Running Fedora 25 BETA on the Switch Alpha 12

Soon after I got my hands on the Acer Switch Alpha 12, I decided to put Linux on there. Being a Fedora fan for quite a while, I chose the new Fedora 25 Beta release which was already available at the time.

Here is a review of what I managed to get running on the Laptop, what problems I encountered, and what I managed to work around.

Installation

Since this is only a beta release, I did not do an install video or walkthrough. I might do one in the future but for now, I’ll just describe what I had to do and what works.

  1. Enter BIOS/Firmware screen. After switching on the laptop, spam F2 key until we get to the bios screen.
  2. Boot setup:
    1. There is an option that enables F12 key to be used to select device to boot.
    2. There is an option to select between Legacy BIOS boot, and UEFI boot. I had to use Legacy.
  3. Live session. Everything works.
    1. Keyboard attach/detach connects the keyboard back to the laptop as expected.
    2. Wifi works.
    3. Bluetooth not tested. Detected
    4. Audio works.
  4. Install option.
    1. UEFI mode. Enabling UEFI boot in BIOS screen, and installing using UEFI mode did not work for me.
    2. Legacy BIOS mode.Enabling BIOS boot in BIOS screen, and installing using BIOS mode worked fine.

That’s about it.

Boot up sequence and demo video

I have created a video on YouTube of booting up a Fedora 25 Beta install on this machine. I review and demo some of the features of the desktop that works on this machine.

Overall, using it as a laptop works with no issues. For some simple tasks, such as reading or simple web browsing, it works well as a tablet.

Here’s a list of desktop features, some working and some not.

  1. Apps
    1. Firefox. crashes a lot, don’t know why.
    2. Chrome. easy to install. works well.
    3. All other apps work as expected.
  2. Desktop
    1. Wayland: not working for me. Touchsreen would not work for me in most apps.
    2. XOrg: works fine.
    3. Rotation. Gyroscope not working. Does not rotate screen orientation.
    4. Desktop items and icons are too small.
      1. Workaround: Install gnome-tweak-tool, set HiDPI scaling = 2
      2. Adjust size of fonts.
  3. Touchscreen
    1. Can interact with all programs, albeit some exceptions
    2. Very usable in Chrome. Drag to scroll. Hold to right click
    3. In Files, double tapping a file/folder does not open. Workaround: enable single click to open
    4. In Files, dragging to scroll actually moves file/folder around. No Workaround.
    5. In Firefox, drag to scroll does not work, and will select text or element. Workaround: Install ‘Grab and Drag’ extension.
  4. Hardware type-cover keyboard
    1. the included type-cover keyboard works with no issues.
    2. No easy way to know if Num Lock or CapsLock is active. Workaround: https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/36/lock-keys/
  5. Onscreen keyboard
    1. without keyboard, there is no easy way to predict or bring-up the onscreen keyboard.
    2. Touching text boxes in gnome apps will summon osk correctly, but not on other apps. Workaround: https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/1061/on-screen-keyboard-button/
  6. Stylus Pen
    1. Recognized by the system as if it was a mouse. So, most interactions work, if used as a mouse. No way to right click.
  7. Power
    1. I always accidentally press power button on side, which suspends the laptop when using as tablet. Workaround: disable suspend on power button in gnome-tweak-tool
    2. Low battery life. Solution, install and enable tuned. Use powertop2tuned tool to save more power. Results are very good.
    3. Shutdown/Reboot is OK for a laptop (10 – 15 s), but feels slow when using as tablet. Workaround: Use suspend by default. Use extension https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/826/suspend-button/

That’s about it for now. I’ll update with more as I go.

10 Comments

  1. Rene Vasquez Reply

    Hi, Ragib. Nice work.
    I have Switch Alpha 12 too, but i’m having one issue; when i’m going to install Fedora, it doesn’t show the main SSD, just the pendrive. Do you know anything about that?. Greetings from Colombia.

    • Hi,
      I have never had that issue. The live session should be able to see the ssd no issues.
      Maybe you can fiddle with some drive-related settings in bios screen?
      Best of luck.

    • ale Reply

      Hi Rene and Ragib!
      What’s the exact version of your Switch Alpha 12?
      For example some users have problems with the following version: SA5-271-5485

      • Rene Vasquez Reply

        Hi guys. I don’t know right now which one I have, but I think this issue only happens the model that has the 128GB SSD. Thanks anyway.

    • Hi Ale, Rene,

      The model number on the box of my laptop says: SA5-271-571N

      @Rene, sorry I was not able to help much. 🙁

  2. ale Reply

    btw.. did you try to use the usb-c port as hdmi/vga? Does it work with linux? is it OS-indipendent?
    Thank you

    • Hi ale,

      Yes, it works just fine. I regularly use a usb-C dongle, with 4 extra usb-A ports, and a single VGA port to a 1080p monitor. It works out-of-the-box in Fedora 25 beta, and now Korora 25 as well.
      My monitor gets detected as external display just fine. Plugging it on, pulling off while in use works seamlessly. plug-n-play.
      I have not tried any hdmi usb-c dongles, but I believe it should work just as well. I have not tried other distros or desktop environments, but no reason it should not work.

      The only pain point right now, is enabling HiDPI window scaling (gnome-tweak-tool) will affect both internal/external displays. Not so good because this laptop is hiDPI while my monitor is not. Current workaround when using external display, is to stick to XOrg, set scaling = 1, reduce laptop screen resolution, so that windows show up correctly on both screens. When I am using only the laptop screen by itself, I set scaling = 2, and max out the laptop screen resolution.

  3. Hi Guys,
    I believe I have a few more articles written after this one. You can check them out at https://blog.bancuh.com/articles/

    I also have written 2 articles on installing and tweaking, of the newly released Fedora 26 Beta distro. Do check them out and leave comments if you are interested in same topic.
    Installing Fedora 26 Beta: https://blog.bancuh.com/fedora-26-beta-review-installation/
    Tweaking Fedora 26 Beta: https://blog.bancuh.com/tweaking-fedora-26-beta-on-the-acer-switch-alpha-12/

    I also have another article, which will be a review of Fedora 26, similar to this one, in the works.
    Stay tuned.

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