Go to TogaWare.com Home Page. GNU/Linux Desktop Survival Guide
by Graham Williams
Duck Duck Go


Olive Dell XPS13 9380

20190310 The Dell XPS13 9380 (2019) is currently reviewed as the best 13 inch laptop. Common pros are the keyboard, screen, 3 USB-C with 2 Thunderbolt and 1 Powershare, with the WebCam back at the top (compared to the repvious model that recieved criticism for having nose-cam). The Cons are no HDMI nor USB-A and the powerfull 4K display is a battery drain. The battery live is said to be 8 hours of typical use. It is a “gorgeous” machine and gets a 5-star rating from PCMag as “the best ultraportable laptop you can buy.” It has a 13.3" 4K display (336mm as I measure it). It also has a 3.5mm audio jack and stereo speakers.

The system was purchased from a local Singaporean retailer, Courts, at the Singapore IT Show 2019 for SGD $2294 with some 12 accessories added by Courts, including official Dell sleeve, USB-C to VGA adaptor, a wireless mouse with USB-A, and a box of accessories including USB-C to USB-A, travel adaptor, earpods/microphone, USB card reader, keyboard protector, cable pouch, etc. (mostly cheap throwaways)

The server, called olive (36.7), will be used as a development machine for writing LATEX documents, compiling C and C++ programs, and interactively developing R and Python scripts for data science. It is also ultra portable and so when travelling and flying will be used for programming.

The ultra portable 13.3" comes in a compact form factor (reputably an 11" form factor) which was a concern on first sight as being too small if you are coming from a 14" laptop. But you will quickly adapt to the smaller size. Actually a compact size without compromising performance is quite a thing and the keyboard is just fine.

In terms of connectivity Dell have gone full monty with USB-C only. Certainly having 2 Thunderbolt connectors which suport power is great and the third with Powershare allows charging of other devices when the Laptop is powered down.

The tiny WebCam comes back to the top of the display rather than the previous model which recieved criticism for having a nose-cam with the camera at the bottom of the display.


Machine: Dell XPS 13 9380
CPU: 8 x Intel Core i7-8565U 1.80GHz
BogoMIPS: 4224
Memory: 16GiB LPDDR3 Synchronous 2133MHz (0.5 ns)
Network: QCA6174 802.11ac Wireless Network Adapter (ath20k)
Disk: PM981 NVMe Samsung 512GB
Video: Intel HD Graphics (i915)
Webcam: (uvcvideo)
Audio: (snd_hda_intel)
Touchpad: SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad ()
Bluetooth: ()
Boot: Grub2
Kernel: 4.15.0-46-generic

Firmware Update 20200824

$ sudo fwupdmgr upgrade
* Thunderbolt Controller has the latest available firmware version
* PM981 NVMe Samsung 512GB has no available firmware updates
Upgrade available for System Firmware from 1.8.0 to 1.11.0
XPS 13 9380 must remain plugged into a power source for the duration
of the update to avoid damage. Continue with update? [Y|n]: 
Downloading 1.11.0 for System Firmware...
Fetching firmware https://fwupd.org/downloads/
Downloading.             [***************************************] Less than one minute remaining.
Decompressing.           [***************************************]
Authenticating.          [***************************************]
Updating System Firmware.[     \                                 ]
Scheduling               [***************************************]
Successfully installed firmware
* Touchpad has no available firmware updates

An update requires a reboot to complete. Restart now? [y|N]: y

Upgrade Ubuntu 19.10 to 20.04 20200502 Update from Ubutnu 19.10 to 20.04. Began by checking home folder for anything to back up first. Should really not be anything - keeping project work on git repositories, configurations in a git repository, and project and important files on a nextcloud server.

$ wajig update
$ wajig distupgrade
$ wajig install update-manager-core
$ sudo reboot
$ sudo do-release-upgrade -d
All went smoothly and after removing

Upgrade 19.04 to 19.10 20191026 Then upgrade to 19.10, the latest release. The problem with the encrypted swap continued, but worse. On exit from initramfs it then noted the same message and had to wait for that to time out. The following exit worked.

A solution was found to uninstall cryptsetup-initramfs (version 2:2.2.0-3ubuntu1). Also removed the crypt entries from /etc/fstab and /etc/crypttab.

Upgrade 18.04 to 19.04 20191026 After sitting on 18.04 LTS for a while the decision was made to upgrade to the latest release 19.10. Using the graphical update manager the release option was changed from LTS and an upgrade to 19.04 was offered and proceeded with. After the reboot the boot process failed with cryptsetup: Waiting for encrypted source device /swapfile.... Not a good sign. The boot process reverts to initramfs prompt. Typing exit resumes the boot process which is then successful. Various attempts to fix have not succeeded yet.

Boot Ubuntu 20190312 A USB stick with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS can be connected via the provided USB-C to USB-A connector. On booting while tapping F12 the BIOS boot menu is displayed and offers, in addition to Windows Boot Manager, an option to boot from UEFI: SCSI DISK 1.00. Choosing this latter option will boot into the live Ubuntu session running from the USB. Clicking on the Install Ubuntu 18.04.01 LTS on the desktop begins the installation.

Installation 20190312 For installation choose English, keyboard as English (US), Wi-Fi to Connect to this network, a Normal installation, choose to Download updates while installing Ubuntu and to Install third-party software for graphics and Wi-Fi hardware and additional media formats which requires configuring Secure Boot with a password to be used on next reboot as a simple security check. Choose to Install Ubuntu alongside Windows Boot Manager to install Ubuntu on partition #7 of /dev/nvme0n1 as ext4. Choose your time zone and provide personal information and wait for the installation to complete. Then reboot. On reboot you can register the MUK keys with Secure Boot using the password created above.

Encryption 20190312 Encrypting the home directory provides some comfort if the computer is lost or stolen. This is an option at installation, but can also be done after installation as described in Section 79.9.

Install 20190312 [olive]Olive came with MS/Windows 10 Home pre-installed. The Ubuntu versions of the XPS13 are not readily available everywhere. On booting Windows 10 we set up Wi-Fi and log in with a new Microsoft ecosystem user account. It is a good idea to create new user accounts with different email addresses (if you can) each time as a privacy guard and to monitor who shares your email and profile with who.

BIOS When powering up the machine you can boot into the BIOS (Revision 1.0.0). I had to boot from a powered down state rather than a restart from Windows to get either F2 (BIOS) or F12 (Boot Menu) to take. Also holding the function key down on power on does not work—you need to continuously tap the function key. On boot, tapping F2 or F12 you will soon see a blue bar along the bottom to indicate it is going into the BIOS.

SATA RAID to AHCI The default setup of the BIOS treats the SSD drive as a SATA RAID device. The SSD drive was not seen on booting into GNU/Linux. Instead we need to use SATA AHCI instead. To do so boot Windows into Safe Mode by opening a powershell and typing:

bcdedit /set '{current}' safeboot minimal
Power cycle the machine and boot into the BIOS by tapping F2 when powering up. Navigate to BIOS Setup and under System Configuration change SATA Operation from RAID to AHCI. Save this setting and reboot into Windows which will be in Safe Mode.Then disable Safe Mode with:
bcdedit /deletevevalue '{current}' safeboot
Reboot Windows again and this time it won't be in Safe Mode. Open the Device Manager and under Storage controllers confirm there is now a Standard NVM Express Controller.

Shrink C: Whilst in Windows use the Disk Management utility to shrink the C: drive by choosing OS C: under Volume, and then under the right mouse button choose Shrink Volume. Shrink it down by 400 GB (409600 MB) resulting in this amount being unallocated leaving just 27GB free for Windows. This 400 GB will be used for GNU/Linux.

Support further development by purchasing the PDF version of the book.
Other online resources include the Data Science Desktop Survival Guide.
Books available on Amazon include Data Mining with Rattle and Essentials of Data Science.
Popular open source software includes rattle and wajig.
Hosted by Togaware, a pioneer of free and open source software since 1984.
Copyright © 1995-2020 Togaware Pty Ltd. Creative Commons ShareAlike V4.