Friday, June 20, 2014

Ubuntu on Touch Screen Laptop: Setting up Linux on Asus Vivobook F200CA / X202E / X200LA / S200E /X200CA

I am a big fan of Asus laptops and rely on them much more than any other Windows PC brand. With my Asus 1101HA (2008 model, 1.33 Ghz Intel Atom processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB HDD) almost giving up after 6 years of decent service, I decided this is the time to buy another portable laptop. I have a powerful machine, Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz 3rd Gen. Core i7 3610QM processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM, 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics and 1 TB HDD. But, unfortunately, it is not very portable and I can't take it on my office trips along with the Lenovo T430, my office laptop and another heavy machine. So, this time I wanted a small, lightweight but a powerful laptop (no Intel Atom/Pentium/Celeron, etc. low powered ones) within $500.

While browsing through e-commerce sites, I came across this Asus product which fits exactly my requirement. Also, it comes with touchscreen. It is branded as Asus Vivobook F200CA in India and X202E, X200LA, S200E, etc. in other countries. It ships with 1.8 Ghz Core i3 3217U processor, 4 GB DDR3 RAM (non-expandable), 500 GB 5400 rpm SATA HDD and 11.6" screen. It is very lightweight at 3 pounds and burns less holes on the pocket than comparable machines. It has about 230 GB dedicated to Windows 8, which I didn't tamper with and I installed Ubuntu on a 270 GB separate partition.

From Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

Installing Linux in Secureboot machine
It ships with Windows 8 (it got upgraded to Win 8.1) with it's mindless interface and tiles. This is the first time I am handling Windows 8 and it's Secureboot UEFI, the rest of the machines I have are WinXP or Win7. I realized within a day that I miss Linux and hence, had to install any of my favorite Linux distros in it. So, I followed this approach:
  • Step 1: In Windows 8.1, go to the power off button and while holding SHIFT key, press Restart.
  • From Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
  • Step 2: It will take to another Window, Click on "Troubleshoot" or "Advanced" options. Advanced options will show UEFI firmware Settings which took me to the BIOS on reboot.
  • From Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
  • Step 3: There I selected disable Secureboot. Asus laptop didn't have any option to disable UEFI.
  • Step 4: First I checked with 64-bit Ubuntu live USB (created using Mint Image Writer). Post change in Secureboot option in BIOS, Ubuntu  14.04 LTS booted up nicely on Asus F200CA.
I checked a few of my favorite distros like Linux Mint, LMDE, Manjaro, Voyager, etc. but none of these distros booted on this machine. Of the 7-8 distros I checked, only distros from Ubuntu family (Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu and Ubuntu Gnome) worked on it properly with touch support. However, on the small screen KDE didn't look good at all and it didn't offer as good a touch support as Ubuntu or Ubuntu GNOME. Finally, after all checks, I installed Ubuntu 14.04 LTS with Unity interface.

Once installed, the laptop started with grub asking me whether I would like to continue with Ubuntu or boot windows. Ubuntu interface looked pretty good on this machine at 1366x768 resolution. However, the strip appeared a bit thick and hence, I reduced it to 38 points from 44 to increase the screen size along with auto-hide mode.

Everything worked fine on the laptop except laptop heat. Even in Windows 8.1, the heat was quite a bit. I checked for the graphic card configuration and it was simple Intel Ivybridge mobile. So, the heat was not due to hybrid graphics but because of the laptop itself. At idle state, the CPU temperature was well above 60 degree Celsius.

I took the following steps to reduce heat:

Install Thermald
The thermald daemon prevents machines from overheating and was introduced in the 14.04 Ubuntu Trusty LTS release. It monitors thermal sensors and will modify cooling controls to keep the hardware cool. Thermald uses the available CPU temperature sensors and will keep the CPU from overheating. If hardware supplies a skin temperature sensor then by default thermald will endevor to keep the skin temperature under 45 degrees C.

To install Thermald, run the following command at the terminal:
$ sudo apt-get install thermald

Install CPU Frequency Indicator
It helps to monitor CPU frequency and adjust it according to need. I installed CPU frequency indicator by running the following command at the terminal:
$ sudo apt-get install indicator-cpufreq

Adjusting CPU frequency to powersave helped me to reduce heat significantly. At idle state, the CPU temp is now 40-45 degree C which is more in the normal range. With applications running, the CPU temp hovered around 60 degrees. You can get more help on power management in Ubuntu here.
From Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

I tried tlp as well but it didn't work for me.

Installation of Utility Packages
Once laptop heat is taken care of, now I wanted to make Ubuntu more functional such that I don't get stuck to an antiquated system after one year or so. I added the following launchpad ppa's in the terminal, did a system update followed by system upgrade.
  • LibreOffice ppa: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa
  • GIMP ppa: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:otto-kesselgulasch/gimp
  • VLC daily build ppa: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:videolan/stable-daily
  • Variety wallpaper changer: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:peterlevi/ppa
  • Calendar and power button: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:atareao/atareao
  • Silverlight substitute - Pipelight: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mqchael/pipelight-daily
  • Webup8: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8
  • Wine: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-wine/ppa
Once added, I did a system update & upgrade: sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

The LibreOffice installation got upgraded to Then I installed Calendar Indicator, VLC player, Pipelight, Wine, PlayonLinux, etc. to make my installation more usable.

From Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
Further, I added a few utility programs like Dropbox, Google-Chrome, Google-talkplugin, etc. to make my installation more usable.

$ sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys 5044912E
$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb trusty main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/dropbox.list'
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install dropbox

$ sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys E0F72778C4676186
$ sudo wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/playonlinux.list
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install playonlinux

$ wget -q -O - | sudo apt-key add -
$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb stable main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google.list'
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install google-chrome-stable

$ wget -q -O - | sudo apt-key add -
$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb stable main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google.list'
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install google-talkplugin

#Linux Mint and USB Image writer / USB stick formatter
$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb qiana main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mint.list'
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install linuxmint-keyring
$ sudo apt-get install mintstick

#To create and read .rar archived files
$ sudo apt-get install rar urar

With all these additions, my installation is now ready to rock. Ubuntu works damn smooth on this machine with pretty good touch support and is quite compatible to the machine hardware. I wanted to own a portable laptop with decent specs and Asus F200CA fits my bill quite well with touch, 11.6" decent screen, big touchpad and good keyboard. If you also happen to have bought this machine and thinking of installing Linux, I guess my blog can be of help to you. Have fun!
From Ubuntu 14.04 LTS


  1. Definitely, this is extremely helpful. I always wanted to own an 11.6 inch laptop. What kept me away is the fact that the best and high-specked brands are also touch screen ones. To be honest, I wasn't sure that Linux supports touch screen laptops. So thank you for the precious piece of info. I've got one question, though: what's the purpose of adding LibreOffice, gimp, vlc, etc. ppa's? Is it to guarantee that your system will always have the latest and most bleeding edge software? And if so, does it affect the system stability?

    1. Yes, you are right. If you see Ubuntu 12.04, still it runs LibreOffice 3.5. Hence, I added these ppa's. Further, the ppa repositories provide only stable version of these packages and should not affect system stability. One note: the ppa's, I mentioned, provide stable version of the packages and not bleeding edge.

    2. That's reassuring. Thank you so much for the prompt reply and all the good information.

  2. Iam all GUI, can't handle the terminal. Where can I go to get the best out of ubuntu, without using the terminal. If Linus wants to make his stuff popular he needs to do it away from the terminal. I have installed Ubuntu on 39 machines free of charge, only to find out days later, they got rid of it because they say its just for tech heads, they are confused. they have 1 go to down load an app fails, they quit.

    1. Yes, I agree that Linux is a bit geeky still now. But, day by day it is becoming better in terms of user-friendliness. Lets see where it goes in next 5 years. I am keeping my fingers crossed :).

    2. Arindam, thanks for your speedy reply. "Our fingers are in empathy". Sounds like a good song title.My little Acer Aspire V5 122, AMD Dual-core Processor A4-1250 (1GHz), 4GB DDR3, 500GB HDD. Was fighting the weight of Windows Hate (not a typo),Ubunto helped me clear out the mess. My machine is 64bit, but I put the 32bit version onboard. I believe that 3.2 GB of ram is the perfect amount for 32bit, adding more Ram could actually slow things down. I hope to partition, and put ubuntu 64 bit version next to it. Just for the very ever so technical reason of pure curiosity, then the race is on, might help clear up a myth or two. Thanks for all your great work,BEST ON THE far.

    3. Thanks for liking my reviews. I used 32-bit Ubuntu / Ubuntu forks in 64 bit machine with 8 GB RAM and compared them to 64-bit spins of the same distros. The 32-bit version with Linux PAE kernel detects more than 4 GB RAM without any issue and consumes about 200 MB less RAM under identical conditions/ for the same program. However, given the fear of gradual extinction of 32 bit systems and lack of Secureboot support in the 32-bit spins (very much required for WINDOWS HATE machines), I guess it is safer to use 64-bit OS in the modern systems.

      Thanks, Arindam

  3. Archlinux and it derivates with WM manager works.

  4. I own a X202E touchscreen laptop and Ubuntu is the only one distro (I'm a distro-hopper, so I've already tried a lot of them) which is so-so usable with a touchscreen. I love moving windows with three fingers, but I miss scrolling with two fingers or something similar.

    I LOVE your website by the way, please, never quit doing your amazing job. :)

  5. Most of the computer brands provide windows as preinstalled operating system; it’s user friendly operating system for beginners. But I prefer Linux, because it is more secure rather than windows.

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