Technology | Security | Making

Installing Lubuntu 12.04 on a Samsung Series 9 Laptop

tags: +linux

I recently reformatted my system for the first time since I originally installed Ubuntu 11.04 on it, and I want to document some of the “gotchas” I encountered. I unnecessarily lost a few hours to trial-and-error, and I hope to spare you the same frustration.

For this rebuild, I personally installed Lubuntu (with an “L”) 12.04, because I hate Unity, and because gnome-panel shares too many of Unity’s constraints (like only supporting four workspaces) to be useful. With that said, I’d imagine that the following advice applies to some of the other *buntus as well.

This was the process I used to install Lubuntu 12.04 on a clean system:

The Obvious

Start by downloading Lubuntu 12.04 from an official source. If you’re installing to a Samsung Series 9, you’ll want the AMD64 build.

Once the download is complete, use the “Startup Disk Creator” (usb-creator-gtk, I think) to create a bootable USB drive from which you will run the install. (The Series 9 has no optical drive, so USB is the easiest option.) This is straightforward and documented elsewhere, so I won’t describe the process here.

The Devious

There are two real gotchas to watch out for.

Insert your bootable USB into the proper USB slot

I learned last time that the Series 9 is not able to boot from both of its USB ports. On my model (a first-generation Series 9), I’m only able to boot from the right-hand USB. (“Right-hand” presuming that you are looking at the screen.)

UEFI support will break Grub

This was the real bitch of a problem that cost me a few hours this time. The Series 9 has UEFI support, and as such, grub seems to be unable to properly install its bootloader. I solved this by disabling UEFI support in the BIOS before attempting the installation. If you do that, the installation proceeds smoothly, and you’ll be able to boot without issue. (I’d recommend that you research this step a bit beforehand if you’re planning on dual-booting, though, because I think this may have consequences for dual-booters. I only run Lubuntu 12.04 personally, so it works fine for me.)


All that follows now applies strictly to Lubuntu specifically.

Supporting dual-monitors

When I booted into the new desktop, I discovered quickly that multiple monitors were not well supported. I found that arandr (sudo apt-get install arandr) provided that support easily and effectively. In fact, it seems far more reliable to me than Gnome’s touchy monitor auto-detection, so I consider this to be an upgrade.

Supporting multiple sound cards

I also shortly discovered that there was no obvious way to switch between multiple sound cards on a clean Lubuntu install. This was a hassle for me, because I frequently like to switch between outputting to speakers and my Sony headset (for Skype, etc.). I looked for a way to do this in alsamixer, but I don’t believe it is possible.

PulseAudio ultimately got this working for me:

sudo apt-get install pulseaudio pavucontrol

PulseAudio seemed pretty plug-and-play to me, in that it required no special configuration effort beyond installation.

Once installed, running pavucontrol will bring up the Pulse Audio Volume Controller. To switch sound cards, click on the “Output Devices” tab, and switch the “Port” control to the sound card you want to use. This switch can be made in real-time, and does not require any processes (or the system) to be restarted.

pavucontrol makes it possible to adjust volume levels on a per-application basis, so I consider this too to be an upgrade over the default Ubuntu audio controls. (I think Ubuntu does use PulseAudio, but I never saw these per-application volume controls before in the default Sound Preferences.)


Beyond the above, I’m still encountering little snags from time to time, and I’ll document them here as I find reliable solutions.