Monday, November 1, 2010

Samsung R780 with Ubuntu 10.10

I wanted to replace my desktop computer by a laptop for quite a while now and as it started to randomly freeze - no matter which OS it ran - I decided the right time has come now. I did some online research and then picked a Samsung R780 Helix (link in German). The bare technical facts:

  • Intel Core i5 430M CPU

  • 4 GB RAM

  • Nvidia GeForce GT M330

  • 17,3" display with 1600x900 resolution

  • Blueray drive

  • 640 GB harddisk

  • integrated webcam

  • unfortunately no bluetooth

The R780 is available in several flavors which differ in harddisk space and CPU type. Helix comes with an Intel Core i5 430M and a 640GB harrdisk. So far I don't regret my choice! It's very quiet (no noisy fans), good keyboard and a nice display. Of course it comes preinstalled with Windows 7 (64bit). I didn't remove Windows but I wanted Linux installed as well. (By the way, the hardware seems pretty compatible with current Linux distrubutions.) So, this is how I got along...

The first time the R780 is started - like with any other laptop - the Windows installer is configuring Windows for your needs: select language, timezone, user, etc... Once done and after a few reboots the desktop appears for the first time and you may chose the partition size for your Windows installation on drive C: (that's a really nice feature!!) and then create a backup of it all. I gave Windows about 200GB and the rest of the harddisk will then be automatically used by drive D:. It takes another reboot and you're set. So far, so good. First I installed all Windows updates, updated the BIOS and then grabbed a copy of gparted live cd to modify the partition layout. The install process left me with 4 primary partitions: 15GB (hidden) for the backup, a small one for SYSTEM (also hidden), drive C: for Windows and the rest for drive D:. So in my case I had about 400GB for drive D:. In order to create partitions for Linux, I booted the gparted live cd and deleted the big D: drive and took all of it's disk space to create an extended partition. Within this extended partition I created several logical drives:

/dev/sda5 as ext3 for /boot (512MB)
/dev/sda6 as ext4 for / (30GB)
/dev/sda7 as ext4 for /home (100GB)
/dev/sda8 as swap (4GB)
/dev/sda9 as ntfs to share between Windows and Linux (all the rest)

Next I booted into Windows again and it might not hurt to run
> chkdsk /F c:
> chkdsk /F d:

from the command line (run it as Administrator!). A reboot is necessary in order to check drive C:.

Now for the fun part: installing Linux!

As Ubuntu's latest release "Maverick Mercat" was just ready for download I opted for the amd64 KDE version of (K)Ubuntu 10.10. The installation is very painless, not tricks needed!

So, once you're finished with the usual - well, they changed the installer a bit - (K)Ubuntu installation process you should be left with a working desktop. In Kubuntu I had to change the keyboard settings in KDEs systemsettings to "Samsung SDM 4500P" and "105 keys intl" to make my German keyboard work correctly. Display, sound, webcam, WLAN - alle worked out of the box though!

As for the display driver: I do recommend staying with the nouveau driver and not switching to the proprietary Nvidia driver which is offered by Ubuntu. It seems to work but causes a lot of errors, listed in /var/log/messages or when running dmesg (see this bug report). Installing the latest official Nvidia driver seems to resolve the issue but causes Google Earth to stop working ("segmentation fault")... Anyway, if you don't care about Google Earth, this is how you could proceed:

  1. make sure you have the following packages installed: build-essential, pkg-config, xserver-xorg-dev and the correct kernel-headers (should be installed by default)

  2. download the Nvidia driver from here and make it executable (chmod +x /path/to/NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64*)

  3. black list the nouveau driver by creating to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-nouveau.conf and adding "blacklist nouveau" to this file (of course without the quotation marks)

  4. reboot (this will leave you with a rather unpleasant display resolution ;-)

  5. once the login screen appears press "Ctrl - Alt - F2" for a console and login

  6. stop the display manager by typing "sudo stop gdm" or "sudo stop kdm"

  7. run the Nvidia installer: sudo /path/to/NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64*

    1. say yes to install the 32 bit compatibility libraries

    2. let the installer modify xorg.conf (only needed the first time)

  8. once the installer finishes, reboot

Remember to reinstall the driver after kernel updates!

You might want to add
Option         "NoLogo" "True"

to the the "Device" section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf to avoid the Nvidia logo at startup. Also, to make the boot splash a little prettier with the Nvidia drivers you may add

to /etc/default/grub and then run
sudo update-grub

to activate the new entry.

To get rid of the "Windows Vista" entry in grub (which is the backup partition and I don't think you want to boot it) you can simply create a new file in /etc/grub.d (i.e. call it 31_win7) and add a static entry for your Windows 7 partition. First, have a look at your current /boot/grub/grub.cfg, find the menuentry for Windows 7, copy it to the new file and add the rest from this example:
#!/bin/sh -e
echo "Adding entry for 'Windows 7 (sda2)'" >&2
cat << EOF
menuentry "Windows 7 (loader) (on /dev/sda2)" {
insmod part_msdos
insmod ntfs
set root='(hd0,msdos2)'
search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set b43a66703a663012
chainloader +1


Now make the file executable by
sudo chmod +x /etc/grub/31_win7

and remove the execution bit from 30_os-prober
sudo chmod -x /etc/grub/30_os-prober

and run
sudo update-grub

Now a static entry for Windows 7 is added to grub each time the kernel is updated, but no new OSs will be detected anymore! (By the way, you can disable the memtest entry in the same way by removing the execution bit from /etc/grub.d/20_memtest86+)

This were about all the modifications I've made. Again, until now no complaints, everything's working well! :-)


  1. Hi Dabang (is that correct),

    I've a similar R780, installed it with 10.04 and gnome. The only things what not immediate was working:
    - brightness of the backlight
    - laptop powersavings for on battery
    Did you solve those things? I've installed nvidia-bl-dkms for the backlight and laptop-mode-tools for optimal energy usage in battery-mode.


  2. Hi Everhard,
    thanks for pointing that out, wasn't aware of this! But you're right, it's not possible to change the backlight brightness. I've found that very interesting project on launchpad: I've installed the samsung-tools, easy-slow-down-manager and nvidia-bl-dkms. (I didn't add the ppa, just installed dependencies manually.) So far, Fn + Up/Down keys do not really work, but the brightness control shows up, which didn't before. But once I tried, the mouse/touchpad keys do not work anymore and it seems the only way around is pressing "Ctrl + Alt + F2" to log into a console and reboot. Pressing "Fn + F5" makes the display go nuts and finally turn off. I had to reboot with "Ctrl + Alt + Del". Energy saving is not a big deal for me as this laptop is a replacement for my desktop and is connected to a power socket almost all the time. I even configured the BIOS to not charge the battery beyond 80%. But of course, I'd like to have everything working as supposed to! ;-) If I have the time, I look a bit more into it - let me know, if you find something new!

  3. Hi dabang,
    Do you find way to solved problem on use keys function key -Fn+ and change backlight brightness on Yours R780 ?


  4. No, not since my last approach... :-( In my case I don't really care about it as I have my notebook plugged to a power socket all the time. But following the link in my last comment you'll find some posts describing how it should work. But I think you have to install Nvidia's proprietary drivers.

  5. My experience with the R780 and Ubuntu 10.10 (64-bit) has been the same. Screen brightness does not bother me, other than when I start the computer on battery; then the screen is a bit too dark.
    Other than that just about everything else worked right after I installed Ubuntu.

    Nice machine

  6. Hi guys. Did any of you tried Ubuntu Natty Beta2 ?
    I bought a Samsung RF710 (C5460) and can't boot it.
    I'm going to try Maverick/10.10 ...
    I think there is an issue with 2.6.38 ...