Joachim Breitner

T430s → T460s

Published 2016-10-08 in sections English, Digital World.

Earlier this week, I finally got my new machine that came with my new position at the University of Pennsylvania: A shiny Thinkpad T460s that now replaces my T430s. (Yes, there is a pattern. It continues with T400 and T41p.) I decided to re-install my Debian system from scratch and copy over only the home directory – a bit of purification does not hurt. This blog post contains some random notes that might be useful to someone or alternative where I hope someone can tell me how to fix and improve things.

Installation

The installation (using debian-installer from a USB drive) went mostly smooth, including LVM on an encrypted partition. Unfortunately, it did not set up grub correctly for the UEFI system to boot, so I had to jump through some hoops (using the grub on the USB drive to manually boot into the installed system, and installing grub-efi from there) until the system actually came up.

High-resolution display

This laptop has a 2560×1440 high resolution display. Modern desktop environments like GNOME supposedly handle that quite nicely, but for reasons explained in an earlier post, I do not use a desktop envrionment but have a minimalistic setup based on Xmonad. I managed to get a decent setup now, by turning lots of manual knobs:

  • For the linux console, setting

    FONTFACE="Terminus"
    FONTSIZE="12x24"

    in /etc/default/console-setup yielded good results.

  • For the few GTK-2 applications that I am still running, I set

    gtk-font-name="Sans 16"

    in ~/.gtkrc-2.0. Similarly, for GTK-3 I have

    [Settings]
    gtk-font-name = Sans 16

    in ~/.config/gtk-3.0/settings.ini.

  • Programs like gnome-terminal, Evolution and hexchat refer to the “System default document font” and “System default monospace font”. I remember that it was possible to configure these in the GNOME control center, but I could not find any way of configuring these using command line tools, so I resorted to manually setting the font for these. With the help from Alexandre Franke I figured out that the magic incarnation here is:

    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface monospace-font-name 'Monospace 16'
    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface document-font-name 'Serif 16'
    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface font-name 'Sans 16'
  • Firefox seemed to have picked up these settings for the UI, so that was good. To make web pages readable, I set layout.css.devPixelsPerPx to 1.5 in about:config.

  • GVim has set guifont=Monospace\ 16 in ~/.vimrc. The toolbar is tiny, but I hardly use it anyways.

  • Setting the font of Xmonad prompts requires the sytax

    , font = "xft:Sans:size=16"

    Speaking about Xmonad prompts: Check out the XMonad.Prompt.Unicode module that I have been using for years and recently submitted upstream.

  • I launch Chromium (or rather the desktop applications that I use that happen to be Chrome apps) with the parameter --force-device-scale-factor=1.5.

  • Libreoffice seems to be best configured by running xrandr --dpi 194 before hand. This seems also to be read by Firefox, doubling the effect of the font size in the gtk settings, which is annoying. Luckily I do not work with Libreoffice often, so for now I’ll just set that manually when needed.

I am not quite satisfied. I have the impression that the 16 point size font, e.g. in Evolution, is not really pretty, so I am happy to take suggestions here.

I found the ArchWiki page on HiDPI very useful here.

Trackpoint and Touchpad

One reason for me to sticking with Thinkpads is their trackpoint, which I use exclusively. In previous models, I disabled the touchpad in the BIOS, but this did not seem to have an effect here, so I added the following section to /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/30-touchpad.conf

Section "InputClass"
        Identifier "SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad"
        MatchProduct "SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad"
        Option "ignore" "on"
EndSection

At one point I left out the MatchProduct line, disabling all input in the X server. Had to boot into recovery mode to fix that.

Unfortunately, there is something wrong with the trackpoint and the buttons: When I am moving the trackpoint (and maybe if there is actual load on the machine), mouse button press and release events sometimes get lost. This is quite annoying – I try to open a folder in Evolution and accidentially move it.

I installed the latest Kernel from Debian experimental (4.8.0-rc8), but it did not help.

I filed a bug report against libinput although I am not fully sure that that’s the culprit.

Update: According to Benjamin Tissoires it is a known firmware bug and the appropriate people are working on a work-around. Until then I am advised to keep my palm of the touchpad.

Also, I found the trackpoint too slow. I am not sure if it is simply because of the large resolution of the screen, or because some movement events are also swallowed. For now, I simply changed the speed by writing

SUBSYSTEM=="serio", DRIVERS=="psmouse", ATTRS{speed}="120"

to /etc/udev/rules.d/10-trackpoint.rules.

Brightness control

The system would not automatically react to pressing Fn-F5 and Fn-F6, which are the keys to adjust the brightness. I am unsure about how and by what software component it “should” be handled, but the solution that I found was to set

Section "Device"
        Identifier  "card0"
        Driver      "intel"
        Option      "Backlight"  "intel_backlight"
        BusID       "PCI:0:2:0"
EndSection

so that the command line tool xbacklight would work, and then use Xmonad keybinds to perform the action, just as I already do for sound control:

    , ((0, xF86XK_Sleep),       spawn "dbus-send --system --print-reply --dest=org.freedesktop.UPower /org/freedesktop/UPower org.freedesktop.UPower.Suspend")
    , ((0, xF86XK_AudioMute), spawn "ponymix toggle")
    , ((0, 0x1008ffb2 {- xF86XK_AudioMicMute -}), spawn "ponymix --source toggle")
    , ((0, xF86XK_AudioRaiseVolume), spawn "ponymix increase 5")
    , ((0, xF86XK_AudioLowerVolume), spawn "ponymix decrease 5")
    , ((shiftMask, xF86XK_AudioRaiseVolume), spawn "ponymix increase 5 --max-volume 200")
    , ((shiftMask, xF86XK_AudioLowerVolume), spawn "ponymix decrease 5")
    , ((0, xF86XK_MonBrightnessUp), spawn "xbacklight +10")
    , ((0, xF86XK_MonBrightnessDown), spawn "xbacklight -10")

The T460s does not actually have a sleep button, that line is a reminiscence from my T430s. I suspend the machine by pressing the power button now, thanks to HandlePowerKey=suspend in /etc/systemd/logind.conf.

Profile Weirdness

Something strange happend to my environment variables after the move. It is clearly not hardware related, but I simply cannot explain what has changed: All relevant files in /etc look similar enough.

I use ~/.profile to extend the PATH and set some other variables. Previously, these settings were in effect in my whole X session, which is started by lightdm with auto-login, followed by xmonad-session. I could find no better way to fix that than stating . ~/.profile early in my ~/.xmonad/xmonad-session-rc. Very strange.

Comments

I could not find any way of configuring these using command line tools

You were probably looking for these:

gsettings list-schemas | sort
gsettings list-keys org.gnome.desktop.interface

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface document-font-name 'Source Sans Pro 10'
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface font-name 'Cantarell 11'
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface monospace-font-name 'Source Code Pro 11'

Of course the values for the fonts are the ones I have here and you'll have to adjust them to your tastes.

#1 Alexandre Franke am 2016-10-09

Thanks! Works like a charm. I guess I just lost overview of gconf, dconf, gsettings etc.

#2 Joachim Breitner am 2016-10-08

Have something to say? You can post a comment by sending an e-Mail to me at <mail@joachim-breitner.de>, and I will include it here.