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!


  1. Wat de fonts betreft, was in de "Displays" settings de "Scale for menu and title bars" wijzigen niet voldoende? Op mijn internal 2880*1620 en external 4k scherm werkt dit perfect.

  2. I missed that setting apparently :-)
    It works, but has the negative side effect that everything becomes bigger, not just the fonts but also all other UI elements.

  3. Thanks for the good little write-up!

    The ubuntu hardware specs say that hibernate doesn't work on this system.

    Have you had any problem with that? I do a lot of work around town going to various locations so would like the computer to handle these things properly. As it is now, I'm fully shutting down my current laptop in order to prevent problems. I really want to get away from that.

    Also, the touch button problem seems to have been fixed by a systemd update according to what I'm reading here, It looks like that may have been around the same time as your initial writing of this blog post. Have you seen that working now?

    1. Well, I don't think 'hibernate' exists anymore. It's now just "suspend" and it works fine: I never restart my laptop and always suspend it by simply closing the lid and waking it up by opening it again. I haven't noticed any problems with that so far.

      The trackpad was working fine for my right from the start: left click, right click, two-finger scrolling, ... everything basically.

      The only other problem I've seen is graphics glitches, mainly with Unity. Nothing to bad so I haven't been digging any deeper and I'm hoping this will resolved in Ubuntu 15.04.

  4. I also have a WQHD display for my X1C3. My text looks tiny :( . 1.25 as text scaling factor was fine for you? It looks very tiny for me. Also when I use alt+tab to shift between windows, the complete name of the application is being hidden. Have you faced such issues?

  5. Make sure you're running the latest Ubuntu. That will make the whole process a breeze.
    For me setting "Scale for menu and title bar" to 1,25 is fine. But of course that's partly a personal preference.
    I have no idea what you're talking about with the alt-tab. I've been alt-tabbing between windows just now and as far as I can tell this is working perfectly.