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Ask Slashdot: Linux Distro For Hybrid Laptop? 210

Steve Parrish writes: I needed a new laptop and found a great deal on an Asus Transformer TP500L. It's one of the laptops where you can flip the screen back and use it as a tablet. I'd like to replace Windows 8.1, and I'm having a difficult time finding a Linux distro that will work on it. I'm familiar with Mint, SolydX, and older Ubuntu versions. I tried the latest Ubuntu with Unity and didn't like it, but the OS installed with only a few minor issues. Has anyone tried any other distros on a hybrid laptop with a touchscreen? I've used Linux for several years, but I'm no guru -- I'm not comfortable with the command line or other advanced workings. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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Ask Slashdot: Linux Distro For Hybrid Laptop?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does anyone else remember a time when getting the X Window System to work properly was considered advanced? And now the command line is considered advanced... I guess I'm getting old.

    • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @01:40AM (#48728659) Homepage
      Does anyone else remember a time when the rolling own your kernel modules for devices to work properly was considered advanced? And now almost everything works out of the box. I guess I'm getting old.
      • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @10:14AM (#48729875)

        Does anyone else remember a time when the rolling own your kernel modules for devices to work properly was considered advanced? And now almost everything works out of the box. I guess I'm getting old.

        Thast was great when just getting the thing to work at all was the goal.

        • by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @02:30PM (#48731125) Journal
          Exactly... it all depends on the audience. Early on the audience was a bunch of uber geeks who enjoyed playing with low level code and devices. Now the Linux audience are people who have everyday jobs to do and want an operating system and bundle of programs to help them do that. They don't care about building tools, just using them. And it gives them an option from MS and Apple products. Server or Desktop.
      • If you're that nostalgic you can still do it the old fashioned [gentoo.org] way.
      • Does anyone else remember a time when the rolling own your kernel modules for devices to work properly was considered advanced? And now almost everything works out of the box. I guess I'm getting old.

        We all are

  • by __aardcx5948 ( 913248 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @12:21AM (#48728363)

    Put Android on it (seriously), or Ubuntu, or a distro with KDE4 geared towards tablets.

    The Linux userland support for tablets is really abysmal.

    • Android-x86 might be an option but is built off AOSP and includes none of the proprietary Google services such as Play - if that bothers the OP.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You can download all the Google services. Google doesn't seem to care if consumers download and install, it's only when manufacturers distribute them on devices without either joining the Open Handset Alliance or signing a custom agreement with Google that there's issues.

        So you're right, they don't come with AOSP, but they're easy to find.

      • by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @02:14AM (#48728767)

        You mean like these?

        http://forum.xda-developers.co... [xda-developers.com]

        Google doesn't care if end users download and install them, they just don't want OEMs to do it without properly joining the OHA.

        Though in all honesty, I'd just leave Windows intact and install bluestax (which is free.) Getting drivers and shit working on that is going to be a royal PITA and probably won't be worth the time you spend on it. Just install something like Start8 and ignore that piece of shit called metro -- it won't bother you if you don't bother it.

        • Those files are arch-independent and work on x86? My understanding was it was ARM-only but I'm happy to be corrected.

          • You can get gapps for just about any architecture. I linked that one because those are the modular packages, so you can get whatever apps you want sans the ones you don't want. I don't know if x86 is linked in there, but you can google search e.g. "gapps x86" (no quotes) to find them if not.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by wisnoskij ( 1206448 )
      I have been using Android for over a year now, and that is a horrible idea. It is a seriously broken OS. Completely unstable, with horrendous updates that break and completely change functionality every month or two.

      And that is not even mentioning how that would completely ruin the hybrid aspect of it. You could never use it as a fully functioning laptop, and everything about it would be designed for a screen 10% the size.
      • So run android and windows in a vm to switch between them. Disable updates if you don't want new functionality. Finally realise that large android tablets exist, are perfectly usable with no design issues, run perfectly stably, and no updates dont
        't break things despite what you believe. 'm wondering if actually installed and used the OS we are talking about.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Whoa - this is going to be HUGE news to the millions of people who use Android all the time.

        I myself had no idea that it was broken or unstable or that it completely changed functionality every month or two. It must be doing all that in the background, because I haven't noticed a single thing wrong with mine. How did you even find out about it in the first place?

        Mine's just a big phone, though. I don't use a physical keyboard with it. Imagine how all those people with Android tablets and notebooks will feel

    • Put Android on it (seriously), or Ubuntu, or a distro with KDE4 geared towards tablets.

      The Linux userland support for tablets is really abysmal.

      My wife's Asus touchscreen laptop has Mint installed on it, and works well. Installation was drop dead simple, and she just uses it.

    • I'm going to second the recommendation of a KDE4 distro. I installed the latest Kubuntu to an external drive recently. When I booted it on a touch-screen laptop, the touch-screen worked great out of the box with 0 configuration! I was shocked!

  • Ubuntu 14.04 (Score:5, Informative)

    by tommeke100 ( 755660 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @12:33AM (#48728405)
    I have Ubuntu 14.04 running on an 'older' Acer aspire one (a pretty shitty machine, but actually works okay with SSD disk and Ubuntu).
    . It's probably easiest to install, you get used to the Unity interface after awhile really. The things it doesn't install correctly I just googled with mostly easy fixes (apt-get this and that).
    There are actually ways of not using Unity but the old Gnome interface for example. Again, Google is your friend (in this case).
    • For touch screen, basically whatever the underlying distro the GUI choices are latest versions of Gnome, KDE or Unity. Otherwise Android may be an option. I believe the OP get lost with the distros, the choice doesn't revolve around a specific distro, it is rather than which GUI do you consider the best for you? Then check all your hardware is supported. If none of the GUI satisfies you, stick with Windows 8.1.
  • If ubuntu installed (Score:5, Informative)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @12:36AM (#48728417)
    Then "apt-get update && apt-get install xubuntu" or "apt-get update && apt-get install kubuntu"
    Don't give up just because the default GUI blows chunks.
    • +1

      As a fan of Gentoo and Arch I would still say that for your requirements you can rip out Unity, Lens (is that spyware still installed?) and a raft of other things you don't like/need then fill the gaps with things you do like whilst still keeping the base system that Canonical have made very easy for people who want to carry on learning.
      As with all of these "I don't like the GUI" SlashAsks it comes down to which front end you like and trying them all won't hurt a bit. Once you find one that you like yo
    • Mod up. If the hardware is working, it doesn't make sense to re-installing from scratch without first exploring the alternative desktop environments available from the login manager on startup.

      (Let's not turn this into an Ubuntu vs [random poster's fave distro] flamewar - the user already has Ubuntu installed on the device)

      • why not flame, it's possible to move from Ubuntu to Mint just by changing repos, and Mint is Ubuntu minus the suck.

        • Well if one can 'upgrade' to mint by switching repos then fine.

          I was just advising against going to the trouble of wiping an ubuntu install (with working hardware) to clean installing fedora/opensuse etc only to find something didn't work.

    • by tylikcat ( 1578365 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @02:12AM (#48728755)

      My housemate is running a Thinkpad Helix - a somewhat similar hybrid - with Kubuntu, and the plasma desktop appears to work fairly well (we were discussing this recently in some depth, as I'm in the pre-contemplation phase of the next laptop). I would at least look into it - it appears to be functional, and avoids the Unity issues.

      (I'm currently on vacation, so cannot easily consult with said housemate.)

    • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @04:00AM (#48728999)

      Then "apt-get update && apt-get install xubuntu" or "apt-get update && apt-get install kubuntu"

      If I remember correctly the metapackage names are xubuntu-desktop and kubuntu-desktop.

      XFCE is kind of problematic as the development is slow. The last stable version is almost 3 years old, although it generally works just fine. You may want to turn off the integrated compositor (as it causes tearing) and replace it with Compton.

    • Indeed. You're a linux user, so spend at least some time trying other desktops before giving up on a distro. IMHO the biggest problem I've run into with some distros I've tried isn't choice of default GUI, systemd or anything like that, but the availability of packages. If a distro has a poor package selection then this becomes a big time waster.
  • Your use cases (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @12:41AM (#48728441)

    Let your uses dictate your choice. What are you going to use this device for?

    Email? Browsing the web? Programming? Watching movies? Games? Making the best of your time in a subway? What other devices do you already have? Is this going to be your primary computer? Is power consumption a consideration? Etc.

    I'm afraid that there is currently no good one-size-fits-all solution. Whatever you decide, it will have to be a compromise.

  • Fedora (Score:5, Informative)

    by lucm ( 889690 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @12:42AM (#48728445)

    I don't know about transformers, but I have tried a lot of distros lately on Lenovo convertible laptops, and my best experience has definitely been with Fedora. The setup is almost as easy as Ubuntu and the touch screen works well.

    I'm not a Debian fan and I typically pick CentOS, but I was surprised to see how Fedora is more polished and convenient.

    • I have my touchscreen on fedora21 and find it unusable. The screen acts as an absolute mouse pad rather than a tablet, so scrolling and text editing takes surgical precision
    • by griffjon ( 14945 )

      I have a Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga (similar form factor) and after some tweaking I'm pretty happy with Ubuntu 14.10 on it, but you're going to have to get comfy with the command line. Some immediately useful tips: Chromium has much better touch support than chrome or firefox. If you're a chrome user, chromium is the open source core of it. The OnBoard screen keyboard is a lifesaver. There are a ton of scripts you can find to help with screen rotation, which you can then map to any custom keys you have. Good

  • by SailorSpork ( 1080153 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @12:45AM (#48728465) Homepage
    How about leaving Windows 8.1 on it? The device you have is the very device 8.1 was designed around. Linux will be clunky compared to it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by jones_supa ( 887896 )

      How about leaving Windows 8.1 on it? The device you have is the very device 8.1 was designed around. Linux will be clunky compared to it.

      To me it seems that the trend of forcibly replacing every Windows device with Linux is still alive, even though Linux does not offer big benefits anymore.

      It did offer big benefits in the past: UNIX workstations were expensive, and Microsoft software worked like garbage (slow, unsecure, crashy). This was from late 90s to early 00s. The situation looks very different today.

      I just don't see the point in replacing my OS with something that is technically inferior. The Linux desktop is super glitchy, power manag

      • I won't argue about technical superiority of Windows vs. Linux, but for me, I actually love the Linux "desktop": I use a tabbed window manager, and I love the fact that it's decoupled from the kernel. That is, I know that the user interface I want is orthogonal to the kernel I'm running, and one can be updated without the other. Want to run the Windows 8 kernel, but dig the XP interface? You're entirely at the mercy of Microsoft. Want to run the Windows 8 user interface but the Windows 10 kernel? Well...goo
      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        To me it seems that the trend of forcibly replacing every Windows device with Linux is still alive, even though Linux does not offer big benefits anymore.

        On low end hardware it does. Current versions of MS Windows require significantly more powerful hardware than a current linux distro assumes is going to be available.

        • Are you joking? Windows runs smoothly on Atom hardware, but if you put a typical Linux desktop on that machine, the desktop becomes super choppy. You have to downshift to something like XFCE to get it working properly, but then you have to give up all desktop effects. Windows 10 Technical Preview is still a free download, you should give it a spin to see where Windows is these days. It's not the same bloated pile of garbage that it was 10 years ago.
          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            With respect, it is vastly more bloated than it was ten years ago which is why I still have win2k on one small special purpose machine where the memory is glued in - and linux on other things that would like to be an Atom when they grow up. I suggest you comment on topics that you know about instead of spouting guesses into the page and add meaningless noise to what should be a sensible discussion.
            It's fine being a cheerleader making noise about something you like but do not know much about, but I really t
            • Meeh. I'd still like to whine a bit. This discussion is clearly about typical desktop usage, not about tailored embedded systems.
              • by dbIII ( 701233 )

                not about tailored embedded systems

                Such as a tablet where large performance sacrifices have been made in the interest of battery life and weight reduction. Your silly cheering while far out of your depth is annoying - there are obviously some situations where one tool is good and others where another is good but you clearly just want to pretend otherwise with a bit of mindless "go team go" bullshit.

                I suggest you discuss something where you can feel at least an equal to others in the discussion instead of

    • How about leaving Windows 8.1 on it? The device you have is the very device 8.1 was designed around. Linux will be clunky compared to it.

      Problem is that in laptop mode - when you are typing on the keyboard, Windows 8.1 is ugly. I had it for a few days, and the charms bar would come up every time my cursor got near the right of the screen. It was a pain to use. Also, unlike Windows 7, the touchfreeze option didn't seem to work. I later replaced it w/ PC-BSD 10, and now it works reasonably well. Only thing I miss on this is WiFi, but other than that....

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      They used to say linux was for people with far too much spare time to fiddle with things to get them to work - but now MS Windows 8 fills that niche. I've had to do a few "downgrades" to MS Windows 7 for people and waste a lot of time on the care and feeding of a very small number of MS Win8 machines. I've never seen MS Office crap out on MS Win7 but I'm getting used to having to do reinstalls of it on MS Win8.
  • I did the same (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 04, 2015 @12:45AM (#48728467)

    I have the exact same laptop model, and am currently running Ubuntu 14.10. Not saying it is perfect, but it runs well enough. The laptop is new enough that current drivers for the WiFi hardware are not included with Ubuntu (I have tried a few things, with marginal success, currently using a WiFi USB dongle). The touch pad (not screen, that works well off the bat) settings needed to be tweaked in order to be used as well. One other thing I have noticed is that sometimes during certain operations, the cursor and/or tooltips can flicker.

    Overall, it runs well with those things being the only issues.

    Link to wifi workaround:
    http://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/1796

    Link to touchpad workaround:
    http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=179238

    Good Luck!

  • buy cheap but buy often.
    • by Zedrick ( 764028 )
      Okay. And how exactly does that "fact" help the OP pick a distro for the one he has now?
  • Linux Mint 17.1 (Score:5, Informative)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @01:03AM (#48728535) Homepage

    I just put Linux Mint 17.1 MATE 64-bit [linuxmint.com] on a Lenovo IdeaPad S415. Everything just worked out of the box, and that includes both the multitouch touchpad and the touchscreen. Also the network, wifi, sound, and graphics. Everything.

    http://notebookplanet.blogspot.com/2013/12/lenovo-ideapad-s415-specs.html [blogspot.com]

    That IdeaPad is a year old. A year ago, no Linux that I tried worked out of the box with it; graphics didn't work. X always got confused by the fact that the machine has two graphics adapters (one built-in to the AMD APU chip, and a discrete one).

    I've really been enjoying Linux Mint 17.1; it seems to be a big improvement over Linux Mint 16. You can easily and non-destructively try it, just by booting from a USB flash drive that has Linux Mint on it. (You can use UNetBootIn [sourceforge.net] to make the USB flash drive.)

    While I can't guarantee that Linux Mint 17.1 will work on your hardware, it worked great on mine so I think it's worth your time to try it out.

    • by ggpauly ( 263626 )

      Kind of agree. I use mint (cinnamon?) On my newish little hp touch laptop, out of box touch and wifi worked.

      Still not fine: slow operation. Needs either native/proprietary graphics driver or compile to machine or both.

      If these prove difficult with mint might try gentoo.

    • I've got 64-bit Mint 17.1 Cinnamon on an older (Ivy Bridge-powered) Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 11s. Everything worked immediately except the wireless*, which was easy enough to fix after I downloaded one third-party package plus dkms to auto-rebuild the module during kernel upgrades.

      Cinnamon's UI isn't designed around touchscreens, but it works with them, much like MATE. I prefer the good old keyboard and touchpad myself.

      https://wiki.debian.org/Instal... [debian.org]

      * and some fancy power management stuff that's handled by a

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @01:17AM (#48728595) Journal

    A couple of people have mentioned success with Fedora. That doesn't surprise me because Fedora is supposed to have all the latest packages, with the latest in touchscreen features and the newest version of drivers for the newest hardware. However, balance that against the other side of the coin. Because Fedora is based on the latest and newest, they don't provide the type of long term support for older versions that Ubuntu and some others do.

    If you choose Fedora, realise that pretty soon you'll have to decide to either a) upgrade to the next version of Fedora or b)stick with the versions you have of all the software. Don't plan on installing the 2017 version of a program on a 2014 version of Fedora. Plan to either upgrade the whole OS or upgrade nothing in a few years.

    Ubuntu and CentOS are more about long term stability. The current version of CentOS will be getting updated packages by years from now, so you can keep using the same version of CentOS and update packages as needed.

    The downside to the more long term stable distros is that they may not have the latest and greatest touch screen features - they'll have well-tested packages that have already proved themselves in Fedora for a year before they are added to CentOS (debranded RHEL).

    • Other than being able to recognise the hardware as a mouse, I see no support for my toshiba touchscreen laptop (élan hardware) working fundamentally different than an absolute mouse pad (ie no contextual gestures, swiping). I'm required to have surgical precision finger placement to manage scrolling via scroll bar and text editing, not very useful.
  • Is /. becoming some kind of stackoverflow.com? I mean, this kind of question doesn't deserve to make its path to /., it is a trivial question with a very limited number of choices and not really distro related, rather than GUI related with three choices.
  • This may turn out to be a situation where your best way to run Linux reliably is going to be full screen under VMware. No driver problems, etc.
  • by BitwizeGHC ( 145393 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @02:46AM (#48728859) Homepage

    I keep hybrid tablet-laptop around as an art PC. It used to be an old Toshiba Satellite; now it's a Sony VAIO Duo 11. I run Slackware on it, like I do nearly all my machines. Slackware will run fine if the digitizer part is supported by the kernel (since new Wacom and N-Trig parts come out from time to time, sometimes kernel support may be missing or naff if the laptop is too new). Otherwise you will see reduced functionality, but that is true of any distro.

    Using a stylus you can drive most aspects of a WM or DE. It gets tricky using your finger.

  • Constructively speaking, the guys telling you to try the latest Mint are the smart money. Do it before giving up. It is a better bet than anything else.

    But seriously, you've used Linux for YEARS and are not "comfortable" with the command line? Really? I am really not sure linux is a good idea for you if you won't make the investment in learning. It's not a criticism. Getting any really good results out of linux requires either a friend who is an expert to set it up and occasionally support it, or requires a

  • by LesFerg ( 452838 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @04:29AM (#48729059) Homepage

    Are you able to boot from a USB stick? I found this tool quite useful for trying out a variety of live-linux iso's on a usb drive:
    yumi [pendrivelinux.com]

    It provides some useful links to download what is needed to try out a whole bunch of different distros. You can also stack a number of different distros on the same usb drive and choose which one to boot from at startup.

    Personally I have been using Debian for quite a few years now, gave ubuntu a brief try but wasn't too happy with it.
    I have installed Mint on virtual recently and it really does look as good as people here have stated. Mint would be my final recommendation too.

  • normally one would google that and it would come up with instances where people have installed GNU/Linux OSes on the specific hardware in question, and the older the hardware and the more popular it is, the larger the chance of finding someone else who has done exactly that and created a report (or five). unfortunately however, at this very moment, the search engine results show a huge number of interfering references to a site known as "slashdot", as well as RSS syndicated links to the same.

    so you can eit

  • best of both worlds

  • You are not alone in your dislike for Unity.

    I did install Ubuntu 14.04 Server edition on newer (2014) PCs that require UEFI, and it works fine.

    But you have options: kubuntu (KDE desktop, which I am using now), xubuntu (XFCE desktop) or lubuntu (LXDE desktop). If you use the 14.04 from any of those, then you probably wouldn't have any issues compared to older versions.

  • Linux Lite [linuxliteos.com] is what Mint wants to be. All the right stuff, none of the useless fluff. It's the only distro that I can start using right after the install without spending an hour or more personalizing and reconfiguring. And yes, it is ubuntu/debian based. It uses the ubuntu repositories, so you CAN reconfigure it and install what you want easily, if you are so inclined.
  • either ubuntu gnome-remix or Fedora.

    actually, I'd just go with Fedora, its got a nice easy and installer and gnome shell.

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