the best way forward, but with Linux as the default.
There are a few options at the time of writing:
The first thing that struck me about the laptop is the form factor. It is thin, light and they keyboard is very usable. I love the fact that it runs on AArch64 and the possibilities for developing Arm-on-Arm it brings. Overall, it is a really nicely designed and developed machine. It will be even better if we can enable all of its features.
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So what's the best advice to the owner of a C630 who wants to occasionally use Linux? I bought the thing primarily to use while travelling; it's perfect for checking email or watching Netflix. I don't like Windows but I can deal with it. The problem is that I sometimes need to connect to my company's VPN, and the castrated version of Windows 10 won't let me.
I've successfully booted Ubuntu off a USB stick (not without difficulties - it seems that many USB sticks won't work) with the image you describe as 'Dimitri's installer', but the Wifi adapter wasn't working, which is a deal breaker. I clicked on the Linaro link but I don't know what to look for; would the Wifi even work with that module?
In short, nice article but it did not help me much.
Thanks for the feedback. Occasional Linux use is probably best covered by Windows Subsystem for Linux, or using the 'live disk'. I think you've made the right judgement with your setup today.
Built-in wifi is unstable today and not included in any of the convenience installers or pre-built images today. Stabilizing the wifi is in progress.
I have installed Linux using Dmitri's installer' and dual boot. I have a wifi dongle connected by a USB-C adapter (I have been unable to find a USB-C wifi dongle). I've updated to Ubuntu 19.10 and enabled GPU and I now have a practical platform for my needs. However, there are some snags (including re-compiling the kernel) that can be time consuming that I hit along the way... mostly these are documented in the pages you may be familiar with and in open and closed issues here:
There have been some quirks observed with USB support (some sticks not working, some only working on one of the physical ports). If I remember correctly, these seemed to resolve with a windows update that pulled in new firmware.
The volunteers involved in bringing this platform to the public are following best practice and worked with the upstream kernel from the start. What will happen in time is that the distros will update their packages and acquire support for this platform. As this happens many of today's challenges will disappear. If you want to run Linux but don't have the time to spare today, I suggest you subscribe to the Github project and mailing list to watch for developments until the time is right for you to jump in!