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Personal notes for dual booting Windows and Linux on XPS 15 9560

Installing Ubuntu GNOME 17.04 on XPS 15 9560

This document is to serve as a set of notes for myself and can be used as a guide for others looking to set up Ubuntu on their XPS 15. For me this was a dual-boot setup with Windows 10. On Linux I don't have a need for the discrete graphics card, so the main focus is to maximize battery life for development.

I had initially tried to dual boot with Fedora 25, but ran into a lot of issues trying to disable the discrete graphics card, resulting in poor battery life. Instead of starting over with Fedora again, I decided to try with Ubuntu, since there seemed to be a few more resources available.

My XPS Configuration is: i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 4K Screen.

Setup

BIOS

  • Reboot and press F2 on Dell logo screen until "Preparing to enter setup" appears to get into BIOS
  • Under "System Configuration > SATA Operation" switch from RAID to AHCI
  • Optionally disable Touchscreen under "System Configuration > Touchscreen" to improve battery life
  • Many sources said to disable Secure Boot, but when I initially installed Fedora it wasn't required
    • After reading more about this, to install 3rd party drivers this was required, so I did disable Secure Boot in the end

Windows

Installing Linux

  • ISO from: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuGNOME/GetUbuntuGNOME
  • Created bootable USB via Rufus: https://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/create-a-usb-stick-on-windows
  • Insert USB and reboot
  • Press F12 until "One time boot menu" appears to choose USB as boot device
  • On GRUB menu, choose Install Ubuntu GNOME
    • These are the settings I used for "something else":
      • leave device for boot loader installation as default
      • swap space set to 10GB
      • / set to 25 GB
      • /home uses the rest (leave size blank)
  • Interesting note that Fedora 25 scaled nicely for installation process, while Ubuntu GNOME was not scaled
  • Didn't connect to internet during installation and didn't choose to install 3rd party software at this point

Setting up Linux

Scaling Issues

  • Potential fix for login screen scaling: https://askubuntu.com/a/912789
    • Did not work for me, still unresolved
  • Desktop did scale on initial login, though some issues with cursor becoming small when hovering over menu bar
    • Still unresolved, not a big issue
  • TTY is very small text
    • Tried to resolve by editing /etc/default/grub and set GRUB_GFXPAYLOAD_LINUX=1600x1200
      • On restart it appears to be working, but after login screen loads, TTY still set to 3840x2160 (still unresolved)
  • GRUB boot up menu scaling can be fixed in a couple ways:
    • Via grub-customizer and setting a lower resolution: https://launchpad.net/~danielrichter2007/+archive/ubuntu/grub-customizer
      • Or just edit /etc/default/grub and set GRUB_GFXMODE= to desired resolution
      • In GRUB, navigate to console (usually by pressing 'c') and run videoinfo to get your machines supported resolutions for GRUB
      • XPS 15 4K supports: 3840x2160, 1920x1440, 1600x1200, 1024x768, 800x600, 640x480
    • Via setting a custom font with a larger font size via grub-mkfont: https://unix.stackexchange.com/a/31752/139951
      • This solution did not work when I tried under Fedora 25, but did under Ubuntu GNOME 17.04
      • Minor, but noticeable lag in boot selection (i.e. up/down arrow) with this method

Power Management

TLDR: sudo apt install tlp tlp-rdw


  • Install powertop and powerstat to get monitor power usage:
    • powerstat grabs samples of power usage and prints an average
    • powertop reports what is using power

Power consumption testing done with the following conditions:

  • Bluetooth disabled
  • Location disabled
  • Connected to WiFi
  • Brightness set to 40% (8 steps up from 0 using keyboard button)
  • Only application running is a single terminal running powerstat (i.e. idling state)
  • powerstat -d 2 run for about 5-10 samples (50 seconds)
  • Base line with no updates or anything installed

    • Average consumption of 18.26 Watts
    • Audio codec hwC0D0: Realtek at 100% usage as reported by powertop
  • Install tlp and tlp-rdw for basic power management

    • sudo tlp-stat -s to check status
    • sudo tlp start to start tlp without reboot
    • After tlp started average consumption reduced to 9.96 Watts
      • Appears to have fixed Audio codec issue
  • Updating system sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade and a reboot

    • Upgrade from kernel 4.10.0-19 to 4.10.0-21
    • Average consumption 9.87 Watts, so pretty much the same
TLDR: Stop here if you don't need the Nvidia GPU!

After what I was reading online I wrongly assumed that the Nvidia GPU would be running all the time, so I thought I could achieve more power savings by disabling it. I have since come to the conclusion that the nouveau drivers act properly and are not using the Nvidia GPU, so this isn't necessary.

The following is what I tried before realizing that chasing a sub 9 Watt idle power consumption (at 40% brightness) was pointless. After reading more, I concluded this was likely only possible for XPS models with a FHD display. Anyways, here are my probably not-very-useful notes as to what I tried to get the Nvidia GPU working via optimusrun/prime-select.

  • Install acpi and acpi-call-dkms to disable Nvidia GPU
    • sudo apt install acpi acpi-call-dkms

    • sudo modprobe acpi_call

    • sudo bash /usr/share/doc/acpi-call-dkms/examples/turn_off_gpu.sh | grep works

      • For XPS 15 9560 should return: "_SB.PCI0.PEG0.PEGP._OFF"
      • NOTE: do not run this if using nvidia drivers, I think this crashed my system when I had previously run "sudo ubuntu-drivers autoinstall", which set to using the nvidia drivers
    • echo '_SB.PCI0.PEG0.PEGP._OFF' | sudo tee /proc/acpi/call to actually turn off the dGPU

      • After executing and re-running powerstat, did not observer any change in power consumption
    • Edit /etc/default/grub and add acpi_rev_override=5 to GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT and reboot

      • No changes to power consumption, still around 12 Watts
  • Trying an sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
    • This improved power consumption to an average of 9.73 Watts, unclear what update specifically caused improvement
      • Possibly the upgrade from kernel 4.10.0-19 to 4.10.0-20 ?
  • Attempting switch to Intel proprietary drivers under "additional drivers" GUI tool
    • No noticeable changes, reverted back
  • Trying to install Intel Graphics For Linux Kabylake Drivers from: https://01.org/linuxgraphics/downloads/firmware
    • Slightly worse power consumption now, average of 10.07 Watts, probably just margin of error
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