Linux on the HP Pavilion g6-2210us — today’s tests: Debian Wheezy and Xubuntu 13.04

I swapped an old hard drive into the HP Pavilion g6-2210us and gave a few Linux distros a spin today.

Why a separate drive? I’m not at all confident about a successful Linux-Windows 8 dual boot. For those keeping score, this laptop features an AMD A4-4300M APU processor with AMD Radeon HD 7420G graphics. The wireless NIC is by Atheros, and the wired NIC is a Realtek. (I’ll report later on specific NIC chips for wired and wireless Ethernet.)

First up was Debian Wheezy. I had to turn off Secure Boot because Debian doesn’t support it. That was no problem. You can toggle Secure Boot on this HP Pavilion g6, and you can also toggle UEFI and “legacy” BIOS mode. So really I’m only limited by what “works” with the hardware itself. Given my angst lately over video (no GNOME 3 due to shaky 3D acceleration support for this newish AMD chip), that’s cold comfort.

Debian seemed to install perfectly. Except that, early in the install, it wanted me to supply nonfree firmware for the wired networking port (a Realtek NIC) on removable media. I actually got the nonfree .deb package (all Wheezy firmware is here, unpacked it and put the required files on a USB flash drive (formatted as FAT), plugged it in and continued with the install. That didn’t work. Debian didn’t “see” the firmware.

Give what happened later (the laptop stalled during boot), this was strange because the system continued installing from the netboot image — using that very NIC to download all of the required files.

I knew I would have trouble with the 3D acceleration in GNOME 3 (and I later confirmed that the proprietary 3D driver for ATI/AMD does not work on this video card), but I was doing a test install and could always bring in Xfce later.

That wouldn’t matter.

I did the entire installation. But as I hinted above, Debian Wheezy wouldn’t reboot into the new system. It hung during configuration of the wired Ethernet port. I guess I can try again with install media that includes the nonfree firmware.

Later: I did look at the installation guide for Wheezy, where I saw that you need to leave the firmware in .deb package form. I also found install images with the firmware included.

Next up was Xubuntu.

The install went fine with Secure Boot turned on. But on reboot, I had to turn off Secure Boot to get the system up and running. It could have had something to do with the fully encrypted LVM option that I chose during the install. I’ll have to do an install without encrypted LVM to see if it makes a difference in Xubuntu’s ability to run with Secure Boot enabled.

Everything looked good once I was in the system. I installed a boatload of updates. I brought in Skype with the service’s own .deb package. I managed to get audio working in Skype. But upon reboot it was not to be. The audio left Skype, as did the configuration options I had to choose from to make it work in the first place. it might come back on the next boot. Who knows?

Unfortunately I need Skype to work at the moment. I never had such trouble in Debian Wheezy on my now-dead Lenovo G555. Until it died, that is.

Otherwise I was happy with audio. That was a major concern of mine. However, I was able to boost audio levels with the Pulse Audio Volume Control, and audio was every bit as good as it is in Windows 8.

Alas, the day’s experimenting had to come to an end. I swapped back in the Windows 8 hard drive, re-enabled Secure Boot and had a working Win 8 system once again. Yep, it’s as exciting as you thought it was.

5 thoughts on “Linux on the HP Pavilion g6-2210us — today’s tests: Debian Wheezy and Xubuntu 13.04

  1. Cia W.

    I found this article while searching to see if I could set up a dual boot with Debian Wheezy and Win 8 on a new HP 2000 notebook I just got. I recognized your name so I decided to say hi. I carved out an 80gb partition, and my Wheezy install attempt appeared to have worked. However, I ended up booting to Win8, no grub in sight. I even turned off secure boot, and then tried enabling legacy support and using the rescue option on the netinstall CD to re-install grub. Still no sign of grub or Debian when I restart.

    For now I’ve installed Virtual Box and have Wheezy installed as a guest. And there’s an 80gb partition with an LXDE desktop waiting for me to boot to it some day. Reading this post did tell me that I needed the netinstall CD with the nonfree firmware, which certainly reduced the frustration. For the most part, my biggest frustration was figuring out how to navigate in Win8.

    1. Steven Rosenberg Post author

      Unless and until you figure out how to boot both Windows 8 and Linux out of Linux’s GRUB, I think the way to this is to pause the boot when you start the computer, then select the EFI partition you wish boot from, Linux or Windows.

      It’s much the same as booting a live CD, except you’ll boot from a different EFI partition.

      On my HP Pavilion g6, you would do it this way:

      • Press the Esc key as you turn on the computer to pause the booting
      • When the menu comes up, press F9 to change boot choice
      • Select your Linux (or Windows) partition from which to boot
      • Then you should be in the OS of your choice
      1. Cia W.

        It worked exactly the same on mine. Thanks! I discovered on another blog post that it’s also a good idea to turn off “fast start” in the power options in Win8 prior to booting another OS. Using the Esc then F9 combination isn’t ideal, but it does the job for now! My next issue is trying to figure out getting suspend to work properly, as you mentioned in another post.

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  3. Steven Rosenberg Post author

    While I seemed to have no problem installing Xubuntu 13.04 in weeks past. I used a different, larger (320 GB vs 160 GB) hard drive in the machine, and the install crapped out three times in a row when it tried to drop the kernel on the machine.

    So I went with Fedora 18 Xfce. The Ananconda installer is awkward, but I was able to get a fully encrypted LVM system put together.

    I opted for a Linux-only machine at the moment. I’m not ready to commit to dual-boot with Windows.

    In my updates with Yumex (love that tool!), I did get a 3.8.11 kernel, but that still wasn’t enough to get me working suspend/resume.

    Suspend does work, but when I resume the screen and I think the keyboard as well don’t come back.

    Fedora is always moving new kernels to the Koji Build System (here’s the main link: http://koji.fedoraproject.org/koji/, and here is a search for kernels: http://koji.fedoraproject.org/koji/packageinfo?packageID=8). You can basically download the packages and use Yum (or Yumex) to install.

    Right now I’m just waiting for Fedora to move new kernels into F18, which they seem to do on a regular basis. They don’t backport patches like Debian and Ubuntu — they just move newer kernels. That can be good or bad depending on your hardware. For me, it can’t be anything but good at the moment.

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