[Wolves] What's Your Linux Machine?

Adam Sweet adamsweet at gmail.com
Fri Mar 6 12:07:17 UTC 2020

John Alexander suggested this as a conversation starter on list a few
weeks back, then asked at the meeting on Weds. I think I answered then
the conversation moved on rather than going around the group, so here it
is on list.

So, what is your Linux machine? I'll start (wall of text alert, I got
carried away). All the machines I use were bought by my company rather
than me, while they're not that new now they'd probably be a bit more
humble if I were paying:

My desktop is a 2015 Dell Optiplex 9020:

Intel i7 4790 3.60GHz (4 cores +HT)
Bought with 8GB RAM, now using 16GB
Intel graphics
2 x 24" Iiyama Black Hawk monitors

Came with a terrible 500GB hybrid SSHD - a traditional spinning disk
(5400 RPM!) with 8GB SSD storage at the beginning to cache frequently
used files. I replaced that with two Crucial MX200 SSDs, one for Linux
and one for Windows which I do occasionally need for customer support.

I'm running Ubuntu 19.10. The machine came with Windows 7 which I
recently updated to Windows 10 just before support was ended for 7.

Despite turning 5 years old this summer, this machine doesn't feel slow
or sluggish at all, probably thanks to the two SSDs and 16GB RAM. Most
of my workload is web browser, mail client and terminal (SSH to customer

My laptop is a 2017 Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming 7567 with slightly
embarrassing, decidedly non-business appropriate red trim. I wanted
something I could use for occasional games (adding a discrete graphics
card to my desktop would mean trying to replace the non-standard form
factor PSU). I'd waited for the Dell XPS with the same spec as this one
(sans the cringey red trim) to be released for about 9 months, saw a dip
in the price of this one, conceded I could wait forever as my existing
laptop was starting to show its age and took the plunge. The XPS model
with the same hardware I'd waited for came out about 3 month later and
Iain bought it :(

Intel i7 7700HQ CPU 2.80GHz (4 cores +HT)
512GB NVMe drive (Windows 10)
I added a 512GB Samsung Evo 850 SSD for Ubuntu
Hybrid Intel HD 630 and Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti Mobile graphics
15" 4K IPS display

It came with Windows 10 on the NVMe drive and had an empty SATA bay so I
added the Samsung Evo with the intention of swapping Windows to the SSD
and putting Ubuntu on the faster NVMe drive but I never got around to it.

I had to go through various hoops to get Ubuntu running on it. For some
reason it ships with a single drive but with the disk controller set in
RAID mode (presumably Windows fakeraid) which means Ubuntu can't see it.
Setting it in AHCI mode means it uses a generic Windows driver which
performs poorly. It turns out you can use a driver from an almost
identical OCZ drive from the same OEM which solves the performance
issue. All that done means Linux can see and access the NVMe drive,
though I later decided to leave Ubuntu on the separate SSD.

The other issue was the hybrid graphics, Intel for power efficiency,
Nvidia for gaming. Windows runs using the Intel graphics by default and
runs individual games and graphically demanding apps from a whitelist on
the Nvidia GPU.

At the time of purchase Linux was only able to use one or the other at a
time for the whole desktop session though it was possible to run a
command to switch between them then log out/in again to use the other.
This bit me on the ass when I did an Ubuntu release upgrade a couple of
weeks before running a training course which messed up the X server but
I managed to get it running again, then running some OS updates the
night which broke it entirely. I wasn't able to fix in time and I had to
give the course using Windows (which I find like bathing in bleach,
itchy and irritating). I had to do a complete reinstall to get it
working again.

Only recently has support been added to the Nvidia binary Linux driver
to allow the same kind of hybrid behaviour as on Windows. I don't appear
to have it in 19.10 yet but I believe we have Martin Wimpress of Ubuntu
MATE and recently announced Ubuntu Desktop Team lead to thank for a 'GPU
switcheroo' GUI applet which allows you to choose between an Intel or
Nvidia desktop session, or hybrid mode where you can choose to start
individual applications on a particular GPU. I thanked him personally
for that at OggCamp in October last year.

I also have an old first gen Dell Ubuntu developer laptop (essentially a
Dell XPS 13) which feels a bit laggy these days. It had a second gen
Core i7 with 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD and a 13" display. I typically use it as
a 'throw in a bag and go' laptop. My Inspiron Gaming laptop is too heavy
to carry around comfortably.

I realise I've gone into way more detail than necessary here, there's no
need to do the same unless you want to. What's your Linux machine?


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