Dell Laptop, UEFI, Ubuntu vs Debian

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Dell Laptop, UEFI, Ubuntu vs Debian

Postby Danielsan » 2016-03-02 05:02

Hi folks, I am going to buy a laptop from Dell: Precision M2800 Mobile Workstation, is not exactly what I am looking for but is within my budget, I would prefer to buy a laptop from System76 but are too expansive right now for me.

Thus what is the problem?

While System76 assured me by email that I can install whatever OS I want on their products, I am concerned that the Dell laptops have secure boot and the other crappy security by MS which allowed to install just Ubuntu because Canonical pays for a trusted key. Does anybody of you have experience with the latest Dell Laptop? Are you able to install Debian without problem?

Please let me know, thanks.
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Re: Dell Laptop, UEFI, Ubuntu vs Debian

Postby edbarx » 2016-03-03 11:46

I will try to answer you although I am certain you can arrive at similar conclusions on your own.

i) For a laptop you will use a wifi. So, you need to know what wifi device it has installed
ii) You will also need to know what kind of CPU it has installed whether it is Intel, etc.
iii) Check also the GPU graphics processing unit. This is important as you most surely need access to a graphic display
iv) Wired network card (Ethernet?). This is important if you plan to use a wired connection
v) Whether UEFI's Secure Boot can be disabled.

If you know the answer to these five questions you can decide whether GNU/Linux will work without problems. Make sure UEFI allows you to disable Secure Boot as only that will allow you to install whatever distribution you may want.

Ask the supplier for information about these five items. Most probably they have Windows installed, so they can give you these details. Be also aware, that purchasing a laptop without Windows installed is going to be difficult and may in the end cost you more. It is better for you to pay less and remove Windows rather than fighting a battle to end being charged more.
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Re: Dell Laptop, UEFI, Ubuntu vs Debian

Postby Danielsan » 2016-03-03 21:19

Thanks EdbarX, probably I wasn't clear, the laptop I intend to buy it is sold with Ubuntu 12.04, so i am pretty sure the hardware is compatible with the Linux Kernel, the problem is Ubuntu pays to have a trusted key to use with the UEFI manipulated by M$, and you already knew if change OS on this kindo of laptop you will lose your guarantee so probably nobody will reply at this question.
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Re: Dell Laptop, UEFI, Ubuntu vs Debian

Postby edbarx » 2016-03-04 06:32

In case you need to return your laptop for repairs, you can keep a backup of Windows. This is how Linux people work around stringent MS Windows favouring policies.

Make a backup as soon as you purchase your new laptop and then you can install GNU/Linux, but UEFI must allow you to disable Secure Boot, otherwise it will be very difficult to install what you want.

If I remember well there was a project regarding a signed pre-booter which would load a bootloader in UEFI Secure Boot but I haven't read anything about it. So, don't rely on it if don't confirm it exists and works.
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Re: Dell Laptop, UEFI, Ubuntu vs Debian

Postby gradinaruvasile » 2016-03-07 22:06

Today at work i had a brand new Precision 3510 - Intel 530 IGP+Radeon HD 8830M (this is actually some FirePro) in testing and i installed Debian Testing (Mate Desktop) on it without issues. This is the latest Skylake platform (i7-6820HQ CPU) , its newer than the 2800 (which seems to be mostly like the Latitude E6540 which is a model i work on and supports Debian well).
Wireless (needs the firmware-iwlwifi package) was working, audio working, FN-buttons working, opengl was working (only basic in-browser webgl testing so far), even hardware decoding (tested with 1080p clips on smplayer+mpv) was working. Also i tested multi-displays and docking (Dell E-port replicator doscking station), all working.
Note that the video needed the firmware-linux-nonfree package (Intel 530 IGP).
Battery life seems great, it reported 10-12 hours on ~90% (84 wh battery). Note that i used only the Intel IGP (the AMD card, if not explicitly used via dri_prime will stay shut down - this makes this platform more stable than the Optimus (nvidia+intel).

I installed it in UEFI mode (Legacy mode was available too in the BIOS) from the Testing netinstall cd and used the 4.4 kernel from unstable.

I saw no business-grade Dell laptop where you cannot disable secure boot (which is NOT UEFI boot which is supported on Linux). In fact most we received were coming with Windows 7 (=NO secure boot by default). Some had Win8, but the UEFI interface had the same options to disable it.
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Re: Dell Laptop, UEFI, Ubuntu vs Debian

Postby Danielsan » 2016-03-08 05:49

The Laptop Dell I have intended to buy is sold-out, so next choice available for me after some tuning is up to $ 2000 too much for my budget, so I think now I am going to buy an Oryx Pro by System76.
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