Blasphemy: Loading GNU/Linux on My Surfacebook

As much fun as I have exploring Microsoft Windows 10, I have to admit that I LOVE working in the GNU/Linux operating system. Yes, it can be frustrating knocking your head against the screen. Still, it often feels . , especially when it comes to writing. The minimalist approach, which I can achieve on Windows 10 when writing with the Hemingway Editor (which now has a program you can save to your Win/Mac computer), comes much easier on GNU/Linux.

Microsoft Surfacebook with Elementary OS running

In the past, I’ve tried to load GNU/Linux onto my Microsoft Surfacebook without success. I suppose, an early UEFI experience where I thought I’d lost the entire Windows partition scared me. In spite of that, I persevered (slowly, oh so slowly) and finally came to feel pretty comfortable with UEFI (and turning that stuff off).

“Drivers with very new systems have always and always will be an issue unless vendors change and start supporting Linux directly. Linux developers have to reverse engineer all drivers and that takes a while before all that is in a current distribution. UEFI also being relatively new also has had need of lots of development also by vendors.” – oldfred Jul 12 ’15 at 3:52

SURFACEBOOK RUNNING LINUX

It may seem a bit crazy to want to run GNU/Linux on a Microsoft Surfacebook, but I fell in love with the Surfacebook the first time I saw it. The machine runs great, and I often remark to others, “This is way better than those Macbooks!” So, even though I learned a lot doing Windows 10, since I’ve been using GNU/Linux, it felt like coming home when I was able to drop to the command line and load software.

Give it a try

THE CHALLENGE

The real challenge was probably not as hard as I made it out to be. I only needed to have the right distro (e.g. Elementary OS) and be willing to repartition my Windows hard drive. Until recently, my drive had been filled to capacity. Given some spring cleaning, I was able to squeeze out 89 gigs of space, and only took 25 for ext4 and swap partitions.

To re-partition the drive, I relied on MiniTool Partition Tool/Wizard. It worked flawlessly.

I loaded up a USB flash drive with ELementary OS using Rufus, and then did the install straight to the appropriate partitions.

Note: On another Surfacebook, I found myself relying on the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. Read more about it here. In this situation, I ended up deleting the original Win10 partition, then shrinking it. The shrinkage allowed for the GNU/Linux partition and the swap space. After re-partitioning, I used Win10 Media Creation Tool to re-install Windows 10. At no time did I wipe out the recovery drive partition, which helped (I think) with Windows licensing.  Then once Windows 10 Pro was re-installed, I installed Elementary OS distro, making sure to set the Windows Boot Manager partition as the location for GRUB. After that, restarting made it all work great.

SOFTWARE

 Since I don’t plan to load a lot of software on this partition (after all, it’s great for blogging, light image editing, accessing encrypted drives and password repositories), I’m finding a lot of space left over. Using df -lh I get this, which shows 17 gigs of space free of the total 22 gigs apportioned for space. Lots of room on a GNU/Linux system!

/dev/nvme0n1p4   22G  4.4G   17G  22%

Still, here are some of my favorite apps:

  • keepass
  • shutter
  • midnight commander
  • Firefox Quantum (sorry, Chrome, don’t need you on this one)
  • secure-delete
  • cryptsetup
  • gnome-desktop-utility (a.k.a. palimpset)

 In truth, not much. Oh, I forgot to add HTOP. As you can see from the screen below, not much happening.

WHAT SURPRISED ME?

Well, that with GNU/Linux distro, the keyboard worked, that the trackpad worked, and WiFi networks showed up without problem. That has never happened before on Surfacebook. Whew! I did try Lubuntu, but the experience wasn’t as fun, so I switched back to Elementary OS.

What fun! I learned a lot and remembered a lot. I can’t describe the joy of writing in a GNU/Linux environment. Funny thing that.


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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