In Search of… Linux on the Switch 10 2-in-1

Fedora logoATM AspireSwitch10 series main368px Uefi logo svg

Remember that Acer Switch 10 that I purchased back almost a year ago, in 2014? I returned it to Amazon, but it’s taken ages for interesting (and cheap) Broadwell devices to trickle out and I’m not going to spend $700 plus for something like this. Meanwhile the Switch 10 was popping up again and again on the discount sites, with the price dropping each time.  Once I saw it again super cheap on the main site I like to check out for deals, Liliputing i couldn’t resist.

Well the 2GiB Ram/ 64GiB eMMC version dropped to around $180 and so I bought another one. And I still had the 64GiB micro card I used on the original.

This time I was determined to get Linux on it. I first upgraded the Windows 8.1 to the Developer Preview of 10, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything and I don’t think I was. It was ok but nothing amazing. I moved on to my primary goal of getting a useable Linux installation on here. Linux however, has turned out to be difficult and mostly unusable till just today. My first choice was Ubuntu- but Ubuntu is fraught with issues, mostly around booting post-install, because these Bay Trail systems all use a 32bit UEFI even though the Atom CPU is 64 bit. Ubuntu and it’s grub installation is still not ready to deal with that. And Fedora wasn’t much better, save for some amazing work going on with Fedlet.

Fedlet

Fedlet over at Happyassassin.net bills itself as a “Fedora Remix for Bay Trail tablets” and the effort was for other BT systems (the author seems to have a Dell) but of course the same issues with supporting BT now play into it’s favor, and the chipsets (SOCs) are the same on all these 2-in-1 tablets. 

I had tried Fedlet back when I got this 2nd Switch 10, back in May. Back then the installer worked, and after an epic batter with the UEFI partition to get it to stop trying to boot windows and boot my new grub boot loader I got feedlot working, but there were serious stability issues.

I shelved the Switch 10 and was just yesterday browsing around for other tablets when I happened upon the Fedlet page again and realized AdamW had just released a new build, with the 4.x Kernel. And I mean just- he released it on the 10th of August. I downloaded the Eleventh release of Fedlet and soon had it live booting on the Switch 10. 

USB Booting

  • Always plug the USB Key into the micro-USB port on the tablet itself (never the keyboard)
  • Hold F12 as you power on the Switch 10 and see the Acer boot screen, then you’ll be able to boot from USB

Installation Review

If you are going to install fedlet you’ll need a few things:

  1. USB keyboard and Mouse – the image won’t recognize the Switch’s keyboard, and the trackpad is too hard to use with an external keyboard.
  2. USB Key with dongle to connect to Micro-USB port – use the port on the tablet itself
  3. Fedlet iso image transferred over to USB key
  4. USB Ethernet – the wifi works, but it’s faster and quicker just to use wired ethernet. You can plug this into the keyboard USB port and it will work

Once I had the live image running on the Switch, I realized that as Adam mentioned on his site, you have to completely remove existing partitions on your eMMC internal 64GiB drive, or the installer crashes. Don’t remove p1 – the first partition – as that is your UEFI partition!

Once I removed them (using fdisk from the terminal on the live image) and rebooted I could continue in the installer and manually partition the drive – don’t automatically do it – again, you need to ensure you don’t wipe p1 the UEFI partition. Assign it a mount point of /boot/ueif. I created a /boot, swap and / partition and continued with the installation.

The other snafu with this build is that the installer screen is actually cut off, and the Done button is off screen! You can use the Tab key here to select the unseen OK button and complete the required screens. Luckily the Fedora installs are much simpler than the Ubuntu installations- you only need to complete about 3 screens as it is installing on your drive.

If you Tab around you can see each element of the screen hi-lit, and when it moves off the last element visible it’s on the OK button- hit Return Key and give it a moment. 

Note: You can also hold down the Option Key and press “D” – this works better than tabbing around.

 

Screen Shot 2015 08 12 at 11 39 22 PM

This is what you see on the Switch 10 Screen 

 

Screen Shot 2015 08 12 at 11 39 10 PM

This is the actual screen – you need to Tab around and depress the Done button up top!

 

If you are in the root password screen you must create a complex password or it won’t give you the OK button to hit— it will keep jumping back to the password entry boxes. Create a complex password and you’ll be able to Tab down to OK.

Once the install is complete, reboot, pull the USB stick and boot into fedlet.

Just Use The Keyboard

To get the keyboard working you need network access.

First install the necessary kernel headers and development tools:

yum -y install kernel-devel kernel-headers
yum -y groupinstall "Development Tools"

Now we need the kernel module over at https://github.com/SWW13/hid-acer

Use git to clone this repo onto your tablet and then install it.

git clone https://github.com/SWW13/hid-acer.git 
cd hid-acer
make sudo
make install

Now reboot your tablet and you can remove the external keyboard and mouse. The keyboard is now working and the touch pad too.

The screen reponds well to taps, and while the on-screen keyboard is nice there are no CTRL Function, Tab or ESC keys… So it’s not completely useable. But I almost always use my Switch 10 with the keyboard. 

I still don’t like the touch-pad however.

And now I’ll have to learn to use systemd.

DMESG Output

 

[    0.000000] Linux version 4.2.0-0.rc6.git0.1.1awb.i686 (mockbuild@buildhw-05.phx2.fedoraproject.org) (gcc version 5.1.1 20150618 (Red Hat 5.1.1-4) (GCC) ) #1 SMP Mon Aug 10 23:31:25 UTC 2015


[    0.000000] DMI: Acer Aspire SW5-012/Fendi2, BIOS V1.14 02/11/2015

[    0.000000] tsc: Detected 1331.200 MHz processor

[    0.000045] Calibrating delay loop (skipped), value calculated using timer frequency.. 2662.40 BogoMIPS (lpj=1331200)

[    0.081652] smpboot: CPU0: Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU  Z3735F @ 1.33GHz (fam: 06, model: 37, stepping: 08)

[    0.123682] x86: Booted up 1 node, 4 CPUs

[    0.123691] smpboot: Total of 4 processors activated (10649.60 BogoMIPS)

[    0.124956] devtmpfs: initialized


Pictures

IMG 3707

IMG 3708

IMG 3709

 

Issues

  1. No sound
  2. Hibernation/Wake is iffy
  3. MMC Card in Slot mounts read-only no matter what

 

As these get fixed I’ll update this page with the results.

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