Linux on the Samsung Series 9 2012 (NP900X3B)

On Wednesday I collected by brand new laptop – the latest Samsung Series 9 (model NP900X3B).  Ordered through John Lewis and collected from my local Waitrose.  This is the first time I have ever sent this much money (£1199) on an electrical item.  The laptop is

I’m a Linux user so this post is about getting Fedora 16  running on it.

Update: 27 Jun 2012 added new post for running Fedora 17 on this laptop

Updated: 28 Mar 2012 added mouse details and backlight adjustment

Updated: 26 Mar 2012 with more details

If you prefer to run another Linux distribution see these blog posts: Debian by Daniel Barlow and Ubuntu by Vaibhav Verma.

Booting from USB

First step of getting Linux installed is to boot from a USB stick.  This took me ages to get working – in particular you must disable “Fast BIOS Mode” in the BIOS setup (it’s on the “Advanced” tab).  Then you can alter the boot priority to USB first.  Thanks for this thread on Notebook Review for pointing that out.

My Fedora 16 x86_64 live USB stick booted fine and everything seemed to work ok.  So next step was to install it to disk.

Re-partitioning

In order to make space for Linux I shrunk the main partition (originally 90GB in size) down to 50GB using the Windows Disk Management tool.  This left 43GB of unallocated space to install Linux on.  I also had to delete the 5GB hibernation partition using gparted.  This has had no effect on how Windows runs.

Trackpad

The biggest problem I found in Fedora was that trackpad has didn’t work properly.  It worked fine in the original 3.1.0 kernel – but when I updated to 3.2.10 and 3.3.0 it started behaving erratically and the cursor not moving when I moved my finger.  Add the following to your xorg config (thanks to Guy Lunardi for this):

Option "FingerLow" "1" #sensitivity detection low
Option "FingerHigh" "1" #sensitivity detection high
Option "RTCornerButton" "3" #right-click to bottom right
#Option "MinSpeed" "0.7"
#Option "MaxSpeed" "1.7"
Option "TapAndDragGesture" "1" #tap&release then tap&drag
Option "PalmDetect" "1" #avoid bad track behavior
Option "VertTwoFingerScroll" "1" #two-finger vertical scroll
Option "VertEdgeScroll" "0" #right edge vertical scroll
Option "TapButton1" "1" #one-finger tap = left-click
Option "TapButton2" "3" #two-finger tap = right-click1

There are still some problems – you can’t tap the touchpad to click and right click is broken.  But two finger multitouch works to scroll up and down pages.

Backlit Keyboard

The keyboard backlight keys (f9 and f10) don’t work as default.  However, there is a fix for first series 9 laptop (details here) that works on this laptop.

  • Download https://github.com/iksaif/samsung-laptop-dkms
  • Compile the code (you need to have kernel-devel, kernel-headers and gcc installed)
  • Load the module with insmod
  • Change the brightness (N=0 for off, N=8 for max) echo N > /sys/devices/platform/samsung/leds/samsung\:\:kbd_backlight/brightness

There is more work to automatically load this module and map the keys.

Suspend

I initially thought that the laptop would not resume from suspend/sleep.  But on further investigation it is just a screen brightness problem.  When it resumes the brightness is so low the screen looks like it is off.  But you can enter your password, hit enter and then sometimes the brightness comes back – or if not hit Fn+F3 and it works again.  I will get a bug raised for this.

External Monitors

The laptop has two external monitor ports – MicroHDMI and VGA (via a dongle.  Since I don’t have the VGA dongle I could only test microHDMI and it works fine under Linux.  I was able to drive 2048×1152 monitor as a second screen and drag windows between that and the laptop screen.

Wireless

Wireless worked out the box, connecting to my WPA2 home network.  I’ve had no problems with connectivity.

Sound

The sound works out the box (and the speakers sounds great for such a small laptop).  The headphone jack works too but I haven’t tested it with a microphone (it’s a dual headphone/microphone port).

Graphics

Again out the box graphics works perfectly.  Works in 3D acceleration perfectly – I’m running Gnome 3 shell.   glxgears (yes it’s basic) runs but there is some tearing when in fullscreen mode.

Battery Life

I haven’t done any tests on battery life, nor have I changed any settings.  From a full charge, Linux is estimating about 3 hours of time remaining (windows reports about 5).  This is my next item of things to check out – trying out powertop, Jupiter and tuned.

Ethernet

Ethernet is via a breakout dongle (code AA-AE2N12B and supplied in the original box).  This worked perfectly in Linux: plugin dongle, attach ethernet cable and good to go.  The only annoying thing is having to remember to carry around the dongle.

Webcam

Tried this out using Cheese and Skype and both the camera and internal microphone and work fine.

Conclusion

Overall Linux is working very well on this laptop.  There is some more work to do be done, but I am surprised how much worked on the default Linux installation.

If there is anything else anyone would like to me test out let me know in the comments.

I am also updating the LinLap entry for this laptop.

  26Comments

  1. Guy Lunardi   •  

    Thank you so much for posting your initial impressions.

    Seriously considering getting one. Can you confirm that everything else seems to be working?
    Such as:
    Graphics (accelerated 2D and 3D)?
    Wifi (open, WPA, WEP)?
    Sound ?
    External display support?

    Surprised you’ve been this successful already! I would love to help getting the machine work flawlessly.

  2. John TE Slade   •     Author

    Hi Guy,

    I’ll post another update in a few days, but:
    - 3D graphics is working (I’m running Gnome 3 Shell and glxgears runs at 60FPS)
    - Wifi connects to WPA2 networks.
    - Sounds works fine and the headphone jack is working too

  3. Dave   •  

    How hot does it get while running? Should be able to use sensors to get a good reading.

  4. John TE Slade   •     Author

    The output from sensors. This is under light load (chrome is the only programming running) and laptop running on mains power:


    acpitz-virtual-0
    Adapter: Virtual device
    temp1: +54.0°C (crit = +101.0°C)
    temp2: +29.8°C (crit = +101.0°C)

    coretemp-isa-0000
    Adapter: ISA adapter
    Physical id 0: +56.0°C (high = +86.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)
    Core 0: +52.0°C (high = +86.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)
    Core 1: +54.0°C (high = +86.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)

  5. Adam   •  

    Thanks for the informative post! I just got an NP900X3B myself and am running Ubuntu 12.04. Does yours enter suspend when you close the lid (assuming you have that setting enabled)? Mine does not. In fact, acpid reports nothing for either lid closed or lid open. Manual suspend works, though.

  6. John TE Slade   •     Author

    Adam,

    That’s the same with my laptop in Fedora. Closing the lid just turns the screen brightness off – it doesn’t suspend.

  7. Michael Kelly   •  

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the post; you have inspired me to buy one. Did you know that Samsung are running a promotion that allows you to claim the VAT back when you buy a new series 9? The details are here http://www.samsung.com/uk/vatback/.

    What I wanted to ask about was the partitioning in preparation for installing Linux. You deleted the hibernation partition gaining about 5GB but what about the recovery partition which is about 22GB. Did you foresee a problem with deleting this or did you think that the Samsung recovery system was actually useful. Bizarrely, Windows disk management reports this partition as 100% free so I assume that the ‘initial backup’ that is supposed to happen when you first start the machine did not, in fact, happen in my case for some reason. This only serves to further reduce its apparent value in my eyes and I am tempted to use the 22GB for something more useful.

  8. John TE Slade   •     Author

    Hi Michael,

    I annoyingly bought my laptop too early to qualify for the VAT back promotion.

    I wasn’t sure about the recovery partition so I just kept it to be safe in case I needed to return the laptop to its original state with the Windows 7 install. Given Samsung supply a recovery CD it shouldn’t matter as long as you have a USB CD drive to boot from.

    In Linux (using gparted) the recovery partition is reported as being 20GB used. I’ll check later to see what Windows says.

  9. João Gomes   •  

    Hi! Thank you for the review.

    I bought a samsung ultrabook, but it’s the series 5 instead of the series 9. So, probably my question does not apply to your case. But even so, I’ll write it.

    I noticed that, using Windows with no applications opened, the fan never turns off completely, unless I use the Fn key for the silent mode.
    Otherwise, the fan keeps working, even if it’s not very loud.
    Should this be normal? Or it may have a problem with my unit?

    Using Linux also with no applications opened, the fan never turns off as well. And, in fact, it even seems to be louder.
    I read that before kernel 3.2, the fan was continuously spinning. But I’m using kernel 3.3 and I seem to have the same problem.
    In your case, did you notice any difference between using windows and linux, regarding this issue?

    Thank you for your help!

  10. Lori Holden   •  

    On a nightly build of Fedora 17 using the xorg-x11-drv-synaptics from the test updates repo I now have a perfectly working clickpad with right clicking, click dragging, and etc.

    Section “InputClass”
    Identifier “touchpad catchall”
    MatchIsTouchpad “on”
    Driver “synaptics”
    Option “ClickPad” “1″
    Option “RightButtonAreaLeft” “1750″
    Option “RightButtonAreaRight” “0″
    Option “RightButtonAreaTop” “1700″
    Option “RightButtonAreaBottom” “0″
    Option “CoastingSpeed” “0″
    Option “FingerHigh” “20″
    Option “FingerLow” “10″
    Option “FingerPress” “256″
    Option “CornerCoasting” “off”
    Option “PalmDetect” “on”
    Option “PalmMinWidth” “4″
    Option “PalmMinZ” “0″
    Option “VertScrollDelta” “27″
    EndSection

  11. Lori Holden   •  

    I should mention, the actual package: xorg-x11-drv-synaptics-1.5.99.901-2.fc17

  12. Lori Holden   •  

    Here is a /etc/rc.d/rc.local (make sure its executable) that takes care of setting up the machine for power savings along with changing the schedular for the SSD. Technically the power savings stuff would be better off via event.d… but that can be a task for another day. :)

    With display brightness set to the third from bottom, the battery applet is telling me I have 7 hours of battery life.

    https://gist.github.com/2382839

  13. Lori Holden   •  

    /s/schedular/scheduler/ :)

  14. walter gosta   •  

    Thanks a lot. Any chance all of this works with Ubuntu 12.04? (in particular Lori Holden’s scripts?)

  15. emfizz1   •  

    For the trackpad issues on newer kernels in Fedora 16, an upgrade to the testing synaptics driver (version 1.5.0-4) fixed the problem for me. Simply run:

    su -c ‘yum update –enablerepo=updates-testing xorg-x11-drv-synaptics’

  16. ickleone   •  

    Hi, I recently bought the samsung 900x3b after reading your installation notes. It all looked like it was acheivable but I’m stuck already on the first part!

    I made a fedora bootable usb stick (which boots on another machine I tested), I have disabled fast boot mode in the bios, and then I changed the boot order so it would boot from USB first. However, it still goes straight into windows.

    Any suggestions?

  17. John Slade   •     Author

    ickleone, have you tried both the USB ports? I think only one is bootable (and I think it’s the one on the right).

    I did read something on Notebook Review that some of these Samsung laptops had USB boot problems and had to be returned.

  18. ickleone   •  

    Thanks for the tip.

    I tried the right port first after reading that this is the one that can be booted from. However, neither ports work. I’ve also tried the enable/disable option (shift+1) for both the SDD and the flash disk and it just always boots into windows.

    It does make me curiously feel better that others have reported usb boot problems and have returned their laptop. I am going to return mine today in the hope I’ll get a better working replacement.

    Thanks!

  19. Rafael   •  

    Hi,
    I’m trying to install fedora 17 on the series 9 but the fedora wont boot after installation, it sticks on GRUB screen and nothing.

    What I did:

    Install Gparted
    Create MSDOS partion table
    Create 500 MB – ext4 /boot
    Create 48.83 G – ext4 /
    Create 3G – swaap
    Create 66.99 G – extended – ext4

    Run anaconda installer – with custom partion
    First problem: Fedora ask to format /

    what i choose for the boot ? MSB our First section ???

    reboot

    our the screen gets tatally black our it shows “GRUB loading.” and nothing happens.
    Please help me !!

    Thnks

  20. ickleone   •  

    Just an update on the booting problem. I returned my laptop to amazon and got a new one and hey presto, it booted no problems.:)

    Thanks again for the tip.

  21. renato   •  

    Is bluetooth working?

  22. io   •  

    I had to disable fast boot in the BIOS and only then did it boot from the USB drive. I’m now running Fedora 17 and so far I’ve had no problems. WiFi did not work after a default installation. However, after running yum update, it works fine!

    Don’t shoot me for saying this but it seems Windows 7 booted faster than Fedora.

  23. John Slade   •     Author

    renato,

    Bluetooth works out the box. I just checked and the laptop pairs with my Android phone no problem and I can transfer files between the two devices.

  24. S   •  

    To make it boot from USB, I had to disable SDD booting completely (Shift-1 in boot sequence in BIOS). Disabling only Fast Boot and changing boot sequence didn’t help. 900x3C-A01IT

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