Archives for posts with tag: graphics

This post continues this earlier post.

It is with great regret that I abandon the Linux ship. I have returned to Windows following a week or so of piling issues faced by my ThinkPad E460, from the graphics processor to the SD card slot and the power management.

This was my total list off issues by the end:

  • Limited to no AMD graphics support in Mint 18
  • Constant crashing in Mint 18
  • No support for WiFi out of the box in Mint 17.3
  • No support for the SD card slot out of the box in Mint 17.3
  • Updated kernel in Mint 17.3 supported WiFi and SD slot but lost AMD graphics controls
  • Updated kernel preventing sleep and/or waking from sleep
  • Woeful power management, battery lasting no more than two and half hours

While I did manage to get everything working, aside from ideal power management, at no point did everything work at the same time. I am not the type of person who can live with a problem that is not currently causing an issue, everything must be ready to work straight away and I think it was that, ultimately, that sent me back to Windows.

The disappointing thing is that I am fairly sure that Mint 18, the latest release based on Ubuntu 16.04, would offer much greater support for my hardware, but its lack of support for AMD has turned me away.

It needs to be said that Windows 10 is far from ideal, also. While everything works at the same time, and my current expected battery life is eight hours, it is a resource hog and horribly controlling. The memory usage right now is two and a half gigabytes while the same usage on Linux Mint 17.3 Xfce would be much less, somewhere around 500 megabytes.

I have ‘uninstalled’ Get Office and Get Skype three times now, but they keep coming back. There is no way to disable Cortana in the latest update, 21 programmes were allowed to run in the background by default and there are so many privacy settings, it would be great to have one option to switch everything off.

In a few years, if support for AMD has been developed, I will return this laptop to Linux. And, despite my opening sentence, I will continue to experiment with Linux on my desktop computer.

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Linux Mint 17.3 Xfce

I have been running Linux Mint 17.3 Xfce on my old Dell Latitude D830 for more than a year. The laptop would have been useless without Linux, which is free in most cases, as Windows XP is no longer supported, but it got to a point where the performance of the laptop became too much of a drag and it is now barely capable of anything more than the worst Chromebooks.

Installing and using Mint from last year has been my first real experience with Linux. The Xfce desktop environment is lightweight, easy to customise and Mint comes with so much software out of the box that it is really just a grab-and-go experience. It became my default operating system since it was more comfortable to sit on the couch with a laptop than sit at my desk with my desktop PC. I was so impressed by it that I offered to revive old school laptops sitting in the cupboards of family and friends and I put a terrible old tower under the television, which is only ever turned on to show the whole family the weather forecast.

So when I decided to buy a new laptop I had no hesitation in throwing away Windows 10, for which there are great privacy concerns and ever decreasing control of your own device, and installing the latest Linux Mint release.

The laptop I bought was the Lenovo ThinkPad E460 on special for $999 AUD. It came with an Intel Core i7 6500U processor, eight gigabytes of RAM, a 256-gigabyte SATA three SSD and an AMD Radeon R7 M360 two-gigabyte graphics processor that runs alongside Intel integrated graphics.

Those in the know may have just spotted a problem. The latest Linux Mint release, Linux Mint 18, does not support many AMD graphics processors anymore, or more accurately, Ubuntu 16.04, on which Mint 18 is based, no longer supports AMD. I knew this was the case before I bought a new laptop, but somehow I had come to think that it was only old AMD graphics processors that were no longer supported, something you might find in a desktop from 2007.

I started by installing Linux Mint 18 Xfce. The first problem I encountered was Secure Boot, which is a feature of UEFI (a different sort of BIOS or something). Secure Boot needs to be disabled for many Linux operating systems. Mint had me enter a password that I would need to repeat to disable Secure Boot, but when it came to repeating it the interface was completely alien, it seemed to be asking for the sixth, then the 10th then the eighth character of the password which I did not understand until it was too late and the whole thing failed.

Not to worry, I entered the UEFI(?), let us just call it the BIOS, and disabled Secure Boot the easy way. I installed Mint 18 again. After login I connected to WiFi and installed available updates. I then went to the Driver Manager which did not show my AMD graphics processor. My stomach sank and then the laptop froze. I did a ‘soft off’ (held the power button down for four seconds) and logged back in, but it froze again almost instantly. And again, and again.

I installed Mint 18 a third time, but first I let the ‘medium’ check for errors which was an option from the boot screen. There were no errors, but the computer froze again and again until I gave in and downloaded Mint 17.3 Cinnamon.

AMD is supported in 17.3, which is based on Ubuntu 14.04. The install went perfectly, but after login I noticed that I had no WiFi option nor were than any WiFi drivers in the Driver Manager (but AMD was there phew). I did some Googling, via Ethernet, and found I was not the only person with the issue. It appears that the WiFi card in modern computers is not supported by the Linux kernel in Ubuntu 14.04. It was at this point that I seriously considered going back to Windows 10, but happily I found this step-by-step procedure by Gary Newell that ‘backported’ the newer Linux kernel, or at least enough of it to fix the problem. The fix had to be undertaken in the Terminal (Command Prompt), of which I am a complete novice, but since it was just a copy and paste procedure, it was quite easy. Thank-you, Gary.

Why I decided to install the Cinnamon desktop instead of Xfce I have no idea, but I nearly instantly regretted my decision. The ThinkPad I bought has a full HD 1080 by 1920 display, which is beautiful, but everything is very small and the Cinnamon desktop included in 17.3 doesn’t have an option to increase the number of dots per inch (DPI). The Windows 10 DPI was somewhere between 125 and 150, anything less and you need a magnifying glass to see everything.

So, fifth time lucky, I went back and got Linux Mint 17.3 Xfce that has an option to alter the font DPI and permits many more customisations that Cinnamon appears not to. And I repeated the WiFi fix.

Looking back, I was an idiot not to do a simple Google search for, “AMD R7 M360 Ubuntu 16.04,” I would have known straight away that it was not supported and I probably would not have bought the laptop. Of course I cannot know for sure that it was the unsupported graphics causing the laptop to freeze, but even so, I would not have wanted a useless graphics processor. To add salt to the wound, three or four days after I ordered the E460, Lenovo released the E470 which has Nvidia graphics!

But looking forward, 17.3 is supported until 2019 by which time there might be an AMD solution or I will just have to go back to Windows. I suspect there may be a power management issue at the moment anyway which may send me back to Windows to make use of Lenovo’s support, but I will monitor that for the time being.

Fairly immediate update:

AMD Catalyst Control Centre

I found this setting in the AMD Catalyst Control Centre that may improve my battery performance. I will just have to remember to switch back before video editing.