Alienware 13

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This article documents configuration and troubleshooting specific to the Alienware 13 laptop.

See the Installation guide for general installation instructions.

Getting Linux to boot

First of all we must create a bootable usb, after that we must reboot the computer and press F12 button while the bios is loading to access to the boot menu, from there we select the USB and boot from there.

The first issue that we can find is that the distribution does not boot but gets stuck into a nouveau loop or a black screen. If this happens, we must change the kernel parameters to get ArchLinux to boot. Try to erase all default parameters and use only nomodeset.

The Kaby lake R3 suffers from a X lockup when either trying to start X or running lspci when the discrete GPU is off. There are kernel bug and bumblebee bug open to track this issue. In the meantime you can add the following to your kernel commandline at boot: acpi_osi=! acpi_osi="Windows 2009"

Touchpad

If the touchpad does not work, try to unload the i2c_hid module:

# modprobe -r i2c_hid

and restart the graphical environment. If that helps, consider blacklisting the module.

Wireless

At the moment of writing this, the wifi network of the Alienware13 is a Atheros Qualcomm Killer N1525, which is not configured by the default installation.

$ lspci
...
01:00.0 Network controller: Qualcomm Atheros QCA6174 802.11ac Wireless Network Adapter (rev 20)
02:00.0 Ethernet controller: Qualcomm Atheros Killer E220x Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 10)
...

Here is the ubuntu bug.

Fortunately, the enclosed patch is able to get it to work. It was tested on Kernel 4.2.5-1 as follows:

$ git clone https://github.com/sumdog/ath10k-firmware
# cp -a ath10k-firmware/ath10k/QCA6174 /lib/firmware/ath10k/QCA6174
# echo "options ath10k_core skip_otp=y" | tee -a /etc/modprobe.d/ath10k.conf

After a reboot, wireless should work, including wifi-ac speeds.

For Alienware 13 R3, the wifi works out of box. The following kernel error seems to be harmless.

3c:00.0 Ethernet controller: Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2400 Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 10)
3d:00.0 Network controller: Qualcomm Atheros QCA6174 802.11ac Wireless Network Adapter (rev 32)
[    3.420857] ath10k_pci 0000:3d:00.0: could not fetch firmware file 'ath10k/QCA6174/hw3.0/firmware-5.bin': -2

Switchable graphics

To have switchable graphics see bumblebee instructions. The utility is able to turn on and off the dedicated graphics card ondemand and without having to restart the computer or reopening session.

At the time of writing the Nvidia graphic chip was not yet recognised by the Nouveau driver, so you need to follow Installing Bumblebee with Intel and NVIDIA[broken link: invalid section] for the functionality for now.

The following (with dependencies) was installed for the example machine:

# pacman -S bumblebee xf86-video-intel dkms bbswitch nvidia primus mesa-demos

After finishing setup and a reboot, the dedicated graphics card should be off. To check:

$ optirun --status
Bumblebee status: Ready (3.2.1). X inactive. Discrete video card is on.

And we can make use of it by calling primusrun or optirun before the program we want to run; for example:

$ glxspheres64
...
OpenGL Renderer: Mesa DRI Intel(R) HD Graphics 5500 (Broadwell GT2) 
60.004917 frames/sec - 28.911809 Mpixels/sec
...
 
$ primusrun glxspheres64
...
OpenGL Renderer: GeForce GTX 860M/PCIe/SSE2
61.130011 frames/sec - 68.221092 Mpixels/sec
...

With this we have the graphics card working ondemand

It is to be noted that some alienware laptop (AlienWare 13 R3) shows this issue where lspci / startx / any command hangs and freeze the system when probing inactive discrete nvidia gpu.

Keyboard lights

To get access to the keyboard lights they can be controlling by sending data to the correct usb.

 $ lsusb
 ...
 Bus 002 Device 003: ID 187c:0527 Alienware Corporation 
 ...

There plenty of programs like pyAlienFX or Alienware-KBL and none of these worked for me, but there is a github project that consists on sending data to USB using libusb that worked fine.

 git clone https://github.com/snooze6/hack-alienfx
 make all

In case of a compilation error similar to "FILE is not defined", try adding a stdio.h include to the following:

/usr/include/readline/rltypedefs.h
# Add
#include <stdio.h>

And try compilation again.

Once it is compiled, test by running:

 # ./run seq/snooze

and keyboard lights should work.

To register it as a command and can use this program without being root we can do the next:

 # cp run /usr/local/bin/
 # mkdir /usr/local/fx
 # cp seq/* /usr/local/fx
 # chmod 4755 /bin/fx
 # cp lights.sh /usr/local/bin/lights
 # chmod +x /usr/local/bin/lights

Now it should trigger by executing:

 $ lights
 $ lights on
 $ lights off

from a console.

We can simply add the commands to the energy admin or the startup to make keyboard lights change automatically.

OLED screen brightness

With gnome, the brightness control keys toggles the on-screen display, but it doesn't change the brightness level. The screen blanking feature also doesn't work. The following command can be used to set the brightness to 50%.

xrandr --output eDP1 --brightness .5

Until brightness control is supported by the kernel, we can use the following script to read off the brightness values from sysfs and apply xrandr brightness reduction to it:

$ cat /usr/local/bin/xbacklightmon 
#!/bin/sh

path=/sys/class/backlight/acpi_video0

luminance() {
    read -r level < "$path"/actual_brightness
    factor=$((max))
    new_brightness="$(bc -l <<< "scale = 2; $level / $factor")"
    printf '%f\n' $new_brightness
}

read -r max < "$path"/max_brightness

xrandr --output eDP-1 --brightness "$(luminance)"

inotifywait -me modify --format '' "$path"/actual_brightness | while read; do
    xrandr --output eDP-1 --brightness "$(luminance)"
done

Make it executable and add it to your DE's autostart and you are set. We use inotifywait to know when the value is modified so we don't busy wait but are still responsive.

OLED screen doesn't light up after resume

Sometimes when you sleep the computer and resume it, the OLED screen will flicker but not actually light up again. To fix this use the following xrandr command:

$ cat /usr/local/bin/resmon 
#!/bin/sh
xrandr -d :0.0 --output eDP-1 --off && xrandr -d :0.0 --output eDP-1 --auto

I have added it to a script so that I can easily run it if the monitor is off after resume: You can add it to a keyboard shortcut, or use run command, whichever is easier.

Switching Windows from RAID to AHCI mode

The stock installation of Windows is in RAID mode which makes linux unable to see the NVME disks. However once installed in RAID mode, Windows refuses to boot when the disk is in AHCI mode. You can however fix that by following those steps:

  1. Right-click the Windows Start Menu. Choose Command Prompt (Admin).
    • If you don’t see Command Prompt listed, it’s because you have already been updated to a later version of Windows. If so, use this method instead to get to the Command Prompt:
      1. Click the Start Button and type cmd
      2. Right-click the result and select Run as administrator
  2. Type this command and press ENTER: bcdedit /set {current} safeboot minimal
    • If this command does not work for you, try bcdedit /set safeboot minimal
  3. Restart the computer and enter BIOS Setup (the key to press varies between systems).
  4. Change the SATA Operation mode to AHCI from either IDE or RAID (again, the language varies).
  5. Save changes and exit Setup and Windows will automatically boot to Safe Mode.
  6. Right-click the Windows Start Menu once more. Choose Command Prompt (Admin).
  7. Type this command and press ENTER: bcdedit /deletevalue {current} safeboot
    • If you had to try the alternate command above, you will likely need to do so here also: bcdedit /deletevalue safeboot
  8. Reboot once more and Windows will automatically start with AHCI drivers enabled.

Source: [1]