The Next Machine

Fri Jun 8, 2018

So I got a Lenovo A275 as my next machine. If my experience with the Librem had been any better at all, I'd have stuck with them. Unfortunately, the laptop was something a year late in arriving, had a bunch of fit-and-finish headaches, and managed to last all of two years total before just about falling apart1. To the point that I'd ended up just retrofitting and using my Lenovo x220i again for a while. Unfortunately, its wifi card died, which prompted this latest purchase.

So far, I like it.

There were absolutely some installation headaches this time around, but I'm running on it right now without too much trouble.

UEFI Bullshit

Firstly, this is the first laptop I've had that came with this UEFI bullshit attached. Which means that the BIOS is primed to only run signed OS installations, which by default is fucking Windows. So, first order of business was to hop into the laptop setup routine and change that setting. The options I had were Allow any OS or Allow only unsigned OSes, so you know I went for that one. So far so good.

Monitor Bullshit

By default, installing just debian the command-line didn't let me do anything on the built-in display. The installation would run fine and seem to conclude properly, but when I'd run it, all it would let me do is decrypt my storage volume, then drop me into a purely black screen. I had to install xfce4 as a base UI to get anything actually happening. I kind of assume there's something up with the video drivers I've got access to here, because that wasn't the end of it. The hdmi port on the side of this unit also refuses to recognize any external display. Which means that I've effectively got a single-monitor machine until I resolve this.

WIFI Bullshit

There are no Debian-available wifi drivers for this machine. Which meant that in order to do anything with the internet, I had to buy this. Or pray that every place I'd be computing had a wired connection to a router, I guess. That second one doesn't sound like much of a solution.

dmenu Bullshit

The last bit I had was this problem where nix-env-installed binaries wouldn't appear on my main path for some reason. Or rather, they wouldn't show up as name targets for dmenu_run, which is how I've preferred to run programs on my machine for a good eight years now. The real reason ended up being a dmenu_run cache file that was generated before I added my nix environment to .xsessionrc. I only found this out by reading a comment at the bottom of this page, prior to which I was convinced this was an issue with my PATH settings.

That's been it so far. I still haven't resolved the HDMI issue, but I intend to because until I do, my extra monitor is pretty useless.

I'll let you know how it goes.

  1. Specifically, the case was coming apart in a couple places, the screen broke, and shortly thereafter the network card crapped out. I have no illusions about a Lenovo being easier to repair, but I've had the same x220i for about seven years as of this writing. And while its' wifi is now gone, it still had a better keyboard, a better battery life, and, critically, didn't fucking fall apart.

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