elementary OS on the Samsung Series 9 (900X3C)
Unfortunately, you can’t walk into a store and purchase this combination of premium hardware and elegant software. You have to set it up yourself.
Since elementary is built on Ubuntu 12.04 which uses an older Linux kernel, it takes a bit of work to get everything running properly – including upgrading to a more recent kernel.
The Switch to elementary
(or how a displaced GNOME 2 user found a home)
The best desktop computing experience I have ever had was running Ubuntu 10.10, and a lot of that was because of the desktop environment GNOME 2.
Like a lot of people, when the traditional desktop was left behind in the radical change to GNOME 3, I had trouble finding the perfect replacement. I ran a lot of different Linux desktop environments (I am particularly fond of LXDE), but there were always compromises. Nothing compared to the speed, stability and functionality of GNOME 2.
Thankfully, I have finally found the one that works best for me: Pantheon.
Pantheon isn’t a desktop environment that is trying to please mobile users like GNOME Shell or Unity. Its focus is the desktop.
It’s fast like XFCE, but still has modern functionality like hot corners, expose, elegant animations and advanced workspace management. It has a lightning fast built-in application launcher a la GNOME Do or Synapse, but still has a more traditional menu with categories so you can discover the applications first. It also has my favourite Alt-Tab ever.
If you haven’t tried elementary OS yet, I highly recommend you give it a shot. Along with the excellent speed and great functionality, it excels where every other Linux operating system fails; aesthetics.
Setting Up elementary on the Samsung Series 9
There are few changes to be made in the bios before you begin. Read the “Before You Install: Bios Changes” section of my previous post, then follow the regular installation steps for Ubuntu. After you have installed elementary and ran all the updates, follow the steps below.
What Works Out of the Box
- F2 – F3, screen brightness
- F4, switch display mode
- F5, disable trackpad
- F6 – F8, mute and volume controls
- Trackpad (including two finger right-click and scroll)
- HDMI out (tested TV and monitor)
What Doesn’t Work Out of the Box
- F1, special key for Windows control panel
- F9 – F10, Keyboard backlight brightness
- F11, Fan
- F12, Wireless
- Suspend on lid close
1. Upgrading the Kernel
As mentioned previously, since elementary OS Luna beta 2 is built off Ubuntu 12.04, it runs an older Linux kernel (3.2) that lacks support for more recent hardware. To get several of the function keys to work, you will need to install a new kernel.
The safest method is to install the 3.8.027 kernel that is in the repositories. To do this launch terminal and run:
sudo apt-get install linux-generic-lts-raring
After the installation process is complete, reboot your computer. To check which version of the Linux kernel you are running, in terminal run:
I recommend you keep the old 3.2 kernel on your system. If you are ever having problems with the updated 3.8 kernel, you can boot with the original 3.2 kernel by holding down the right Shift key during start up to get the grub screen. From the grub screen select ‘Previous Linux Versions’ and choose to boot from the older 3.2 kernel.
2. Enabling the Function Keys
Now that you are on the new 3.8 kernel, your F9 and F10 function keys to control the backlight keyboard should be working! The backlight keyboard should also turn on automatically when in low light.
There will be a few function keys that still don’t work: the F1 key that was setup specifically for the Windows control panel, the F11 key for the fan and F12 for wireless.
To fix these, install Linux on my Samsung by adding the PPA in the terminal:
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:voria/ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install samsung-tools xbindkeys-config
I found the best method was to disable all the hotkeys except for the CPU Fan key, which you can bind to F11, then close the GUI. The application will create a hidden file in your home folder called “.xbindkeysrc”. Open this file with your text editor, delete everything, paste the following and then save the file.
"SamsungToolsDummyCommand" Control+Alt+Shift+Mod4+F1+F2+F3 "samsung-tools --show-notify --quiet --cpu hotkey" XF86Launch3 #fnf1 "/usr/bin/gnome-control-center" m:0x0 + c:156 XF86Launch1 #Wifi "if [ $(rfkill list wifi|grep -A1 phy|tail -n 1|cut -d\: -f 2|tr -d ' ') = "yes" ]; then rfkill unblock wifi; notify-send 'Wifi is On'; else rfkill block wifi; notify-send 'Wifi is Off'; fi" XF86WLAN
Restart your computer. All the function keys should be working now including the special F1 key for system settings :)
Suspend on Lid Close
Unfortunately, even with the updated kernel, the computer won’t suspend on lid close. This is a known bug. However, the work around is simple. Just chose ‘suspend’ from the shut down menu via WingPanel, or push the power button and choose ‘suspend’ when you want to suspend you machine.
4. (Optional) Turn Down Brightness at Login
By default, the ultrabook will start at full brightness, which on the Samsung Series 9 is so bright it hurts your eyes. You can make the computer boot at a set brightness level with a simple configuration.
Set your brightness at the desired strength with the function keys. Then, find out the numerical value of that brightness setting by opening the terminal and running:
Mine, was set to 20. Remember the number and run the following command:
sudo scratch-text-editor /etc/rc.local
Add the following line right before ‘exit 0’
echo 20 > /sys/class/backlight/acpi_video0/brightness
Change 20 to whatever brightness level you would like. Save the file, reboot and enjoy.
5. (Optional) More Tweaks
Customizing elementary OS has become a lot easier thanks to the recently released elementary Tweaks tool. It enables you to easily change the appearance and functionality of the operating system akin to Ubuntu Tweak or Gnome Tweak Tool.
I like reverting to a double-click to open files and folders instead of the unconventional single-click that has become default in elementary, and trying new themes.
I recommend installing it via the Community PPA which also includes some other great packages.
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:versable/elementary-update sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install elementary-tweaks
You can launch elementary Tweaks from the Switchboard (aka System Setting).
A Few Good Links
Below are a few links to keep you updated on the elementary OS project and to help you connect with the community:
elementary Journal: This is the elementary team’s official blog.
elementary update: An excellent elementary site for news and how-to’s.
elementary on Google+: There are a lot of questions, answers, link sharing and screenshot posting going on here.
elementary Forums: A much need site to seek assistance and discuss elementary OS.