Surface Pro 3 and Ubuntu/Linux Mint

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racerrex9727

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Sep 27, 2014
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I am strongly considering getting a Surface Pro 3. However, the past two years I have increasingly become fond of Linux, and been messing around with Ubuntu and then Linux Mint. While I don't mind Windows 8, but Linux is where I'm more comfortable now and feel like I can do more.

I'm hoping my research is dated, but I heard that the Surface Pro 3 is compatible with Ubuntu/Mint, but the touchpad is not. I even heard the built-in wireless doesn't work and a USB one must be plugged in. If this is all still true, that's practically unusable in my opinion. Is the Linux community actively trying to create full support for Surface Pro 3 (and future iterations of Surface)? How long will it be until it becomes fully usable?
 

Ghaspias

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Nov 2, 2014
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I have been booting my SP3 from a 16GB micro-SD, with Ubuntu Gnome live (14.10). I installed it using rufus (v. 1.4.9), which works very well with several types of live images. I also tweaked the Grub 2 config to easily loopback boot several iso images on the SD card (tried a few Ubuntu livve isos, Linux Mint, Elementary, and a Fedora-based Gnome 3 iso). Most work ok, with only sporadic issues with wi-fi slowness, missing keyboard, missing bluetooth, missing webcams, and sporadic glitches with touchpad. Most distros are usable after enabling on-screen keyboard. Pen is working (with pressure support), touchscreen also works, sound works, wi-fi works.
Note that I had to disable secure boot (and since a firmware update in August, have to endure a bright red boot splash as consequence). I think at some point I was able to boot from the sd card with secure boot enabled, but I'm not sure.
I have had no problem whatsoever on the windows side. I usually just hibernate windows, and hold down the volume button while powering up, to boot to grub 2. I can go back to my windows session afterwards.

I should add that power comsumption is very good under linux. My tests on Ubuntu Gnome with powertop are on par or even better than with windows.
 

canadianvice

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Jul 25, 2012
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You need to get a UEFI compatible linux. I had no luck running mint from a live USB.
Also, GRUB bootloader screws Win8 bad.

That's straight from my computer science professor and several complaints on our class forums. Run it via a live USB, or an installed USB, over the actual system, since it seems to have issues.

That said, I'd love if someone could elaborate on how this installation and boot is done. I tried to disable the secure boot, but still nothing on my SP3.

Other stuff... I don't know. If someone knows how to get this started, I'd be happy to confirm for you on my own unit.
 

racerrex9727

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Sep 27, 2014
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Yeah I've heard similiar things. I have dual-booted Windows 8/Ubuntu for awhile just fine on my laptop and GRUB seemed to do an okay job. But I don't know how tightly controlled the Surface hardware is. Let's see if anybody has had any positive experiences... don't want you to mess up your Surface though...
 

canadianvice

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Jul 25, 2012
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The whole point of having fancy things is to fiddle with them :)
 

canadianvice

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http://www.geek.com/microsoft/linux-users-rejoice-heres-ubuntu-on-the-surface-pro-3-1594864/

I found this. It details some workings, but as with the SP2, it's not a flawless experience.
 

racerrex9727

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Sep 27, 2014
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I remember running into this article before. This makes me hopeful progress is being made but I'm guessing another year or two of development is needed before it reaches a strong support base. Fortunately, I don't think Surface is going away as Surface Pro 3 is extremely popular and struck a chord with people. If anything, what I probably will do for now is buy a Surface Pro 3 with strong specs (8GB of RAM, an i5... maybe an i7) and use VirtualBox or VirtualMachine to run Linux Mint on a VM.
 

canadianvice

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Jul 25, 2012
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It can hurt battery life significantly, however. I'll be trying Ubuntu sometime this week (via a LiveUSB) to see. I'll let you know what I find.
 

racerrex9727

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Sep 27, 2014
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Please do! Usually if I'm getting my hands dirty with virtual machines I can cope with plugging in at a coffee shop, home, or work. But if I'm on a plane, being able to dual-boot in some capacity would be wonderful!
 

Ghaspias

Estimable
Nov 2, 2014
1
0
4,520
1
I have been booting my SP3 from a 16GB micro-SD, with Ubuntu Gnome live (14.10). I installed it using rufus (v. 1.4.9), which works very well with several types of live images. I also tweaked the Grub 2 config to easily loopback boot several iso images on the SD card (tried a few Ubuntu livve isos, Linux Mint, Elementary, and a Fedora-based Gnome 3 iso). Most work ok, with only sporadic issues with wi-fi slowness, missing keyboard, missing bluetooth, missing webcams, and sporadic glitches with touchpad. Most distros are usable after enabling on-screen keyboard. Pen is working (with pressure support), touchscreen also works, sound works, wi-fi works.
Note that I had to disable secure boot (and since a firmware update in August, have to endure a bright red boot splash as consequence). I think at some point I was able to boot from the sd card with secure boot enabled, but I'm not sure.
I have had no problem whatsoever on the windows side. I usually just hibernate windows, and hold down the volume button while powering up, to boot to grub 2. I can go back to my windows session afterwards.

I should add that power comsumption is very good under linux. My tests on Ubuntu Gnome with powertop are on par or even better than with windows.
 

Justus Schock

Estimable
Feb 17, 2015
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4,510
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I had a dual boot with windows 8/ubuntu cause mint didn't work...

It worked great but at the beginning the Type-Cover and the Wifi-Chip weren't supported (but the type-cover's mousepad was?!).
after googling around a bit I found the right drivers and then it worked very well, but I decided to stop it and to go back to win8 only, because it is just optimized for tablets and works still better than ubuntu on the SP3.
If needed (especially for testing some selfmade programms), i use a VM with Mint and sometimes Ubuntu server, which sure needs a lot of power, but it's okay, because I don't need it very often.

I would say, this is the best decision I made, regarding Linux on the SP3.

Another option (and a little project) wouldbe to modify a kernel, that the drivers for Type-Cover etc. are included and it should work as a live-CD out of the Box.
 

veloz

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Feb 17, 2015
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I solve this by running my favorite flavor of linux (currently mint with xfce) in a Virtual Box. I know what you are thinking: "what a pain". But actually it's not. My SP3 has enough memory and CPU power to run two virtiual boxes, with different versions of linux, at the same time
 

canadianvice

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Jul 25, 2012
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The simplest solution no doubt, but not necessarily the most effective.

VM's burn battery like nobody's business.
 
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