Ubuntu (or other Linux) on the Asus Transformer Book T100

Standard

The T100 is a nice little convertible tablet/netbook.

My aim is to get a “perfect” Ubuntu installation on the T100, such that it can be used successfully as a daily machine in both netbook and tablet modes.

GLXGears in tablet mode

GLXGears in tablet mode


Unfortunately Linux support right now is quite rudimentary, and installing it requires us to jump through a few hoops. The situation is improving rapidly however. So I will keep updating this How-to as new drivers become available and things improve.

Warning

Eventually I expect hardware support for the T100 will be excellent, but we are not there yet. In order to get the best support possible, we will be using bleeding-edge builds and the latest Linux kernels. If you’d just prefer an easy life, come back in October and just install Ubuntu 14.10.

That said, this little convertible is a lovely machine, and Ubuntu/unity works very nicely on it — finally Unity has a purpose! The more people get on for the ride now, the quicker we can test and iron out bugs.

*** This post will constantly be updated as in-kernel support improves ***

Current status (updated 23/03/2014)

I’ll update this whenever I manage to get new things working. I will only add items to the How-to below that are confirmed to work well.

  • Graphics: Working with accelerated (3D) graphics 7/10
  • Wifi: Working, but often drops connection [working on improving this] 6/10
  • Touchscreen: Working, with multi-touch out of the box 10/10
  • Sound: Working, with patches 8/10
  • SD card reader: Working, some configuration needed (thanks akira) 9/10
  • Battery monitoring: Working, with patches 8/10
  • Tablet keys (Volume up/down etc): Not yet working 0/10
  • Power management (Suspend/resume): Not yet working 0/10
  • Orientation sensor: Not yet working [currently testing] 0/10
  • Backlight & ambient light sensor: Backlight not adjustable. Light sensor works with custom driver 5/10
  • Touchpad: Working, no multitouch yet 8/10
  • Shutdown / reboot: Working, with patches 9/10

1. First steps: Preparing for the Ubuntu Install

First things first, update using Asus LiveUpdate to the latest “BIOS” available. At the time of writing, that is v304. Do any backing up of Windows / recovery partitions. I’ll leave the details of that up to you.

Before we attempt to boot Linux on the T100, we need to do some preparation, so start in Windows. Download the latest daily AMD64 build of Ubuntu 14.04 from here.

Download the Rufus USB bootable image creator, and “burn” your downloaded ISO to a spare USB stick. In Rufus, for “Partition scheme and target system type”, choose “GPT partition scheme for UEFI computer”. For “File System”, choose “FAT32″, and leave the rest at default. At the bottom, check “Create a bootable disk using: ISO Image” and select your downloaded Ubuntu image, then hit “Start”.

When your USB stick is ready, close Rufus. It should now be browseable in Windows. Browse to the EFI\Boot directory, and place this bootloader (named bootia32.efi) there. This bootloader was compiled from source using the latest Grub2. If you don’t trust random downloaded files from the Internet (and you shouldn’t), you can find the instructions for building it yourself here.

2. Booting the Live Image

Now, insert the USB stick and reboot to the firmware (BIOS). You can do this in Windows by holding shift when pressing “restart”, then touching Troubleshoot → Advanced Options → UEFI Firmware Settings → Restart.

Once there, disable SecureBoot, then visit the boot options, and ensure the USB stick is the first in the list.

Press F10 to save settings, and after a few seconds you will be in the GRUB bootloader. Before the timeout, immediately hit CTRL-ALT-DEL. This will reboot the computer again, but this time you will have the laptop’s native resolution (rather than being stuck at 800×600 from the “bios”).

In the GRUB menu, highlight “Try Ubuntu”, and press “e” to edit it. In the editing screen, scroll down to the command line options, where it says “quiet splash”. Delete “splash” and replace it with:
video=VGA-1:1368x768e reboot=pci,force

Then press F10 to boot. You should get all the way to the Desktop.

3. Installing the distro

Click the “Install Ubuntu” desktop icon to install Ubuntu permanently.

The partitioning scheme you choose is up to you — but you will need to preserve the EFI partition, so don’t just partition the entire disk for Ubuntu.

In addition to the EFI partition, I prefer separate /, /home and /boot mount points; but that is up to you. You could squish down the Windows partition and created the additional partition(s), or just delete the Windows partition altogether if you don’t need it.

When done, reboot, leaving the USB stick in.

4. First boot

Ubuntu won’t boot yet. We’ll need to compile our own bootia32.efi to use with Grub. To do that we really need a wireless connection. So we’ll boot manually, fix up wireless, and fix Grub.

Boot back to the Grub welcome screen on the USB stick. Hit ‘c’ to drop to a Grub command line.

You’ll need to provide Grub with the path to your kernel and initrd to boot. First, the path to the kernel:


linux (hd2,gpt5)/boot/vmlinuz-3.13-xxxx root=/dev/mmcblk0p5 video=VGA-1:1368x768e reboot=pci,force

Here, (hd2, gpt5) refers to the fifth partition on the third disk (Partition numbering begins at 1 and disk numbering begins at 0). This will vary depending on how yo uinstalled and your T100 model. On my 32GB model, Grub assigns the USB stick as hd0, the read-only recovery flash chip as hd1, and the main internal flash as hd2. gpt5 is the fifth partition, but it will depend on how you installed.

Fortunately, grub has good auto-completion features, so you can hit twice as you type, and grub will list possible completions for you — just keep trying until you see the various vmlinuz kernels.

The root=/dev/mmcblk0p5 will also depend on the partition you installed to. It will be your root partition. Unfortunately this can’t be auto-completed, so if you can’t remember your partition setup, you’ll need to try by trial and error.

To complete the line, press Enter.

Then you need to specify the location of your initrd. This is easy, it’s in the same place as the kernel:
initrd (hd2,gpt5)/boot/initrd-3.13-xxxx

Then Enter.

Then boot with:
boot

With luck after hitting Enter, you’ll boot through to Ubuntu. If not, don’t be disheartened — keep trying.

5. Enabling wifi

To get further, we’ll need wifi. However internal wifi on the T100 isn’t terribly reliable under Linux yet. If you have access to another wifi dongle, you might want to try that until you’re fully set up.

The driver is already included, but it needs some firmware and a copy of your system’s wifi nvram:

  • Grab the Wifi firmware here (from the Linux-wireless repository). Copy it to /lib/firmware/brcm/brcmfmac43241b4-sdio.bin
  • The NVRAM is difficult to get right now, as 32-bit EFI runtime services aren’t yet available on 64-bit. But you can use my NVRAM — get it here and copy it to /lib/firmware/brcm/brcmfmac43241b4-sdio.txt

You’ll now need to reboot using the same procedure again, and wifi should be working.

However, I found wifi performance to be very poor — there are some bugs in the driver. This is improved somewhat with the latest kernel, which we will upgrade to in a later step. I managed to improve performance somewhat by using the NVRAMs from other platforms, and splicing in some of the missing variables. You can see my tries here. In all cases, copy them to /lib/firmware/brcm/brcmfmac43241b4-sdio.txt , and reboot or unload/reload the wifi driver:

sudo modprobe -r brcmfmac
sudo modprobe brcmfmac

If you find a firmware/nvram combination that works really well, please share.

6. Completing the installation

We can’t keep rebooting like this… so let’s fix Grub. This assumes you now have a working Internet connection.

We’ll need some build tools — install them:


sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install git bison libopts25 libselinux1-dev autogen m4 autoconf help2man libopts25-dev flex libfont-freetype-perl automake autotools-dev libfreetype6-dev texinfo ia32_libs build_essential

Then get the Grub source:
git clone git://git.savannah.gnu.org/grub.git

Now build it:

cd grub
./autogen.sh
./configure --with-platform=efi --target=i386 --program-prefix=""
make

And install to efi:


cd grub-core
sudo ../grub-install -d . --efi-directory /boot/efi/ --target=i386

This will create a directory, ‘grub’, in your EFI partition.
We want to copy the grubia32.efi from there to the location Ubuntu created during installation:


cd /boot/efi/EFI
sudo cp grub/grubia32.efi ubuntu/grubx64.efi

This should be enough to allow you to boot from the “ubuntu” option in your EFI firmware.

Before you boot, let’s add the default command line options to Grub.

Open /etc/default grub in a text editor:
sudo nano /etc/default/grub

And edit the GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT exactly as we did before. When done, hit ctrl-o to save then ctrl-x to exit. Then, to update Grub:
sudo update-grub

Congratulations! you should now be able to boot/reboot directly to the Ubuntu desktop!

7. Upgrading to the bleeding edge to improve hardware support

There are still a lot of things to get working. The best way to improve hardware support further is to use the latest development branches of the kernel.

Unfortunately (as at the time of writing), even the latest development Linux kernel (3.14-rc5) lacks some key hardware support for Baytrail tablets. But we can improve that by pulling in latest patches for sound. We’ll also compile in a new experimental feature for accessing 32-bit EFI services from a 64-bit system, as we need that for tools like efibootmgr to work. Finally, we’ll pull in the latest wireless fixes and the latest power management changes. We need to power management changes for our battery patch.

I recommend you compile this on a fast desktop computer with a decent network connection. You could do this on your tablet, but it would be extremely slow. For the following instructions, I assume you’re using a recent 64-bit Ubuntu on a desktop. If you’re using 32-bit, you’ll have to change the instructions to cross-compile — I’ll leave that up to you (and Google).

On your compiling machine, install the packages you’ll need to build a kernel:

sudo apt-get install git build-essential fakeroot crash kexec-tools makedumpfile kernel-wedge libncurses5 libncurses5-dev
sudo apt-get build-dep linux-image-$(uname -r)

Then create a working directory, step into it, and download the sources you’ll need:

mkdir kernel
cd kernel
git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git
cd source
git remote add sound git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/broonie/sound.git
git remote add efi git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/mfleming/efi.git
git remote add pmfixes git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/rafael/linux-pm.git
git remote add wifinext git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/linville/wireless-next.git
git fetch sound
git fetch efi
git fetch pmfixes
git fetch wifinext

Then merge the updates from sound, efi mixed-mode, power management and wireless onto the mainline kernel:

git merge sound/topic/intel
git merge efi/efi-for-mingo
git merge pmfixes/linux-next
git merge wifinext/master

There are still some patches we need to apply. Step back and create a patch directory, and download some patches into it:


cd ..
mkdir patches
^mkdir^cd
git clone https://github.com/jfwells/linux-asus-t100ta.git

Now apply the patches:

cd ../source
git apply ../patches/linux-asus-t100ta/patches/*

They should all apply without error.

Now we’re almost ready to compile. Before we do, we need a .config file to tell the kernel build system what parts we want to compile. Start by copying over the current one from your T100. You’ll find it at /boot/config-xxxxxx , where xxxxxx is the version of the currently running kernel. Grab it and copy it to the kernel/source directory you’ve just been working in. Rename it to .config .

Now we need to update the config:


make oldconfig

This will prompt you to set configuration for the things that will be newer in this kernel. Select ‘m’ to compile relevant drivers as a module where offered (in particular all the ‘soc’ sound options). Select ‘Y’ to enable EFI mixed mode where offered. Leave the kernel debugging options off.

When done, we’re ready to compile. We can just do it the quick and dirty way:


make clean
make -j8 deb-pkg

The above assumes this is on a quad-core processor with hyperthreading (hence the ‘-j8′, or 8 simultaneous processes). Reduce this number appropriately if you have less cores.

This will take some time (anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour. If you’re doing it directly on the T100, all bets are off – it could take all day.

When complete, you’ll have a set of .deb packages in the directory above (i.e. in the “kernel” directory). We need “linux-headers-xxxxx.deb” and “linux-image-xxxxx.deb”. Choose the smaller of the linux-image packages, the one without debug symbols. Copy them over to your T100.

On the T100, install the new kernel with:

cd <folder where you saved the .debs>
dpkg -i ./*.deb

Then reboot!

8. Sound

Sound won’t yet be working. First, you’ll need some more firmware. For now, you can grab it from ChromiumOS, here. Unpack the archive and copy the files to /lib/firmware/intel .

The drivers are in a bit of a raw state — they expose about a hundred oddly-named mixer and DSP devices to ALSA. We can set some defaults. Grab the defaults file here, and copy it to /var/lib/alsa/asound.state .

Reboot, and force-load the state file into alsa with :
sudo alsactl -f /var/lib/alsa/asound.state restore

For me, my sound still sounds pretty awful. I need to mute the distorted right channel in alsamixer, then at least it is bearable. I also find the CPU runs a bit hot with sound enabled. Let me know if you have more luck.

* please be careful — my sound is permanently distorted, even in Windows now; keep the volume low when testing the various options *

9. SD card reader

The SD card reader works with newer kernels, but the sdhci module needs some configuration. Create a new file:


sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/sdhci.conf

Then add the following:


options sdhci debug_quirks=0x8000

ctrl-o then ctrl-x to save and exit, then:


update-initramfs -u -k all

Then reboot and the card reader should be working.

9. Other drivers

So far, the only additional driver I have working is the light sensor. Please download and test my driver here.

9. Other scripts

I have made some additional small scripts to improve usability.

Dock scripts: These enable/disable the Onboard on-screen keyboard when you undock/dock the tablet. Set up the onscreen keyboard first in System Settings → Accessibility, then the scripts will enable/disable they keyboard for text fields.

Rotate script: This will rotate the screen and touchscreen when run. You can place the desktop entry on your desktop. We can connect the orientation sensor to this later, once that is working.

Workable... for now.

Workable… for now.

364 thoughts on “Ubuntu (or other Linux) on the Asus Transformer Book T100

  1. Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous
    room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will
    forward this write-up to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read.
    Many thanks for sharing!

  2. Damien

    Hi !
    Do you know wether ubuntu 14.10 will manage this kind of divice ? Is that gonna be easyer to install ubuntu on the tablet ?
    Thank you for the post, it was well written.
    Damien’

  3. EJ

    So I have just obtained this tablet and new to the different types of kernels and OS. I would like to know if this device is able to run kali linux with the docking and touch screen functionality? Thank you so much for your time and efforts.

  4. abdul

    Hi, i was attempting to install ubuntu using these instructions and i was wondering if i could get some help because I don’t really know much about this.
    I managed to get to step 4, for the installation I didnt really know what to do so i guessed, and set a partition (which i had previously created) to ext2 and just mounted ‘/’ there (assuming that included everything else) and i saw it needed to install the boot loader so i just set another small partition to ext2 and set it install the bootloader there. For step 4 i followed the instructions and am pretty everything was right and everything seemed to work as well. With the boot it did a big bunch of stuff then it got stuck the last thing it had on screen at the bottom is (initramfs).

    Thanks in advance

  5. DjOrrick

    Ubuntu AMD 64 10.14 is works for ASUS Tablet MeMO Pad 7 (ME176C/cx) ? that is 4 cernel 64x processor (Intel® Atom™ Z3745 Quad-Core, 1.86 GHz)
    but memory only 1 Gb

  6. Corni

    I wanted to install Ubuntu on my Acer Aspire Switch 10 with the same CPU but after booting the live image my screen starts bugging. You can recognize the colours of the ubuntu desktop in the background. Maybe someone can help me.
    Thanks in advance

  7. Gab

    I’m just wondering if it really works better with the
    Ubuntu 14.10 or not. I would appreciate any info.
    Thanks!

    Gab

    P.s.: It’s a nice article :)

  8. Vincent Lin

    How ubuntu 14.10 is released. It is also known the the kernel supports EFI mixed mode. Though I still do not see bootia32.efi in /EFI/BOOT folder.

    Do you have updates to howto install 14.10 on this little machine? Are the steps still the same?

    I am actually using Flex 10, but it is basically the same regarding booting.

    Thanks.

  9. shelmed

    I bought my t100 a few months ago and can’t wait to get rid of Windows – so I too have been hanging out for the Ubuntu 14.10 release – please advise asap how well this installs – Thanks

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