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testing a laptop with pretty new hardware

Here you can post about what you did to get MEPIS to work right with your computer or if hardware worked right out of the box for you. This is for the computers and/or hardware that is normally hard to get working right in Linux or MEPIS.
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testing a laptop with pretty new hardware


Post by asqwerth » Sun Mar 20, 2016 9:06 am

Today I checked out a nearby computer shop that assembled their own laptops, because I learnt that you could order one without an OS from them. While their focus was on gamers who were willing to pay for a customised setup with the latest and greatest in hardware, they offered an 'entry-level' (from a gamer's viewpoint) laptop at a reasonable price. I don't game at all, so I thought it was likely such a machine would be more than enough for my run-of-the-mill usage.

I don't really need a new laptop right now since my ASUS still works (albeit with lousy battery consumption and high heat), but I was curious about how their laptops looked and worked in real life. I'm hoping my next laptop doesn't come preinstalled with Windows, so this shop is certainly an option to explore.

I went with my usual easy2boot multiboot live USB, but I didn't really check to ensure I had the latest versions of all the usual distros I run. I knew it had my recent snapshot of my MX15 image with 4.3-3 liquorix kernel, and I had the latest Mint 17.3 XFCE iso.

The shop's demo units were all running Windows 10, but they were happy to let me try one for Linux compatibility. They stressed though that Linux users had to check hardware driver compatibility themselves because that's not their area of expertise, particularly since the hardware they used tended to be fairly new.

Specs - Intel i7 6700HQ CPU, NVIDIA Geforce GTX 950M graphics card, Intel 3165 wireless chipset.

Plugged in the USB, and the machine just ignored it and booted into Windows 10 because of secure boot. They helped me disable secure boot and the Windows boot manager, after which the USB ran.

Oh boy. The Intel chipset was a killer for all but MX15. Until this experiment, I had never considered that wireless chipsets might be a problem if they were too new. I knew one had to check graphics card and CPU/motherboard compatibility, but assumed that Intel stuff would generally work. Learnt something new today.

I can happily announce that MX15 really works (wifi, graphics, sound, youtube/flash), but then it was running the 4.3.3 liquorix kernel. After today, I now know that the drivers for Intel 3165 are only found in the kernel from version 4.1 onwards. I assume that since the official MX15 64-bit image comes with kernel 4.2, it should work.

Mint 17.3 (kernel 3.19, released Jan 2016) booted up to the XFCE desktop. Looked fine except it couldn't find the wifi chipset and only registered the ethernet connection.

I then tried an early 32-bit preview iso of Kanotix Spitfire (Jessie) dated around May 2014. The kernel was only 3.14 (official Spitfire release has kernel 3.16). I give Kano lots of props for the distro nicely booting to the KDE desktop using the "gfxdetect" boot option, but it also couldn't find the wifi chipset.

After that I tried an Apricity Dec 2015 beta iso on the USB, but it couldn't even boot up, and had some sort of kernel panic. This was essentially an Arch Linux image preconfigured with serious eye candy, but a December image should be having a 4.2 or 4.3+ kernel, I think.

I only had an old Manjaro 0.8.11 32-bit iso (Arch derivative, kernel 3.16, released Dec 2014). It also couldn't even boot up to the desktop, whether using the free or non-free video drivers boot options. If I ever go again, I'll bring along the latest Manjaro image to give it a fair go.

All in all, I had an interesting time and this continues to reinforce my view that MX (and antiX) work really well even on new hardware, and that the skill of a distro's developers makes a big difference.
Desktop: Intel i5-4460, 16GB RAM, Intel integrated graphics
Clevo N130WU-based Ultrabook: Intel i7-8550U (Kaby Lake R), 16GB RAM, Intel integrated graphics (UEFI)
ASUS X42D laptop: AMD Phenom II, 6GB RAM, Mobility Radeon HD 5400

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