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I recently bought an Acer Aspire V5-122P (see review), which comes with Windows 8 pre-installed. I decided to keep Windows 8, mostly for testing and playing around with its touch interface. And maybe I will replay Starcraft.
But I also need Linux, so in this post I will describe my experiences installing and running openSUSE 12.3 on the V5 in a dual-boot configuration with Windows 8:
UEFI Secure Boot is supported, and the instructions below assume that it is enabled before, during, and after installing openSUSE.
Each OS will get roughly half the available disk space allocated to it.
The installer supports the Atheros Wi-Fi chip in the V5, so a network install over Wi-Fi is possible, and this is the approach taken.
The installed openSUSE system supports the AMD APU in the V5, including the Radeon graphics processor – it will boot straight into a functioning desktop.
Prepare a USB stick with a bootable openSUSE installer
Create a bootable USB stick with it.
Reboot from Windows 8 into the openSUSE installer
Insert the USB stick with the openSUSE installer into the V5.
In Windows 8, press Win+W, type “boot” and choose “Advanced startup options”. Then select “Restart now” under the “Advanced startup” heading at the bottom of the right pane (scrolling needed).
Wait a bit and, in the following panes, choose “Use a device”, then “EFI USB Device”, and then the machine restarts.
Once the openSUSE boot menu appears, choose “Installation”.
Connect to a WiFi network to download from
Soon after booting, the screen goes blue and a series of text-only menus appear that allow you to connect to a Wireless LAN. This network connection is used for downloading the software packages to be installed. The steps you need to go through are:
Choose the “WLAN Authentication” method (e.g., WPA-PSK).
Enter the ESSID (the “name” of the wireless network). NOTE: There is no menu from which you can choose a wireless network name, you have to type it.
For authenticated networks, you must choose whether you wish to enter the passphrase itself or its HEX equivalent, followed by:
The passphrase/hex itself.
Once you successfully connect to a network, the installer will proceed to download the installation system (6 parts), and then it presents the graphical installer.
Run the openSUSE installer
The openSUSE installer takes you through a number of steps:
The welcome screen: Choose the language and keyboard layout you prefer.
(System Probing – nothing to do)
Installation mode: Leave the defaults as-is (i.e., a new installation with automatic configuration and without any add-on products)
Clock and Time Zone: Choose the time zone you're in. (Tip: pressing “Change...” allows you to set the clock via NTP, and to chose and NTP server which remains in use by the installed system)
Desktop selection: Choose what you want (I use KDE).
Suggested partitioning: The installer will suggest to shrink the Windows partition so that about half the disk is freed for openSUSE, and to create root, swap, and home partitions. These suggestions are OK, and can be accepted without modification.
Create new user: According to your taste and needs...
Installation settings: This is the final overview before installation start. It is crucial that you enable Secure Boot for the boot loader! Do this by pressing the “Change...” button and select “Booting...” from the pop-up menu; then “Enable Secure Boot Support” and press OK. Finally, press the “Install” button to start the installation.
Perform installation: Downloading an installing all the packages takes a while, of course, depending on your installation settings and network speed. In my experience, up to an hour for a default installation on a broadband network.
Once all the required packages have been installed, the system reboots into the second stage of installation. Remove the USB stick just before the reboot.
Immediately after the Acer logo appears on reboot, press F2 to enter the BIOS. Switch to the “Boot” section, and reorder the “Boot priority order” list so that the “opensuse-secureboot*” entry appears before “Windows Boot Manager”. Then press F10 to save the changes.
When the GRUB2 boot manager appears, boot into openSUSE. (Note that the boot menu contains an entry for Windows – it can be used to boot into the pre-installed Windows 8).
Once openSUSE boots, it will complete the installation automatically, and then it enters the desktop environment. At this stage networking doesn't work (because the Network Manager isn't running). This is a known problem (see the Release Notes), and the fix is simple, just reboot the system.
Connect to Wireless network, install updates
After the reboot, use the Network Manager to set up the wireless network again (this time there is a menu of visible networks to choose from). In KDE, if the network is password protected, you will be asked to set up KWallet at this time (it's a password manager, it has nothing to do with money) – doing so is a sensible thing to do.
Shortly after the Wi-Fi network is enabled you will get a message that a new update is available; install it and accept any additional tasks suggested. Once that update is installed, many more updates will become available – install all of them. Reboot again once it's done.
At this stage, you have a fully updated standard openSUSE installation.
AMD graphics driver
Although the computer works fine with the default graphics driver that comes with the Linux kernel, I would recommend installing the proprietary AMD driver because:
It makes use of power-saving features of the Radeon GPU which increases battery life and reduces fan noise.
Graphics effects based on OpenGL will render more efficiently and much faster.
Installing the AMD driver is easy:
Open Firefox and navigate to the URL http://en.opensuse.org/SDB:AMD_fglrx
Click the green button below the heading “1-click install 64 bits” and select “Open File” when Firefox asks what to do. Follow the instructions of the dialogs, read the warning, accept the GPG key, and watch as the required software is downloaded and the driver installed.
Once installation is complete, reboot to activate the new driver.
(In case you end up with a black screen after rebooting, try adjusting screen brightness.)
After installing the fglrx driver, it is recommended that you change the Desktop Settings so that desktop effects are rendered using native OpenGL:
Open the KickOff menu (click the green icon in the bottom left corner) and select “Configure Desktop”
Click “Desktop Effect”
Choose “Desktop Cube Animation” as the “Effect for desktop switching”, then click the “Apply” button.
On the “Advanced” tab, select “OpenGL” as the “Compositing type” to use, and select “Raster” as the “Qt graphics system” to use, then click “Apply” and accept the changed configuration.
Now, if everything went right, pressing Ctrl+F1 or Ctrl+F2 to switch between desktops should produce a rather cool and smooth animation.
What doesn't work
Despite the very impressive amount of stuff just working out of the box, there are also a couple of quite annoying things that don't work:
Adjusting display brightness doesn't work, it acts more like a backlight on/off switch.
Trying to shutdown the computer will shut down the Linux operating system, but it won't power off the machine at the end. You have to do that manually, press and hold the power button for 5 seconds.
Oh, and the USB Ethernet dongle supplied with the machine seems not to work. I don't really care...
So, modern and very complex things like UEFI Secure Boot and 3D desktop effects just work, whereas basic power management functionality, which has been standardized for over 15 years, is still difficult to get right?
Under Linux all hardware seems to be very well supported, including 3D graphics, Wi-Fi, and sound.
Even without a driver or other software, the touch screen is active. When you put a finger on the screen the machine reacts as if you press the left mouse button pointing at where your finger is touching, and removing the finger from the screen is like releasing the mouse button. This is of course nowhere near multi-finger gestures, but still useful for rudimentary control, such as clicking buttons (e.g., navigating the KickOff menu, or playing Mahjong and for dragging windows or scroll bars.
Power management largely works (except as mentioned). Both sleep and hibernate work as expected, although hibernate required a bit of extra setup after the installation described above to work. Strangely, when you hibernate, the machine does actually power down properly as well.
I would appreciate ANY help. I bought the Acer Axpire V5. Just had my job eliminated and have to send my work laptop back so I thought I'd purchase an inexpensive model for starters. I thought I would hit the on button and I'd be all set. I "chatted" with the support group but he kept telling me I had to download things - but since I can't even get past a screen that has a blinking curser - how do I download? The manual (disc form) wouldn't open up to a "typical" owners manual. Any simple help for me before I send this back?