Monday 27 August 2012

ASUS U36SG Review / Setup

After 2 years 11 months I decided it was time to upgrade my aging Macbook Pro to something a bit newer and less Appley (no ethernet port on a "pro" laptop - are they having a laugh?! Bring back Steve!). I bought the ASUS U36SG from Amazon. I had free money to spend on Amazon, and it was  £120 cheaper than ebuyer! The other reason I had to upgrade now was the fear of being shoved in the direction of the hideous monstrosity that is Windows 8. Yeah I'm a Linux user, but if I'm forced to buy a Windows COA you can be damn sure it aint going to be for Win8.

This had everything I was looking for (except a backlit keyboard, but still...)

The packaging was shoddy, I guess I've been too spoilt by Apple. It came in a messy looking box, and inside was just some wonky brown cardboard holding it all together. Two things I noticed that I liked, and two that I didn't:

1. Hard drive LED! We buy Lenovo at work, and the lack of a HDD LED bugs me
2. You can make the "restore DVDs" straight to ISO, no need to waste real life discs (who uses them anymore?) - again, Lenny doesn't offer this feature. Before someone goes "Herp derp Y U make restore discs when you use linux LOL!!!!11111oneone" - in case I sell it in the future. in case it needs to be sent back under warranty.

And the bad stuff:

1. The damn stickers! stuck all over the thing. Protective plastic. spam stickers. ugh. Luckily they all came off OK. There were sneaky ones on the underside of the hinges I didn't spot first time round:

2. As with my last ASUS (EEEPC900A - a netbook, remember those?!) there's no indicator LED to say the battery is finished charging. You've actually got to start it up and check in the OS. I don't get why they would miss off something as simple as that. The manual says when its on green and solid, its at least nearly fully charged - well thats useful.... NOT

Anyway, after making the restore discs (5 DVD ISOs - yep, that's (compressed) 17GB of crap they pile on to these things), it got flattened and a clean Windows 7 x64 installed. Seemed daft not to dual boot, in case there's a game I want to play that WINE doesn't like or something.

I like the ASUS driver page, they give the downloads meaningful names (*cough* TAKE NOTE DELL *cough*)

After taking a disk image, it was time for Linux. Arch went on without issue. Notes below. The only thing that took a little set up was the dual graphics card nvidia Optimus thingy using 'Bumblebee'. It worked first time though.

Arch installation:
loadkeys uk
cfdisk /dev/sda
mkfs.ext3 /dev/sda2
mount /dev/sda2 /mnt
pacstrap /mnt base base-devel
pacstrap /mnt grub-bios
genfstab -p /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab
arch-chroot /mnt
    nano /etc/hostname
    nano /etc/hosts
    nano /etc/vconsole.conf
    nano /etc/locale.gen
    nano /etc/locale.conf
    mkinitcpio -p linux
    grub-install --recheck /dev/sda
    pacman -S os-prober
    grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg
    passwd root
umount /mnt
cpupower lm_sensors wireless_tools yajl
alsa-utils alsa-oss alsa-plugins
netcat mpg123 wget
    gpasswd -a USERNAME network
    /etc/rc.conf    DAEMONS= dbus wicd
(I had to install dhclient - wicd seemed unhappy with the Arch default of dhcpcd)

Fix the grub error message:
# cp /usr/share/locale/en\@quot/LC_MESSAGES/ /boot/grub/locale/
Installed Xorg and stuff:
xorg-server xorg-xinit xorg-server-utils mesa mesa-demos xf86-input-synaptics xf86-video-intel openbox rxvt-unicode feh
    exec openbox-session
Installed yaourt to get bumblebee:
$ wget
$ wget
$ tar xvzf package-query.tar.gz
$ tar xvzf yaourt.tar.gz
$ cd package-query
$ makepkg
# pacman -U package-query-1.0.1-x86-64......
$ cd yaourt
$ makepkg
# pacman -U yaourt-blahblah......
Installed bumblebee and stuff, tested with glxgears:
yaourt -S bumblebee
yaourt -S nvidia-utils-bumblebee nvidia-bumblebee
    /etc/rc.conf   DAEMONS=bumblebeed

optirun glxgears
Installed bbswitch to save power and turn off the nvidia card when not in use:
yaourt -S bbswitch



    options bbswitch load_state=0 unload_state=0

# rc.d restart bumblebeed

nvidia_card_enable() {

  stat_busy "Enabling NVIDIA GPU"

  if [ -w ${BBSWITCH} ]; then
    echo ON > ${BBSWITCH}

add_hook shutdown_poweroff nvidia_card_enable

chmod +x /etc/rc.d/functions.d/nvidia-card-enable
Rebooted, and tested the power saving (it's off when it shows rev as FF)
lspci|grep VGA
    (rev ff)
optirun glxgears
lspci|grep VGA
    (rev a1)
Installed laptop-mode-tools to stop the drive from using whatever power saving settings it has as default (which makes it click every few seconds as it's too aggressive):
    /etc/rc.conf    DAEMONS= laptop-mode
        # Power management for HD (hdparm -B values)
...and that was it really. I'm yet to test suspend and bluetooth, but they should just work.