openSUSE Tumbleweed on an HP Zbook 15 G2 with Nvidia Quadro K2100M

I have reached the end of the road with this machine. We have been together for about three years and before sending it off to the ether, I wanted to try out openSUSE Tumbleweed on it. It was something of a question I have been asking myself since I was first assigned the piece of hardware. Windows 7 worked fine on it but how would it spin with the Plasma desktop.

The Opportunity

Since I had received my ‘new’ computer and transferred everything over, I decided now was the time. I felt it important to wipe the SSD on it anyway before shipping it out so trying out somethings seemed like a good idea. In order to boot from the USB drive, I had to change the boot order. I went into the BIOS to access the boot option. To go into the BIOS I pressed F10 on the POST Splash screen.

Using the fantastic openSUSE installer, I set up the machine very easily. I realize, that at this point, this installer is like second nature to me so making it more “user friendly” would likely not be to my liking.

I did note that the default drive arrangement now is to have a single BTRFS partition with a Swap partition. That isn’t my preference but I went with it.

After setting up all the bits, it took about 6 minutes to install the standard KDE Plasma desktop. Fir reference, I am using snapshot 20200612 which includes Plasma version 5.19.

The initial boot took 32 seconds to get to the login screen. Not sure if that is “fast” enough for most people but I was happy about that. After logging in, it took another 7 seconds to a settled desktop… which is not to my dark-theme liking but easily remedied.

I have my color preference stored here but I really should put it out there as a downloadable theme… someday, perhaps.

Specifications (the ones that matter to me)

Using my favorite system info tool, neofetch, I installed that first.

sudo zypper install neofetch

and ran the thing to get the output of those little things that matter to me about the system

This basically told me what I wanted / needed to know

  • CPU: Intel i7-4810MQ, 8 thread at 3.80Ghz 4th Generation Core
  • Screen: 1920×1080 matte finish screen
  • GPU: Nvidia Quadro K2100M
  • Memory: 32 GiB
  • Storage: 477GiB SSD (no idea the brand, didn’t care)

This is by no means a new machine but it did do its job very effectively as a CAD machine.

Setup and Configuration

Since the secondary monitor was to the left, I had to use the screen selection hotkey Fn+F4 to get to the onscreen switcher, arrow over and done. Plasma is beautiful in the way it works like that. Sicne the dark theme was added as previously described, I had to install the Multimedia Codecs from here. It’s also good to check to make sure that my instructions are still valid. They are!

The next thing to fix was this single-click nonsense. Not a fan of this out of the gate but I understand that openSUSE likes to stay close to the upstream. Not my preference but thankfully that is an easy fix by going to System Settings > General Behavior and changing the Click behavior to “Double-click to open files and folders.

The other thing I wanted to do was to set the window decoration to have the “Keep below” and “Keep above” buttons on it. These are buttons I use quite often. Mostly the “Keep Above” and to not have it makes my titlebar feel… inadequate.

Next was to install the Nvidia packages to take advantage of this GPU. The easy way can be found here on the openSUSE Wiki.

I used YasST to do the installation as I was thought, why not.

There is more than one way to get to managing the Repositories. I did it through the Software Management tool under Configuration > Repositories…

Next, I selected “Add” in the lower-left corner of the window then Community Repositories. On the next screen, I added the nVidia Graphics Drivers.

When it begins the process of adding the repository, you are asked if you want to Import an Untrusted GnuPG Key. I of course will trust this because, this is the openSUSE community!

After the import was complete, I searched and selected the nvidia-glG05* drivers which triggered the other required dependencies.

I selected the final Accept and the installation began.

Everything seemingly installed properly but I couldn’t use my secondary monitor after my reboot. No idea why. I event tried the older drivers but nothing. I chalk that up to Nvidia being what Nvidia is… painful to deal with. Maybe another distro would have recognized it better but I wasn’t interested as my time was incredibly limited with this machine.

I also downloaded the LeoCAD app Image because, why not do some fun CAD on this machine!

Since that worked out fantastically well, I thought I would do the other basic tests that I would need to do like visiting my favorite YouTube channels and made sure I could watch Netflix on Firefox. It all went well and really, I wasn’t disappointed.

I did end up removing the proprietary Nvidia drivers and going with the open source option so I could use the secondary monitor. Not a huge deal, a bit of a disappointment but at this stage I just wanted the secondary monitor.

The Good

This machine feels super snappy. Fast boot times, used very little memory when settled. Seemingly things work fine, for regular user usage. Though, this machine was specifically set up from HP as a CAD focused machine. Having 32 GiB of RAM, and 8 threads is pretty great. I didn’t get the opportunity to really test the hardware out as I would have liked but what little I did do, was pretty great.

The Touchpad is of a nice size and I like that there are buttons above and below the pad along with the Trackpoint between the G, H and B.

The Bad

The keyboard on this machine is just miserable. I am not sure what HP was thinking with this but the key-press is not consistent across the keyboard and they just don’t have a good feel to it. I feel like I have to use unnecessary forceful key presses to get the keys to recognize.

The arrow keys are of a silly layout and I often stumble a bit on it. Either hitting the up and down together or up and shift. It wasn’t meant for my long gangling fingers.

The Ugly

Nvidia didn’t play real well. It worked but not like I would have preferred. I wanted this to be a hugely bragging story about openSUSE and working well with Nvidia. I am sure that had I dug into it a bit, I could have ironed it out but I was less than happy. I have had other great success stories with Nvidia an openSUSE but this was not one of them.

… insert shrug emoji…

Final Thoughts

Outside of the Nvidia issue, which I may have eventually worked out if I had the time or the inclination, openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma desktop was a nice experience. At least, far nicer than the Windows 7 experience and now that I am thinking of it. The graphics drivers on Windows were wonkey too. I often had to reboot the machine to clear things up. So, it is possible there may be something not quite right with the hardware. It is also possible the keyboard may have been abused before I obtained it so that might account for the poor keyboard performance too.

If I had more time, I would have probably tried a few more distros on it. Leap being one and Pop_!OS being the other. Just to see if the Nvidia issue was a hardware thing. Would I ever buy this machine for myself? Nope. Lots of little things I don’t like about it, really. I would call it an “almost” machine. Everything about it is almost great but just happens to fall short in a lot of areas.

References

Download openSUSE Tumbleweed
CubicleNate.com openSUSE dark theme
Cubiclenate.com Multimedia Codecs terminal instructions
Nvidia Drivers on the openSUSE Wiki
LeoCAD AppImage Download

openSUSE Tumbleweed on HP Pavilion 15

HP Pavilion-15-00-TW.pngI make no bones about the fact I am a Linux geek and try to make myself available to anyone with tech questions, but I typically will shy away from putting hands on to fix any Windows issues. I just don’t have the time or patience to mess with it. I was approached by a lady in my church with a brand new laptop telling me she wants me to install Linux on it. We talked about what software she uses and the only application I don’t have a solution for (outside of using a VM) is iTunes. Though, it looks like this may be a non-issue as she only uses it on her phone.

The computer is an HP Pavilion 15-cs0034cl with very nice specifications. Much nicer than most of the hardware I own.

Specifications

  • Intel Core i7-8550 @ 1.80GHz
  • 12 GiB of RAM
  • Intel UHD Graphics 630 (Kabylake GT2)
  • Nvidia GeForce MX130
  • Glossy 1920 x 1080 touch screen
  • 2x USB 3 Ports
  • 1 USB-C
  • HDMI
  • A REAL Ethernet port, Realtek RTL8111/8168/8411
  • Intel Corporation Wireless 7265
  • SD Card Reader
  • 1 TB Hard Drive (yes, spinning rust)

Install

I prepared the installation USB Flash Drive by downloading and imaging the drive.

To start out, it is necessary to Access the BIOS: F10

Upon entering the BIOS, was a bit underwhelmed by the interface. It has that early 2000s look to it; mostly blue and gray. It also doesn’t have the breadth of options you would see on a Dell Latitude series of machines. Even one from 10 plus years ago.

In order to access the boot options, arrow over to Boot System Configuration and press enter, then arrow down to Boot Options and press enter.

HP Pavilion-15-01-Bios.jpg

Ensure the following to get the system to boot from the USB Drive:

  • USB Boot is Enabled
  • Secure Boot is Enabled
  • UEFI Boot Order, moved USB Diskette on Key/USB Hard Drive to the top of the list

Save and Exit, and began the installation process.

The install was without issue. In order to make this work, I removed the largest partition and, formatted the EFI partition but left the Microsoft Reserved Partition and Diagnostic Partition intact.

Drive Layout

  • 260.00 MiB for /boot/efi
  • 12.00 GiB Swap
    • I left this at 12 GiB so that should the owner of this machine require suspending to disk, the space is available. Many distros do not ship with this feature turned on but openSUSE does and it seemingly works fine on this machine.
  • 25.00 GiB / (root)
  • 0.86 TiB /home

Nvidia Graphics

To install the Nvidia drivers, taking advantage of the hybrid Intel / Nvidia technolgy, I used the openSUSE Wiki as a reference. It is very nicely laid out, step-by-step.

The Nvidia drivers certainly are an exercise in frustration. Maybe other distributions have the hybrid setups more dialed in but it is installed and usable. Realistically, this machine is not ever going to have to use the Nvidia graphics but it’s nice to know it’s there.

 

Additional Software

I installed my Basic Application List of the multimedia codecs and the Google Chrome browser. I don’t have a lack of faith in Firefox but I know this particular user is more accustomed to Google Chrome.

I also transferred a simple script and .desktop file I put together to assist in keeping the system properly updated with little effort.

What I like

This is a nice solid system that feels quality. I think I like the touch screen but at the same time just seems like a novel feature. The system is fast, thin and light weight. The keyboard isn’t bad and quite possibly one of the HP keyboards I have ever used.

The screen has a unique pivot point that tilts the laptop just a bit when it is opened.

HP Pavilion-15-02-pivot.png

Conveniently, this machine has an Intel Wireless NIC so there wasn’t any effort needed to get it operational. Outside of the Nvidia GPU, there wasn’t any fiddling required on this machine to get everything working.

The screen is really sharp and crisp looking. Based on the screen and keyboard alone, I could certainly use this as a daily driver.

What Don’t Like

I would prefer to have an AMD GPU as it is easier to use for the hybrid function. AMD has also open sourced their drivers so there is nothing that has to be done to get the needed performance out of your system. I still like having an optical media drive, tho admittedly, I am not using one as often as I used to but I still prefer having one built in.

I also don’t like people touching my screen…

Final Thoughts

I wasn’t able to test the USB-C port as I don’t have anything that to plug into it. Everything for this machine works right out of the gate. I would recommend this machine for most people as it will do what most people need. I only tested Tux Racer on this machine and it ran smashingly well, without any screen tearing or glitching.

I will be likely supporting this machine for quite a while but I don’t mind helping others get off of the proprietary software wagon. I am a big believer in owning your own hardware, having something that is more secure on a platform you can trust.

Here is to hoping this conversion to Linux goes well!

References

Base Application List

openSUSE Wiki on NVIDIA Bumblebee

Simple Tumbleweed Distribution Upgrade Script

openSUSE Leap 15.0 Early Adoption Experience

Dell Latitude D830 openSUSE Leap 15.0-sm

I have a “sidekick” machine in my cubicle that has been happily running openSUSE Leap since I started using it. It is a recovered Dell Latitude D830 with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 CPU at 2.50 GHz, 4 GiB of RAM and the Nvidia Quatro NVS 140M. It just has a standard hard disk drive for storage. I put this unit back together 3 years ago only expecting to get a year or two of use out of it. Thankfully, the way Linux, and specifically openSUSE rolls the distribution, I have far extended the life of this machine.

Since this hardware is older everything is generally supported out of the box without any tweaking. I have decided, for now, to not use the proprietary drivers and see if Nouveau will work using KDE Plasma and not lock up on me.

Installation

I downloaded the DVD Image (now released as an official version) and used SUSE ImageWriter to write it to a USB. Like virtually every other openSUSE installation, it was pretty uneventful. I did choose to do a “Nuke and pave” for this installation as I wanted to set everything up from scratch. There have been a number of changes in openSUSE since the last static release, namely, the BTRFS subvolume structure, the location of the RPM Database move and SuSEfirewall2  migration to the new firewalld. I also experimented with a number of applications on this system and just wanted to have a fresh start.

Outside of the warning of the usage of Nouveau drivers with KDE Plasma, there as nothing to note on the installation process.

First Run

To start out, I needed to ensure that I covered my bases for my preferences. Since I like to add a little Oxygen Theme into the Breeze Theme I immediately ran this in terminal:

sudo zypper install oxygen5

I also like Konqueror and one of it’s specific features, the File Size View.

 sudo zypper install konqueror konqueror-plugins

Then I added the Multimedia Codecs along with VLC Player.

So far, everything seems to be working just as expected and the Nouveau drivers are holding up. I will continue to use them until I have any issues

Dell Latitude D830 Leap 15.0 20180523.png

One Week Later

I have since updated the machine to the current release version and I am still operating, trouble free. The System seems to be humming away well with the Nouveau drivers. I have tested many things I know would have caused the graphics drivers to bug out and crash X. At this point, there hasn’t been any weirdness whatsoever. The compositor is running just fine without any glitching. I have been using this machine in the same mannor as I had previously used it under openSUSE Leap 42.3 with the propriatary Nvidia drivers. Should I have an issue, I will see if the propriatary drivers fix it.

What I Like

After installing the necessary packages, all of my system settings were just as I wanted them to be. I didn’t have to fiddle around with any settings. KDE Plasma 5.12 is the Long Term Support version of the Environment and I know that from my expeirience with the transition to 5.12, it is more memory efficient than previous versions. In only one week, I haven’t run into any issues where Swap Space was needed. In monitoring the memory usage, I fluctuated between 2.8 GiB to 3.4 GiB in usage with Firefox being biggest memory hog. This has prompted me to start playing around with the Falkon web browser which I downloaded here. So far so good but I need more time to use and play with it before I can say more.

What I don’t Like

So far, I haven’t found any issues, but it has only been a week that I have been using it. Maybe, I could say, I don’t like that openSUSE doesn’t have wider adoption as it is technically very sound and very stable. I am hoping with the release of openSUSE Leap 15.0 that it will reach a wider audience.

Conclusion

openSUSE Leap 15.0 has been polished up very nicely. It it very much an incramental improvement over 42.3. The software selection meets my needs and if the software you want is not in the official repository, there is likely a repository available on the Open Build Service.

Since most of my systems are pretty low-end, I have them generally set up for specific purposes. Although I can happily run openSUSE the way I want with 2 GiB of RAM, I have come to the conclusion that in order to have a real positive experience, you need to have at least 4 GiB of RAM.

This Dell Latitude D830 is now 11 years old. It is far past it’s end of life but thanks to the all the fine engineers involved from kernel development, the applicaitons all the way to package maintainers and testers, this computer still remains very useful and not quite obsolete. I am impressed with the stability open source Nouveau graphics drivers which gives me a lot of confidence that as Nvidia abaondons the older hardware, I have options. I just may get several more years out of this machine.

Further Reading

openSUSE Leap Download

SUSE Imagewriter

Falkon Web Browser

Falkon Web Browser Download for openSUSE

Multimedia Codecs along with VLC Player

KDE Breeze Theme with Oxygen Enhancements