Taking advantage of a trip to Canada and a very favourable CAN$:€ exchange rate, I bought a Dell XPS13 (9350 or “late 2015”), following excellent reviews from around the web. Dell sold a ‘developer edition‘ of this laptop (shipping with Ubuntu Linux) but unfortunately it was out of stock on Dell US and I couldn’t find the item on the Dell Canada website. So I bought the Windows version with a touchscreen (it was Black Friday :-)).
Here is how to install Fedora 23 on it (and probably most other Linux distribution) … I will focus on three aspects (in brief: everything works out of the box, except the wireless card that needed some additional action):
- How to boot and install Fedora Workstation
- What works and what doesn’t work out of the box
- Some things to do after installation (additional software)
1. How to boot and install Fedora Workstation
Since there is no more installation image (“DVD”) for Fedora, I downloaded the Live Workstation image. Fedora explains here how to write a bootable USB key for it. Leave the USB key connected and restart the laptop.
Now when you see the Dell logo (in white on black), press “F2” to enter setup.
- Under Secure Boot –> Secure Boot Enable: disable Secure Boot
- Under System Configuration –> SATA Operation: switch from RAID ON to AHCI
- Under General –> Advanced Boot Options: enable Legacy Option ROMs
- Under General –> Boot Sequence: click on the name of the USB key in the white box, on the right, then click on the button with an arrow to the top up to when the USB key is the first item to boot
Now click on Save, then Exit. Your laptop is ready to boot the Live image and to install it on the disk. Follow Fedora installation instructions.
One issue I had is that, on reboot, the laptop didn’t want to boot Fedora (it didn’t want to boot anything, actually). Rather annoying since I wiped out Windows at the beginning of the installation … The issue is that the UEFI boot doesn’t know where to look for what to boot …
On a reboot, at the DELL logo, enter the BIOS again by pressing F2. Under General –> Boot Sequence, click on Add Boot Option and then, on the third box, enter “\EFI\BOOT\BOOTX64.EFI” (or browse to it with the button on the right, see image above). Click OK, Save and Exit.
Now you should be able to boot straight to Fedora.
2. What works and what doesn’t work out of the box
Pretty much everything works directly, even the touch screen (from Elan). I get approximately 6-7 hours of operation with a full battery.
One annoying thing that I was aware of before buying is that you can’t connect a network cable (due to the small form factor). Get a USB adapter (the simplest possible). Or install the wireless drivers – that’s the only thing that will require some additional work (see below why).
3. Some things to do after installation (additional software)
The GNOME 3 desktop is a little bare and the Live image doesn’t contain a lot of software so here is some suggestions to do after installing Fedora 23. All these operations should be done as root (either type
sudo in front of each command below or
su - then you go) …
- Update to the latest version of Fedora:
- Install Gnome Tweak Tool:
dnf install gnome-tweak-tool(especially useful to increase font size on the small screen)
- Install RPM Fusion: follow instructions for Fedora on their website
- Install Fedy (if you trust it or need these software ;-))
- Install VLC, DVD playback (although there is no physical DVD player on the XPS13), mplayer, gnome-player, transmission:
dnf install vlc libdvdread libdvdnav lsdvd mplayer mplayer-gui gnome-player transmission
4. And the wireless card?
Now there is a functional laptop, with the notable exception of the wireless network card. It is a Broadcom Corporation BCM4350 802.11ac Wireless Network Adapter [14e4:43a3] (rev 08). This PCI-ID is not in the list of supported card on linuxwireless.org (following blindly their instructions doesn’t work) and all other descriptions of this laptop I found on the web say they have a BCM 4352. So, so far, I did not figure out what would be the correct driver and how to install them. This will be for the next post …