Trisquel 11 on NV41PZ: First impressions

My NovaCustom NV41PZ laptop arrived a couple of days ago, and today I had some time to install it. You may want to read about my purchasing decision process first. I expected a rough ride to get it to work, given the number of people claiming that modern laptops can’t run fully free operating systems. I first tried the Trisquel 10 live DVD and it booted fine including network, but the mouse trackpad did not work. Before investigating it, I noticed a forum thread about Trisquel 11 beta3 images, and being based on Ubuntu 22.04 LTS and has Linux-libre 5.15 it seemed better to start with more modern software. After installing through the live DVD successfully, I realized I didn’t like MATE but wanted to keep using GNOME. I reverted back to installing a minimal environment through the netinst image, and manually installed GNOME (apt-get install gnome) since I prefer that over MATE, together with a bunch of other packages. I’ve been running it for a couple of hours now, and here is a brief summary of the hardware components that works.

CPUAlder Lake Intel i7-1260P
Memory2x32GB Kingston DDR4 SODIMM 3200MHz
StorageSamsung 980 Pro 2TB NVME
BIOSDasharo Coreboot
GraphicsIntel Xe
Screen (internal)14″ 1920×1080
Screen (HDMI)Connected to Dell 27″ 2560×1440
Screen (USB-C)Connected to Dell 27″ 2560×1440 via Wavlink port extender
WebcamBuiltin 1MP Camera
MicrophoneIntel Alder Lake
KeyboardISO layout, all function keys working
MouseTrackpad, tap clicking and gestures
Ethernet RJ45Realtek RTL8111/8168/8411 with r8169 driver
Memory cardO2 Micro comes up as /dev/mmcblk0
Docking stationWavlink 4xUSB, 2xHDMI, DP, RJ45, …
ConnectivityUSB-A, USB-C
AudioIntel Alder Lake
Hardware components and status

So what’s not working? Unfortunately, NovaCustom does not offer any WiFi or Bluetooth module that is compatible with Trisquel, so the AX211 (1675x) Wifi/Bluetooth card in it is just dead weight. I imagine it would be possible to get the card to work if non-free firmware is loaded. I don’t need Bluetooth right now, and use the Technoetic N-150 USB WiFi dongle when I’m not connected to wired network.

Compared against my X201, the following factors have improved.

  • Faster – CPU benchmark suggests it is 8 times faster than my old i7-620M. While it feels snappier it is not a huge difference. While NVMe should improve SSD performance, benchmark wise the NVMe 980Pro only seems around 2-3 faster than the SATA-based 860 Evo. Going from 6GB to 64GB is 10 times more memory, which is useful for disk caching.
  • BIOS is free software.
  • EC firmware is free.
  • Operating system follows the FSDG.

I’m still unhappy about the following properties with both the NV41PZ and the X201.

  • CPU microcode is not available under free license.
  • Intel Mangement Engine is still present in the CPU.
  • No builtin WiFi/Bluetooth that works with free software.
  • Some other secondary processors (e.g., disk or screen) may be running non-free software but at least none requires non-free firmware.

Hopefully my next laptop will have improved on this further. I hope to be able to resolve the WiFi part by replacing the WiFi module, there appears to be options available but I have not tested them on this laptop yet. Does anyone know of a combined WiFi and Bluetooth M.2 module that would work on Trisquel?

While I haven’t put the laptop to heavy testing yet, everything that I would expect a laptop to be able to do seems to work fine. Including writing this blog post!

10 Replies to “Trisquel 11 on NV41PZ: First impressions”

  1. Thanks for pointer! Yes, it seems good, but would have liked to also have Bluetooth on it. I’ll see if I can find a similar card in the EU which is easier to order for me.

    • I have received the device, and made the surgery to transplant it into the laptop. Here is lspci output:

      2d:00.0 Network controller: Qualcomm Atheros AR9462 Wireless Network Adapter (rev 01)

      WiFi on Trisquel 11 (linux-libre 5.15) works fine out of the box! Yay!

      On Guix with linux-libre 6.0 the WiFi card also works. Yay!

      So case closed?

      Not quite. Bluetooth does not seem to work directly. I haven’t made any efforts at all to solve this, since it isn’t important for me. Reading suggested ‘modprobe ath9k btcoex_enable=1’ but it did not do anything.

      Further, on Guix with linux-libre 6.0 the system log is spammed with the following messages:

      Dec 23 18:14:49 localhost vmunix: [ 991.034426] pcieport 0000:00:1c.0: AER: Corrected error received: 0000:2d:00.0
      Dec 23 18:14:49 localhost vmunix: [ 991.034455] ath9k 0000:2d:00.0: PCIe Bus Error: severity=Corrected, type=Physical Layer, (Receiver ID)
      Dec 23 18:14:49 localhost vmunix: [ 991.034459] ath9k 0000:2d:00.0: device [168c:0034] error status/mask=00000001/00002000
      Dec 23 18:14:49 localhost vmunix: [ 991.034464] ath9k 0000:2d:00.0: [ 0] RxErr (First)

      Downgrading to linux-libre 5.15 on guix solves this problem, the kernel is quiet again. However, attaching to external screen with HDMI via USB-C port extender no longer works — but it does work with Trisquel that also uses linux-libre 5.15. Guix uses X11/softwarerender whereas Trisquel uses Wayland/llvmpipe, maybe that explains it?

      Thus I wanted to remain on linux-libre 6.0 with Guix too. Adding the follwing to /etc/config.scm solved the problem, and I haven’t experienced any problems so far:

      (kernel-arguments (cons “pci=nommconf” %default-kernel-arguments))

      The best discussion about this that I could find is here:

      Hope this helps someone! If this approach is stable for some time, I think this is worthy of another blog post to declare that I solved getting a DFSG-compliant distribution (or actually two: Guix and Trisquel) to work on this laptop with all features working. If only bluetooth just worked…

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  3. Hello Simon! I just saw your blog post and first of all, thank you so much for sharing your experience 🙂

    I allow myself to leave two comments:

    “So what’s not working? Unfortunately, NovaCustom does not offer any WiFi or Bluetooth module that is compatible with Trisquel, so the AX211 (1675x) Wifi/Bluetooth card in it is just dead weight.” / “No builtin WiFi/Bluetooth that works with free software.”

    – We are looking for options for a WiFi and Bluetooth module with free firmware. We are working on this. If you would like, you can write me an email and I will notify you once this is live. We can send it afterwards to you and send you a manual on how to install such a WiFi module, no problem.

    “Intel Mangement Engine is still present in the CPU.”

    – Thanks to the community, a way was found to disable Intel ME. There is the default disabling option and the hard-coded (HAP) neutralising way of disabling ME. The last option has not been extensively tested yet. The only known issue with that at this moment is that standby doesn’t work if this method is applied. So another reason to switch to S3 suspend mode instead of modern standby (S0ix) for our machines. For this option, too, we can inform you as soon as the firmware update is live if you would like.

  4. Thanks for reply! Indeed, I am interested in both of these, and wrote to you separately. I have ordered a WiFi/Bluetooth module elsewhere, and have some cards laying around, so I will experiment with them as well. But I would be happy to switch to a “supported” option eventually.

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