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Running ubuntu on a thinkpad t14 AMD

by Jörg Baach last modified Mar 22, 2021 09:01 PM
I leave the windows lands to return to the ubuntu realm.

These are some ongoing notes. Work in progress.

Jump straight to the ubuntu setup tips

The machine

Last September I got an Lenovo ThinkPad T14 Gen. 1  with Ryzen 7 Pro 4750U, 16 GB RAM and 512 GB SSD. I have upgraded the RAM and the SSD in the meantime.

The panel

I ordered the machine with a 14" 400 nits panel. On the upside it seems to be somewhat transflective, which I find really amazing and useful in the summer days yet to come. On the downside my display had some bright spots, and I had to have it replaced. And oh boy, that wasn't fun to convince lenovo to actually do it. They went every possible way to avoid doing the replacement: from "too small, doesn't matter" to "to big, your fault", using apple-like lists of "problems we don't repair" up to "overuse", "must have carried it", "delicate parts" and "should have told us in the first days". The laptop stood only on the table, closed, with some microfiber as screen protection. Anyhow, after lots of calls lenovo caved in. The technician told me on site that there was no way I could have caused the problem, even if I wanted.... So much for lenovo service, very dissapointing for me.

The replacement is all good, and now I am a happy user of the machine

The external display monitor

I mention the monitor, because it is a 4k display, a Eizo EV3285. I mention this, because using hidpi on the external display in a dual monitor setup was a quite a challenge in the beginning.

The path

When I frist tried to run ubuntu 20.10 on it, it only kind of worked. Problems were:

  • Suspend did not work
  • Using a dual monitor setup with said external monitor, using fractional scaling lead to a second cursor appearing on screen
  • Tearing of videos in firefox
  • LED light of the F4 key could not be turned off (a distraction in darker surroundings)
  • ...

So I tried to give windows 10 on the machine a go. Quite nice in way, but:

  • As such the font rendering is supposed to be very good. But hidpi is a bit of a problem - I had to do lots of tweaks to get readable fonts. The problem for is that sometimes the fonts render to thin. And the tools to setup the rendering (cleartype) are more or less guesswork. Some applications still don't respect the tweaks or hidpi. Especially microsofts own applications...
  • Lots of wakeups from suspend. Especially during the night, with signal noises I could not turn off
  • Bad experience with virtualization, e.g.  virtualbox does not support 3d acceleration. (hyper-v is not really an alternative, e.g. no automatic rescaling of the screen resolution).
  • While wsl2 is somewhat great to use, there still is a gap between windows permissions and unix permissions, that can't be closed. In the end I needed to use pycharm to edit files where the unix permissions where important, and it was not possible to just mix them.

Returning to the ubuntu realm

Half a year later, March 2021,  installation of ubuntu was much easier. I use 20.04, becaue I want an LTS version. Only some remarks / hints so far:

  • I use a 5.8 hwe kernel - "sudo apt install linux-generic-hwe-20.04". Seems to work great.
  • The alternative is a 5.6 kernel seemingly provided by lenovo -  "sudo apt install oem-sutton.newell-adam-meta". I did not see advantages over the 5.8 kernel by now.
  • One needs to set "suspend to linux" in the bios for suspend to work.
  • Die dual mouse pointer problem is still there, kind of. When booting up, one can go to "settings->displays", and click on "display mode -> mirror". Don't accept, but revert, and the second mouse pointer is gone.
  • For using my spyderX pro colorimeter, I had to:
    • Install displaycal
    • Install argyll
    • Add the following line to /usr/lib/udev/rules.d/69-cd-sensors.rules:
      ATTRS{idVendor}=="085c", ATTRS{idProduct}=="0a00", ENV{COLORD_SENSOR_KIND}="spyderX", ENV{COLORD_SENSOR_CAPS}="lcd crt ambient"
    • Add myself to the colord group
  • For better experience I used gconf-editor to disable raise-on-click in org.gnome.desktop.wm.preferences.
  • If using fractional scaling, a perfomance impact is noticable. It get's worse when having two different scales on both connected monitors. This is on xorg, wayland seems to be faster, but for e.g. pycharm it becomes blurry.
  • Turns out I can also use scaled fonts. The reason is that the dpi of my laptop screen and the external monitor are close enough to use one setting for both. So instead of using fraction scaling I either use gnome tweaks->fonts->scalling factor 1.5 or supposedly I can also use
    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface text-scaling-factor 1.5
    So far it seems its faster this way, compared to fractional scaling. The fonts render a bit more accurate, maybe thinner.


And yes, it feels like coming home.

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