Monday, 7 December 2015

Ubuntu 14.04 on Lenovo ideapad 100-14IBY

The first laptop which I really liked was an IBM t60p ThinkPad manufactured in 2006. It served me well for years but was retired some time ago and my father inherited it - predominantly for light office use. A few days ago, the graphics chip gave up and we needed an urgent, low cost replacement that fits his needs. The goal is simple: get a fully functional notebook for office use with 4G of RAM, the cheapest available disk and without OEM Windows. The stock disk would be replaced by the after market 120GB SSD from the t60p and Ubuntu 14.04 would be installed anyway, since this is the OS my father already got familiar with. The rules are simple as well: buy, install & configure the notebook, the use of windows or any windows based tools is strictly prohibited.

Enter Lenovo 100 80MH003AHV

For around 250 USD excluding VAT, this ultrabook includes 4G of RAM, a strong enough Intel Pentium Quad-Core N3540, 500GB HDD, and is shipped with FreeDOS. I have googled for any information specific to this model and Ubuntu or Linux in general, but did not find anything useful, which is not a good sign of ultrabooks in this price range... so I was prepared for surprises.

The Levono 100 is available in different models / machine-types, and 80MH003AHV relates to 100-14IBY. The hardware maintenance manual can be downloaded from the official support site.

The first surprise came right after unboxing. The plastic case did not feel very robust, but still much force was needed to open it even after all screws have been removed. Once has to be careful to apply enough but not too much force. The next surprise was the sticker seal I found on the screw that attached the HDD to the motherboard. This could possibly mean that the HDD cannot be upgreaded without voiding warranty, which is not a fair practice. I was handy enough to remove the sticker without damaging it.

Unfortunately, I realized that the SSD was password protected and although I knew the password, it could not unlock the disk. This phenomenon I have observed before - my conclusion was that that the t60p and other ThinkPads of the same era transform the HDD password provided on the BIOS Setup screen before sending it to the HDD via ATA Security commands, which, even when the password is known, makes it impossible to access the drive from notebooks of other vendors or even other generations of ThinkPads. The password has to be removed on a ThinkPad that was manufactured in the same era as the one which was used to set the password. The SSD password topic was put on hold over the weekend and on Monday, I used a t60p I borrowed from a colleague to unset the password.

Let us get back to the ideapad - I created an EFI-bootable USB key with Ubuntu 14.04, and inserted it while the computer was still powered off, then I connected the power cord and used a paper clip to push the "Novo button". This button started the computer but enter the BIOS/UEFI menu instead of launching the operating system on the HDD. I took a look at the firmware settings (which many incorrectly still refer to as BIOS setup screen) but did not see any hard reason to change any setting, so I stayed with the defaults for the initial boot.

The first boot: Ubuntu 14.04 from USB

Ubuntu booted without major hiccups, and first commands I ran was lspic and sudo dmidecode to get more information about what the ideapad contains under the hood.


00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation ValleyView SSA-CUnit (rev 0e)
00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation ValleyView Gen7 (rev 0e)
00:13.0 SATA controller: Intel Corporation ValleyView 6-Port SATA AHCI Controller (rev 0e)
00:14.0 USB controller: Intel Corporation ValleyView USB xHCI Host Controller (rev 0e)
00:1a.0 Encryption controller: Intel Corporation ValleyView SEC (rev 0e)
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation ValleyView High Definition Audio Controller (rev 0e)
00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation ValleyView PCI Express Root Port (rev 0e)
00:1c.1 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation ValleyView PCI Express Root Port (rev 0e)
00:1c.2 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation ValleyView PCI Express Root Port (rev 0e)
00:1c.3 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation ValleyView PCI Express Root Port (rev 0e)
00:1d.0 USB controller: Intel Corporation ValleyView USB Enhanced Host Controller (rev 0e)
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation ValleyView Power Control Unit (rev 0e)
00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corporation ValleyView SMBus Controller (rev 0e)
02:00.0 Unassigned class [ff00]: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTS5229 PCI Express Card Reader (rev 01)
03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8101E/RTL8102E PCI Express Fast Ethernet controller (rev 0a)
04:00.0 Network controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8723BE PCIe Wireless Network Adapter

The next step was to verify if the system booted in UEFI mode or legacy BIOS mode. Checking /sys/firmware/efi/ quickly revealed we are in UEFI mode.

I intentionally did not even attempt to boot the HDD even once, as I wanted to take a backup of the factory HDD image the computer came with. I quickly configured WiFi and installed partimage after enabling the "universe" repository component and took a full backup of /dev/sda, a 500GB rotating disk with MBR partition table containing a single FAT partition which was basically empty.

Before downloading partimage I quickly verified internet connectivity, but during the repo update and package download the WiFi connection seemed unreliable. After a few minutes I completely lost connection and had to fall back to wired connection - this issue did not surprise me that much.

I manually configured the disk via gdisk, created a 32MB EFI system partition, swap and separate ext4 partitions for /root and /home. I created the partitions in a way they would only occupy the first 120GB of the disk so I can simply clone it onto the SSD once the HDD password issue is resolved. Once done, I installed Ubuntu which went fine, the only strange issue i experienced that the system did not automatically reboot itself and was stuck at a blank screen so I had to keep the power button pressed for a few seconds to force a reboot.

In the next post on this topic, I will list the issues I experienced, the systematic approach I applied to investigate and overcome those and of course the resolution itself will also be provided shortly...

4 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. This is cool. I just bought one of the Lenovo idealpads. A 100S. I bought specifically to install linux on it. However I am having trouble creating a UEFI boot disk. Been looking for instructions on google, but I would like to know the process you used.

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  3. I do not know whether you are running into issues with creating the EFI-bootable usb key or rather afterwards, booting it. I also do not have any info about all the things you have already tried, so let me start from the beginning.
    You could simply use "usb-creator-gtk" aka "Startup Disk Creator" which will yield an usb drive that can be used in both legacy and UEFI modes, or create an EFI-only media as described here: http://askubuntu.com/questions/395879/how-to-create-uefi-only-bootable-usb-live-media/
    In order to boot your media, power off and use the "Novo button" (https://support.lenovo.com/hu/hu/documents/ht062552).
    I could not be more specific as you did not share the details of your issue. Hope this helps.

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  4. Hi, Thanks for the solution. However, your steps are dispersed in three posts and it is difficult for a beginner like me to find out what I need to do by reading all that. Are you planning to post a small step-by-step summary of the process? If you can that would be wonderful. Thanks again.

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