GNU/Linux installation on libreboot machines

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Cyberhawk

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Hello everyone!

I just received my first librebooted machine, the X200 Thinkpad. Thank you vikings!

It has Trisquel 8 installed, with full disk encryption, ready to go. I'm enjoying the great keyboard on this thing right now as I type. Feels great to finally own this!

Since this is the first time I ever held a machine with libreboot in my hands, I have some questions.

1. How much of a hit does performance take with full disk encryption? My past experiences show that performance does take a very significant hit when encrypting /home. But maybe I was doing it wrong? My new X200 feels really fast and responsive, but I didn't try anything more demanding than using abrowser yet...

2. How difficult is it to install a GNU/Linux on the X200 with libreboot? I read the documentation on libreboot.org and it mentions typing in commands in the grub menu, and manually creating a grub configuration after install to get a bootmenu and prevent manually typing boot commands each time. Is that actually required for all machines with libreboot?

Cyberhawk

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Thanks for all the input!

I just recently managed to re-install Trisquel, with no encryption and an 8GB swap in addition to my 8GB RAM. That ought to be more than enough for me.

> I could only hibernate back then by using the original kernel when I installed trisquel. Once though I installed a different kernel, forget
> about it...

During installation I choose linux-generic, so maybe suspending and/or hibernating will work now, checking it later today.

> I bought the X200 with libreboot pre-installed, so it's possible that
> the vendor customized the config files in some way, but I did not

my X200 also came with libreboot pre-installed and out of the box it could not suspend, and the problem was the machine did not want to wake up. It is hard to tell if the notebook was trying to go into suspend or hibernate, it was triggered by closing the lid while the machine was powered on. I had to pull the battery out to make it shutdown properly.

chaosmonk

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> my X200 also came with libreboot pre-installed and out of the box it
> could not suspend, and the problem was the machine did not want to wake
> up.

I have a few friends with macbooks running GNU/Linux, for whom
hibernation works with some kernels but not others. I don't know if it
will help, but you might try out a few different versions of the kernel.

Cyberhawk

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So right now, after reinstall, suspend seems to work a bit better. Kernel is 4.4.0-140-generic. When I try suspending from the main menu (using KDE), the same problem occurs.

But when closing the lid the notebook goes to suspend after a short period of inactivity and wakes up immediately after opening the lid again. Fortunately, this does not happen while on the docking station, so I don't have to keep the lid open all the time while it is sitting on the dock.

At least I think it is going to suspend when lid is closed. The moon-shaped LED turns on, which I suspect is supposed to indicate suspend, or maybe hibernate? Who knows.

That's exactly how I would expect the notebook to perform. Not suspending while sitting on the dock with closed lid, while disabling the screen and suspending if the lid is closed while running on battery power off the dock.

Magic Banana

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The power management preferences in MATE's control center allows to define what to do "when laptop lid is closed". "Blank screen" is a possibility.

Cyberhawk

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I'm using KDE, but the options seem to be the same. I chose "blank screen" and that's what it does, but after a short moment (half a minute?) the moon-shaped LED turns on, which probably means suspend.

That's also how I think suspend should work, I would not want to leave a computer running all the time and suspend or hibernate instead of reboot.

So all in all, the X200 is running great after the reinstall. Reinstalling turned out to be much less of an issue than I thought it would be. Thanks again for all the input!

So happy to have this little guy. It's not really the kind of "as-new" condition that was promised, but what else to expect of a 10-year old machine? I can live with some scratches on the back of the lid, I'll put stickers there eventually anyway.

Vikings
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I don't think suspend works with Libreboot. Hibernate instead, it's also more secure (with disk encryption). There may be some regressions in the kernel, so it might work with one version and it might fail with another.

We've shipped the system with the latest version of Linux libre, so if an older kernel works, you not unlikely discovered such a regression.

Do
$ man pm-action
for more information.

As for the condition of the laptop, when did you purchase it? We haven't been selling "as-new" laptops for months now, such machines aren't available any more. Great effort goes into refurbishing, much more than it had to e.g. a year ago, but we can't work miracles and the price still needs to stay reasonable.

The wording is "Please keep in in mind that even though we sell only A to B grade refurbished laptops, they have been in use before; you're not buying a new laptop, most of them have been produced between 2008 and 2010 and have been in heavy use. There will be blemishes on some laptops. The screen might be not what you would normally accept, in this case please consider buying your laptop with a new screen and it will be good for another 10 years. Laptops we source that are below our standards, will be used for parts only."

If you're unhappy, you can always ask for another machine or a refund if that would make you happier. We want to only have happy customers, and that's not an empty phrase.

Cyberhawk

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> I don't think suspend works with Libreboot.

I would not have cared about or used suspend, it just automatically suspended when the lid was closed. Which I like doing when the thing is on the dock.

After the reinstall, it seems to work most of the time atm, using linux 4.4.0-140-generic. I tested it a couple times out of curiosity and it did lock up once.

Right now, I just try to keep all the energy settings in a way, that suspend is never initiated. I never used suspend or hibernate before anyway and this little guy boots up from a cold start faster than anything, so I can do without suspending or hibernating.

> Do
> $ man pm-action
> for more information.

Thanks, looks like there is a lot of useful information there, even some debugging advice.

> As for the condition of the laptop, when did you purchase it?

Very recently. I believe we talked on the phone about this suspending problem. I understand that the machine is old and used, and there is not an infinite stock of as-new X200 ThinkPads. I am not complaining, if I would, I'd just return it for a refund.

Vikings
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Joined: 04/04/2017

Personally I'm not bothered by scuffs and marks, as long as they are not on the screen and as long the laptop is super clean (I use the laptop in the worst condition we were able to source, clean it, usually replace the screen with an AFFS screen, get a new keyboard and I'm happy).
My laptop will suffer hard in daily use anyway; I'll drop it, I'll pour espresso over it, I use it at 50 degrees C (warm aisle in the data center) and yes, I'm probably the best benchmark for rugged hardware. It's only my second X200 in ~4 years but only because the first had been stolen. If it doesn't look like it's been through hell, it's not a good laptop to me. Once I pull my X200 out in a café full of mac users, I immediately feel more respected (though those mac fools probably think otherwise).

I understand that not everyone thinks similarly. So if you *would* complain, we have a couple of new arrivals in good condition available and we could arrange an exchange. Since I don't know exactly what you're not super happy with, it would be better to find that out first. Drop us an email if you wish to do so (I regularly miss posts here).

I can also only recommend the AFFS display. It may not be much brighter than a good TN, but the contrast and viewing angle stability are fantastic. It's not really fun to replace the screen to put it mildly, but as a customer you don't have to worry about that.

Vikings
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Joined: 04/04/2017

> I just received my first librebooted machine, the X200 Thinkpad. Thank you vikings!

You're most welcome! =)

> 1. How much of a hit does performance take with full disk encryption? My past experiences show that performance does take a very significant hit when encrypting /home. But maybe I was doing it wrong? My new X200 feels really fast and responsive, but I didn't try anything more demanding than using abrowser yet...

That's because the X200 is a reasonably fast machine. Still. After all these years.
Performance will drop with full disk encryption, mostly when accessing storage. If you want to know how much, simply run a benchmark and compare an encrypted to a non-encrypted system.

> 2. How difficult is it to install a GNU/Linux on the X200 with libreboot? I read the documentation on libreboot.org and it mentions typing in commands in the grub menu, and manually creating a grub configuration after install to get a bootmenu and prevent manually typing boot commands each time. Is that actually required for all machines with libreboot?

You install GNU/Linux on a system with Libreboot as on any other machine. There is no need to change GRUB in the payload to install GNU/Linux. But you can, and that is reasonably well described on the Libreboot website. Note there are many ways to do full disk encryption...

Cyberhawk

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> That's because the X200 is a reasonably fast machine. Still. After all these years.

So true, I'm amazed at how fast it is. I have a desktop machine, with a higher-end Core2Quad (each core is about the same speed as on the Core2Duo of my X200), which recently got an upgrade in the form of an SSD. It's a SanDisk drive, supposedly it should do 6 Gb/s. And the X200 still not only keeps up, but might be a little bit faster on KDE login and definitely boots up a lot faster. Everything else that I tried - a clear honest tie, except for 3D of course, but the desktop machine has a GeForce GT6xx card. I don't feel like the X200 slows me down a bit, fast and responsive all the time. Even does HD video well. Can't try FullHD out, because my monitor can't handle it :-D