Sunday, May 26, 2013

Installing & Optimizing Ubuntu 13.04 on the Lenovo Z570

I love my laptop. When purchased, it was a powerhouse of a laptop at a great pricepoint. The trouble with it, back when I first got it, Ubuntu 11.10 did not have good support for this laptop! That prompted me to write my original article: Install Ubuntu 11.10 on Lenovo Z570.

A lot has changed since then, along with 3 versions of Ubuntu. So here is my updated, revised, and even better version of my original installation guide. The great news is that Ubuntu 13.04 has great support for EFI and fully supports the built in WiFi card.

Support for Optimus is still not available out of the box, but tools have made it easier to take advantage of power savings AND 3D graphics.

Also, if you are interested in speed, you MUST replace the old-school HDD with a fast SSD! It was the best $100 upgrade I could have ever spent!

This guide will take you from 0 to GO, optimizing Ubuntu to help you get the most out of your Z570! I cannot take credit for all of the information found here, most of it is information I have found and compiled from many sources over the years. I'll site any sources I still have references for. Finally, as a standard disclaimer, I cannot take responsibility for any problems you might have. These are simply the best options I have found through LOADS of trial and error... More error than trial... LOL.

1. Install Ubuntu 64-bit

I am not going to go into too many details here, as there are countless tutorials for installing Ubuntu on your computer. My only recommendation is that you choose the torrent download, as you will get your .iso SO much faster. Here is a current link for Ubuntu 13.04 64-bit torrent. Here is a page that will have the latest version available. You will also want to check the md5 of your ISO to make sure there are no issues before you turn it into a DVD or USB installer.

2. Install all updates

Launch the "Software Updater" from the unity task bar and install all updates. There will be a lot of updates! On my system, it took about 10 minutes. I recommend that you restart your computer at this point. It may not be required, but, taking only 20 seconds, it's worth the precaution!

3. Get your video card working

If your z570 is like mine, it has Optimus support. Meaning, it has both an integrated Intel video chip, as well as a dedicated nVidia GeForce video card. Out of the box, Ubuntu still does not support the Optimus functionality out of the box. But with the help of a program called Bumblebee, we can get the 3d video support we want via the nvida card, and still keep the battery life we need by using the intel card.

There are two ways to install bumblebee, manually via the terminal, with a bunch of commands, or the easy way, using the Bumblebee Configurator GUI. To install the configurator, simply execute the following in the terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T):
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alessandrofac93/bumblebee-config-gtk-dev
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:bumblebee/stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install bumblebee-config-gui
Then launch the application using sudo:
sudo bumblebee-config
Click the obnoxiously large "Install Bumblebee" button. It will download all of the needed files and install it all for you. If you are ready to configure Bumblebee, simply press the configure button and you'll have all the settings you need. Configuring Bumblebee is outside the scope of this tutorial. I have had very good luck with the default settings.

Restart your computer again. This will ensure your video card drivers are all running correctly.

4. If you have an SSD, optimize it!

Let me reiterate what I said in the introduction. If you want to get the most out of Ubuntu and your Lenovo Z570, or any computer for that matter, invest in a good SSD! It was the best computing choice I've made since switching to Ubuntu in the first place! I now run SSD's on all of my computers. On my desktop, where I need more space, I mount / on a 64GB SSD and /home on a 1TB HDD. You get the best of both worlds!

As far as optimizing your SSD, I found a great guide over at HowToGeek, so I won't try to reinvent the wheel here.

There were a couple things I did notice were missing from the HowToGeek article.

Reduce disk swappiness:
sudo cp /etc/sysctl.conf /etc/sysctl.conf.bak
sudo gedit /etc/sysctl.conf
Then add the following to the last line:

5. Add Multi-media support

Open the Software Center and search for "Ubuntu restricted extras" and install. Or, just click this link.

Run the following to enable the playback of protected DVD's:
sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/

6. Make a backup image of your squeaky clean install!

Now that you have gone through all of the trouble to get your clean install setup and running smooth, this would be a great opportunity to take a snapshot of your system. My favoured tool is Clonezilla Live. The process is simple, it took about 20 minutes, and is only consuming 2GB of disk space. The best part is,

Closing thoughts

There are lots of other steps I take to "setup" my Ubuntu install, but these are the ones I feel are most widely applicable. What other tips and tricks are you using on you Lenovo Z570?