Date Modified Tags Linux / Fedora / UEFI

What is the Gateway LT41P05u?

The Gateway LT41P05u is a netbook that comes with an Intel Celeron N2805 CPU, a 10.1" multi-touch HD LCD screen, 2 GiB of RAM, 802.11b/g/n, and Bluetooth. The main attraction is its portability, of course. The CPU is very low power but also fairly low on compute power.

Will it run Linux?

I received one of these machines recently that had a messed up version Windows on it (maybe Windows 8.1 or Windows 10). Being a Linux geek, I asked myself, "I wonder if it will run Linux?" Of course, in this day and age, the answer to that question is generally "Yes". I have been quite successful in running Linux on most of the Intel/AMD hardware I have encountered.

I initially thought I would put Ubuntu MATE on the little machine because Ubuntu MATE tends to run well on older hardware out of the box. To my surprise, this was a case where things didn't just work.

After some confusion and some work, I discovered that I had two things working against me. First, despite the fact that the Celeron N2805 was a 64-bit-capable CPU, the UEFI implementation was 32-bit. Second, there is no way in the BIOS (that I could see) to turn off Secure Boot so the kernel and boot infrastructure needed to support Secure Boot. I'll tackle both of these topics below.

32-bit UEFI with 64-bit Processor

One of the first surprises was that Ubuntu MATE didn't just boot. I had to go into the BIOS and tell the system that I wanted to be able to boot from a particular UEFI file, adding it to a list of UEFI files to trust or try (see below for the details), but, even when I did that, the system would just seem to hang or otherwise do nothing. This was true for 64-bit Fedora 27 as well.

After thinking about this a little, I remembered that Fedora had some support for 32-bit UEFI with 64-bit Processors in Fedora 27, which made me wonder if that was the problem I was having. Since I didn't necessarily want to install Fedora on this machine because of the default heavier-weight Gnome environment in Fedora, I looked for other alternatives. You might ask, "If Fedora 27 had support for 32-bit UEFI, why didn't it boot?" Good question. At the time I was trying things out, I was trying to use the 64-bit UEFI bootloaders and not the 32-bit ones, so that was the problem I was having.

In the process, I ran across a few very interesting efforts on getting Linux to run on devices with 32-bit UEFI firmware. The first was the Fedlet project that was a personal project to get Fedora to run on tablets based on Bay Trail CPUs (of which the Celeron N2805 is a member). The project is now defunct, but it referred to a few other projects. One was another effort to put Fedora on Bay Trail tablets as well as an effort to get Linux on the Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet. The Linux on Dell Venue 8 Pro article was full of information on how to get various versions of Linux on Bay Trail devices with 32-bit UEFI firmware. They mentioned that Fedora 27 has made it easy to get Linux installed in this situation for mere mortals, but they also mentioned other options. With that said, the writer of the article was not pleased with Fedora's performance, so again I decided to look elsewhere.

Secure Boot

One alternative the article mentioned was Debian, which actually has install media that provides both 32-bit and 64-bit UEFI boot software (the "multi-arch" installation media). I tried it out and discovered the second issue that I mentioned above--I can't turn off Secure Boot and, as best as I can tell, Debian does not support Secure Boot yet. When I tried to use it on the LT41P05u, the machine would not boot the Debian installer because the kernel was not trusted or signed.

Since I didn't necessarily want to do a lot of hand hacking of boot scripts and building bootloaders, I thought I would try out Fedora 27 again, which supports both 32-bit UEFI and Secure Boot. This time I tried using the 32-bit UEFI bootloader specifically and it worked just fine and booted properly.

Fedora on the LT41P05u

So, with Fedora installed, I decided it was worth giving it a serious evaluation. It does take a while for Fedora to boot on the device, but that is likely due to the slow processor and slow, spinning hard disk. I suspect there are probably some services and other things I can turn off to help optimize things.

LXQt

Gnome 3 did work, but I thought I would try something that takes less processing and memory. I installed LXQt just to see what it was like. It has worked well. About the only thing that I miss so far is the ability to start programs by hitting the "Super"(or Windows) key and typing their names.

To install LXQt under Fedora 27, do the following:

sudo dnf groupinstall "LXQt Desktop"

At this point, it should be an option when you login with your particular display manager/login manager.

LightDM

As an additional optimization, I have installed LightDM as the login/display manager. To install it under Fedora 27, do the following:

sudo dnf install lightdm

To replace the Gnome Display Manager (GDM), I recommend the following steps:

sudo systemctl disable gdm.service
sudo systemctl enable lightdm.service
sudo reboot

While you could technically stop and start GDM and LightDM, respectively, you would probably need to do that from a virtual terminal as opposed to within an X session since stopping the gdm.service will kill your X session. I think it is easier to just disable and the enable GDM and LightDM, respectively, and then reboot.

BIOS Setting Details

To boot Fedora from the USB stick that I created with Fedora Media Writer, I followed the following steps:

  1. For this machine, you have to hit (and maybe hold down) the 'F2' key as early in the boot process as possible to get into the InsydeH20 Setup Utility (i.e., the BIOS Settings).
  2. Once you are in the BIOS settings screen, select the Security menu.
  3. To be able to modify the UEFI settings, you have to select the Set Supervisor Password option first and set a Supervisor password.
  4. Once the password is set (may require reboot, probably not), you can then select Select an UEFI file as trusted for executing from the Security menu to select a trusted UEFI boot file on the USB stick. You will want to go down the directory structure until you can select BOOTIA32.EFI. I don't know if it was necessary,but I also added the GRUBIA32.EFI file as well. (The capitalization of the file name may vary.)

At this point, I was able to boot the Fedora live media from the USB stick.

Postscript

After looking at the Gateway website some, I did notice that there were BIOS updates for the LT41P05u, one of which would enable "Legacy Mode", which would avoid much of the pain I went through above. With that said, it was certainly interesting to learn about how to boot a 64-bit system with 32-bit UEFI firmware and a little about Secure Boot.