Asus T100 Transformer – A Cautionary Tale

This little tablet comes with Windows 8.1 installed and clearly has all the right drivers available for the OEM operating system to support the hardware. Regrettably, the same cannot be said for Linux. While various users are getting close to a working system, installing Linux on the T100 is fraught with difficulties – and some dangers!

While I have installed a number of versions of Ubuntu Linux on this machine, recently I found that the installers for a number of distros (notably Versions 15.04 beta, 14.10 and 14.04) were not completing properly. This culminated in my T100 no longer booting into grub – nor Windows. Even worse, neither F2 (setup) nor F9 (recovery) produced any flicker of life on the screen. My T100 was bricked!

I spent a couple of days trying to revive the tablet to no avail. It required a trip to an Asus service centre for major surgery.

The machine was returned restored to factory settings, and was soon back running Windows 8.1. However, I am afraid that I have lost considerable faith in the T100’s ability to support Linux, and I’m not sure that I want to continue the experiment on this hardware platform. In my view, one shouldn’t be able to crash a machine beyond the point of normal recovery simply by installing software, but it would appear that I may have managed this on the T100.

So, for now at least, I plan to take a break from playing with Linux on the T100. For those of you who are braver, the Asus T100 Ubuntu Google+ group is working hard to make things happen. So, check out their web site (https://plus.google.com/communities/117853703024346186936) for current details. For now, I will be lurking on the site to see how things progress!

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Dual Booting Linux Mint and Windows 8.1

I recently installed Linux Mint 17 (Rebecca) on a Dell Inspiron laptop that had Windows 8.1 pre-installed and hence was using the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), GUID Partition Table (GPT), and had Secure Boot enabled by default. My first attempt, using a more-or-less “conventional” installation method ended up with Mint booting immediately once the computer was restarted, i.e. no grub boot menu was displayed to optionally load Windows. A few tweaks to the system settings and this problem was easily resolved.

Apart from the usual procedures to backup the system before making any drastic changes, and creating some free (unallocated) disk space available for the installation of Linux, the steps required for a successful dual-boot operation on the Dell Inspiron were as follows:

(1) Create a bootable USB, using Rufus and the 64-bit distro for Linux Mint.

(2) Boot the laptop into setup mode using the F2 key.

(3) Navigate to the Boot tab and toggle Secure Boot to Disabled. Toggle Boot Option #1 to USB Storage Device. Use the F10 key to save the revised settings and boot from the installation USB drive.

(4) Choose Something Else for the Installation Type and, in the disk partitioning option, add a new partition (say 50 GB). Make this a primary partition, select ext4 as the file system, and / (root) as the mount point.

(5) Add another new partition, this time selecting swap as the file system type. Typically, the swap space should be double the size of the computer’s RAM.

(6) Complete the installation process as usual.

Once the installation completes and the machine is restarted, the grub menu should be displayed allowing either Linux Mint or Windows 8 to be activated. Optionally, one can go back into the setup menu and toggle Secure Boot back to enabled.

References:

Guide To Install Ubuntu 14.04 In Dual Boot Mode With Windows 8 Or 8.1 UEFI
http://itsfoss.com/install-ubuntu-1404-dual-boot-mode-windows-8-81-uefi/

Dual boot: Windows 8 + Ubuntu 14.04
http://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/dual-boot-windows-8-ubuntu.html

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Avoiding timeout errors when installing Linux on the Asus Transformer Book T100

While a kernel patch for the mmcblk0rpmb timeout errors experienced on the T100’s solid state drive is available, the fix hasn’t yet made it into a Linux distro. Consequently, one has to suffer through the long delays produced by the timeouts while installing Linux, before being able to replace the kernel with a patched version that eliminates the timeouts in all future operations. At least, one had to do this before a temporary fix was suggested.
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Replacing the kernel

The second thing to do after installing the 64-bit daily build of Ubuntu Linux Version 15.04 (Vivid Vervet), and updating the Wi-Fi network connection, was to replace the Linux kernel with a patched version specific to the T100.
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Finding the MAC address of the wireless card

After installing a 64-bit daily build of Ubuntu Linux Version 15.04 (Vivid Vervet). As described in the previous post, I switched the Internet connection from the temporary use of a wireless USB adapter to the T100’s on-board wireless card. I followed the instructions given earlier (Establishing Wi-Fi connectivity on the T100) with one exception.
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Installing 64-Bit Linux on the Asus Transformer Book T100

In a previous post (Installing Linux on the Asus Transformer Book T100) I provided details of how to install a specific 32-bit distro of Ubuntu Linux on the T100. Subsequently, many people have spent a lot of time improving the available software in order to get most of the T100’s hardware features (e.g. touch screen, battery monitor) to work. In particular, it is possible to install a 64-bit version of Ubuntu, with a 32-bit bootloader, on the T100. This includes the current release, Utopic Unicorn (Version 14.10), or even the development version of Vivid Vervet (Version 15.04). However, the steps required to do this are somewhat different than for the custom ISO, so this posting attempts to consolidate all the required instructions in a single place.
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Correcting for DST with FreeFileSync

Synchronizing my dedicated data partition with my external USB backup drive has always been problematic when daylight saving time (DST) comes and goes. The problem is that – instantly – all the files on the external (FAT) drive appear to become one hour older (or younger) than the same files on the hard drive. Some versions of FreeFileSync have a fix for this issue. An alternative is to reset the time stamp on the files on the external drive.
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