The stdout of Tm_T

…and I'm still not slow

Notes about Dell XPS 13 developer edition and Kubuntu

Published on 2014.10.17

Got new tool, Dell XPS 13 developer edition, running Ubuntu 12.04. Here’s some experiences using it and also a note for future self what needed to be done to make everything work.

After taking restore disc from the pre-installed Ubuntu using the tool Dell provided, I proceeded on clean installing Kubuntu 14.04. I have to say for the size and price of this piece of hardware is rather amazing, only nitpicking could be the RAM capability being capped to 8 GiB. Having modern Linux distribution running smoothly in any circumstances is simply nice experience. I haven’t hit yet for the limitations of the integrated Intel GPU either, which is surprising, or maybe it is just telling my way of using these things. (:

Touch screen is maybe the most interesting bit on this laptop. Unfortunately I have to say the use of it is limited by UI not working well with touch interaction in many cases. Maybe choosing apps differently I would get better experience. At least some websites are working just fine when using Chromium browser.

Note on hardware support

Everything else works like a charm out of the box in Kubuntu 14.04, except cooling. After some searching I found out some Dell laptops need separate tools for managing the cooling. I figured out the following:

I needed to install i8kutils, which can be found in Ubuntu repositories.

Then I made the following contents to /etc/i8kmon.conf

# Run as daemon, override with --daemon option
set config(daemon)      0

# Automatic fan control, override with --auto option
set config(auto)        1

# Report status on stdout, override with --verbose option
set config(verbose) 1

# Status check timeout (seconds), override with --timeout option
set config(timeout) 12

# Temperature thresholds: {fan_speeds low_ac high_ac low_batt high_batt}
set config(0)   {{-1 0}  -1  48  -1  48}
set config(1)   {{-1 1}  45  60  45  60}
set config(2)   {{-1 2}  50  128  50  128}

# end of file

Note that some options are overridden in the init script, for example it does set i8kmon to daemon mode. Timeout of 12 seconds is there because I noticed every time fan speed is set, the speed begins to fall down in ~10 seconds so that in half a minute point you notice clearly the accumulated change on the fan speed. My 12 seconds is just compromise I found working for me well, YMWV etc.

Also to have i8kmon control cooling without human interaction, I needed to enable it in /etc/default/i8kmon

ENABLED=1

That’s it for now, I might end up updating the post if something new comes up regarding hardware support.

Filed under: All Posts, FLOSS, KDE, Ubuntu

3 Comments

  1. jim says:

    Word of caution .. there is a coil whine for this laptop. It’s not fixed yet and dell has been talking about a fix for a year. They recently said they redesigned the boards but ppl with the new board still have the issue. I suffered with it for 6 months until I fought for a refund and got a system76 galago ultrapro. Much happier now.

    http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/laptop/f/3518/t/19538215?pi239031352

    http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/laptop/f/3518/t/19598994

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dell_XPS#XPS_13_.289333.29
    “Released in 2013. Includes a 13.3″ LED backlit touch screen display with 1920×1080 resolution and Corning Gorilla Glass, Intel Core fourth generation i5-4200U or i7-4500U processor, Windows 8.1 (64-bit), Intel HD Graphics 4400, 4GB or 8GB Dual Channel DDR3 1600MHz RAM, 128GB or 256GB mSATA SSD, Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 + Bluetooth wireless, and 55 WHr 6-Cell Battery.

    However. Dell has not fixed the issue with this generation – a high pitched noise emitting from the keyboard area to the right.[25]”

    • Tm_T says:

      Hi Jim, it might be that my bad hearing is preventing me to notice that noise you mentioned, but good to know there’s that kind of issues. (:

  2. C. F. Howlett says:

    I’ve only been able to partially test “refurbished” i5 256gb models here in Beijing. I’ve been unable to find single 2014 model for sale ANYWHERE, including directly contacting DELL China. Hopefully, this portends a product line refresh. As my 2009 Dell 1545 is literally beginning to fall apart, I’m waiting impatiently …

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