Linux on the Asus UX305

The Machine

I bought an Asus UX305C from the Microsoft Store (may The Penguin forgive me: it was so cheap ...). If the letters and numbers after the name mean anything (they may not), there are multiple variants of this machine. According to the site I bought it from, I have an "ASUS ZenBook UX305CA-UHM4T Signature Edition Laptop."

13.3" 3200x1800 touchscreen
Intel Core m3-6Y30
8GB memory/256GB SSD
2.5 pounds (why I bought it)

I purchased it in late December 2015: this may be important, as I think the BIOS settings of the earlier models were different: notably, I had to unset Secure Boot to be able to boot from Linux media, while a lot of Linux-UX305 posts claimed you didn't need to.

It was my intention to keep Windows 10 on the machine: I won't use it much, but it could be useful for work and there's still a very faint possibility I'll encounter some software I have to run that insists that it will only work on Windows.

This is offered AS IS, no warranty expressed or implied. It's just the notes I made as I worked through a pretty messy install. And they're rough notes. I hope it's of use to someone.

The Short Version

  • I used Knoppix and gparted to resize Windows (Knoppix had incredibly tiny fonts)
  • the Debian install ended badly: use Ubuntu (I used "15.10/Wily amd64 desktop")
  • the fonts are very small (work needed!)
  • the touch pad isn't working (it's not a hardware problem as it works under Windows) UPDATE 2016-01-02: known issue with the UX305C (note that trailing "C" - it makes a big difference). If you're using Fedora, another UX305C owner tells me the latest "rawhide kernel" will fix it, no fix for Ubuntu that I know of yet
  • the touch screen IS working
  • I haven't tried wireless since the install, but it worked during the install so I expect it's fine
  • UPDATE 2016-01-02: battery life appears to be about three hours under Linux, which is incredibly bad: I'll look at tweaking this

Disabling Secure Boot

  • did NOT boot Windows first, which is probably not how most people do it: no idea if that's better or worse, but probably means Windows doesn't have the opportunity to write "unmoveable" pagefiles and the like that can prevent resizing of its partition
  • start with hammering the Esc key when the Asus logo comes up (after many reboots, once turns out to be sufficient)
  • enter BIOS
  • under "Security" -> "Secure Boot menu" -> "Secure Boot Control" -> Disabled
  • under "Boot" -> "Launch CSM" (what does that mean?) -> Enabled
  • these two things combined (you need both) seem to be the recipe for booting external media
  • save and exit

Resizing Partitions

  • my external USB DVD player now works with bootable Knoppix
  • Knoppix 7.0.5 is unaware that a 13" 3200x1800 screen requires larger fonts ... practically unreadable
  • the touchpad isn't supported (a USB mouse solved that)
  • Knoppix GRUB: "knoppix screen=1280x800 depth=24" ... no joy
  • so I did it with my really strong reading glasses, with my face about 30 cm from the screen
  • ran a terminal, then sudo gparted
  • the original disk layout:
/dev/sda1 fat32 Label: "SYSTEM" 260MiB /dev/sda2 unknown 16MiB (Debian's installer called this "Microsoft re") /dev/sda3 ntfs "OS" was ~237GiB, now 75GiB /dev/sda5 ext4 new, 164GiB /dev/sda4 ntfs "RECOVERY" 499MiB (hidden)

Debian Attempt

  • using a Debian testing netinst image from 2015-04
  • it identified the wifi as needing iwlwifi-7265-9.ucode iwlwifi-7265-8.ucode (which I chose not to load as I didn't have them)
  • I do however have a good USB network dongle that was recognized and used
  • split sda5 into 5/6/7, 2x 8GB partitions for OSes, and 160GB (sorry for the change of measures, ie. no longer "GiB," but this is what it's giving me) for /home, with the latter encrypted
  • I failed to add a swap partition ... and Debian's installer doesn't allow the removal of encrypted partitions: once they're placed, it's done like dinner
  • you have to reboot, get back to the same stage and delete the partition (this is a known and long-standing bug that affects not only Debian but also Ubuntu)
  • so new layout is:
sda5 8G (PrimaryOS) /
sda6 8G (SecondaryOS) /alt
sda8 remaining space, encrypted /home/
sda7 11G swap (meant only for suspend-to-disk ... it's an SSD - random key encryption)
  • UPDATE: according to Archwiki (which is excellent and almost invariably right), you can't mix suspend-to-disk and random key ... but this isn't how the drive ended up
  • finally, rebooted: draws GRUB screen incredibly slowly, and the fonts are almost unreadable
  • not booting into graphical properly: double-flashes the default text login screen as if it's about to go graphical ... then pauses, and does it again - over and over.
  • I could probably get GRUB to boot to text-only mode and then start debugging ... but I'm not spending my time on that. Not yet, anyway.

Visiting Windows

  • booted Windows - by hitting Esc at the Asus logo and choosing the "Windows Boot Manager" from the boot device menu that came up
  • all looked rosy as I agreed to their horrible EULA, and switched off all the privacy-violating practices they offered to let me during initial configuration
  • then it wanted to reboot
  • booting Windows was partly a test, to confirm that the Windows install wouldn't wipe out Linux during configuration - it didn't
  • Windows fails to boot from the GRUB menu (complaining of a missing file - this is a DOS/Windows error, not a GRUB one), but if I use Esc at the Asus logo and choose the "Windows Boot Manager," it boots cleanly
  • once configuration is complete, I'm following in the footsteps of an old joke: "Internet Explorer, the web browser most used to download and install a real browser."
  • this has also confirmed that the touch screen works
  • as does the touch pad

Ubuntu Attempt

Debian having failed, I started with the classic invocation to wipe a USB stick and put an ISO on it:

# time dd bs=4M if=ubuntu-15.10-desktop-amd64.iso of=/dev/sdb
  • turns out this ISO is also live media (I shouldn't be surprised, but I'd forgotten they were doing that)
  • it came up with a good graphical environment, which bodes well for the install
  • but - like Knoppix - damn tiny print: I'm going to have some fixing to do on that point - not quite as bad as Knoppix: I can use it with my regular glasses, although barely
  • and the touch screen works, even in the installer - nice - which is good, because the touch pad DOESN'T work (given a choice, I would have taken it the other way around ...)
  • the USB mouse is still plugged in and working fine
  • I'm offered the option to connect to Wifi ... but not to the connected wired internet connection: stupid
  • the first choice of any consequence in the install process is under "This computer currently has multiple operating systems on it. What would you like to do?" between "Install Ubuntu alongside them" or "Erase disks and install Ubuntu"
  • I mention this because, while I'd prefer the first, two options that aren't available to me unless I choose the second option are "Encrypt the new Ubuntu installation for security" and "Use LVM with the new Ubuntu installation." That's stupid.
  • there's another option, "Something else" - let's see what that offers
  • I assumed (incorrectly) that I'd set the keymap, so I nearly encrypted the /home with a completely invalid passphrase as I was still on the Qwerty layout ...
  • and guess what? As with the Debian installer, I can't modify that encrypted partition without a restart - can someone PLEASE fix that bug??
  • it's inconsistent about connecting to wifi networks: sometimes (mostly) you tell it to connect, it thinks for about 15 seconds, and tells you you're offline. Then you click "Connect" again and it connects immediately. Occasionally, if you're lucky, it just connects immediately.
  • I left an 11000MB ext4 partition with the intent of setting it up as swap later: the problem is that if you don't encrypt it, your creation of another encrypted volume (/home/ in this case) is aborted because your swap is insecure. But they don't offer random key encryption for the swap (Debian did). So I'll decide later.
  • when I created a user, it offered to encrypt my home folder - seems a little redundant when /home/ is already encrypted ...

Up and Running with Ubuntu

  • this install is (mostly) working
  • Ubuntu's GRUB, like Debian's, draws the screen incredibly slowly (presumably somehow related to the high resolution) and is similarly in an agonizingly small font
  • the passphrase for the encrypted volume is requested in GUI form - Debian used text
  • and we're at a valid graphical login screen, although it's offering not only login for my primary user but also a "Guest Session," a "feature" I'm not too keen on
  • so yes, all good - with miniscule fonts
  • touchscreen works, touchpad doesn't (UPDATE 2016-01-07: touchpad fixed)