UEFI, NVMe and being stubborn

This weekend I wanted to install Linux on my new work laptop (a Dell XPS 13 9350, just in case someone else runs into similar issues). As in the past I had some issues with UEFI booting and Ubuntu (versions 12 & 14), the first thing I did was to go to the BIOS and proceed to unenforce secure boot and enable legacy boot (the classic BIOS), tried to install Unbutu 15.10 from a USBdrive... and it was broke trying to install GRUB after the install itself.

An initial research about the failure trying to setup the bootloader at /dev/nvme0p1 (instead of the classic /dev/sda1) taught me about NVM Express controllers (aka NVME). I thought that maybe updating gparted to 0.24 (which supports MVNE) would be solved. To do that I:

  1. Booted Ubuntu 15.10 from the USB
  2. Installed this package
  3. sudo apt-get install gparted
  4. Create the partitions from gparted and when installing just use them (wiping the data but not recreating anything)

It didn't worked out :( I could see the hard disk partitions but install would still fail at the bootloader (final) step.

Next I tried to just reinstall GRUB bootloader (using Boot-Repair), with some retries recompiling GRUB and even updating the partition Linux kernel to latest one to be sure... without luck. Bootloader was installed but couldn't boot the OS.

Two afternoons later I decided to do one last attempt before giving up: As the laptop's boot menu allows me to run the USBdrive Ubuntu install using UEFI (instead of "legacy boot"), I just tried running it to see what would do... And it worked!

If I had just RTFM about ubuntu UEFI support I would have seen that now it works and that Ubuntu 15.10 can somehow manage NVME partitions at install time (despite having an old version of gparted...). Anyway, I learned about some recent developments in "BIOS" and HDD firmwares so not all was wasted time & effort.

Also it is interesting to see how Intel seems to be leading in this evolutionary changes by presenting specifications and opening them to others so they become standards.

Note: A the time of this writing, everything works fine in the XPS 9350 model with the mentioned Ubuntu 15.10 except the wifi, which seems to be a "too new" Broadcom model and doesn't even gets detected, so I'm stuck for the time being with having to rely on an external USB wifi donge.


Posted by Kartones on 2015-12-15