This post is here for reference material only! Please read the new post for a more updated guide!

This is a guest post from my friend Hans

As my old MSI X340 was in desperate need of replacement, I started looking for a new laptop with similar specs (preferably below 1.5kg, 13 inch, FullHD screen or better, and long battery life). As you can guess from the title, I ended up buying the new 2015 model of the Dell XPS 13. I opted for the non-touch FullHD screen with a matte (anti-glare) finish, as it is cheaper and gives you roughly 20% more battery life. It is also a little bit lighter and doesn't behave like a mirror (I like my terminals with a black background). My model features a Broadcom wifi chip, branded "Dell Wireless 1560 802.11ac".

You can find the specs and options on the Dell website.

I planned to run Ubuntu linux on the laptop, but did not want to wait for Dell to release their "Project Sputnik" version of the new XPS 13. You can find some info on Barton's Blog.

The fun thing about linux nerds is that a lot of them also did not want to wait, and Major Kayden's blog is currently the unofficial location for discussions about the new XPS 13 and solving the current issues (keyboard and touchpad, and sound).

Most of the technical work to get everything running on the XPS is not my own, and I will try to list all sources that helped me getting forward here:

Updating BIOS and creating a restore disk

We start by updating the BIOS to version A01 (or higher). Boot into Windows, go to the Dell Support website for the XPS 13 9343 and download the bios update. Install the BIOS update, and reboot the machine. You should now create a "self-starting backup disk" with the "Dell Backup and Recovery" program. You can find this on the right side of the start menu. It requires an 8 GB usb thumbdrive (or larger), and will be very useful if you ever need to restore the Windows installation on the machine.

Installing Ubuntu 14.04 (and getting the broadcom wifi online)

I do not want to go into too much detail here. Download the 14.04 LTS release from the ubuntu website, and create a bootable USB drive from the iso file. You can do this with the "Startup Disk creator" utility on another ubuntu machine, or with the UNetbootin utility. I would like to point out that installing ubuntu is not difficult, but the XPS 13 is currently not well supported by the default installation and thus should not be your first linux installation ever.

After creating the USB drive you need to find a way to get an internet connection on the XPS 13 after installing ubuntu:

  • Get a USB wifi/ethernet dongle that you know to be working out of the box on linux
  • Replace the wifi board inside of the XPS (hardcore solution, not advised)
  • download and copy the needed packages onto the USB drive and manually install them after booting. The needed packages are: bcmwl-kernel-source dkms fakeroot libfakeroot.

Next you will need to reboot the machine, and press F12 multiple times when the Dell logo shows, until you see a yellow text appearing in the top-right corner. Select your USB drive in the Boot mode menu and press enter. In the next menu (GNU GRUB) pick the top item (Try Ubuntu without installing) and press enter. If your USB drive is not showing in the boot menu options, you will have to disable "Secure boot" in the BIOS setup.

After Ubuntu is finshed booting, you will need to get an internet connection. Plug in your USB dongle or open a terminal window (CTRL+ALT+T) to install the downloaded packages. Enter the following commands to install the wifi driver

cd /cd-rom
sudo dpkg -i libfakeroot*.deb
sudo dpkg -i fakeroot*.deb
sudo dpkg -i dkms*.deb
sudo dpkg -i bcmwl-kernel-source*.deb

After these commands you should be able to connect to your wifi network.

Now start GParted partition editor from the applications (press the Windows key and type gparted). Resize the windows partition to create some space for the ubuntu installation. (I advise against a full wipe at this point. If Dell releases firmware or BIOS updates you will most likely need Windows to install them) Apply the changes, close GParted and start the installer. Follow the setup, and select "Something else" when you get to "Installation type".

You can create a single Ext4 partition with mount point "/", have a separate home partition, and/or create a swap partition. I will use swap with one big partition for root (/) and home. Select "free space" at the bottom of the list, and click the + button. In the "Create partition" window, pick a size for your swap partition (4096 or 8192 MB), set the location to "end of this space" and pick Use as: "swap area". Hit OK. Select the "free space" again, and click the + button. Set Mount point to "/". Hit OK. Click on "Install Now" to proceed, and finish the installation.

Reboot the machine, and fix the internet connection again. If you have a USB dongle plugged in you can open a terminal and type

sudo apt-get install bcmwl-kernel-source

Press Y and enter when asked if you want to proceed.

If you downloaded the packages onto the USB drive, open the file browser and copy the 4 packages to the Downloads folder in your home directory. Open a terminal and type

cd Downloads
sudo dpkg -i libfakeroot*.deb
sudo dpkg -i fakeroot*.deb
sudo dpkg -i dkms*.deb
sudo dpkg -i bcmwl-kernel-source*.deb

You should now be able to use the wifi menu to connect to your wireless network!

Update the machine (use the software updater from the dash). Most things should be working now, because the 3.13 kernel that comes with Ubuntu 14.04 puts the touchpad, keyboard and sound card in PS2 mode. However, if you upgrade your kernel to a newer version the hardware will try to switch to I2C mode, which improves battery life and some other things (see Major's blog for some details).

Getting stuff working with a newer kernel

We will need to start with compiling a very recent kernel, with some patches to it. We will also need the latest linux-firmware. Fortunately, Rene Treffer created a git repo for this which we can clone, so we don't have to do the patching! We do need some aditional packages to build the kernel. We will also need a .config file, which is a mixture between the ubuntu kernel 3.13 default config and the .config provided by Rene. Open a terminal and enter the following commands

sudo apt-get install git build-essential kernel-package fakeroot libncurses5-dev dh-modaliases debhelper devscripts
cd $HOME
git clone https://github.com/rtreffer/linux.git
git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/firmware/linux-firmware.git
ln -s ../../linux-firmware/intel linux/firmware/intel
cd linux
wget http://forthescience.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/linux-kernel_4.0rc4-config-ubu1404-xps13 -O .config
make oldconfig
make clean
make -j 4 deb-pkg LOCALVERSION=-xps13

This last command compiles the linux kernel, and after compilation creates installation packages. Kernel compilation takes quite a bit of time, so make some coffee or tea and patiently wait for it to finish. When the compilation is done you wil end up with 5 .deb images in your home folder. Enter the following commands in the terminal window to install them

cd $HOME
sudo dpkg -i linux-headers-*xps13_*.deb
sudo dpkg -i linux-image-*xps13_*.deb
sudo dpkg -i linux-firmware-image-*xps13_*.deb
cd /lib
sudo mv firmware firmware-old
sudo cp -r $HOME/linux-firmware firmware

Congratulations! You just compiled and installed the linux kernel! But wait... something broke...

koekie@XPS13:~$ sudo dpkg -i linux-image-4.0.0-rc4-xps13_4.0.0-rc4-xps13-1_amd64.deb
Selecting previously unselected package linux-image-4.0.0-rc4-xps13.
(Reading database ... 215546 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to unpack linux-image-4.0.0-rc4-xps13_4.0.0-rc4-xps13-1_amd64.deb ...
Unpacking linux-image-4.0.0-rc4-xps13 (4.0.0-rc4-xps13-1) ...
Setting up linux-image-4.0.0-rc4-xps13 (4.0.0-rc4-xps13-1) ...
ERROR (dkms apport): kernel package linux-headers-4.0.0-rc4-xps13 is not supported
Error! Bad return status for module build on kernel: 4.0.0-rc4-xps13 (x86_64)
Consult /var/lib/dkms/bcmwl/6.30.223.248+bdcom/build/make.log for more information.

The wifi driver fails to compile a kernel module for the 4.0 kernel. to fix this we will need to check out the source of the bcmwl-kernel-source package, apply a patch, package it and then install it. You can find the patch in comment #4 of this bug report. Start a terminal and type the following commands

cd $HOME
mkdir broadcomwifi
cd broadcomwifi
apt-get source bcmwl-kernel-source
wget https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/bcmwl/+bug/1424676/+attachment/4327652/+files/0017-add-support-for-Linux-4.0.patch
cd bcmwl-6.30.223.248+bdcom/src
patch -p1 < $HOME/broadcomwifi/0017-add-support-for-Linux-4.0.patch
cd $HOME/broadcomwifi/bcmwl-6.30.223.248+bdcom
debchange --increment "patched the package for kernel 4.0 compatibility"
dpkg-buildpackage
cd ..
sudo dpkg -i bcmwl-kernel-source_6.30.223.248+bdcom-0ubuntu0.2_amd64.deb

Now you will need to do 2 restarts, and one cold boot (shutdown the machine, and power it back on).

The audio board should now be detected. You can open the sound settings from the small speaker in the top-right corner, it should list broadwell-rt286 on the output tab. Switch to the input tab to check if that also lists the broadwell-rt286, and then back to output. Open a new terminal window and start alsamixer. Press F6 and select the broadwell-rt286 device. on the playback tab (F3), set the following settings:

  • Master: 100 (all the way up, arrow keys)
  • Headphones: 00 (press m to flip between mute and on, 00 means on)
  • Speaker: 00
  • Front DAC: 00
  • Front REC: mm
  • ADC 0 Mux: Dmic (arrow keys)
  • ADC 1 Mux: Dmic
  • AMIC: 100
  • DAC0: 100
  • HPO L: 00
  • HPO Mux: front
  • HPO R: 00
  • Media0: 100
  • Media1: 100
  • RECMIX Beep: 00
  • RECMIX line1: 00
  • RECMIX mic1: 00
  • SPK Mux: front
  • SPO: 00

Switch to the record tab (F4), and set the following settings:

  • Mic: 100
  • ADC0: 100 and CAPTURE (use the space bar to set CAPTURE)
  • AMIC: 100

Congratulations, you should now have sound! Open your favorite youtube clip to check this.

You might have noticed that the bluetooth is in a weird state, it shows as working and sometimes manages to detect devices, but it doesn't work properly. Shawn Tan posted a way to fix this. Download the Windows drivers from Microsoft, open a terminal and run the following commands

sudo apt-get install cabextract
cd $HOME/Downloads
git clone https://github.com/jessesung/hex2hcd.git
cd hex2hcd
make
cd ..
mkdir btcab
cd btcab
cabextract ../20662520_6c535fbfa9dca0d07ab069e8918896086e2af0a7.cab
../hex2hcd/hex2hcd BCM20702A1_001.002.014.1443.1572.hex ../BCM20702A0-0a5c-216f.hcd
cd ..
sudo cp BCM20702A0-0a5c-216f.hcd /lib/firmware/brcm

After a reboot your bluetooth should now be working.

Some other tweaks

I prefer my bluetooth to be off by default. Open a terminal window, and edit /etc/rc.local to add "rfkill block bluetooth" before the last line. Open a terminal and enter

sudo sed -i -e 's/^exit\ 0$/rfkill\ block\ bluetooth\nexit\ 0/' /etc/rc.local

We can also improve the behaviour of the touchpad a bit, by enabling the "clickpad" setting. Open the dash and start "Startup Applications". Click add, set name to "Synaptics clickpad setting", command to "synclient ClickPad=1" (without the quotes of course), and click Add.

You should also check if your touchpad is only using the I2C bus, and not ps2 mode. Start up a terminal and enter

xinput

The Virtual core pointer should have only two items:

  • Virtual core XTEST pointer
  • DLL........ UNKNOWN

if it lists a third item with PS2 touchpad in the name, you should blacklist the psmouse module. Open a terminal and enter

echo -e "\n# remove psmouse because we want the mouse to work over I2C bus\nblacklist psmouse" | sudo tee -a /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf
sudo update-initramfs -u

We have an awesome laptop with big battery, so let's make some changes to optimize battery lifetime. Open a terminal and enter the following commands

cd /etc/pm/power.d/
sudo wget http://forthescience.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/powersaverXPS13Trusty -O powersaverXPS13Trusty

Reboot the machine to make the touchpad change, and enjoy your XPS 13!

Some more tweaks

You could try using the xorg-edgers ppa for the latest graphics drivers for your XPS. This could improve the haswell graphics, but please do read the warning notices on the ppa page.


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