Dell Precision 5520

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Notes for Installing Linux

You will need to disable Secure Boot in the BIOS. Repeatedly press F2 when turning on the laptop to get to the BIOS screen.

During installfest events, we'll use PxE booting (network booting) as an alternative to using so many flash drives/LiveUSB sticks. This will require some special configuration in the BIOS, see Installfest_PXE_Server for details. You will have to allow legacy boot & decrease thunderbolt security (to unauthenticated access) to get PxE booting over ethernet to work properly. Installation of Linux via UEFI/PxE booting on legacy boot works well for these laptops. You will need Dell's specific ethernet dongle to do PxE booting on them.

The GPU is based on the Maxwell architecture, which is not fully compatible with the FLOSS nouveau driver. You may need to install the nvidia proprietary driver or the bumblebee driver with nvidia for graphics to work. nouveau may not work well as a daily driver, but it is okay to have running during installation on a Live USB with a Linux distribution on it (it is the default of most distros to include nouveau instead of nvidia).

Bumblebee for battery/power mgmt.

Bumblebee extends battery life by a lot. the ArchWiki page details the full installation of it.

If you accidentally install the full-out nvidia or just vesa (NOT mesa, which is needed) driver (and maybe nouveau too) WITH bumblebee (happened to me on Manjaro Linux in the "Hardware Configuration" part of KDE settings when I got some weird dialog asking me to install vesa to uninstall an nvidia package, I forget what, or I might have just been experimenting), you'll need to uninstall them. In these cases, Linux may not boot to a login screen and you'll need to press Ctrl+Alt+F2 to get a shell (it says tty, that just means a virtual Linux terminal). Login as the root user/enter the root password you have set. You specifically need to install the bumblebee and possibly intel-mesa (?) drivers and uninstall the others using your package manager. See the page at the ArchWiki page for more detailed/better instructions/details on how to install/uninstall bumblebee/get the nvidia/intel drivers themselves back.

Touchpad scroll gestures, etc

The code for the Synaptics driver, xf86-input-synaptics, is currently in "maintenance mode", meaning it's not going to be supported for much longer. libinput was created to fix these problems, although actual development has been REALLY SLOW. By default, distros will use libinput. I recommend libinput for the time being because it is more recent and supported by newer Linux applications better.

libinput driver (new, recommended to be used for the future)

libinput lets you configure reverse 2 finger scrolling, tapping, and the force needed to have the touchpad register clicks (with an interface known as "quirks") which might break in the next few versions of libinput.

A unique advantage (compared to xf86-input-synaptics) is that you can use libinput-gestures, although I've found it's broken for me sometimes.

(References on this:

https://gitlab.com/cunidev/gestures

and https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/9jx409/gestures_a_minimal_gui_for_libinput_tweaking/)

Specific options you can use: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Libinput#Tips_and_tricks

My (AlphaCubed's) LIBINPUT touchpad configuration file is located at this page if you want a reference.

My (AlphaCubed's) libinput-gestures configuration file is located at this page if you want a reference. (You'll need to install libinput-gestures, maybe a GUI if you want it like https://gitlab.com/cunidev/gestures, and xdotool to get the gestures to work. See https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Libinput#Gestures if you need help getting it working.)

The KDE 5.15 GUI is quite limited with libinput. You will need to set a lot of these options in the config file.

I put it in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/30-touchpad.conf so I can use it on the lock screen too (it is used by other users and the system's users that control the X11 application because it is in the /etc/X11 folder, so it doesn't just happen when I'm logged in as my own user).

You can also see if those options are in your distro's mouse settings. KDE is (supposedly) fixing this issue in the future and planning to make the descriptions more detailed/understandable. EDIT: as of 3/10/19, still not yet, except for regular mice. I hope they really get to catching up soon. libinput/synaptics is still a mess right now :(

xf86-input-synaptics driver (old, but recommended if you absolutely need it)

As of 3/10/19, AlphaCubed has (I have) decided to move to libinput.

xf86-input-synaptics lets you configure reverse 2 finger scrolling, tapping, palm detection/rejection, and the force needed to have the touchpad register clicks (FingerLow/FingerHigh) options (I set it to be less than normal) using a config file.

The KDE 5.15 GUI lets you configure the most options with this driver.

My (AlphaCubed's) SYNAPTICS touchpad configuration file is located at this page if you want a reference.

I put it in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/30-touchpad.conf so I can use it on the lock screen too (it is used by other users and the system's users that control the X11 application because it is in the /etc/X11 folder, so it doesn't just happen when I'm logged in as my own user).

You can also see if those options are in your distro's mouse settings. KDE is (supposedly) fixing this issue in the future and planning to make the descriptions more detailed/understandable. EDIT: as of 3/10/19, still not yet, except for regular mice. I hope they really get to catching up soon. libinput/synaptics is still a mess right now :(

Here are some useful links and references:

How to change Synaptics touchpad configuration globally via X11 (if some settings you want are not available via your desktop environment's or distro's settings GUI) (helpful tips in here)

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Libinput#Via_Xorg_configuration_file

Settings you can change in the configuration file

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Touchpad_Synaptics

Tech Specs

The 2017 laptop given to Rose students has the following specs:

Processor Intel Core i7 7820HQ (Kaby Lake) (2.9GHz stock, 3.9GHz boost, not overclockable)
RAM 16 GB @ 2400MHz DDR4 (2x8GB SODIMM sticks)
Solid State Drive M.2 SATA3 256 GB (approx. 238.42 GiB) Solid State Drive (theoretical max 600MB/s); spare drive bay (m.2 SATA)
Optical Drive None
Display 15.6" FHD 1920x1080
Video Card Nvidia Quadro M1200M (Maxwell architecture) w/ 4GB GDDR5 RAM (supports Vulkan and OpenGL)
Network Cards Intel Dual-Band 8265 802.11ac wireless, Gigabit (1Gb/s) Ethernet and PxE (network) boot via USB Type-C port using a compatible USB-C to Ethernet adapter
Battery 3 cell Lithium-Ion 56 WHr
USB (2) USB 3.0 and (1) Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C form factor)
Other ports SD card slot, battery indicator LEDs with button push
Pointing Devices Synaptics Trackpad
External Video Port Dedicated HDMI port (and HDMI passthrough via Thunderbolt)
Integrated Webcam 720p integrated webcam
Network Accessories USB Type C to Ethernet adapter
Warranty 4 year with Accidental Damage Protection (ADP) (Note: Dell only allows one ADP claim in a 12 month period)