Installing Linux Ubuntu/Xubuntu 15.10 on Dell XPS 9350 Skylake & Optimizations

These are my notes on installing and running Linux (Xubuntu) on the Dell XPS 9350. I’ll continue to update this page for reference as more issues get addressed.

Thanks to all the hard working open source software developers out there that make it possible to run Linux on this machine!

Dual Booting with Windows 10

Pre-Installation Preparation:

  • Replace the Broadcom WiFi card with the Intel 7265 Wireless Card

Installation:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: In order to install Ubuntu you will need to change Bios to use AHCI Sata mode, instead of Raid On. This WILL break your Windows install. So backup any data and make a bootable recovery disk. You will need to reinstall Windows.

If anyone knows how to get Windows working again after switching to AHCI from Raid On without reinstalling, please let me know!

  1. Create a bootable USB disk with Xubuntu 15.10 (Or other flavor)
  2. Resize existing partitions in Windows 10 with Windows Disk Manager to make room for Ubuntu on your HD/SSD
    1. Turn off “Fast Start” / “Quick boot” in Windows, restart.
    2. Make sure to account for pagefile, hybrid suspend etc before, otherwise Windows doesn’t let you shrink the volume enough.
    3. Or download a tool like AOMEI Partition Manager
    4. There are several Windows partitions for used for Windows & Dell recovery and other Windowsy things. You can leave these alone, but since Windows will need to be reinstalled, you could also just get ride of everything and start fresh too I guess.
  3. Prepare BIOS settings for install
    1. Update/Flash the BIOS if newer version available (no new BIOS available at the time of writing).
    2. Press F12 key while Dell logo displays during boot up to enter Boot Settings
    3. Disable RAID On and switch to AHCI in BIOS settings
    4. Optional: Disable Fastboot in BIOS – Set to “Thorough” or “Auto”
  4. Boot the USB Installer in UEFI mode (UEFI & Secure Boot should work fine)
    1. In installation type, select “Something Else”
    2. Create partitions for linux system on hard drive
      • Create a partition for the OS with type Ext4 and set mount point to / (root)
      • Create a partition for the swap (use swap type). Make it as large as your RAM.
      • Create a partition for your files (home) and set mount point to /home
        • I chose to encrypt my home folder when prompted a bit later on.
    3. Complete installation
  5. Create an entry for Ubuntu in the Boot Sequence in the BIOS
    • Go to BIOS settings and under Boot Sequence, add a new entry
      • Use the shim on the EFI partition under the ubuntu/linux folder for the loader file
    • OR use a boot-recovery LiveCD to fix grub
    • Automatic creation of the EFI boot loader entry didn’t happen for me.
  6. Don’t Turn RAID On back on… Reinstall Windows
    • Enable AHCI in Windows: Reinstall Windows, it will now detect you’re in AHCI mode and install properly.
  7. Turn Fastboot back to “Minimal” in BIOS
  8. Boot to Ubuntu!
    • You should now have a working duel boot Ubuntu/Windows XPS 13 9350
  9. There are still a few issues to resolve before you’re done.
    1. Suspend/Resume might not work, WiFi may be broken (If you didn’t replace the Broadcom card), touchpad is jumpy and sensitive while typing, bluetooth may not work
    2. See below to resolve some of the issues

Troubleshooting & Fixes

Suspend/Resume

  • Suspend/Resume seems to be fixed with newer 4.3+ Linux kernels.
    • This nightly build from 11/5/2015 worked for me: http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/drm-intel-nightly/2015-11-05-wily
    • Download and install the following files in this order:
      1. linux-headers-4.3.0-994_4.3.0-994.201511050152_all.deb
      2. linux-headers-4.3.0-994-generic_4.3.0-994.201511050152_amd64.deb
      3. linux-image-4.3.0-994-generic_4.3.0-994.201511050152_amd64.deb
    • Reboot and test, the screen may flicker a bit, but suspend and resume seems to work, at least on the QHD+ screen I tested.
    • I was tipped off from this Dell forum thread that there was a fix in the new kernel update, but the kernel update that was suggested earlier in the thread as well as the official 4.3 kernel release did not fix this bug, and even made the screen stop working. Thankfully it looks like they have got things working in the latest nightlies though, and nothing else seemed to break either.
    • If you have any trouble, you can always uninstall the 4.3 kernel updates with the following command: sudo apt-get autoremove linux-image-4.3.0*

Check Swap Partitions & Fix Encrypted Swap

Post Install Optimizations

Intel Graphics for Linux

Setup Desktop for HiDPI resolution

  • If you have the QHD+ screen and depending on your Window Manager or Ubuntu/Linux flavor, scaling for HiDPI screens may not be so great out of the box.
    • In XFCE, a quick fix is to go to “Appearance” settings and then in the “Fonts” tab, then double the DPI to 144 or go up to 192. Restart the system and changes should take effect.
    • You can also increase the size of your cursor to 50, or whatever value. In XFCE, go to “Mouse and Trackpad” settings and under the “Theme” tab, increase the mouse size.
    • Firefox and Chromium like this a lot! Now you can read again, although this doesn’t fix everything (like system bars and buttons). You’ll have to play around with some themes and different software for that.

Enable Additional Drivers (Proprietary & 3rd Party Drivers)

  • Go to “Software & Updates” in Ubuntu and under the “Additional Drivers” tab, enable “Processor microcode firmware for Intel CPUs from intel-microcode”
    • What does this do? No idea! Will look it up eventually. It sounds helpful though.

SSD Optimization

  • Add “nodiratime, noatime” to home and root partitions in /etc/fstab
  • Decrease SWAPiness -> default = 60:
    • cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness
    • sudo nano /etc/sysctl.conf after it opens, put these line to the end of file:
      # Sharply reduce swap inclination
      vm.swappiness=1

Resources (and credits)