Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ubuntu 14.10 on Lenovo X1 Carbon 3rd Generation

I just switched my main laptop from an Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A to a Lenovo X1 Carbon 3rd generation (the 2015 model). Since I always run Ubuntu, I got started wiping the hard disk and installing Ubuntu 14.10 as the main operating system.

Although installing Linux on brand new hardware like the Lenovo X1 Carbon can be a hairy adventure, it turned out to be a pretty smooth ride. I thought I'd share what I had to do to get to an (almost) fully functional system.

  • The first snag I hit was trying to boot the Ubuntu 14.10 startup USB disk. I was greeted with a somewhat unnerving "gfxboot.c32: not a COM32R image" message and a "boot:" prompt. A quick search brought me to Ask Ubuntu: simply type "live" at the prompt and hit enter. You'll boot into the Live CD where you can start the installation.
    I haven't seen other people running Ubuntu 14.10 on their X1 Carbon complain about this, so I'm not sure why I ran into this problem.
  • The next issue I faced was the brightness function keys not working. Some more web searching revealed an Arch Linux thread compiling a number of issues people had encountered trying to run Linux on the 3rd generation X1 Carbon. Fixing the function key problem was again easy: just force the thinkpad_acpi module to load:
    echo thinkpad_acpi > /etc/modules-load.d/thinkpad_acpi.conf
    echo "options thinkpad_acpi force_load=1" > /etc/modprobe.d/thinkpad_acpi.conf 
  • My laptop sports a fancy 2560 x 1440 WQHD display ("1440p"). That's great and all but with the default Ubuntu fonts text gets really tiny. Working around that involved installing the unity-tweak-tool and setting the Text scaling factor to "1,20" (explained here). I also set the default "Page zoom" to 125% in Google Chrome.
And that's about it as far as I'm concerned. There are a few more things not working properly, like the track-point buttons or fingerprint reader, but these are things I never use so I didn't bother fixing those.

So far the system has been really sweet! The hardware seems up-to-par with my previous ThinkPad which I owned many years ago (a real IBM ThinkPad X40): really rugged feel and a superb keyboard. Combine this with good Linux support and you've got a winning combination!