Back to the world of Linux - Running Arch Linux on ThinkPad W520
Friday, Jul 19, 2013
Well, after few re-installs (Windows 7, 8) and system failures (Windows 8, 8, 8), I am now coming back to the world of Linux. For me, Windows is slow, noisy and the most important thing: unpredictable. I upgraded to Windows 8 about two weeks ago, and the system unexpectedly crashed yesterday without any warning. It just blue screen and restart again and again. I have to say that a cuter blue screen did not make me feel better. Oppositely, when I see the cute blue screen, I know that Windows is trying to give people a good user experience as if they know that the system will crash.
Luckily I don’t have any sensitive data stored in the system drive, so I can just format the whole solid drive and reinstall another system. Finding a system is a tough choice, which is like when women are trying to decide what to wear. For me, or anyone that use computers in a daily basis, a good operating system means not only efficiency reliability, but also more about feelings and happiness. It makes me feel terrible when my system crashes all the time, and the only thing I can look for is a smile on the blue screen, so again, either make your system less buggy (I will not say bug-free, but please, make it less buggy), or don’t make people debugging the system too difficult or even impossible (a good example is putting a smile face only in the blue screen).
It works generally great with Arch Linux. I have a mSATA SSD as my system drive, which is about 64G, plenty for a Linux installation. I use MATE as my desktop environment because I found KDE and Gnome 3 not are just too complicated for me, and I am really used to the old Gnome 2 desktop environment. Let me summarize the W520 hardware compatibility with Arch Linux:
- Nvidia Q2000M video card works fine with Intel card using bumblebee (Nvidia proprietary driver), and I can power my second monitor use xrandr. I think the mechanism is that to power a virtual monitor service and rendering it on the second monitor. You can find more details about it here. I am using the DVI and normal VGA, and not using any Display port or HDMI port, so I am not sure what will happen to those ports if you try to use that.
- Audio card works fine, internal microphone works fine as well, no specific system needed, just use the alsa package will be good enough. I have a Logitech USB wireless headphone, which also works fine out of the box.
- Blue-tooth does NOT work, but I think the reason is that Mate desktop is using bluez 4.x, which is pretty old. As I am not using blue-tooth at all, it seems fine for me. If you are using blue-tooth, maybe you want to avoid using Mate desktop, or you may want to use a later version of desktop manager, or you may find a workaround for Mate with bluez 5.x.
- Fingerprint device, actually I don’t know, I think it works, but I am not sure, never test that and using a password is not too much overhead for me.
- USB 3.0, eSATA, all work out of the box, it is not a problem at all.
- Some of the media keys and functions is working, I don’t care too much of those things, I hardly use it in any case.
- Wireless is kind of wired, even it works fine. However, if I am using 5.0GHz signal, I will only have 54Mbps maximal, but if I am using 2.4GHz, it can reach the maximal speed of 300Mbps as it does on Windows platforms. However, it is really difficult to stay on that speed, most of the time I have 200-240Mbps, even the router is almost physically touching the computer. No kidding, they are really really close to each other.
So in general, everything seems working fine with ThinkPad W520 and Arch Linux. I like Arch Linux especially for its freedom of choice and full range of software you can choose from AUR. Of course if you are not familiar with Linux and how those things work together, you may want to use an easier version of Linux distribution. Ubuntu, Fedora and Mint are all great distributions to choose from.
I was using CentOS at the first time, however, I can’t bare with the old packages and limit choice of software. I know that I can download the source code packages and compile them all by myself, but as a desktop computer, I would still want to save as much time as I can on the administration tasks so that I can spend more time on real things, like writing this blog article.