About a week ago my new Lenovo T440s laptop arrived. Like most everything, it comes with Windows 8 and secure boot. Linux is my preferred operating system, so whenever I get a new computer I have a little work to do to convert it to Linux.
My previous laptop was a Lenovo t420s. This was one of the last of the “traditional” ThinkPad designs, with a traditional keyboard, regular track pad with buttons, indicator lights, latches, round charger port, etc. The T440s goes in the more “Mac like” direction that is common lately. I do appreciate the simpler sleeker design and the slightly smaller lighter form factor, but indicator lights would be nice, and the track pad is a bit noisy.
The first step is setting up Linux is being secure you can go back, and that means backing up the factory setup. Windows 8 comes with a “Create Recovery Drive” tool in the control pnanel. It requires a 16gb USB stick, and takes a while to run because it copies over several GB of data.
After that, came backing up the whole drive, just be safe. Clonezilla is a great tool for imaging a whole drive with a minimum of fuss. It is a Linux distro that boots off a USB key, so to use it, you need to be able to boot it, which means turning secure boot off in the BIOS/UEFI settings. After that, backing up the factory partitions to a USB hard drive was simple.
I like the KDE desktop best, for its flexibility and good looks, so I chose Kubtuntu. Using my old machine, I used the “Startup Disk Creator” tool to make a USB drive with Kubuuntu. The tool, I think unlike older versions, requires erasing the disk so it can partition it correctly for UEFI, among other things.
The system booted easily to the live desktop, and wireless and everything worked well, so I was confident in running an install. I told it to erase and sue the entire disk, setup up root, swap, and a UEFI partition as it saw fit.
After the Install
After the install, it booted to Kubuntu with no issues. WiFi, Wired networking, suspend, resume. etc, worked well out of the box. I’ve had a lot more trouble with these basic features on past hardware. Since my laptop has an SSD drive, I enabled TRIM to run as a daily cron job, which helps keep writes fast.
At this point, it was mainly a matter of just installing the packages I want, copying over files and configuration from my old laptop, and getting familiar with the feel of the hardware.
There are a couple things which did need some extra work though.
The track pad on this computer is a bit odd. Its a big touch sensitive area that is one big button, like the map track pad. However, the top is marked with left, button, and right button areas, which are implemented in software. Kubuntu is not aware of this arrangement by default, and needs to be told how to work with it.
It was not so easy to find a good configuration for it, but these instructions on Reddit helped.
So I did the following:
sudo vim /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/52-synaptics-t440s.conf
And added the following to that file:
Section "InputClass" Identifier "Default clickpad buttons" MatchDriver "synaptics" Option "SoftButtonAreas" "60% 0 0 2300 40% 60% 0 2300" Option "AreaTopEdge" "2300" EndSection
I bought this with a touch screen because it didn’t cost much more, I thought it would be useful for testing mobile apps if I ever need to, and its not something you can really upgrade to. The touch screen turned out to not really be too useful though. Kubuntu is not at all touch optimized of course. It can be nice to reach out and click a link. Chrome and Firefox don’t seem to support any kind of touch out of the box, or with any kind of settings. The touch screen does work well with Kubuntu for clicking on things, but that’s about it. I did find a ChromeTouch extension, which allows for touch scrolling.
Save for the touch pad, and the need to disable secure boot, this was one of the easiest laptops to set up with Linux. Its really fast, especially the graphics are a big boost. The screen is full HD and sharp and bright. Unfortunately, its glossy, and a matte option did not seem to be available, but its not quite the mirror some other screens can be. The ports have moved to the side from the back, which means cables are not out of your way when placed on your desk. I just hook up the power and Ethernet, and they happen to be on opposite sides of the laptop.