Setting up Linux Mint Debian Edition on the Lenovo Essential B590

Debian Fancy Logo

Today, the 5th of May 2013, is Liberation day in The Netherlands. It’s a public holiday that celebrates the defeat of the German forces that occupied The Netherlands in 1945. And what could be a more wonderful coincidence for the latest version of Debian, version 7.0 ‘Wheezy’, being released on this very day? In the joyful spirit of this coincidence I decided to make a guide that helps you through the process of setting up Debian on your computer, and enable you to enjoy the benefits of ‘Free Software’. But, before we’re going to set up Debian, I’ll start off with primer that explains you what these benefits are, and provide you with some insights about the few loopholes that we’re going to meet when installing Debian on this particular computer, a Lenovo Essential from 2013 with Windows 8 pre-installed.

First of all, what is meant by the term ‘Free Software’ is not ‘Free of Charge’, but software that respects your freedom and community. Dr. Richard Stallman, a software freedom activist who came up with this definition, delineated the following set of essential freedoms that allows software to be free in the ethical sense of the word:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour.
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

This list essentially boils down to your freedom, and right to, choose, copy, modify and share content that runs on your computer. The last three freedoms underpin the concept of Open Source software. However, this first freedom is best explained by looking at the User Interface that is shipped with Windows 8. Windows used to have a standard mouse/keyboard oriented desktop. Microsoft changed it for a version that is more suitable for touch interfaces. The desktop interface is still there as an option, but you cannot choose not to run the touch interface: Microsoft wants you to get acquainted with their new interface, even if you don’t feel like. In most versions of Linux, these sort of changes are optional. You can experiment with a change, choose to uninstall it, or modify it to your preferences, and let your friends copy it if they find it useful or interesting. The freedom to choose also deals with the things that are “under the hood” of the User Interface. With the current version of Windows, and the Android operating system from Google, you have to create an account with the provider of the software. This account is a prerequisite to logon into your computer, to download software, and to use all sorts of online services, such as search, chat and other types of social networking. This means that, at the least, they have access to the way that you use your computer with an incredible detail. The differences between these type of services and ‘free software’ is no longer merely about convenience and a polished look of the products. They are also impeding your right to choose and your right to privacy. And this gets more pervasive the more we live with our devices.

Is everything Linux or Linux-based Free in this ethical sense?

Sadly enough, no. Android is a Linux system, but is not free in this ethical sense. The most popular Linux distribution for PC’s, Ubuntu, has also become less free in this ethical sense. The developers of the Ubuntu system, Canonical, decided to sell targeted advertisement on the basis of your search activities on your own computer for the purpose of monetizing the development of Ubuntu. This can be turned off, or even completely removed, but I don’t find it ideal that I have to tinker with things that concern privacy after a fresh install of a new system. Luckily, there are other distributions of Linux that are free of all this nonsense.

What are Linux distributions and which do I recommend?

A Linux distribution is a collection of software applications that runs on top of the Linux kernel, which is a bridge between all these applications and your computer hardware. Each of these distributions are maintained by a community of developers and users. In the case of Ubuntu, it has a commercial company central to the operation of its community. And in the case of Debian, the community consists of volunteers who operate under a Social Contract. There are also distributions that are spin-offs from other distributions. For example, the Linux Mint community felt the need to make changes to Ubuntu and distributes their own bespoke version of it. But they also made their own version of the Debian distribution. One of the reasons that they did this is that these communities not only maintain the operating system itself, but also manage the release of the applications that run on it. Each community has their own repository with software, and they aren’t necessarily compatible with each other. The reason that I chose for the Debian edition of Linux Mint is that I’m able to obtain more recent versions of the software that I use than when I used Ubuntu. And that’s the main reason why this guide deals with setup of this particular distribution, the Linux Mint Debian Edition. My other recommendation is the Debian 7.0 ‘Wheezy’ release, simply because it is the original.

So, Let’s get started! How do I begin?

From this point on, I’ll guide you through the following tasks you have to do in order to have Linux Mint Debian installed on your computer:

  1. Downloading and burning the DVD image of the distribution.
  2. Accessing the BIOS on the Lenovo Essential B590 (Or any Secureboot enabled computer for that matter)
  3. Disabling Secureboot, enabling for Windows 8 and Linux to boot, and pointing the BIOS to the Boot Loader
  4. Create a partition to install Linux on
  5. Install Linux (the least difficult bit)

After this, you’ll be able to boot into Windows and Linux without any problems.

1. Downloading and burning the DVD image of the distribution

The following links will direct you to the webpage of the distributions that I’ve discussed:

Linux Mint Debian Edition
This distribution gives you four choices. You need the 64 bit version if your going to install it on the Lenovo Essential. I also recommend the Cinnamon version, which is the name of the desktop interface of this distribution, because it works really nice.
Debian 7.0 Wheezy
You only need to download and burn the DVD1 (debian-7.0.0-amd64-DVD-1.iso) image. The other ones are not necessary. You can also choose to download and burn a CD-ROM image, which you can find here

Burning these images is really easy on Windows 8. If you right-click on the downloaded file, you can choose to ‘Burn disc image‘. You can leave the burned disc in the drive. The next step is to enable your computer to boot it.

2. Accessing the BIOS on the Lenovo Essential B590

The recent Windows 8 computers don’t restart from the very beginning of the boot process if you choose to restart the computer. Even if you choose to shutdown the computer, it still will not restart from the very beginning, essentially disallowing you to boot anything else than Windows. This is what Secureboot does, and the only way to defeat it is to shut down the computer, unplug the power, remove the battery, and plug the power back in again. As soon as you open the the lid of your laptop and press the power button, you have to press the F1 button (I press it several times until I hear a beep).

Lenovo Unplugged

3. Disabling Secureboot, enabling Linux to boot, pointing the BIOS to the Boot Loader

If Step 2 went correctly, you should be able to see the screen below:
BIOS Screen 1

The next step is to disable Secureboot. In order to do this, you have to navigate with the LEFT and RIGHT buttons to the ‘Security‘ menu that you see in the below image. Here, you select “Secure boot“, press Enter, select ‘Disabled‘ using the UP and DOWN arrows on your keyboard, and press Enter again.

BIOS Screen 2

Now, we navigate to the ‘Startup‘ menu and make sure that it can boot other systems than Windows. First we set the ‘UEFI/Legacy boot‘ to ‘Both‘, and set the ‘UEFI/Legacy Boot Priority‘ to ‘Legacy First‘. I also set the ‘Boot Mode‘ to ‘Diagnostics‘, so it boots like a good old-fashioned computer. We’re not changing the BIOS to do something old, we’re changing it so it can do more. Also, make sure that the ‘Boot device List F12 Option‘ is set to ‘Enabled‘. We won’t be able to boot from the DVD without it.

BIOS Screen 3

Next up, we select the ‘Boot’ option, and press Enter. Here we can tell the BIOS to use the Boot Loader from the hard disk. We do this by navigating to Option 5, the ‘ATA HDD0‘ option, and press either ‘+‘ or ‘-‘ to move this option to position no. 1.

BIOS Screen 4

Your screen should now look like the one on the picture below. The next step is to ‘Save and Exit‘ by pressing F10. Do keep in mind that you have to press F12 as soon as the Lenovo boot screen comes up. This gives us access to the Boot Device List where we can choose to boot the Debian DVD.

BIOS Screen 5

If everything went correctly, you’ll be able to see the Boot Device List as shown in the below picture. Here you can select ‘ATAPI CD1‘ and press Enter. Now you will see a lot of Linuxy stuff going on on your screen. :)

SONY DSC

4. Create a partition to install Linux on

During the installation of your distribution, you will be asked to select or create a partition to install your operating system on. The partition software that comes with the Linux Mint Debian Edition is called ‘Gparted’. On the Lenovo Essential B590, the partition choices look similar to the picture below. What we will do now is shrink the Windows partition. This is the partition that is highlighted in green in the picture below.

Gparted Window

Next. we will Right-click on this partition (identified by ‘dev/sda4‘), and choose ‘Resize/Move‘. What I’ve done here is shrink the partition by 40 Gigabytes. This can be bigger or smaller, depending on your wishes. You can manually enter a number and press TAB, or use the Down button next to the number box. The difference will be shown in the ‘Free Space Allocated‘ box below. If you click on ‘Resize/Move‘, you will see that a new partition has been created, You have to set the partition to the ‘EXT4′ file system, by either right-clicking on the new partition, choosing ‘Format to‘ and selecting EXT4. Gparted will now ask you to proceed further with formatting the partition. After this is done, Gparted will ask you where to install the GRUB Boot loader. Here I selected the very first option called ‘dev/sda‘.

Gparted2

5. Install Linux

Now, your distribution will ask you to do the usual stuff, such as creating a user name and password, choosing the correct keyboard layout, etc .. Everything will be very straightforward from here on.

6. Enjoy Freedom ;)

Enjoy Freedom

May 5, 2013

24 responses to Setting up Linux Mint Debian Edition on the Lenovo Essential B590

  1. kevin said:

    Bedankt!

  2. Carl said:

    Nice Guide. Any idea why the mint installer won’t pick up any existing installations of other OS’s (my machine has Windows 7 installed)?

    • Zameer Razack said:

      That sounds like you ran across a problem with the GRUB bootloader.

      Do you see the GRUB boot screen if you start up your computer?

      A wild guess, but maybe your computer has a BIOS with “Boot sector protection”? Which is a rudimentaty form of Secureboot, but it can be easily switched off.

  3. serfer2 said:

    So good, thank you so much :-)

  4. thomas said:

    Handig! dankje

  5. Razvan said:

    Hi there, has anyone here encountered issues when shutting down this laptop?
    I’ve tried Debian 7.0 and 7.1, Ubuntu 12.04 and 13.04 and Linux Mint 15 and 201303 Cinnamon, all 64 bit, and they all behave the same: all processes are killed and the computer freezes at “Power down”, the only thing I can do here is hold the power button for a few seconds to shut down the thing.
    I have the one with an Intel Pentium 2020M CPU and nVidia 610M graphics card.
    I have tried installing the latest nVidia drivers, setting GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash acpi=force” in /etc/default/grub, no luck.
    Any help or tips are welcome!

    • Zameer Razack said:

      That is a very odd problem. The Debian-based systems use an old Linux kernel as opposed Ubuntu 13.04.

      Have you tried to shutdown the computer using the terminal?
      You can do that by typing:
      sudo shutdown

      This command also has different options to shut the computer down. You might want to look into them by typing:
      man shutdown

      • Razvan said:

        Thanks for answering!
        I have Ubuntu 12.04 at the moment, and it’s using a 3.5 kernel.
        I also tried variations of:
        sudo shutdown
        sudo poweroff
        sudo halt (used to work in all other Linuxes I’ve had)
        and various switches such -p, -h, now etc
        None worked :(

        • Zameer Razack said:

          Hmm, It might be that case that it’s a BIOS problem, rather than a problem with the kernel. The problem is that Windows 8, where these machines are designed to work with, does not shut down in a normal manner: it hibernates without actually shutting down. That’s why my installation guide starts with removing the battery and the power plug: it’s the only way to let it do a cold boot.

          Do you still have the Windows 8 install on your disk? The might be an update available in the Lenovo Solution Centre. I haven’t checked, though.

          On the other hand,it is just a minor problem. It’s not elegant, but I assume that you can do your work with this machine.

          If you haven’t installed the “laptop-mode tools”, it might be useful to look into that. It can save some extra battery life. I doubt it will solve the problem of your computer not shutting down.

  6. Razvan said:

    I bought it without an OS – well, if we count FreeDOS as an OS, then the laptop had an OS.
    Afterwards, first I installed Windows 7 and only then I installed some Linux flavours. Windows 7 has no problem shutting down the laptop.
    I guess I’ll live with that.

  7. ruben said:

    hi. thanks for this post. i have bought a Lenovo B590 and following this guide has been realy helpful. great job!

    one issue i’m facing is that neither Linux Mint based on Ubuntu nor the Debian flavour recognize the wireless card.

    Did you also face the same problem?

    thank for any comment you could share about this issue!

    • Zameer Razack said:

      Hi Ruben,

      I indeed had the same problem that deals with a missing (or incorrect) driver for the Broadcom wireless chip.
      It’s very easy to solve, the following tutprial on the Linux Mint community website explains the procedure:

      http://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/218

      • Ruben said:

        Thanks for your quick reply, Zameeer.

        I will review the tutorial you have shared.

        Cheers!

  8. Klavs said:

    I have Lenovo B590 pre-installed with Windows 8 and I managed to install Ubuntu 13.10 in UEFI mode.

    • Zameer Razack said:

      Yes, UEFI mode is supported by Ubuntu. With Debian, however, this is a different story. A few people with expert knowledge on the workings of the OS did manage to do it, though.

  9. Phil said:

    I have installed Ubuntu 13.10 dual boot with Windows 8 on my B590 and I get a couple of crashes a day that show a scrambled screen from which you cannot recover. Has anybody else experienced this?

    Eventually I installed Xubuntu and now I get far less crashes but still get them.

    • Zameer Razack said:

      Maybe it’s a good idea to install the Long Term Support release (12.04) instead.

      The best reason to install Debian is because of it’s stability. Ubuntu is very crashy by comparison. Their intermediate releases between the LTS releases do have the tendency to be a hot mess.

  10. Phil said:

    I have been running Ubuntu since 2007 and upgrade to the latest release every 6 months and this is the first time I have had an issue of this magnitude and no option of a work around.

    If I am still having issues over the comming holidays I will try going back a couple of releases.

    I was just wanted to know if any body else with a b590 got this type of error.

  11. Razvan said:

    I am also using Ubuntu 13.10 amd64 on the B590 with the Intel 2020M CPU and nVidia G610M GPU.
    I’m still having the shutdown issue – I have to press the power button for a few seconds, as Ubuntu won’t power off the laptop.
    But no random crashes so far, a few glitches due to installing Gnome Shell and that’s it.
    Maybe you have some driver (wi-fi or GPU) issues?

  12. Klavs said:

    I’m having bluetooth driver issues with this machine(bcm43142).

  13. hamdan said:

    thanks for your efort but I didn’t find the option of windows boot menu in the setup of the bios neither the correct bios settings you gave maybe because I haven’t updated the bios but stel

    I have a huge problem with this laptop… I couldn’t boot any bootable cd for linux opreating system neither xp sp3 edition of windows with sata drivers just the mighty “7″ which never let any thing else run even from inside the live cd seemed to be not found like the tasks were killed and the cd is being hiden.
    so no booting from outside and no running from inside.
    I tried to run from inside by copying the files of life cd to a flash disk by another computer.and it could be run but no access to the harddisk partition or formatting I should mention that I have changed the hard disk with new one because the original one haave been damaged so the problem is not from the hard it’s from the bios

    there is a very series problem I have knew recently about this mark:
    Lenovo and iBM have been compined so the countract of one lay on the other >>>>and bill gates have made a contract with IBM lay on IBM that Microsoft is the exclusive software provider for IBM so I think this is the problem so who wants to make his destribution or version supported by lenovo should take a premission from Microsoft

  14. Gonza said:

    Thanks very much for your clear post.
    I want to add something that took me quite crazy for hours (during 2 or 3 days…).
    In my case, for booting from a USB was CRUCIAL to disable an extra option besides “Legacy first” and “Diagnostics” in the BIOS. This option is “USB UEFI BIOS Support”, that it’s found on the “Config” tab, USB item. I just disabled it, and everything worked great (I installed Ubuntu 14.04 LTS).
    Cheers!

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  16. alex said:

    Due to your tutorial I could manage to use hires boots dc. Very helpful, thanks a lot!