More fun with Fedora

Still going with Fedora 20 and my new X1 Carbon. I’ve decided it’s dangerously light. What if I got really annoyed? I could throw it quite far!

Linux does add something special to the new laptop experience after all, dodgy support for hardware for the first months I have a new laptop. I foolishly believed I had finished the install just because it booted and I could use a web browser and send email, but I kept noticing new problems as time went on.

First, the laptop’s screen (her name is Irian by the way, because I name them for female wizards, which, well, spoilers, but I do like Tales of Earthsea and you should read it) is very high resolution. GNOME tries to detect this and (essentially) make all its screen elements extra big to compensate. The trouble is, I usually use an external monitor which doesn’t have 2014-grade DPI (it’s 24″ with a , and GNOME doesn’t detect that, so things were being displayed on the external monitor extra big as well. This can be reverted with:

$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface scaling-factor 1

But that now means that when I disconnect my external monitor, everything on my laptop screen is eensy teensy. So switching between my laptop display and the external monitor involves plugging or unplugging a cable and a command line interaction. Judging from the discussion on bug 1025391, the task of figuring out when to apply what scaling factor is no mean feat, but all the same, it’s annoying that it’s been handed to me.

Second, speaking of external monitors, this is what happens when I boot now: the machine starts. My laptop screen goes black. My external monitor displays a featureless grey, ie, the background colour of gdm but without any content whatsoever (ie, it doesn’t display a list of users or a login prompt… just featureless grey). I have worked out that I can hit Enter, type my password, hit Enter again and then it will log me in, which is an improvement over the previous sequence which was “swear, pull out monitor cable, force a reboot, log in without external monitor, reconnect external monitor”. I’ve run Fedora 20 on my previous laptop and this didn’t happen, so I presume again there’s some specific hardware support issue where Fedora+gdm can tell I have an external monitor but not to the point of actually displaying a login prompt on it.

Meanwhile, I mentioned before that it wouldn’t resume from suspend and that I needed to upgrade the BIOS to get that fixed. There are a few ways to upgrade the BIOS within Linux but they all seemed horrifying, so rebooting into Windows was, in theory, going to be the way. However, as foretold in the prophecy, I didn’t have dual boot working in this new UEFI+Windows 8 utopia. In fact I still don’t, because I get a “cannot load image” error trying to boot Windows 8 through grub, and that error seems to either mean (a) you have Windows 8 and Fedora installed on separate physical drives (no) or (b) you shouldn’t be using grub but could maybe use one of a number of other bootloaders maybe because secure boot something something I don’t even. I messed around with this sort of thing until my eyes bled, and eventually resigned myself to going through the BIOS’s menus to boot Windows (ie, press Enter to interrupt startup, press F12 to get a startup menu, select Windows, it’s not that bad). I only use Windows for upgrading the BIOS and communicating with the Australian Tax Office on behalf of my business in any case (because you haven’t lived, died, and died again until you’ve tried to get the Australian government’s AUSkey authentication working under Linux, but I digress). I can deal with the BIOS menus for those cases.

The BIOS update went fine though, and now I can suspend and resume. And while I was in Windows random nagware immediately fired up to ask me to hand over my email address so as to confirm my subscription to a million anti-virus and anti-malware bundleware things that come pre-installed, so that certainly reminded me why it is that I don’t use it.

Standard disclaimer: I still don’t want tech support and no, I’m not going to file bugs. My Ubuntu-using days, in which you file a bug and the only response is having to extensively reconfirm it exists every three to six months for three years lest it be closed has pretty much cured me of bug-filing. I like shouting into the void on my own domain now.