Installing Linux on Lenovo Thinkpad 11e

I recently updated my laptop to a Lenovo Thinkpad 11e.  The laptop meets military specifications for shock, humidity, temperature and dust and I swapped the hard drive for a solid state drive that has no moving parts.  It should be ideal for geological fieldwork.

I installed Linux Mint 17 XFCE, which is based on Ubuntu 14.04 Long Term Support.  Mostly things worked out of the box, but there were a few tweaks that I had to make to get everything as I wanted.  These notes are here to remind me and in case they are helpful to anyone else.

Enable brightness changing via function keys

Initially, the brightness function keys wouldn’t actually adjust the brightness.  The icon would appear but the brightness remained the same.  To fix:

  • Add the following to /etc/default/grub:
     GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="video.use_native_backlight=1"
  • Then run:
    sudo update-grub

Swap End/Insert keys

By default, the function keys are set up to change brightness, volume etc.  Turning on FnLock sets them to the more useful F1 to F12 but has the unwelcome side effect of changing the End key into Insert.  I don’t know who thought that was a good idea.

There are a number of solutions described online that use xmodmap.  The downside with these is that they are forgotten when the laptop is suspended.  To make the change persistent:

  • Edit /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/pc so that it reads as follows:
    key  <INS> {    [  End        ]    };
    key  <END> {    [  Insert     ]    };
  • Then delete old keymaps:
    sudo rm /var/lib/xkb/server*.xkm

Turn CapsLock into another Ctrl key

This is more for personal preference, as is more comfortable when using Vim text editor, where the aim is to keep your fingers on the home row as much as possible.

  • Create a file /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-keyboard.conf with the following contents:
    Section "InputClass"
            Identifier "system-keyboard"
            MatchIsKeyboard "on"
            Option "XkbOptions" "ctrl:nocaps"
    EndSection

Add myself to dialout group

This was necessary because my GPS connects via USB to serial adapter as /dev/ttyUSB0.  I needed to be part of the dialout group to have permissions to access it.

  • Run:
    sudo usermod -a -G dialout my_username
  • Then logout and back in.

Fix unstable wifi connection

Sometimes the wifi connection drops out intermittently, or is just slow.  The wifi card is an Intel Dual Band Wireless AC7260.  There seem to be a number of potential reasons and solutions for this online, ranging from hardware faults, problems with the router, power management and old drivers.  There are a number of questions about this on AskUbuntu, including here and here.  It isn’t too much of an issue for now, but when I find a solution I’ll update this post. <UPDATE: this went away when I upgraded to kernel 3.13.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi John,

    I just got a Thinkpad 11e myself with the intention to install Fedora Linux. I’m having a bit of trouble figuring out how to get the laptop to boot from the linux flash drive. Everything I’m seeing says after putting the device in developer mode, when I boot I should hit CTRL+L to allow legacy boot, and then hit ESC to get the Linux boot option. I’ve tried this procedure, but never get anything other than chrome to even appear as an option for booting. Is there something I’ve been missing?

    Thanks,

    -Russell

  2. Reading again, it looks like you might have the windows version of the 11e, whereas I have the Chromebook version.

    • Hi Russell,

      I did have the Windows version, but I also swapped out the hard drive for a solid state one. So there was no operating system on there when I started the Linux install.

      I installed from USB stick after pressing ‘Enter’, then ‘F12’ at the BIOS screen.

      John

  3. Clay Smith says:

    There’s a BIOS option to make the function keys behave as normal function keys. Much better than the FnLock option and Insert/End work correctly out of the box.

  4. Frank Jennings says:

    Hi John A. Stevenson,
    I have a lenovo 11e with a solid state drive ( I THINK ). Do you think that it’s possible for me to install linux mint (either from a cd or a flash drive) ?

  5. Chris V says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the post! I am considering getting the 11e for Linux, but am concerned about battery life. On Amazon it shows that the battery life with Windows 10 pro is only 6.6 hours. I plan to put Ubuntu 14.04 on it though, is the Linux battery life alright?

    Thanks,
    Chris

  6. Lono says:

    Hey Guys,

    I have a Lenovo Yoga 11e, Im trying to put Kali Linux or Windows 7. Any suggestions?

    When I boot from a usb I get to the boot manager window and select my usb drive and it just staying on that screen.

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