HP Pavilion dm1-4310e: Swapping Windows 8 for Linux

HP Pavilion dm1-4310e: Swapping Windows 8 for Linux

Summary: Windows 8 is OUT on my next-generation Pavilion dm1, and Linux — in the shape of Fedora 18, openSuSE 12.3, Mint 14 and Ubuntu 12.10 — is IN.

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Well, this has been quite a learning experience, to say the very least. It has been unprintable, to say the very most. I have been watching for the next generation in the HP Pavilion dm1 line for some time now, as my current dm1-3105ez has become one of my favorite laptops — despite its detested Synaptic 'ClickPad' pointing device.

I had a dm1-4010 for a short time (long enough to see that it didn't have a ClickPad, and that it worked very nicely with Linux), but then I passed it along to a friend. The other difference between those two was that the 3105 had an AMD E-350 CPU, while the 4010 had an E-450, so I have been watching to see what the next generation would have.

Last week I came across a dm1-4310, which has an AMD E2-1800 (Dual Core) CPU, Radeon HD7340 graphic controller, 11.6in. 1366x768 display and NO ClickPad. Hooray, that's what I've been waiting for!

c02923087
HP Pavilion dm1-4310ez

The only problem was that it comes with Windows 8 preloaded, but I figured I'm going to have to bite the bullet and have a go at Windows 8 sooner or later, so why not. The good news was that I checked the specifications very carefully, and there was no mention of "UEFI" or "Secure Boot" or "Made for Windows 8", so at least I shouldn't have to fight with that yet.

c02923137
HP Pavilion dm1-4310ez

There were some other nice points in the hardware configuration — for example, it has at least one USB 3.0 port, which is something else I have been watching and waiting for; this particular model has 4GB of memory and a 320GB SATA disk; wired Gigabit and wireless b/g/n networking — oh, and an HDMI port, which is also important to me.  The cost was very reasonable, list price 499 Swiss francs (about UK£335), but I have already seen it adverised at one of the major electronic chains here for 399 francs, and that was with a 720GB disk!

When I first opened the package, I was struck by how similar it is to my dm1-3105, with a few significant improvements.  First, instead of the ClickPad there is a normal TouchPad with discrete buttons (two separate buttons, not one on a rocker).  The surface of the touchpad is actually integrated with the palm rest, with a different texture, which seems a bit odd at first, but it took about one minute to forget about that and just use it. The wired network RJ45 connector is not hidden under a pain-in-the-rear plastic cover, which is a relief. Otherwise, the finish of the case is a sort of matte plastic rather than shiny metal/plastic, but I have no idea yet if that will make a significant difference in durability.

Then came the first bad news. I switched it on. Windows 8. Ugh. It's not as bad as I expected it to be, it's worse. I don't want to waste a lot of time on it here, so I will simply say that as far as I am concerned it is unusable, period.  It lasted about 36 hours on this new system before I simply wiped the disk and started over from scratch.

Then came the next bad news. This system does indeed have UEFI Secure Boot. Grrr. I don't know if it would have made a difference in my purchase decision if I had known this, but it might have, and in any case I would prefer to have been forewarned. Microsoft might think they can tighten the noose around user's necks by imposing this mis-feature, but I refuse to play along.

As it was, I went into BIOS setup (on HP this means press F10 during boot), found the Boot option settings, and changed Legacy Boot to Enabled.  That got it to the point where I could go to a boot selection menu (press F9 during boot), and then select a USB thumb drive with a Linux Live distribution to boot. I subsequently learned that there is still some limitation that I don't quite understand yet in the booting. I am able to install pretty much any distribution I want, but at the moment it only boots successfully from Fedora (either 17 or 18 Alpha/Beta). I'll go back and figure the rest of that out later, but for the moment I want to get this thing working, so booting the brand-new Fedora 18 Beta release is fine with me, and I can boot whatever other Linux distributions I want from the F18 Grub2 bootloader.

So, I was finally able to boot the brand spanking new Fedora 18 Beta release, from a Live USB stick. I was surprised to find that the Windows 8 configuration had set up the disk with a gpt (GUID Partition Table), but I'm quite pleased to get away from the antique MBR partition table and Primary/Extended partitions, so I left it that way. The Fedora installation was very simple, and without going into too much detail I will say that I really like the changes they have made to anaconda.  Installation took less than 10 minutes from booting the USB stick to rebooting the installed system.

Fedora
Fedora 18 Beta - Gnome 3.6

Fedora seems to have handled all of the hardware with no problem; the two things I was concerned about were the Radeon HD7340 graphic controller (it is using the FOSS Radeon display driver) and the Ralink 3290 WiFi adapter (it is using the rt2800pci driver with rt3290.bin firmware). Everything else seems ok — sound, touchpad, keyboard, USB ports, HDMI, SD card slot and so on. I haven't come across anything that isn't working yet.

Once I had Fedora installed and configured, I decided to try a few other of my favorite Linux distributions. First up was openSuSE, which I have been using more than any of the others recently primarily because of digiKam). I have been trying the 12.3 pre-releases, so I had a Live USB stick handly. That booted with no problem (and amazingly fast), and also installed easily. Since I had already decided to let Fedora handle bootloading, I told openSuSE not to install a bootloader (this is done through the options in the final confirmation screen).

openSuSE
openSuSE 12.3 Milestone 1 (Build 227) - KDE 4.9

When the installation finished I booted the installed system, and as with Fedora 18, everything appears to work. By the way, the recent daily builds of openSuSE 12.3 picked up a lot of new artwork, and it looks really nice. By this time I was thinking this was really great, because usually when I surrender to an impulse and buy a brand-new just-released system, I have to struggle with drivers or configuration a bit (or sometimes a lot). So far it had been smooth sailing, and I am really liking the way this new system is working.

Next up was Linux Mint 14, my other favored distribution. The Live USB stick booted, and the installation process went smoothly. Obviously, none of these distributions was having any trouble at all with the gpt partition table. Installation completed normally, and I booted the installed system.

Mint
Linux Mint 14 (Nadia) - Cinnamon 1.6

 I finally ran into the first problem. Linux Mint doesn't have the necessary drivers and/or firmware for the Ralink 3290 WiFi adapter. This is almost certainly a question of the kernel version, as both Fedora 18 and openSuSE 12.3 are running 3.6.3 kernels, and Linux Mint 14 has 3.5.0 (as does Ubuntu 12.10). A quick web search brings up a lot of discussion about how to get the Ralink 3290 working with Linux Mint (and Ubuntu), so if you are determined to use either of those distributions, there are instructions available to get the wireless network going. For my purposes, I am happy with Fedora and/or openSuSE, so I am not going to worry about that right now. I'm sure the necessary support will be added, or they will simply update to the necessary kernel version, before long.

Last in the first round of Linux installations was Ubuntu 12.10. I personally wouldn't use this distribution, as I detest the Unity desktop, but I get asked about it a lot, and if this notebook turns out to be as good as it appears in these first few days, I am likely to want to get another one (or two, or more) to set up and pass along to friends, and in that case Ubuntu is often required. As with the previous distributions, the Live USB stick booted and the installer ran with no problem.

Ubuntu
Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) - Unity

Since Linux Mint 14 is derived from Ubuntu 12.10, it was no surprise that the Ralink 3290 WiFi adapter didn't work on this distribution either. As I said above, there is plenty of discussion in the Ubuntu support area and forums about this, and tips on how to get the correct driver and firmware installed. Other than that, everything seems to work, just as it did with the other distributions.

One last thing before I wrap this up. How about some very simple speed comparisons? Here is the amount of time it takes from selecting the boot image to getting the login prompt, and from entering the login information to getting a usable desktop:

Fedora: 0:35 boot / 0:15 login

openSuSE:  1:15 (boot direct to desktop, autologin)

Linux Mint: 0:20 boot / 0:15 login (Wow!)

Ubuntu:  0:25 boot / 0:10 login

In summary, I am very pleased with this new notebook. Once I got the nasty Windows rubbish off of it, and enabled Legacy Boot in the BIOS so that I could boot the Linux Live media, it really works well. It seems noticeably faster than its precedessors (probably mostly down to the AMD E2 CPU), and not only is the blasted ClickPad gone, I also have the feeling that the keyboard is much more comfortable than the previous ones were. If this keeps up I am likely to take the SSD drive out of the Acer AO522 I have been using for a while, and put it into this system.

jw

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Topics: Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Laptops, Linux, Operating Systems, Reviews

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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164 comments
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  • well done!

    one more nail in M$ coffin!
    LlNUX Geek
    • One more nail?

      Watson purchased a machine with Windows 8 on it. Microsoft received their money. What nail? If anything, it is a sand spur, not a nail.
      Your Non Advocate
      • Microsoft did not get a lot of bucks

        10.0

        If Microsoft's $39 intro price for the Windows 8 Pro upgrade download is any indication, Microsoft is not getting a lot of money per systems for all those Windows 8 systems sold recently. Maybe $20 per system? $15 per system? This is a far cry from the even recent days of selling Windows upgrades for $99 and extracting good money from OEMs for Windows licenses. Somebody at Microsoft got smart and decided that they had to compete on price also to sell much of Windows 8. Even then, it is likely to be a critical failure, not as bad a Windows Bob or Windows ME, but on a scale about the same as its lamentable Windows Vista... Ben Myers
        ben_myers
      • If Not A Nail, At Least A Tack

        6.0

        What is more important that the money that Microsoft received for Watson's Windows 8 machine is the fact that he wrote this article on the Internet for people like me to see.

        I have been with Microsoft since 1986. I recently wanted 5 Dell computers, but the ones I wanted only come with Windows 8. I ask them if I could "downgrade" to Windows 7 (what an oxymoron if Windows 8 is the "upgrade), they said no. So I am going to take the plunge and get all 5 (cheap) machines from someplace else, and put Linux on all of them. I am not abandoning Microsoft completely, but Windows 8 was the final straw that made me seriously consider using Linux for daily use, at least for server-side functions.
        Le Chaud Lapin
      • Its all about the long term picture.

        Its not as simple as that. Microsoft lost me about 4 years ago when I brought a brand new "Made for vista" laptop, certified drivers and all, that from day #1 ran slower than mollases (And certainly slower than the 3yo WinXP lappie it replaced) , crashed to blue screen regularly, had really insane problems with file permissions often driving me around the bend by randomly refusing me permission to edit particular work files (Despite me using an admin authed acct) and so on. The simple fact was Microsoft cut corners and aproved laptops for windows vista that simply couldnt handle it, and it pissed me and millions of other people off and trashed their brand name in a way they never REALLY recovered from fully. So six months later I brought a mac, and I've never looked back.

        So yes they got my dollars, but they lost more money because I never brought a microsoft product again.

        You cant stiff customers and expect to come out ahead in the long run. Windows 8 might be Ok for some, but for others its mystifying and upsetting. If apple comes out with an utter barnstormer of a release in 6 months, it could spell trouble for microsoft the way leopard (or snow leopard? I cant remember) did for them around the time of the vista fiasco.
        shayne.oneill
        • Further..

          And before anyone goes spiral eyed monster at the mention of macs, I'm not saying macs are better than PCs (I think Win 7 and Mac OS where really neck and neck), I'm saying that if customers get pissed off they will switch. That goes in both directions (And for some it did with lion being a bit weird for them) by the way, if apple ever does decide to just make "IOS for the Mac" it will kill their product line dead.
          shayne.oneill
    • Congrats

      You managed to turn a functioning computer with the latest software to an apparently really fast computer that does next to nothing.

      With your experience you should know better. What's next? Installing VAX VMS?

      An exercise in futility for someone who apparently has more money than sense.
      Tony_McS
      • Not Accurate!

        Actually its W 8 that does 'next to nothing' unless you go to their store to search for & buy your desired apps from a sparsely furnished selection.
        You can do so much more in Linux & its all free.
        grump3
        • W8

          5.0

          You do know windows 8 runs windows 7 software as well right? You don't need to use the store. (though the store is great for tablet apps, ms surface, etc.)
          nxwkev
          • W8

            6.0

            Of course it will run Windows 7 software, it should really have been called Windows 7 SP2. That doesn't make it any better, they just took 7 stripped some of the better parts and added Metro. That way they can charge extra for an upgrade.

            I get my upgrades all the time, a new O/S every 6 months, all my apps are free as well. Microsoft Tax doesn't apply here.

            mjolnar
            mjolnar
          • ignore metro!

            People keep thinking the only thing added to windows 8 is metro. I don't like the idea either but you're ignoring all the kernel improvements. Windows 8 is much more power efficient now because the new kernel improvements let it have reduced cpu activity. not to mention better ram utilization and a faster startup with service hibernation.
            its not a new vista, this time windows has some actual improvement rather than just new visuals
            jonathanchan
          • I don't know about that

            Same file system, same memory manager, same TCP/IP stack. I am not seeing a new kernel.
            If you are comparing its speed and RAM usage to your 3 or 4 year old Win7 system, wait a month or two. Once all the malware, widgets, and useless applets install themselves, your Win8 box will be more and more like your Win7 box.
            anothercanuck
          • Kernel

            @anothercanuck,

            Windows uses a VMS style microkernel. They could replace the kernel entirely, and if they kept the surrounding run time programs, you wouldn't have any way to know. If W8 for big boxes has a new kernel doesn't matter.

            It does appear to increase the amount of work to get anything done, and there are some programs that are 'legacy' (meaning not recently purchased) that don't run with it, but that is just business as usual.

            Other than that, I agree with you.
            YetAnotherBob
          • Your Windows ignorance is showing

            3.0

            Windows 8 and Windows 7 are not similar and are entirely seperate OSs. Windows 8 is a mobile touchscreen-enabled OS with a desktop added on for backward compatibility.

            And as far as the article goes...a UNIX geek would prefer a UNIX-deriviative such as Linux. I find Linux, Ubuntu and Mint, interesting and though I don't use regularly...I always eagerly await new versions to try.
            James-SantaBarbara
          • Um, it's your Windows (and OSes in general) ignorance showing.

            This is an OS agnostic post. I have nothing to say about Win8, per se, but claiming is is not simlilar for the reasons cited merely indicates that you don't know what you're talking about. The fact that there are touch APIs has NOTHING to do with whether they are similar. Those same APIs, by there very nature, could easily be added to 7.
            Nor are they "entirely separate OSs[sic]" The Win8 kernel is essentially unchanged from the Win7 kernel, which is why the version numbers indicate it as simply a point update. Win7 is Windows 6.1 and Win8 is Windows 6.2. They are NOT entirely different OSes.
            .DeusExMachina.
          • minus all the silly typos

            .DeusExMachina.
          • Um, it's your Windows (and OSes in general) ignorance showing.

            This is an OS agnostic post. I have nothing to say about Win8, per se, but claiming is is not simlilar for the reasons cited merely indicates that you don't know what you're talking about. The fact that there are touch APIs has NOTHING to do with whether they are similar. Those same APIs, by there very nature, could easily be added to 7.
            Nor are they "entirely separate OSs[sic]" The Win8 kernel is essentially unchanged from the Win7 kernel, which is why the version numbers indicate it as simply a point update. Win7 is Windows 6.1 and Win8 is Windows 6.2. They are NOT entirely different OSes.
            .DeusExMachina.
          • The Real Problem with win 8!

            5.0

            Win 8 would not recognize or install my Delta1010 Pro Audio Sound Card. The last time I had this problem was with Vista.

            Does Win8 = Vista? Then I'm skipping this dog.

            I don't won't to be driven to the cloud, I like to go where I want, thank-you very much.

            Ubuntu for those I support, Mint for me.
            shaw50576
        • Wow... Fanboy fail.

          4.0

          You have to go to the store to buy apps in Windows 8?

          That's funny, because I'm running Windows 8 on a C50, and it's doing pretty good with all the apps I had from Windows 7 (and bonus, it runs faster now).

          My 2c - Linux has become a bloated mess. Last time I installed it on a PC, it dogged it down. Microsoft is headed the other direction with W8.

          Yeah yeah, puppy linux, tiny linux, blah blah. But on a serious not: no, you can't do *MORE* with Linux, you can do much of what you can on Windows in 1999.
          thoiness
          • What?

            I believe you are referring to the lack of third party software support on Linux. A popular variant of this is "It has no games," which is not because of the operating system, but because third parties don't want to port to it.

            That said, Linux can actually do a lot more than Windows can do. This is talking about the operating system and the APIs.

            For example, did you know that inter-process communication is handled by a local-optimized network system called 'Sockets' in Linux? Not only that, but any UNIX-like OS will use the same thing, so if you use this feature on writing a Linux application it'll also work just fine on OS X, BSD, etc.

            On the surface, this sounds like "So what?" But think about it. If you're writing, say, a game, and you have a 'game logic' module and a 'visual representation' (graphics) module, you can have them communicate over this local UNIX socket. "So? You can do this on Windows, except it won't use network crap." Yeah. But what if you wanted to add multiplayer support, and wanted to separate out the client/server? Oh, look at all that duplicate code!

            This is just one example, of course. Also note how most super computers run some form of the Linux operating system because of how much more scalable it is. It can run on MANY more CPU cores than Windows, and can parallelize and manage system resources much more efficiently.

            Going back to the common "Has no games," argument, developers are starting to realize this is stupid. Valve, for example, is porting Steam and their Source engine to Linux, focusing right now on the Ubuntu operating system.

            Linux does sometimes run slower on a computer than Windows. This is due to everything from crappily written and/or reverse engineered drivers, to the simple fact that you're running Compiz or a badly written desktop environment *coughgnomethreecough*. This was the case with a friend of mine; we tried Debian Stable on the same machine, and it was BLAZING FAST, while Ubuntu was slow (even after disabling Compiz).

            Oh yeah. And Wine lets you run roughly 98% of all Windows software (both new and old) as if it were native. Sometimes (though usually not) it runs faster than on Windows. And yes, DirectX games run through it too. I love playing Portal 2 and Skyrim under Ubuntu Linux :)
            Tynach