Area 51M on GNU/Linux

Discussion in 'Linux Compatibility and Software' started by x-pac, Jun 2, 2019.

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Preferred gaming laptop for GNU/Linux

  1. Alienware Area-51M

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. MSI GT75

    0 vote(s)
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  3. Asus ROG G703GX

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. Razer Blade Pro 17

    1 vote(s)
    33.3%
  5. Gigabyte Aero 15

    0 vote(s)
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  6. Aorus 15-XA-F74CDW

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  7. Other (Comment)

    2 vote(s)
    66.7%
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  1. x-pac

    x-pac Notebook Enthusiast

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    Has anyone tried installing GNU/Linux on the current gen Area-51M laptops? I used to own an 17R3, and the BIOS on that thing was a dream to set up GNU/Linux with. I ran Manjaro full-time on that thing for over four years without a headache. But I now need a laptop, and my lab work requires an almighty GPU... so I am considering getting an Area-51M.

    I have heard some rumors, though, that the current gen machines sometimes refuse to boot with GNU/Linux. I was wondering if someone has tried going down this way, and may be could share the experience? Usually Dell has been very easy with GNU/Linux, but if they have significantly locked down their bios, then I might have to go with System 76. Which, in Montreal, would unfortunately involve a lot of taxes! Plus service would mean shipping to and from Quebec... which makes me want to get something more mainstream if I can get GNU/Linux to work on it without having to go down the Gentoo-road!
     
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  2. Dennismungai

    Dennismungai Notebook Deity

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    Thank Dell for that. These guys take Linux support seriously.

    This is correct, mostly due to ACPI related bugs. Take a look at this issue on Bumblebee for a start. A proper dumpster fire.

    I have, at least on the machines I've owned over time (due to dual booting and work requirements).
    A few rules of thumb:

    (a). If you're after a gaming laptop (with proper GPU performance), try and avoid purchasing models with NVIDIA Optimus. This is a headache, most of the time, requiring workarounds to get it right on most laptops, and apart from Ubuntu and System76's Pop Os, other distros aren't going to be so friendly out of the box. However, if you have a laptop WITH Optimus AND a Mux switch, ideally configurable from within the BIOS for persistence, you'll be set. As a bonus, no Optimus mostly implies support for G-SYNC, so no losses here.

    (b). Macs, especially the newer models, are a big no. Don't even think about using Linux on one UNLESS you're using a significantly older Mac (such as the 2015 Macbook Pro).

    (c). Peripherals: (Most) headsets, keyboards (save for some Red dragon stuff) and mice will work well out of the box. The same applies for things such as Thunderbolt docks and their associated peripherals, such as eGPUs, etc. However, vendor specific features, such as laptop fan control, RGB lighting settings, etc, are pretty much a hit or miss UNLESS you're using a Razer product. Razer supports RGB lighting across their entire ecosystem on Linux. Corsair's peripherals are also supported via the ckb-next project, to a somewhat limited subset of their product line-up. For instance, support for the Lenovo Legion Y-series laptop using Corsair's RGB protocol is pretty much unsupported, at the present. Consider this a reverse engineered effort. On the Linux vendor section, Tuxedo laptops GMBH offers extras for supported Clevo (and perhaps, Tongfang?) SKUs through their fan control and keyboard backlight control utilities.

    Notes on System76:

    This is a company whose products, despite their guaranteed compatibility with Linux and the availability of a highly polished custom operating system (pop os), I cannot recommend, in good faith.
    Their custom utilities, such as firmware updates (provided by the system76 driver project) explicitly rely on firmware and BIOS versions provided by the company. Their hardware is mostly based off Clevo barebones (for the laptops), implying a significantly inferior experience out of the box. Clevo systems are useless without Prema BIOS mods.

    I can provide a list of recommended laptops for Linux later on, with the help of other Linux users on this forum. And from there you can cherry pick on what fits your needs, budgets and portability constraints.
     
  3. x-pac

    x-pac Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thanks a lot for this! I have similar concerns about System 76, although they claim to make their own BIOS. Regarding firmware and stuff they claim to "work closely with OEMs" to produce in-house custom firmware and drivers for their hardware. But that could be euphemism for what you are saying. I am also wary of Clevo build-qualities, even if the firmware and drivers are completely custom and specific to System 76 specific Clevos. Here's what they officially claim, on Reddit and elsewhere.

    A list of suggested RTX laptops would be great! I had my heart set on the Area 51M for upgradeability, but if its going to have significant issues then it's probably not worth the trouble...
     
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  4. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    I don't have any connection with System76, Pop!_OS or hardware sales, or in any other way, but I am curious as to what your "good faith" can't recommend reasons are, in specific, besides the contradictory suggestion from you following:
    Why would you recommend against custom System76 BIOS changes to get Linux features working - like Optimus - and then recommend against those custom BIOS / firmware features and instead recommend custom BIOS / firmware features by Prema, which I don't think have any Linux specific features?

    If you get the performance unlocked with Prema's changes, where will you get the Linux BIOS /firmware changes + OS compatibility changes to support specific hardware?, or do Prema BIOS changes extend to fixixing Optimus and other hardware compatibility issues with Linux too?

    Removing power limits is not something I hear most people asking for when trying to get Linux working on their laptops. They are looking for Linux support to be added for hardware not currently supported by the base Linux distro.
    That would be very helpful, thanks!

    @Dennismungai @x-pac

    "euphemism" for what exactly? They are saying they work closely with OEM partners - that means they are getting the hardware specific data they need to modify the BIOS / Firmware and make driver changes for Linux OS support.

    That's exactly what I've done many times for clients, and it's quite normal. The client has the source code and can self support the changes moving forward, and that's how that works.

    Prema's mods are only available for certain partner vendors and also AFAIK don't include Linux OS support for hardware compatibility.

    When looking to get what you want hardware wise with Linux, over and above the out of the box stock Linux driver support, the only way to get things working is to do the changes yourself, hire someone to do it, or buy it pre-configured from a vendor that does Linux favorable builds for the hardware you need.

    IDK what the problem here is? What is the problem exactly? Maybe it's a conceptual problem?, that's what I am hoping, which is why I am joining to discuss and explaining it from a hardware / software driver writer perspective.

    It's tough enough to find Linux hardware oriented vendors that will support Linux on their hardware, no need to kill the available ones by bad-mouthing them, unless there is a good reason... is there a good reason?
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
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  5. Dennismungai

    Dennismungai Notebook Deity

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    I prefer to retain maximum performance where I can, within acceptable compromises. Completely disabling ME (as system76 does) deals a hefty blow to functions such as overclocking. I'm sure @Prema can confirm this.
    Taking an artificial crippling in performance for implied "better security" as a selling point does not sail well by me.
    The reason I'd take Prema mods any day over what System76 does comes down to two factors:

    (a). No compromises on performance, as indicated above (with the ME disable business). Secondly, Prema takes feedback on BIOS options very well, going out of his way to explain why some settings (in his mods) are defaults and others aren't. Were I to dual boot a system running Prema Mods vs the firmware provided by System76, I'm sure Prema's would be a better fit.

    (b). Work-arounds, such as passing boot loader arguments to enable better ACPI handling, etc, are available. Locking these Linux enhancing features to vendor specific BIOSes (considering that they also partner with other ODMs) is what puts me off with the likes of System76. A much better approach to this would be pushing their enhancements upstream so that other systems based on similar hardware can benefit from their work over time.

    Their contributions towards the betterment of the Linux ecosystem is noteworthy, and appreciable.
    However, as you stated:
    One based on compromises I'm not willing to take, then pay a premium for.
    There's a niche (of users, companies, etc) that would gladly embrace this based on their requirements, but for me in particular, its' a hard sell.
     
  6. Dennismungai

    Dennismungai Notebook Deity

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    I should've been more reserved with the tone implied in the phrase
    Particularly because it may come off as an attack against System76, in particular.
    That is distasteful, and overtly opinionated.
    My apologies.
     
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  7. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    Most people are having enough trouble getting Linux on the hardware they want, they aren't worried about placement in a benchmark competition.

    OC'ing in Linux as it is under the OS is either limited, not currently supported, and "furthest" from the mind of everyone I've worked with on business and personal Linux usage.

    They want to get hardware support working on Linux, and once that is successful, they are off to do what they wanted to do with their Linux/hardware in the first place. They aren't interested in muddling around OC'ing / tuning for a few percentage points in a benchmark.

    Performance problems with hardware configuration are the kind solved with hardware support / compatibility fixes with a far larger scale of sucess and percentage results than the few percent you might get OC'ing. Once it's working most clients aren't going to expend further resources to get a few percentage points faster performance.

    There have been situations in the past where OC'ing has made a workflow difference, but it's rare and costly to support vs results. Often in the next generation CPU / GPU similar tuning changes aren't as fruitful.

    Again, finding a vendor that will support their hardware on Linux with compatibility changes for firmware, BIOS, OS is rare and should be admired and applauded.

    And, if the vendor is that responsive with capacity to implement software / hardware changes to support Linux, perhaps if you asked them they might have positive responses to user requests for OC'ing, undervolting, and support for gaming under Linux - with tuning in firmware / BIOS / vBIOS / OS? It wouldn't hurt to ask.

    And, maybe Prema and a Linux hardware vendor could partner up and provide both performance and hardware compatibility in firmware / BIOS / vBIOS / OS. It could happen. Ask Prema and the vendor. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2019
  8. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    Thanks, I didn't think you really meant it that way, which is why I was asking. :)
     
  9. x-pac

    x-pac Notebook Enthusiast

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    I largely agree with your position on System 76. In fact, I would even go so far ahead as to say that one should consider supporting vendors like System 76, not only because they are working with GNU/Linux and actively providing an alternative, but also because of their Free Hardware philosophy. That definitely is a big step in the right direction.

    I think you're right about what the options are, for a GNU/Linux hardware, and even there having an OEM makes things simpler for the working folks compared to having to hunt down freelancers who would set things up for a fee. Although, I would almost always pay a freelancer trying to make a living by supporting Free systems.

    Personally speaking, I would probably end up paying the CAD 600 ~ QST for importing the Serval WS to Montreal because I need a system that will work. I have enough on my plates trying to keep up with my own field of research without trying to become an expert in GNU/Linux system administration. That is just not an option. But I figured it would be worth looking around to see if some of the mainstream models are relatively hassle-free to set up, largely because UPS makes importing things to Montreal a massive gamble. You can't even approximate what they are gonna charge for you brokerage fees, customs bond etc. I have had experiences where I have had to pay CAD 60.00 or so on a CAD 180.00 purchase from the U.S., only a fraction of which was QST while UPS charged the rest! So yeah... if there is a GNU/Linux-friendly mainstream option, I would take that at this point. Otherwise, I have really no complaint against System 76 (except may be their sticking to Ubuntu. Providing an alternative, like Manjaro or an Arch-based Pop OS version, couldn't possibly be that much of a burden! Tuxedo Computers do that in Europe!).

    Okay, I think I largely agree with this point about making the changes available upstream. I didn't know System 76 is not actively doing this, and I think they should if they are really serious about being 'Free'.

    Agreed wholeheartedly. I can't ever comprehend the benefits of overclocking. I have meddled with overclocking and games in windows casually, and frankly IMO there is absolutely ZERO perceptible benefits. If I have a GTX 1070, say, and it is performing normally it provides enough of a performance for my game to be enjoyable. Overclocking it on my old laptop, under windows, I could only tell the difference (in Far Cry 3 and 5) by actively turning on and looking at the frame-rate counter on the top corner of the screen. There was no difference to performance that was definitely perceptible (other than psychological placebo effects). I am not at all concerned with OC, as long as the hardware works perfectly, out of the box or at least without major hassles!
     
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  10. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    @x-pac besides System76 there are other Linux laptop vendors, but I can't find any listed in Canada...

    Update: Found one in Canada

    JCCSS | High Quality Custom Computers
    Shipping world-wide from Ottawa, ON, Canada. Linux available with every model.
    https://jccss.ca/#/
    Debian, Ubuntu, and Arch Linux available. But, I'd call to see how they are doing as all the computers are old, old, old...it looks like the stock hasn't been updated for over a year on the web site.

    Here's some more or less recent lists:

    10 Places Where You Can Buy Linux Computers
    Last updated May 23, 2019 By Abhishek Prakash 29 Comments
    https://itsfoss.com/get-linux-laptops/

    16 Places To Buy A Laptop With Linux Preloaded
    last updated February 12, 2019
    https://www.cyberciti.biz/hardware/laptop-computers-with-linux-installed-or-preloaded/

    Linux Preloaded
    https://linuxpreloaded.com/

    Amazon - Linux Laptops

    Dell UNIX Blog - Barton's Blog
    https://bartongeorge.io/
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
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