Xubuntu 16 on a Zenbook


This is for trying to get 16.04 on a fresh Asus Zenbook 2016 (in particular, this is a UX501VW-FJ024T).

Download the image for 15.10 because 16.04 and 16.04.1 crash shortly after booting. You can press escape once the (x)ubuntu install loading screen appears to view the cli, and observe it crashing on something or the other.

Install the image to a usb drive (in xubuntu you can use "startup disk creator" with fair ease) with whatever you usually do this.

Insert the usb in the Zenbook and (re)boot the system. Hold the escape key (no need to tap it) until the pre-boot menu appears. Select the usb drive and go. (Nice :)

Once something visual appears press escape to go in cli mode so you can see what's going on. The UI won't always report errors properly. Again, I needed to do this on 15.10 because 16.04(.1) permanently crashed shortly after this point.

The install menu won't recognize the trackpad, a known issue, so hook up a mouse that uses a dongle (as you won't immediately get bluetooth either), this makes navigation much easier. Weird that a linux install ui is still hard to nav with just a keyboard, but whatever.

Get through to the partition part. This was a bit tricky for me since I wanted to keep the OEM windows installed and do dual boot. But there were 5 (!) preinstalled partitions. Oh and 1mb of free space.

One partition was the windows boot manager (why on earth does that need 270mb? Those things used to fit on floppies). Then there is a (about) 16mb, 200g, 500mb, and 300g partition (it's a 512g ssd). Ummmm, and no idea which one is safe to prune. Okay, back to windows. The partition manager in win 10 says (indeed) 260m boot, 190g OS, 500m recovery, 280g data. Good, prune the data partition.

After removing the 280g partition reboot. Then reboot again and hold the esc key to boot to the usb.

While you squint your eyes to read the letters (thanks, 3000x1500 resolution, and alt+scroll for zoom doesn't work here) make your way through the installer. At the partition part, I picked the (now new) top option to install xubuntu alongside windows. After that it tells you it'll install itself on sda 5 and 6. Okay.

The rest of the 15.10 install is pretty normal and smooth for me. That resolution though. And seemingly no way to adjust it in these steps :/

After the install phase finishes and the system wants to reboot, reboot. You'll need (and want) to remove the usb drive before doing so. Then reboot.

Aaaaaand, windows. Damnit. I had such high hopes. Luckily this is fine. You can reboot, hold escape, and select the linux boot like you did for usb boot. Woohoo. I guess the settings (option number 3 in that menu) will allow you to permanently prefer linux.

Once linux is there you're prompted with a, still super tiny, passphrase for disk encryption input. I thought it required a new password but now I think it required the password to login. But failing to enter it I got booted to the regular login window. Not sure if that was a bug, I'd expect a "repeat password" thing there or something. But I didn't get it. Anyways, login with your set password and done! Linux 15.10 installed and, seems to be, working :D

First thing you want to do is set the resolution. 1920x1080 (HD) will suffice, the rest depends on how good your eyes are :)

The updater will pop up pretty quickly, assuming you've connected to your wifi (or lan). You can update all but note that you may need to open the details because it asked for disk encryption password all the time. I read that this is a bug and you can just enter through them. Just remember to open the details in the updater panel or you'll be waiting forever, as it blocks the updater from proceeding.

After the updater is finished reboot. This may be a good time to switch the default boot target to linux. In the boot menu you get while holding esc you can select the third option to proceed to the bios menu. There you simply select linux as the boot target and save+exit. This seems to work as you'd expect. At least something does :)

Once back in xubuntu you can run the updater again. This time it'll notify you of a dist upgrade. Run it.

In case it matters, I replaced everything it prompted me for because this was a clean install. I then at the end let it remove whatever packages it wanted to remove.

This was actually when I noticed the trackpad was not responding. But I'll deal with that later, I'm sure it can be fixed somehow.

After the upgrade you reboot. And ... crash. NOOOOOO. yes.

tpm_crb MSFT0101:00: can't request region for resource
i2c_hid i2c-FTE1001:00 error in i2c_hid_init_report size:633 / ret_size:0
i2c_hid i2c-FTE1001:00 error in i2c_hid_init_report size:131 / ret_size:0

And then nothing. MEHHHHHHHHHHH. A google on this seems to reveal some incompat for the touchpad (maybe the touch screen?) but no fix.

Okay. So no 16.01 for this zenbook? Damnit :( but I can manage that. 15.10 is fine for me. It just makes me really weary about when and whether to upgrade to 16.10 in two months...

Enter this blog post on installing 16.01 on the zenbook. Seems to run into different problems (as I can't even get to the installer) but suggests starting at 15.01 then after the distupgrade using advanced boot from grub and load the 4.2 kernel.

So that's what I've tried.

Booting to 4.2 actually didn't work for me either. It seemed to have stopped after "clocksource: switched to clocksource tsc" (but ymmv). At this point switching to another terminal (ctrl+alt+f5 etc) worked but you wouldn't get a login prompt. Hard reboot.
I tried a recovery boot. Network first, since we'd need that, but that would keep logging "grep: /etc/resolve.conf: No such file or directory" and eventually back to grub. After trying all the other options I selected the normal (top) option... which put me at a super low res (800x640?) login prompt. Hiho! With network. Score! Okay.

I'm copying the steps I followed here. Note: don't take my word from it. This is a new machine for me, there was no real risk of data loss.

// install the last kernel known to work
wget http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v4.3.5-wily/linux-headers-4.3.5-040305-generic_4.3.5-040305.201601311533_amd64.deb
wget http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v4.3.5-wily/linux-headers-4.3.5-040305_4.3.5-040305.201601311533_all.deb
wget http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v4.3.5-wily/linux-image-4.3.5-040305-generic_4.3.5-040305.201601311533_amd64.deb
sudo dpkg -i linux-headers-4.3.5*deb linux-image-4.3.5*deb
// remove the 4.4 kernel that prevents boot
sudo apt-get remove linux-image-4.4.0-21* linux-headers-4.4.0*

Hmmm this is where I discover the insert key requires fn activation as well. That's not very linux friendly... oh well... as a side note, the trackpad is still not working.

After doing that, reboot. And nothing. Argh. Reboot and escape on the xubuntu loading screen and ... same error as before. Maybe I didn't prune the 4.4 kernel properly? Reboot into advanced options in grub. Ah, yes, 4.4 is still there and the default. Booting from 3.5 also hits me with an unresponsive black screen, though. I don't have time to figure out which kernels work for me :/

So for now I'm going to install 15.10 and stay there for now. Maybe I'll try to move to 16.10 when it's released in October. Or 17.04, later. At least I'll be reasonably safe if I can use the installer as a canary.

Now let's see about that trackpad... I probably won't have a mouse most of the time so it's pretty relevant to be fixed.

Back to windows. Delete the two linux partitions. I prefer this because the installer tries to be smart and save the existing installation. I don't want it to so removing the partitions prevents this hooha and forces the installer to show me the option I want.

And then reboot again because it refuses to see my router. Which was fine after the reboot. And was working fine, anyways. Why......

The remainder of the installation went fairly flawless as before. Afterwards install all the updates except for the kernel updates. And now the system seems fairly stable.

The trackpad still doesn't work, but the touchscreen does so there's at least that. Hopefully I can still get the trackpad to work but I'll save that for another post.