La Vita è Bella


Setting up a Linux laptop on 2020

I'm approaching 3 year anniversary at my current employer, which means my employer issued laptop is up to refresh. I asked for a Linux laptop to replace my Macbook Pro, as I have been disappointed with Apple's negligence to macOS for a long time. Actually if someone told me 3 years ago, when I first joined the company, that I could choose a Linux laptop, I was likely to ask for a Linux laptop back then.

The new laptop issued to me is Dell Precision 5540. It arrived yesterday and I spent most of yesterday and today setting it up. I tried to ask for a Chromebook but was denied. I also tried to ask for a lighter one (like Dell XPS 13) but was told that this is the only choice for Linux laptops for the fleet right now.

The iMac at home I bought at 2013 recently also had its hard drive died. So after I shipped my old Macbook Pro back to my employer, I will be officially without any Mac/macOS devices for the first time after using them for 14+ years. (Although in recent years I already shifted my personal use to ChromeOS as much as possible.)

Although for the past 14+ years I almost always have a Linux machine in the household, I mostly only use it as a home server that's not attached to any keyboard, mouse, nor display most of the time and only ssh into it to use it. So the whole setting up a Linux laptop thing is still kinda new to me.

The new laptop come with Ubuntu pre-installed, but I used that to create a bootable USB stick with Debian testing (bullseye) installer and wiped it with Debian. The setup process is much more smoother than my prior experience (from early 2000s). There were only a few issues I need to correct manually.

Installer with firmwares

One thing I always forgot is that for "modern" hardwares I do need the Debian installer with non-free firmwares. At first I used the netinst image for standard Debian testing, and during the installation process it warned me with 10+ missing firmwares, mostly for the WiFi chip, so I went back to download and burn the correct one again. Even with that one the installation process still warned with 2 missing firmwares, and from the look of them they are both for the WiFi chip. But with the prior experience I went ahead with it and the WiFi worked during the installation process, so I guess the non-free firmwares in the installer image are good enough to make WiFi workable, but probably not to its max capacity?

Bluetooth headsets

I installed Debian testing with KDE. After installation most things just work right out of the box, which is really nice. One thing I noticed not working are bluetooth headsets.

I used the KDE's builtin bluetooth widget to pair my my bluetooth headsets (yes, I have multiple sets). First I tried to pair it with Google Pixel Buds 2. The pairing process failed multiple times, and after it's finally paired, it can never connect to it. Then I tried Bowers & Wilkins PX. The pairing went smoothly, and the laptop can connect to it, but after connected to it I can't seem to be able to get any audio to be played on the headset instead of the built-in speaker.

After some googling, I did the following:

  • Instead of using KDE's bluetooth widget, I used the bluetoothctl command line tool to do the pairing instead. That have no problem pairing and connecting to Google Pixel Buds 2.
  • Apparently the pulseaudio-module-bluetooth package was not installed by default. After installed it and restart pulseaudio, I can choose (and they are actually chosen by default after connected) my bluetooth headsets as the default output device and play music through them.
  • I also added load-module module-switch-on-connect to the end of /etc/pulse/ config file per suggestions from the articles I read, but I'm not sure how important this step actually is. (EDIT: This is actually important. Without this step also the bluetooth device might appear to be the default output device but the sound doesn't go through there.)
  • I also installed bluez package, also not sure how important this step is. (EDIT: apparently bluez is a dependency of pulseaudio-module-bluetooth so this is required but you don't need to install bluez explicitly.)

With those steps, I have no problem using my bluetooth headsets as A2DP device for output, but I still cannot use them for input (microphone). Guess I'll just stick with the laptop's builtin microphone for meetings for a while before I figure that out.

Setting Chrome as the default browser from Konsole

Although after installed Chrome and start it for the first time, it offered to set itself as the default browser across the system, apparently KDE has a different setting for default browser across KDE applications (the most important one being Konsole), and Konqueror is still the default browser when I click an URL inside Konsole. I need to change an additional setting inside KDE's System Settings to set Chrome as the default browser from there.

Google Drive client

I wrote a toy/experimental fuse implementation of Google Drive in Go in godrive-fuse, but that's too experimental and immature for really daily use, so I still installed google-drive-ocamlfuse for the daily use one. (EDIT: switched to rclone for daily Google Drive use.)

U2F device

I also purchased a Yubikey 5 nano to leave permanently in one of the USB-A ports. It works great for U2F purpose out of the box, without any additional work. But one problem is that when I touch it without U2F challenge in progress, it start to send random keys to my active window.

The reason is that when there's no U2F challenge in progress, touching it activates OTP mode. I don't really use it for any OTP purpose, so I disabled OTP mode via ykman config usb --disable OTP command (ykman comes from yubikey-manager package).

13:16:03 by fishy - Permanent Link

May the Force be with you. RAmen