Installing Linux on the Asus Transformer Book T100

Firstly, let me say that, while I have a version of Ubuntu running on the T100, the process is not simple, nor is it completely successful. Some functions (e.g. screen rotation) are not yet working, and a number of other items (e.g. sound and Wi-Fi) have somewhat limited support. One specific problem that I (and others) have encountered is a long series of timeout errors on disk access when installing Ubuntu. If this is a problem for you, if you persevere, the errors will eventually resolve themselves, and the installation will complete. The result is a system that can run a word processor, a spreadsheet, access the Internet, and no doubt do much more. (To date, I have done much more installing than using!) Lots of people are working on trying to fix/provide enhanced support for the non-working items. So, the bottom line is that is early in the game for running Linux on the T100. However, if you want to give it a try, I hope that this posting will help.

Update2 – If you wish to install a more up-to-date version of Ubuntu, especially a 64-bit version with a 32-bit bootloader, check out the later post: Installing 64-Bit Linux on the Asus Transformer Book T100
Update1 – Despite a number of attempts, I have been unable to implement Internet access through the use of the T100’s wireless card as part of the installation process. In consequence, the following installation sequence relies on the use of a USB wireless adapter to download and install grub-efi-ia32 (see Step 8). The installation instructions have been modified (and simplified) accordingly.

The disk timeout errors that plague the process described here can be overcome by updating the linux kernel once Ubuntu has been installed. (See: T100 Timeout Issue Solved!).

Similarly, access to the Internet can be established using the T100’s wireless card once Ubuntu has been installed. (See: Establishing Wi-Fi connectivity on the T100).

The other thing that I should note is that there are a number of very good how-to guides for installing Linux on the T100, notably documentation provided by John Wells, John Dougan, and Ruslan Kuznetsov. Since I know next to nothing about the technical details necessary to do things like build ISO files, and select boot loader files, the following is a compilation of step-by-step instructions gleaned from the information provided by these three individuals, and supplemented by other web-based sources.

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Sir Isaac Newton, 1676

My rationale in providing yet another installation guide is that I encountered some difficulties in following the multiple instructions, in multiple documents, to the letter, and I wanted a single, comprehensive guide that would lead to a successful installation. My intention is that I will use these instructions to install future versions of Linux, and the add-on tweaks that various individuals are providing on almost a daily basis. My ultimate goal is to have a stable, dual-boot system (Windows 8.1/Linux) running on my T100.

Finally, just before we launch into the specific instructions, let me note that, currently, these allow the installation of a 32-bit, pre-release version of Ubuntu Version 14.10 (Utopic Unicorn) that was customized by Ruslan Kuznetsov. The reason for using this was that, initially, I encountered some difficulties with a daily build of 14.10 and didn’t know if the problem was the build or my not fully understanding the installation instructions (it was almost certainly the latter). Ruslan had the 32-bit version working, and had provided his customized ISO file for downloading. Consequently, my plan was to get his version working on my system since I knew that it was definitely working on his.

So, here we go…

(1) The first step, as it should be for any major change to a system, is to make a complete system backup. Since the T100 has Windows 8.1 installed, it is convenient to make an image of the entire hard drive (i.e. including the Windows operating system, the restore, and the recovery partitions). My preferred method is to use Macrium Reflect Free Edition. A detailed set of instructions for this process is included in a previous post – Backup, backup, backup…

(2) The next thing to do is to update the T100’s BIOS to the latest version posted on the Asus support web site. Make sure that you obtain the correct BIOS update file for your model of T100. A detailed set of instructions for the updating is process is included in the previous post – Updating the Asus T100’s BIOS.

(3) Now, we need to establish some unallocated space on the T100’s hard drive in which we can install Ubuntu. The documentation suggests a minimum of 8 GB for the root directory, plus swap space of the same size as the RAM (2 GB for the T100). Consequently, a total of 10 GB of available space on the hard drive would seem to be required.

I purchased the 64 GB variant of the T100 (Model No. T100TA-DH12T-CA) specifically to provide room for dual-booting Linux. If you have the 32 GB version, I leave it to you to find the required space to install Linux. Hint – if you really feel brave, you could delete the restore partition(s) and use that space. If anything really bad happens, you will be able to restore the backup disk image. That is to say: “You should be able to restore the backup disk image!” There are no guarantees on this from me; however, I would note that I have completed the restore process successfully (see Step 1).

I had already shrunk the Windows OS partition (Drive C:) in order to establish a dedicated 8 GB data partition (Drive D:). On my 64 GB system, I found it convenient to shrink the Windows partition once more to provide the 10 GB of unallocated space.

I used my administrator account to run Control Panel and then navigated to System and Security – Administrative Tools – Create and format hard disk partitions. This launches the Disk Management Tool. Right click on the OS (C:) partition of Disk 0 and select Shrink Volume. In the box marked “Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB” type 10000. (This will actually yield 9.77 GB of unallocated space – which is close enough for now.)

(4) Now, we need to download the following files:

Rufus
http://rufus.akeo.ie/

ubuntu-t100ta-i386.iso
https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0BxzP3DVuQ21cdDFBcG9QVWFZTnM&usp=sharing&tid=0B9C1WK1FQhjfcXNrbzN6djQzajg

(5) Next, we will create an Ubuntu live-USB drive. Any USB drive with a 2 GB capacity or greater should work just fine. However, note that any contents of the drive will be lost so it’s best to use a blank drive.

Run the Rufus program (rufus-1.4.10.exe at the time of writing) that was just downloaded.

In the drop-down menu under “Device”, select the target USB drive. The parameters for the partition scheme, file system, and cluster size associated with the USB disk will be displayed, but we don’t have to do anything about these. In the box marked “New volume label”, enter a meaningful name such as: Ubuntu Boot Disk.

Under “Format Options”, a check mark will already be placed against “Create a bootable disk using”. We want to click on the disk icon at the end of this line in order to browse for and select the ubuntu-t100ta-i386.iso file that we downloaded in the previous step. This will change the default “…using: FreeDOS” to “…using: ISO Image”.

Press the “Start” button and Rufus will build the bootable drive. Finally, press the “Close” button.

(6) We are almost ready to begin to install Ubuntu. But, first, we need to modify some of the UEFI/BIOS settings, (a) to disable Secure Boot, and (b) to set the live-USB drive as the first boot option.

There’s a trick to this process. Shut the machine down. Now, power it up, but as soon as you have hit the power button, start pressing the F2 key – continually – until the Main window of the Aptio Setup Utility is displayed. If the Asus logo comes up first, you didn’t press F2 fast enough (or often enough). Restart the machine and try again. You have to be quick-on-the-draw on this one!

Use the right-arrow key to navigate to the Security tab, and then the down-arrow key to highlight Secure Boot menu. Hit the Return key. Secure Boot Support and [Enabled] will both be highlighted. Use the Shift+ key combination (Shift and the plus sign) to toggle [Enabled] to [Disabled] and then the Esc key to return to the Security menu.

Now use the left-arrow key to navigate to the Boot tab. Boot Option #1 and [Windows Boot Manager] will be highlighted. Press Return and then use the up/down arrow keys to highlight the bootable live-USB drive. Press Return. Boot Option #1 will now be set to something like [UEFI: ADATA USB Flash Drive 1100].

Press F10 and select Yes in order to – Save configuration and exit – and (finally!) boot into the live-USB

(7) The machine will boot into a grub menu. Press Return to select the first boot option – “Try Ubuntu without installing”.

This is where I hit my first glitch. Multiple errors were displayed indicating problems transferring data and timing out on sending commands to mmcblk0rpmb. These are something to do with access to the solid state hard drive – and suggest to me a lack of definitive support for the specific drive in the T100. Time, more research on the Internet, and newer versions of Utopic Unicorn may provide an answer/solution to this issue.

In the interim, let the machine run so that it can think about the errors. Eventually – and it may be a long wait – the installer will give up and decide that it’s time to move on.

(8) You should now be looking at the Unity Desktop. Press Ctrl-Alt-T to launch a Terminal window.

Enter the commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install grub-efi-ia32
sudo umount /dev/mmcblk0p*

Using the above command to unmount all the partitions on the hard drive will prevent a warning message from the installer later on.

Exit from Terminal.

(9) Similar, lengthy disk-access delays to those noted above occurred in the installation process. As a result, I found it necessary to plug the computer into a power outlet, and modify the power/screen settings to prevent the system/screen from going to sleep.

Go to System Settings (the gear wheel icon near to the bottom of the list of icons on the left side of the screen), and select Brightness & Lock. Uncheck “Dim screen to save power” and, using the drop-down menu, set “Turn screen off when inactive” to “Never”.

Select “All Settings” and “Power”. Using the drop-down menu, set “Suspend when inactive for” to “Don’t suspend”.

(10) We are now – finally – no, really! – ready to install Ubuntu.

Double click on the desktop icon labelled Install Ubuntu 14.10. After a few seconds, the installer’s Welcome screen is displayed. Leave the default language as English and press Continue.

The “Preparing to install Ubuntu” screen is displayed. We have the required 6.9 GB of disk space available. We are also connected to the Internet, courtesy of the USB adapter; however, let’s leave “Download updates while installing” and “Install this third-party software” unchecked. The simple approach will make sure that we can install the basic Ubuntu system. We will be fixing more things later and, at some point, no doubt we will be installing newer versions of Utopic Unicorn. So, for now, just press Continue.

Now, here is my second glitch (which is likely the same as the first glitch). It takes forever (around 30 minutes) for the disk partitioning screen to be displayed. Because the installer uses a graphical interface, we can’t see what commands – and errors – are occurring in the background. However, the time taken for a further response seems to me to indicate that the partitioner is experiencing timeout errors and the like as it tries to identify the disks, partitions, sizes, and formats that are present on the system. More patience – much more patience – is required at this point. Go and make a coffee, drink it, make another coffee, drin…

(11) Eventually, the disk partitioning screen is displayed. It’s important to select the final option – “Something Else”. We want to be able to manually select the partition to be used, leaving Windows in place, and ending up with a dual-boot system.

Select the Something Else radio button and press Continue.

Locate the 10 GB of unallocated space (now 10486 MB of “free space”) that we created earlier. Highlight this item and then click on + in order to bring up the Create partition dialogue box.

The third glitch that I experienced was that, having selected both a root partition and a swap area, the installer indicated that creation of the swap space had failed and the installation subsequently failed to complete successfully. Your system may be different but, for now, I suggest using the whole of the unallocated space as the root partition for the Ubuntu installation. The installer will give a warning about the lack of swap space, but we are allowed to ignore such advice, and the end result will be that Ubuntu does indeed install.

But, moving on… In the add dialogue, set the following parameters:

Size:                             10487 MB [default/all free space]
Type for the new partition:       Logical
Location for the new partition:   Beginning of this space
Use as:                           Ext4 journaling file system
Mount point:                      / [drop-down menu selection]

Press OK.

When the window refreshes, the installation partition will be indicated as something like /dev/mmcblk0p5.
Finally, on this screen, I left the “Device for boot loader installation” set as the default value of “/dev/mmcblk0 MMC HCG8e (62.5 GB)”

(12) Press “Install Now”. As predicted, the installer warns that there is no swap space assignment. Press Continue.

(13) The Ubuntu installation process continues as usual. Select the desired time zone (by city), keyboard layout (English (US) works fine – even for those of us in the Great White North!), then enter your name, modify your computer’s name and your username, enter your password, and press Continue.

Go and make another coffee! The next step should be a message that indicates the installation has completed and you can restart your machine.

(14) The machine will reboot and display the grub menu which will allow you to boot into either Ubuntu (as default) or Windows Boot Manager (which will load Windows 8.1).

Success! But, that’s enough (probably way too much!) for one session. Our next steps are to tweak the system and get some other features (e.g. Wi-Fi) working!

References:

Backup, backup, backup…
https://linuxnorth.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/backup-backup-backup/

Updating the Asus T100’s BIOS
https://linuxnorth.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/updating-the-asus-t100s-bios/

ASUS Transformer Book T100 – Support – Driver & Tools
http://www.asus.com/Notebooks_Ultrabooks/ASUS_Transformer_Book_T100/HelpDesk_Download/

Ubuntu (or other Linux) on the Asus Transformer Book T100
http://www.jfwhome.com/2014/03/07/perfect-ubuntu-or-other-linux-on-the-asus-transformer-book-t100/

Ubuntu on the Asus T100
http://asus-t100-ubuntu.blogspot.ca/2014/07/ubuntu-on-asus-t100.html

This small guide how to boot Ubuntu 32 bit.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GWKPuSUZ3_f0PdadLkO8Nh3C3mpf3R9h0jiFdTP6NJw/edit?usp=docslist_api

Asus T100 Transfomer
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2191557

Ubuntu Documentation – DiskSpace
https://help.ubuntu.com/community/DiskSpace

Rufus – Create bootable USB drives the easy way
http://rufus.akeo.ie/

How to Create a Bootable CD with no CD!
http://opcug.ca/public/Reviews/TotalMounterRufus.htm

Install Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS
http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/install-ubuntu-desktop

Ubuntu 14.04 installation guide
http://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/ubuntu-14-04-install-guide.html

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/

How to use manual partitioning during installation?
http://askubuntu.com/questions/343268/how-to-use-manual-partitioning-during-installation

Manual partitioning
https://linuxnorth.wordpress.com/manual-partitioning/

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11 Responses to Installing Linux on the Asus Transformer Book T100

  1. Maxime says:

    This is a great article, thank you.
    I will try it as soon as I find some time.

    One point I would add is to install rEFInd http://www.rodsbooks.com/refind/ and use the green “NEXT” theme http://sdbinwiiexe.deviantart.com/art/rEFInd-Next-Theme-407754566 which I find very nice.

    • Alan German says:

      Maxime:

      Thanks for this link. The boot menu screen looks much more colourful than standard grub. The program’s author works for Canonical and seems to have lots of other useful information on his web site. I will certainly take a closer look.

      Alan

  2. Manex says:

    Yes of course the adatpateur wi -fi from the sky.
    And if we have not how it’s done ?

    • Alan German says:

      Rather than look longingly upwards for inspiration – and hardware – it would be more efficient to visit a computer store and purchase a USB Wi-Fi adapter. The cost in the Great White North is around $15. It’s a reasonable solution for a system that doesn’t seem to like Linux very much – at present – although I believe a new driver for the installed wireless card may be available. See Ruslan Kuznetsov’s posting “Looks like this is the driver we need for Wifi” at https://plus.google.com/communities/117853703024346186936

  3. Pingback: Asus T100 Transformer » SomeBeans

  4. Joost says:

    Instead of hitting F2, there is another, perhaps easier trick to enter Setup or select the boot device. Press and hold the volume down button while you switch on the device. Keep that button pressed until the boot menu appears. No need to be quick-on-the-draw, works every time 🙂

  5. rafael says:

    Hi.

    It use the Z3740 cpu? in intel website says it has vt-x suporte, do you know if is possible run kvm?

    Thaks!

  6. Mathieu says:

    Hi,

    I have the T100TA with a 500GB dock station. Noob question : can I create a partion for the root directory in the dock station or does it have to be on the tablet itself? I only plan on using Linux while in “laptop” mode and windows 10 for the “tablet” and “laptop” mode.

    There is also something that I don’t understand : how is it possible to install a 64 bit OS on a 32 bit CPU? Aren’t there physical limitations to this? (This is, of course, concerning your other article,but I thought that it was for the best to ask all my questions at the same place.)

    Thanks in advance!

    • Alan German says:

      Mathieu;

      I don’t have a dock station so can’t answer your first question. I would suggest that you check the posts on the Asus T100 Ubuntu Google+ group (https://plus.google.com/communities/117853703024346186936). Some of the users have the version of the T100 with an on-board hard disk (in addition to an SSD) so their experience may be of assistance to you.

      Regarding 64- vs. 32-bit OS’s, the T100 has a 64-bit CPU but only a 32-bit boot loader. So, if the distro can provide the 32-bit boot loader, it is possible to run a 64-bit kernel. The Google+ group has installation files for both 32- and 64-bit versions of Linux.

      Alan

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