Laptop hardware support

Help with issues regarding installation of Debian

Laptop hardware support

Postby Doggybag » 2017-08-15 08:39

So I haven't done an installation in a long time. I used to do them loads, when I was happy mucking around with new operating systems every week. But then other things took over, and I haven't done one for, perhaps, the best part of ten years. (That's probably some kind of testament to the stability of debian.) Now I'm getting a new laptop, and obviously technology has moved on somewhat in the past ten years, in fact my computers are even older than that. I know (knew) my way around debian and linux reasonably well, but I have no idea about all this new-fangled stuff, particularly efi and secure boot and the like. Even grub 1 seemed quite new last time I installed anything, but lilo seems to be long-dead now.

My new machine is a toshiba laptop with Windows 10, and I'd like to have a dual-boot setup. Is it likely that debian stretch will work well with all the hardware? I'd like to have a system without any non-free firmware if possible. I remember wireless networking used to be a bit awkward, and usually wouldn't work from the netinst cd - is that still the case, or will the netinst cd have all the drivers needed for wireless?

(Or, if I'm going to leave windows on anyway, would it be easier just to run debian in a virtual machine?)
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby orythem27 » 2017-08-15 08:59

Doggybag wrote:My new machine is a toshiba laptop with Windows 10, and I'd like to have a dual-boot setup. Is it likely that debian stretch will work well with all the hardware

Test with LiveCD/LiveUSB.

Doggybag wrote:(Or, if I'm going to leave windows on anyway, would it be easier just to run debian in a virtual machine?)

This is actually a pretty good idea. I myself has been thinking about going full virtualized for quite some time.
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby Doggybag » 2017-08-15 09:01

orythem27 wrote:Test with LiveCD/LiveUSB.


Good point, I forgot about those!
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby pylkko » 2017-08-15 09:02

Doggybag wrote: I'd like to have a system without any non-free firmware if possible.

not possible

a win 10 license allows you to download a virtual machine image for win 10 also, if you prefer it that way around.
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby Doggybag » 2017-08-15 09:06

pylkko wrote:a win 10 license allows you to download a virtual machine image for win 10 also, if you prefer it that way around.

So much has changed in 10 years lol! That sounds ideal - I need windows for some work programs but I'd prefer to have debian as my main system.
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby Wheelerof4te » 2017-08-15 09:15

Doggybag wrote:My new machine is a toshiba laptop with Windows 10, and I'd like to have a dual-boot setup. Is it likely that debian stretch will work well with all the hardware? I'd like to have a system without any non-free firmware if possible. I remember wireless networking used to be a bit awkward, and usually wouldn't work from the netinst cd - is that still the case, or will the netinst cd have all the drivers needed for wireless?


Support for non-free firmware has improved, but is still a problem. Especially for Wi-Fi cards. There are Debian Live images, as well as images with non-free firmware. Debian does not officially support those images, nor does it ship with non-free repos by default. As for Windows 10, I wouldn't count on it's long-term support, bonus points if it's an old PC:

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=133807
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby Doggybag » 2017-08-15 09:24

Things have got even worse than they used to be! I might just try to persude everyone I work with to switch to Libreoffice, that might be easier than faffing about with windows licences...

It's a new laptop so I'm guessing it will be ok with windows 10 - for now. But what happens in 2027 when I'm still using it and windows 15 or whatever comes out? Sounds like it's back to the first plan of trying to get debian installed properly.

As an aside, is installing with encrypted partitions any different under efi?
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby Wheelerof4te » 2017-08-15 09:31

Doggybag wrote:As an aside, is installing with encrypted partitions any different under efi?


I have never installed Debian on EFI or UEFI, but you could check UEFI wiki page: https://wiki.debian.org/UEFI

Maybe others can help.
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the poor firmware situation

Postby pylkko » 2017-08-15 09:36

In some sense the firmware situation is worse than before.

For example, all Intel machines from 2006 on have Intel management engine, a separate ARC processor core with a ROM and access to the system RAM/network stack (even when the machine is powered off). The firmware is entirely closed source and non-free. It contains at least a small Real-time operating system and a Java virtual machine. AMD has a similar system. In earlier versions you could take out the chip (or reprogram it with a JTAG programmer) and the machine would work and you would get the reserved RAM/freedom back. Later versions, however, will reboot the system every 30 mins or block it's startup entirely if the ME is disabled.

New (skylake +)Intel hardware also require closed-source proprietary binary blobs for GPU power management and audio. Kabylake and on have some DRM/copy protaction 4K video allowing chip in them. Almost all Wifi cards require non-free blobs. UEFI's are also non-free and closed. And so on.

Many programs are, however, OS agnostic today. SO many things used in the office are now "cloud" software. All you need is a browser basically. I mean even Office and Skype are available as cloud platform. Web-based email, documents, spreadsheets, messaging, calendars, literally everything. Name even one thing that cannot now be done using a browser.

https://semiaccurate.com/2017/05/01/rem ... platforms/
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby Doggybag » 2017-08-15 10:20

What on earth has happened? From the sound of that article that applies to desktops too. Is this the (very poor from the start) idea of "trusted platform modules" taken further?
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby pylkko » 2017-08-15 19:52

Doggybag wrote:What on earth has happened? From the sound of that article that applies to desktops too. Is this the (very poor from the start) idea of "trusted platform modules" taken further?

This is the reason you will not ever get "entirely free" firmware. For example, the developers of Libreboot (a open source BIOS) say this:
https://libreboot.org/faq.html#intel

Things like this also apparently allow locating terrorists and having drones shoot at them.

The only computers that can have anything even nearing 100% free software are some old machines where the proprietary BIOS can be reflashed or some of those "dev boards", that is small form factor single chip computers (often ARM architecture cpu's).
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby luvr » 2017-08-15 20:07

My experience with Toshiba laptops is limited to a Toshiba C870 that the owner wanted to dump because she was sick and tired of the Windows 8 that it had come with, so she went for an Apple MacBook (she could afford it).

I switched the laptop to Legacy BIOS mode (a.k.a. "CSM", "Compatibility Support Module", as it appears to be called officially). I installed Xubuntu 14.04 (which was the current Ubuntu Long-Term Support release at the time) on it for the new owner, and "Everything Just Worked (TM)". I'm sure that Debian would run just as fine on the laptop, too, but it certainly will need some proprietary firmware blob.

I have only recently set up a laptop for dual-boot between Windows 10 and Xubuntu 16.04. Like you, I had been out of the loop, as far as new developments go, for quite a while. My desktop PCs are some nine or ten years old and still chugging along quite nicely.
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby pylkko » 2017-08-15 20:16

Why would you use CSM (legacy boot) on a UEFI laptop when Debian can do UEFI, and Ubuntu has been able to to do UEFI for even before Debian?
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby luvr » 2017-08-15 21:04

pylkko wrote:Why would you use CSM (legacy boot) on a UEFI laptop when Debian can do UEFI, and Ubuntu has been able to to do UEFI for even before Debian?

Because I could? :wink:

No, seriously, I had never before even touched a UEFI machine, and I didn't feel like figuring it out back then. Traditional BIOS had always served me fine, and it still could. I'm just not that much into "The Latest and Greatest New Gadget" at all times. Gosh, I don't even have a smartphone yet... I'm sticking with a good old dumbphone for now. I'll make up my mind once the HMD/Nokia brand is up to speed.
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Re: Laptop hardware support

Postby pylkko » 2017-08-16 04:19

You should notice, however, that uefi csm's are not old school bios. Also, they are many times buggy and work poorly. There is also much variance between different manufacturers. Only use them if there is no alternative.
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