lördag 23 november 2013

Install Fedora 20 on your small SSD and get a super-speed Toshiba

Some Toshiba's are equipped with a small SSD device alongside a traditional HDD.
F.ex some U840 and U940 has a 32GB SSD which from factory is used as a fast Hibernation storage.
The storage setup is backed by a software RAID solution which WILL be tricky to get back once deleted (as mentioned further down in this post).

If you want SSD performance running Fedora (or any other Linux distro) on this kind of notebook, following the guide you will have a lot of speed for no additional money and still have access to a big storage for your personal files.

By following this guide you are assuming responsibility of the consequences.
This guide will not allow dual-boot with Windows or any other OS.
It may be possible to tweak my steps to allow for this, but that is not my intention in this post. 
If you have any data on your PC which you want to keep, back it up and then come back when data is backed up safely.
If you want to be able to come back to Windows later on, please create recovery media using the preinstalled Toshiba Recovery media creator.

The way I set my unit up is that I use the 32GB SSD for the OS and swap and the HDD for my personal files.
Why this combination? Well, I figure that most storage intensive actions are system related and less storage access is done among personal files.
In such a case, a small but sufficient SSD will provide more than enough space for the OS + swap and still boost the performance of the unit considerably.

The steps are these:

1) Boot the unit on a live media and remove the RAID setup. This is necessary to be able to access the storage devices as separate units.
2) Partition the storages so that the OS gets installed on the SSD and the HDD is used as my home space containing all my personal data-files.
3) Install the OS
4) Change boot order of the devices in UEFI (BIOS).

What you need:

- a PC with 1 SSD and 1 HDD installed.
- a Fedora 20 (or other Linux distro) live media.
- know how to make your PC boot from the USB stick
- general  knowledge of using / installing Fedora since I won't go into detail on things outside the scope of the setup on SSD / HDD.

So let's get started.
Insert the USB stick in the PC and boot it up from it.

Once booted, you should be greeted with the below screen.

Close the welcome window and click on activities (up in the left corner) or press the Super key (normally the one with the Windows flag on it).
This will bring up the search field as seen below.

Type disks and wait for the disks application to be found.
Then click on it.

Now we're going to remove the RAID configuration.
Please be warned - once the RAID is removed, it will be very difficult to get it back if you would want that. It may possibly end up in a need for help from an ASP which will cost money.

Below is the disks application showing my disk setup.
There is a bug in this app which make my live USB stick show up as one additional 32GB SSD. Don't mind that.

My unit has 2 storage devices - 1 pcs 320GB HDD and 1 pcs 32 GB SSD.
Just below those 2, you'll see the RAID array's that we need to remove.

Click on one of the RAID array's and then the cogwheel-faced button on the right side as my picture shows. Click on RAID disks...

Now click the minus button highlighted below to remove the RAID array.

Confirm the action...

Repeat the steps above for the other RAID array too.

 Now we're done here. Close the disks application and press the Super-key again (or click the Activities area in the upper left corner).
The quick-launch panel on the left side below holds a link to the Fedora-installer.
Click it.

You are now in the installer. Select any language you like and click Continue.

Since this is a pre-release of Fedora, we'll get the usual warning here.
If you want to go on, click I accept my fate.

I won't go into the sections Date & time, Keyboard and Network configuration since they're out of the scope of this post.
Instead, I'll look at the Installation destination.
Go ahead and click on that section and we'll set up Fedora on the SSD.

Ok, so we're in the place where we tell the installer which storage devices we want to install to. Make sure to mark both the HDD and the SSD as shown in the picture below.

Once both devices are checked, click the little link in the bottom of the above screen: "Full disk summary and bootloader... "

The below popup will appear. This step is a bit important.
We're telling the installer which device we want to boot from.
Since we are looking to boot from SSD, make sure to mark it.
A hint here is to check the size (if the names do not help).
One more thing which is also important, look at and make a note of the device-names that the kernel has given them. In the picture, the HDD is called "sda" and the SSD is called "sdb".
This will be important information later on.
When done, click close.

When done with the above, the popup below appears.
You need to tell the partitioner that you want to set up the partitions manually...

...so mark that option.

I like to use standard partitioning. You may choose what you like here.

Now we're going to set up the partitions.
Below is the partitioning interface and it tells us the total available storage to be used on the low left-hand side. As you can see, it's the sum of the internal HDD and the SSD.
Click on the + sign to add a new mountpoint (create a partition)

I want one partition for the /boot mount point....

...allocate 500MB for it. That should be enough....

....verify that it gets created on sdb. Remember a few pictures up, I checked which storage device have which name. In my example, the SSD has the name sdb.
The first partition get the name sdb1.

Add a second mount point: swap....

I use to give ut 4GB space. I realize that this is subject for endless discussions....

Verify that the swap space is on the SSD too. In this example, it gets partition name sdb2.

The final partition I will make on the SSD is the root partition /
It is a bit tricky to calculate how much storage space to give the root partition.
If I give it too much, it will automatically be moved to the next storage which provides enough space - that's the HDD. And we do not want that.
So it may need some trial-and-error before you find your perfect fit. I gave it 25.9GB of space which seems to fill the SSD up almost completely and it is a huge amount of space for a Linux distro.

Ok. We're almost there. All necessary partitons on the SSD set up.

Finally, we need to add a /home partition which is the place for your personal files.
Look at the amount of space available (magenta square lower left corner).

Give the /home mount point that space (or just almost) to allocate the whole HDD to your home partition.

Partitions set up! Great! Verify that the /home is located on sda1 and the others on sdb1, sdb2 and sdb3. If ready, click Done

Final confirmation shown. Press Accept changes.

We're back to the main install screen. Locate and click the Begin installation button in the lower right corner.

Installation begins and you'll need to set a root password and setup a user.

 When done with the above and the installation is finished, press Quit.

Your now done with the partitioning and installation.
One task remains - change the boot priority to have the SSD as the primary boot device.

Reboot the unit and press F2 a few times when you see the Toshiba logo to enter the UEFI (BIOS).
 In the UEFI - navigate to the Boot section by using the right arrow key.
A picture similar to the one below will be shown.

What is seen here are the devices the unit will walk through when booting up.
The HDD is normally set as number 1.
We want to change this to have the SSD to be number 1.

Use the Down arrow key to highlight the SSD and then use F6 to promote it (move it up in priority).

The SSD is the primary boot device and we can now exit by pressing F10 and accepting to exit and save.

Your Toshiba PC should now boot up on the SSD and you'll have a PC on steriods!

torsdag 17 oktober 2013

Fedora 20 Nightly build (Fedora-20-Nightly-x86_64-Live-desktop-20131015.10-1) on Toshiba Satellite L50-A-160

The Satellite L50-A-160 is a model with manly Intel-made components. Something which normally points to a problemfree Linux experience.
This is true also on this model although not all features work - but let's look at the details later.

The model has an Intel® Core™ i7-4700MQ-processor, Intel HD graphics 4600 and an Intel HM86 Express Chipset.
The unit has a WLAN/BT combo-card installed. The module is an Atheros WB335 which consists of a Qualcomm Atheros QCA9565 & a Blutooth 4.0 part.

The Nightly build of Fedora 20, which is not the official Alpha, worked on this model very very well in general.
The OS responds fluently, and let's me set up a Wireless connection, change display configurations and browse the web very smoothly.
I am a bit impressed by the performance of this nightly release and how fast it responds.
Not sure if there are still these pre-stable-release debugging features in the Kernel which I think sometimes slow things down.....perhaps not.
Maybe someone with more insight than I can say...

I was also positively surprised about the numbers of Toshiba-specific features were supported right away. See below for a full summary of features tested and their result.
Something I've seen in the past is that some features work when unit is cold booted, while they tend to stop working after resuming from standby.
Such irritations were not seen here. Great job Fedora crew!!

The only issue which I can see is getting the Bluetooth to work.
It seems this is somehow known, and known to work once the proper setup is made.
Details can be found here: http://wireless.kernel.org/en/users/Drivers/ath9k/btcoex
However, when I try to follow them my wireless setup gets totally messed up and I need to reboot in order to get it back working.

This model performs very well in all respects to the features which are working from cold boot.
They also seem to work perfectly after suspend/resume on my Live media.

Power consumption was modest and pointed to runtimes on par with Windows installations.

Feature Cold booted Resumed from Standby
Hardware features

Full native resolution on display OK OK
SD host OK OK
Bluetooth NG NG
Touchpad  OK OK
Sound OK OK
HDMI sound OK OK
Webcam OK OK

Brightness - FN + F2 / F3 OK Ok
Display change - FN + F4 OK OK
Touchpad On/Off - FN + F5 OK OK
Media buttons - FN + F6,F7,F8 OK OK
Volume control - FN + F9 / F10 OK OK
Mute On/Off - FN + F11 OK OK
Radio On/Off - FN + F12 OK OK