hardware, linux

Dell XPS 9350 + Ubuntu 16.04 (beta1, Feb 27th)

February 27, 2016

Summary

I have been DYING to try Mir every since it was announced. Moving X forward, new libinput integrated for a solid touchpad experience .. the entire thing is very exciting. Since I’m lucky enough to have a System76 Galago Ultrapro AND Dell XPS 13 9350 I figured I’d try to install 16.04beta1 (ubuntu/unity) on my XPS. I figured if it blew the laptop up I have another daily driver I can use.’

EDIT 2/28/2016 – I have the XPS 9350 1080p i5 no touchscreen model with broadcom wifi.

NOTE 4/7/2016: Read the comments for good feedback from others trying. Luis noted: “..before attempting to install one needs to boot and in the BIOS configure SATA-controller to AHCI (or Off).”. He also noted there’s a bug for the screen flicker issue.

Installation

I downloaded the nightly iso from here and burned it to a thumb drive with the ‘Startup Disk Creator’ app in Ubuntu. Plugged it into the XPS and rebooted, selected the USB drive and off I went.

Wifi

Wifi was detected immediately during the installation, that was a huge sign for me since I have the Broadcom chip in my XPS, which historically has not been supported on linux at all until the 4.3/4.4 kernels. Good news is it’s working like a champ.

Display

The display looks as good as ever, no issues at all during the installation.

Special Keys/Touchpad/Keyboard

Everything “just worked” during installation.

Installation Wrapup

Everything worked flawlessly. I even installed using UEFI (when I was running 15.10 I had turned this off in the BIOS and was using ‘legacy’ mode). Now onto the details of how it’s running after installation.

Post-Installation

Mir

After installation the first thing I wanted to do was install Mir and test it out. I installed it using the following

sudo apt-get -y update && sudo apt-get -y dist-upgrade && sudo apt-get -y unity8-desktop-session-mir

On reboot I clicked the little ubuntu icon above and to the right of my username and changed it to the mir ‘8’ (looks like an 8-ball to me). I logged in and … nothing. Dunno what happened, I rebooted the laptop and logged in again and this time it logged in! (…..and looked terrible).

The resolution was screwed up, I couldn’t launch anything … to me it looked like it thought it was in some sort of phone or tablet mode. I have no idea and I couldn’t adjust anything so I quickly gave up. Oh well, I’ll keep trying as they get closer to release.

Other Software

The other things I normally do on a new installation are install chrome, dropbox, libinput.

Chrome

You can quickly install chrome using the following

cd ~/Downloads
wget https://dl.google.com/linux/direct/google-chrome-stable_current_amd64.deb && sudo dpkg -i google-chrome-stable_current_amd64.deb && sudo apt-get -f -y install

I ended up needing the ‘apt-get -f install’ to correct dependencies … seemed to work fine and chrome was immediately available from the launcher.

Dropbox

You can quickly install dropbox using the following

cd ~/Downloads
wget -O - "https://www.dropbox.com/download?plat=lnx.x86_64" | tar xzf -
sudo dpkg -i dropbox_2015.10.28_amd64.deb && sudo apt-get -y install python-gtk2 && sudo apt-get -f -y install

Libinput

You can use my steps from my StackOverflow post here. Vote my answer up if you used it. 🙂

External Monitor

I was hoping the external monitor worked, and does … sorta.

I bought this cable before and it worked… and still does. But I could only get the monitor to turn on when the laptop was unplugged from the power supply. And I had to unplug the external monitor cable from the laptop a couple times THEN it would come up. Then I could plug in the laptop to the power supply and everything worked fine (I’m using it now to type in this blog post).

So I certainly still recommend the cable, just make sure you unplug the power connector from the laptop, then plug the external monitor cable into the USB-C, then once the monitor is on you can plug the power connector back in.

It’s weird .. but it worked and I’m not complaining too much honestly.

UPDATE: 4/7/2016 – External monitor no longer works. Hoping by release things are back to working.

Wrapup

I’d call this a roaring success honestly. With the very notable exception of Mir, everything else on the laptop works 100% out of the box (including Unity 7). Mir will stabilize … but not having to mess around with wifi drivers or skylake processor issues by installing kernels by hand is a WONDERFUL success for 16.04 for me.

Let me know in the comments if you have good experiences installing 16.04.

EDIT: Well, after I rebooted I can’t get to a login screen. 🙂 I unplugged external monitor … unplugged power cable .. rebooted a couple times. No dice. THAT’S NOT GOOD!! 🙂 Nice thing is I can get to a terminal windows and it has wifi so I can keep updating with ‘apt-get’ and see how things evolve. So for now don’t upgrade if you want a working laptop … YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!

LAST EDIT! Everything is good. It was the libinput settings file. I adjusted my stackoverflow post to include a couple more lines and things are booting fine.

23 Comments

  • Reply Yngve February 28, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    I tried Ubuntu 16.04 today (Feb 28) on my XPS 9350 QHD with no luck. First I ran into the bank screen after boot into Ubuntu live disk. I then added “nomodeset” into the boot parameter and manage to come into a Ubuntu screen but some dialog windows were flickering, and I was unable to come past that point.

    • Reply Jim Basilio February 28, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      Huh. I wonder if the touchscreen uses different drivers or something. I didn’t set anything on the bootloader. I purposely tried to be as vanilla as possible. Rats.

      • Reply Yngve February 28, 2016 at 5:12 pm

        Yes, it must be problems with the display drivers. I will stay on 15.10 for now. Thanks for the really good guides you have here on 9350! They have been a good help for me.

        • Reply Jim Basilio February 28, 2016 at 6:17 pm

          I’m glad they’ve helped! If you try again and see changes be sure to post back.

  • Reply David March 13, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Do you have any issue with the screen flickering? I just installed the beta and it’s happening often but irregularly. The screen blanks out for a tiny period then comes back. Sometimes this happens many times in a row, sometimes it’s fine for minutes at a time.

    I noted one bug logged on launchpad though that seems to be related to lightdm, and I was getting that with the alpha. This is very different.

    • Reply Jim Basilio March 13, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      I don’t have a screen blanking problem but I will get some lines shown now and again. It’s not horrible and I figure it’ll work itself out but it is something I’ve noticed.

      I WAS having an issue with suspend/resume not working until updates went through a few days ago that have resolved that issue.

      • Reply David March 14, 2016 at 4:00 pm

        Suspend worked in the alpha, I’ve not tried it with the beta yet. I’d very much like to get Hibernate working too, but that failed (and so did the subsequent logging of the failure 🙂

      • Reply David March 15, 2016 at 4:52 am

        Seems the flickering issue is related to the Mate DE only. Running Unity there are no problems.

        • Reply Jim Basilio March 15, 2016 at 5:33 am

          Huh, interesting. I was seeing flickering within chrome .. maybe it was something related to chrome specifically. I dunno but I don’t feel like I notice it anymore so I guess it’s not an issue.

          And my suspend/resume is still working like a champ too – so seems like things are stabilizing.

          Thanks for reporting back about the flicking in Mate DE .. hopefully that gets squared away quickly.

          Thanks.
          Jim

        • Reply Jim Basilio March 15, 2016 at 5:41 am

          I think I see what it is … when there’s a ‘html5 player’ running in chrome and I move the mouse around I’ll see flickering in random other parts of the page. Weird corner case but hopefully it gets worked out too.

          • Luca May 7, 2016 at 8:22 am

            It seems to start flickering when turning off bluetooth, turning on again it seems go back to normality.

          • Jim Basilio May 7, 2016 at 8:26 am

            Odd. I think it’s an X thing since I’ve seen it on my system76 galago ulrapro as well. I don’t know if it isn’t happening anymore or I’ve just started to ignore/not-see it in my brain but I haven’t noticed it for awhile. Hopefully it’s something that is fixed quickly if it’s still out there. Thanks for the report.

            Jim

  • Reply David March 16, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    In my case, it was simply the Mate DE. I didn’t even get as far as installing Chrome. And whilst Unity works, I really don’t like the vanilla Ubuntu DE. So I’ve been using Xubuntu for a couple of days, which is OK, though I’ve had the mouse pointer simply stop working a couple of times, which I can’t get to the bottom of and report back.

    It’s getting there though.

  • Reply Shahidh March 20, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    Were you able to get it working after upgrade? Because I am stuck with no login screen after an apt-get upgrade.

    • Reply Jim Basilio March 20, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      Yes. I updated as recently as last night and everything is running great actually. Are you using Unity for your desktop environment?

      • Reply Shahidh March 21, 2016 at 9:52 am

        Hey Jim, yesterday’s upgrade worked fine and everything is running now. I’m using GNOME as desktop env.

        Btw, are you facing any problem with the CPU fan. I am observing that it is not turning on at all and the laptop is getting pretty hot (especially the base). I tried using i8kmon, but its throwing an error:

        $ sudo modprobe -v i8k
        insmod /lib/modules/4.4.0-14-generic/kernel/drivers/hwmon/dell-smm-hwmon.ko
        modprobe: ERROR: could not insert ‘dell_smm_hwmon’: No such device

        Also, lm-sensors are not reporting Fan speed at all. Any idea on this?

        • Reply Jim Basilio March 21, 2016 at 11:09 am

          Wow I have not noticed the fan at all. It’s been quite and I’ve attributed that to the great skylake improvements but I’ll check things out and let you know. If the fan isn’t turning on and it should be, I could be cooking it to death. Thanks for the warning! Will report back.

          Jim

          • Hannes April 27, 2016 at 11:25 am

            Did you encounter this problem? Or maybe anyone has a come up with a solution?
            I listened very closely to the device and heated the CPU up to about 85°C and there was no indication that the fan is running. The temperature should be high enough for the fan to kick in, right?

            When trying to use i8kmon I encounter the same problem as Shahidh. Additionally dmesg tells me the XPS 13 is not a supported Dell device Oo

            Cheers,
            Hannes

          • Jim Basilio April 27, 2016 at 7:27 pm

            I ran “while :; do :; done” in 5 different terminal windows and the fan kicked on after a few seconds. My CPUs were all 100% loaded …. once the fan started screaming bloody murder I killed all the terminals and the fan spun down quickly and the system went silent again.

        • Reply Jim Basilio April 27, 2016 at 7:26 pm

          FYI I ran a CPU stress test by running “while :; do :; done” in 5 different terminal windows. Fan kicked on right away so everything is working fine there.

          Jim

  • Reply Luís April 5, 2016 at 11:31 am

    Thx for sharing your experience Jim.
    It encouraged me to try and everything is just fine.
    May I suggest you to mention that before attempting to install one needs to boot and in the BIOS configure SATA-controller to AHCI (or Off).

    LC

    • Reply Jim Basilio April 5, 2016 at 11:58 am

      I’ll add this note, glad things are working out for you! If the external monitor gets fixed prior to 16.04 being released I think this is just about a perfect setup for most folks.

      I do wonder if external monitor works with their “official” dev shipping laptops… Would be curious if someone had one.

      Thanks.
      Jim

    • Reply Luís April 7, 2016 at 11:51 am

      UPDATE (7/Apr/2016): Two problems so far
      1 – Screen flickers randomly like reported in https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/1565234
      with BIOS 1.3.3, Ubuntu daily updated and kernel 4.6.0-040600rc2-generic
      2 – function keys do not work as expected. Most of them (sound, screen light, keyboard light) do not need Fn key, and Alt+F1 does not do what is expected in Ubuntu, as well as Fn+PrtScr which should turn WiFi on/off and doesn’t.

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