Installing OpenSUSE on Thinkpad P50

The Lenovo Thinkpad P50 is quite a nifty laptop. However installing Linux required some digging around, so I'm writing this up for others to stumble upon it when looking for answers to similar issues.

* It is very important to change the BIOS/UEFI setting from "Legacy and then UEFI" to "UEFI only". Otherwise, installing Linux from a USB key boots in Legacy mode, and after 2 hours of installation, the OpenSUSE installer finishes with the very imprecise "an error occured during boot loader installation". After reading I changed the setting to UEFI only, re-did the installation, and voilà, the bootloader installs just fine. Compatibility is sometimes more trouble than not :-)

* Hardware consideration: since it uses a M.2 SSD (small form factor) and doesn't provide the necessary (Lenovo-specific?) cable to plug a 2.5" SSD, my initial idea of replacing the SSD with a bigger one failed. Should have bought another M.2 SSD instead.

* Grub2 in graphical mode was horribly slow (maybe due to high DPI, too many pixels to paint?). I changed /etc/default/grub to say GRUB_TERMINAL=console, and then ran `grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg` and `grub2-install`. Good old menu in text mode, much faster.

* The Wifi didn't work at all, because OpenSuSE Leap 42.1 includes kernel 4.1.12, but proper support for "Intel 8260" with subsystem 0130 (see lspci -vv) was only added in kernel 4.2 (see for the one-liner change to the kernel sources, but I didn't feel like recompiling the kernel...). So I switched to OpenSuSE Tumbleweed which has kernel 4.5. Magic, the wifi works now.

* Remaining issue: when asking for an encrypted LVM group, the installer didn't create an unencrypted /boot partition; it still boots fine but I have to enter the crypto password twice (once for GRUB itself, and once for booting linux). I wonder why grub can't just pass along the now-unencrypted device or something, dunno how that works exactly. Makes me wonder if there isn't a way to give grub everything it needs in the small EFI FAT partition...

Now moving on to compiling my own Qt5, KF5, Plasma5 :-)


Ah, interesting. I didn't realize I could upgrade the kernel while staying on Leap 42.1.

BTW I ended up buying another M.2 SSD too, works fine indeed :-)

And while I'm posting an update: I fixed the crypto setup by having an unencrypted /boot partition, this is much simpler.

By David Faure at Wed, 06/01/2016 - 14:15

I was a bit unclear, I suppose: Newest Kernel meant "newest Kernel coming from the Suse repositories".
It´s still a 4.1xxxx, but supports Wifi and the power management.
NOW I need to get the Sierra 4G card running.:)

By Martin Hildebrandt at Thu, 06/02/2016 - 08:23

That was clear, actually ;)
I was just wondering if you got that newer kernel with a simple "zypper up", or if you had to add extra repositories that contain newer kernels.

By David Faure at Thu, 06/02/2016 - 08:27

"Zypper up" does the job. In my case just letting the graphical update service do it´s job did it as well.:)
Probably Tumbleweed would work just as good, but I had not much fun with Nvidia-drivers in tumbleweed.
That´s why I opted to go with Leap.

By Martin Hildebrandt at Fri, 06/03/2016 - 07:42

WiFi with stock OpenSUSE 13.1 works for me too, but I'm running into frustrating issues with the stock KDE (5.5.5, Qt version 5.5.1). Connecting an external projector via HDMI instantly kills the KDE session. Also, for some weird reason keeping the UI busy by compiling also kills the KDE session.

I probably also have to bite the bullet and recompile a newer version of KDE. But it's frustrating to see that this is necessary...

By kkoehne at Thu, 09/08/2016 - 09:06

Intel? Nouveau? NVidia?

I never had what you describe, however I had webengine crashing in the nouveau driver (and everyone on the web says the "solution" is to switch to the nvidia driver). I however installed bumblebee and now I'm mostly using the Intel driver.

I doubt upgrading plasma will help, it's not like plasma can kill the session all by itself, it's more likely Xorg crashing due to the video driver...

By David Faure at Thu, 09/08/2016 - 10:51

Do you have problems using an external monitor on the p50 with suse? Are you able to connect it to the Displayport or the usb type c port? I'm still searching for a solution for my p50 and if it works i will change from Debian Testing to Suse.

By aublue at Wed, 11/16/2016 - 13:19

I have had rather mixed success with that indeed. Only the NVidia card is connected to HDMI, so it can't be done with just the builtin Intel. It worked for a bit, using the HDMI output. According to my notes, I was doing it this way:

rmmod nouveau ; modprobe nouveau ; xrandr --output DP-2 --preferred ; kcmshell5 kscreen

but often this would just crash everything. For this reason I tried switching the BIOS to Discrete Graphics (i.e. nvidia only).... and (funny timing for your question) ... it fried my motherboard last sunday. Black screen on boot, 2 bips, nothing else. I am currently chasing Lenovo support for a motherboard replacement. Strangely enough I did change that setting in the past, not sure what happened this time.

Someone recommended "nvidia prime" as a better solution for switching between the two graphics cards, I didn't get a chance to really try it (the switch to nvidia only was an attempt at configuring the nvidia parts of it).

Sorry this isn't more helpful, I would actually welcome any input on how to make external monitors (and projectors) work.

By David Faure at Wed, 11/16/2016 - 13:48

At home the wifi would work only half the time. It turned out to be some weird incompatibility between my access points and the iwlwifi driver (no idea why exactly, but it wasn't even linux-driver specific, same issue in Windows). But after realizing the wifi on my P50 works everywhere else, I bought a new access point (TP-Link EAP 220) and everything is working great now (at 5GHz, even).

The issue with external projectors was fixed by switching to "nvidia only" in the BIOS, and using the nvidia proprietary driver.

After all this time, this laptop is finally working properly.

By David Faure at Sun, 05/14/2017 - 11:58