A week ago, in my last post, I discussed my decision to move my daily driver OS from Windows 10 to Linux, and the purchase of a ThinkPad 460S to be my new Linux machine. This post is a quick update on what has worked out – and what has not – so far. Ergonomically, the machine is quite lovely; the keyboard is pleasant to use, and by comparison with my vintage machines it’s very slender and light. The screen, at higher brightness settings, is INCREDIBLY bright, also – it’s the best daytime screen I’ve seen.
I’m running Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS – mainly because it’s one of the two mainstream distros that are best supported by the dev tools I need to run. The out of box experience is really superb:
- All the system hotkeys (volume, brightness, settings, keyboard backlight etc.) work, and even pop up the relevant OSD icons. Trackpad and TrackPoint also work as expected.
- Touchscreen works fine (unfortunately! I wish the machine didn’t have a touchscreen, since this is a completely useless feature on a laptop and it eats battery life).
- WiFi and Bluetooth work, though I believe the WiFi module requires a proprietary blob, if that sort of thing concerns you.
- USB and the SD card reader work fine.
- The only piece of hardware that wasn’t immediately apparent to be working out of box is the fingerprint sensor. There’s pretty good documentation online describing how to enable this, but I shan’t bother.
- Battery life is hard to gauge, because battery drain fluctuates heavily depending on what you’re doing on the machine, but I’d put it somewhere between 6 and 7 hours of usage on WiFi with low screen brightness. Given that this is fairly close to the battery life reported by reviewers when this machine first came out, I shan’t bother replacing the internal batteries.
- Apart from that, power management including suspend to RAM (ACPI S3) works well. The one slightly undesirable power management behavior is that at the end of battery life, instead of suspending, the machine does a controlled, but hard shutdown.
As promised, I did experiment with getting Quicken 2003 to run inside wine. Despite the fact that others have reported success in this, I didn’t have any such luck. After using winetricks to install the relevant .NET framework, the Quicken installer did complete successfully, but Quicken itself would launch and immediately crash (seemingly when trying to pop up the “would you like to register now?” dialog). As a matter of interest I did manage to get it to load my data file by launching it with the file path on the command line, but again immediately after loading and rendering the home screen, the app crashed, with errors that didn’t lend themselves to a simple solution. From what I could see, the rendering wasn’t 100% flawless either, probably due to a font or DPI issue (similar artifacts occur when running Quicken on a high-DPI display in Windows 10).
After some much later reading, I’m going to guess that I probably should have tried to install “fakeie6” before giving up, since the Quicken registration process uses an embedded IE window. However, for the moment I simply have a Windows VM inside VirtualBox. This VM has no Internet access and is used solely to run Quicken; it’s not pure, but it works and it meets my requirements. I have a shared directory where the Quicken file is written, so it doesn’t live marooned inside the VHD and can be easily backed up.
I haven’t yet setup POP email fetching on the new machine, and may wait until the end of the year to do so. The reason for this is that in the Outlook world, I create a new PST every year and archive the previous year’s PST, and it will simply be more neat if I close off 2018 in its PST and open 2019 in Thunderbird. Similarly as with importing Quicken data into gnucash, the research I’ve done seems to indicate that loading a PST into Thunderbird is possible, but has a loss of fidelity – so I simply won’t bother.
All of the above are minor points to which I have found an acceptable solution. There is, however, one truly weird issue which I can’t fathom, and it can be summarized as: I can’t copy MP3 files from my hard drive to my Android (Pie) phone. Or, to be more exact, I can copy the files – but they’re not recognized by the phone’s media player. Here’s the sequence of events:
- Attach the Android device.
- Put the Android device into MTP mode.
- Drag and drop an MP3 file from the Linux desktop to the Android device.
- Check your media player on the Android device – the MP3 file will not appear, even if you force a media rescan.
- Use a file browser like FX to view the file’s info and you’ll see that it doesn’t appear in the media scan database, but its properties are otherwise correct. It can be played back using the built-in player in FX.
- Using FX again, rename the file from xyz.mp3 to xyz.mp3_ or something else, then rename it back.
- The file is now consumed properly by media scan, and shows up in the media DB.
Note that the file itself can be copied back from the phone, and binary compares with the original. Also note that the same file can be copied to the phone using the built-in MTP support in Windows 10, or Android File Transfer on MacOS, without any issue.
This sort of issue smells rather like a permissions problem, but the details elude me. Since MTP devices don’t directly mount to the Linux filesystem tree, my only real window into it is whatever nautilus tells me – which isn’t much. My next step is probably to install adb on this machine so I can connect to the phone in debug mode to see the file permissions and owner/group information, but in the meantime either I have to use a different desktop OS to do the copying, or use FX on the phone to copy files over samba.