Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lenovo W540 and Fedora 21

At the end of the November 2014. I got a new laptop, Lenovo W540, and immediately I started taking notes about this machine with my impressions. I'm a long time W-series Lenovo user, and I think that those notebooks are very good machines, albeit a bit more expensive so probably not for an average user. Anyway, this post has been in making for some time now, and I'll update it in a due course. In it I'll write about my impressions, as well as about installing and using Fedora 21 on this machine. Note that when I was starting to write this post Fedora 21 was in beta. So, everything I say here might change in final release (in case I don't change a post).

First, let me start by positive observations about the machine:
  • The new machine is thinner than the W530.
  • Power adapter seems to be smaller than the one for W530 model.
  • Very easy to access RAM slots and hard disk slot in case you want to upgrade RAM and/or put another disk in it.
Well, true, that's a very short list. So, here are some negative ones:
  • They again changed connector for attaching power adapter. In other words, anything you have thus far (and I have quite a lot!) won't work for this machine.
  • There is no lock that holds the lid closed.
  • At first, I thought that there is no LEDs that, when you close a lid, show you the state of the laptop. This is important because now I don't know if the laptop is in sleep mode or not when the lid is closed. But later I realised that there is, it is a dot over letter i in ThinkPad logo in the lower right corner of a lid (looking from above).
  • There is numeric part of the keyboard that, honestly, I don't need. This space was gained by not having speakers on both sides of the keyboard as in W530. Later I realised even more how cumbersome this part of keyboard is. Namely, I'm holding this machine a lot of time on my lap and because of numerical keyboard I can not have laptop centered while holding it in my lap.
  • There are no more buttons on touchpad, the touchpad itself is a button. But I managed to get used to it by getting rid of the reflex to click with separate arm.
  • Fn keys are overloaded with different additional functionalities. For example, F1 key is mute now and it has also LED indicator! Furthermore, all the function keys have alternative functionality that you obtained in the previous models using Fn key. Now, it is opposite, you get the regular functionality of those keys by pressing Fn key in the lower left corner! This is weird! Only later I found out that there is a small led diode on the Fn key, and if you press Fn+Esc it turns on meaning that keys are now function keys, F1, F2, etc.
To be honest, I don't like those changes and probably it'll take some time until I get used to them.

Installing OS

Ok, now about Fedora 21 installation. First, I changed the laptop to use UEFI boot exclusively. I don't know if this is good or bad, but in the end I did it. Note that there is hybrid mode, i.e. both old BIOS and new UEFI will be used for boot process (which ever one manages to boot the machine), but I didn't use it. Anyway, since I removed CDROM I had to boot it somehow to install Fedora 21. First, I tried with PXEBOOT. But, no luck with UEFI. Note that I managed to boot the machine using old BIOS. This means that I properly configured everything for network boot using old BIOS, but not for new UEFI BIOS. Since I wanted to have UEFI boot, I gave up from this option.

Since I managed to obtain a USB stick I decided to go that route. First, I dd'ed efidisk.img file, and that booted laptop, but it couldn't find anything to install from, yet alone start installation. So, I downloaded live Fedora 21 Workstation and dd'ed that to USB disk. That worked.

For some strange reason, I decided to use BTRFS filesystem. Actually, the reason is that I can mount separate root and home partitions that use the same pool of free space. That way it won't happen that I have low free space on one partition, and a lot of space on another partition. But, I didn't notice that encryption is selected separately for the whole volume, and not for a specific file system, i.e. mount point. Since no reasonable person will install OS these days without encryption, I did installation several times until I managed to get over that problem.

While working with new OS what frustrated me a lot was a touchpad. It didn't get click when I tried to left click, it scrolled randomly, and I couldn't find middle click or the right click. Also, the problem was that I pressed mouse button and then scrolled while the mouse button was pressed. This is also somehow problematic on this touchpad.

Here are some additional links I found:
That's it for now. Stay tuned for more...


Ivan Augusto said...

Thanks guy. I'm target a Lenovo G40 and Fedora 21, and your post are helpful to my choice

cdhallman said...

Where did you get the ISO? I've tried several times to install Fedora 21 and I'm having serious problems. I'm receiving the following error:

nouveau E[ PBUS][0000:08:00.0] MMIO read of 0x00000000 FAULT

I was going to try changing the display drive, but when I issue a lspci, the laptop locks up. lsusb works as expected. I disabled quick boot. I changed it to only use BIOS, not UEFI. I'm going to try other distro's to see how I fare.

Stjepan Groš (sgros) said...

It doesn't matter from where you obtain ISO as long as its checksum matches. Did it work with other distro?

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scientist, consultant, security specialist, networking guy, system administrator, philosopher ;)