New Toy


Last week I received a new laptop. I purchased a pretty tricked out custom-built P304 from these charming people, or these people, for those who like their sites in English.

There was a problem with the SSD; I seem to have fallen afoul of the bathtub curve, and after installing half an OS, it failed, and would no longer announce its existence to the motherboard.

Bad luck

I spoke to the guys at Schenker, who were friendly and knowledgeable, and generally behaved like competent human beings who didn’t spend their days getting bombarded with basic questions – a fate that seems to befall a lot of poor front line tech support people.

So, given verbal & email assurances that opening the back of my machine wouldn’t invalidate my warranty, I moved the SSD, tried various power cycle combinations that hinted more at desperation-driven voodoo than diagnostic driven behaviour. Once I’d described this to the Schenker folks, they were quite happy to send out a new SSD.

In the meantime, I put another SSD in this machine, and it is a thing of beauty.

Lovely organisation

I can’t recommend Schenker (or XMG, as their gaming PC branding has it) enough. They provided me with an efficient and competent service at a competitive rate, and the end product, based on a Clevo W230SS, is a gaming laptop that weighs 2kg and has a battery life of ~5 hours.

I ended up installing Windows 8.1 on the SSD I put in. Once the mSATA SSD from Schenker shows up, I’ll put a Linux distro on that.


When I installed Windows (from a W8 DVD), I accidentally used the legacy BIOS setting and not UEFI. To avoid tediously reinstalling, re-updating and re-upgrading to Windows 8.1, I used this excellent guide to rewrite the MBR boot partition into a GPT partition.

I also switched the clock time format so as not to conflict with *nix runs using information from this page.

If I had any gripe, it would be that the only explicit driver support is for Windows. Recent Debian-based distros, like Linux Mint 17.1 seem right at home on this box, because the hardware is all pretty standard.

The P304 comes with an Nvidia GTX 860 as well as onboard Intel graphics. I haven’t yet got over the Bumblebee hurdle to get the graphics card recognized by the Linux OS.

I’ll post again when I figure that out.

Wine & Skyrim on Linux Mint

I spent some time trying out Wine today on my linux mint box. For the first time, I’ve managed to get Windows Steam to run, and downloaded & installed Skyrim.

Using Wine version 1.7.8 seems to be working. Earlier versions caused a crash in the main function of the Steam app after it updated.

Argh! My eyes! Skyrim boots & runs with sound; unfortunately there are 2 problems:

  1. Rendering using amd-catalyst-13.11-beta V9.4-linux-x86.x86_64 driver doesn’t update the view frame buffer half the time, leaving flickery blocks everywhere.
  2. The mouse is still constrained by the screen – impossible to turn the character around 360 degrees – can barely rotate 180 degrees!

This is me having fun.


Installed Wine x86 1.7.9 (probably unrelated), and by accident, swapped workspaces. Ctrl + Alt + right, followed by Ctrl + Alt + left caused the 3D pipeline to start rendering properly. I don’t know enough about X11 to understand why the window manager decides now is a good time to stop redrawing the background over the 3D canvas (at least, that’s what the visual mess looked like).

There are still some problems with key recognitions, and on a Sapphire HD7700 with 1GB, the frame rate is unacceptable unless things are turned way down.