I broke my pre-Haswell XPS13 and had to quickly buy a replacement. Without much thought, I decided to get the new Broadwell XPS13. It was not until after I had made the purchase did I find out that there are a whole lot of complaints about the compatibility of this laptop with Linux.
Let me just say that I have full faith in Dell’s Project Sputnik and I’m sure that the team will get things ironed out soon enough.
However, I have to say that my Linux experience on this laptop is pretty good, far better than what I’ve read online. So, I thought that I’d document a few things of note here.
First thing I did when I obtained the new Broadwell XPS13 was to update the BIOS to A01. The way to do this is simple enough. Download the update from the DELL website and save it onto a USB drive. Then, start up the computer and hit F12 to access the boot menu. The BIOS can be updated from the boot menu itself, without having to boot into Windows/DOS.
Next, I opted to install the latest Ubuntu LTS (14.04.2) that went without a hitch. Even UEFI worked out of the box. Again, what I had to do was to download the ISO image from Ubuntu, flash it into a USB drive and reboot the computer while pressing F12 during boot up to get the boot menu.
Broadcom 4352 Wifi
The wireless AC wifi card that comes with the new XPS13 requires the proprietary Broadcom drivers to work. The good thing is that the bcmwl-kernel-source drivers are available in the Ubuntu repository. The command to install this is to run:
apt-get -y install bcmwl-kernel-source
Needless to say, this can only be done after installation by temporarily using a WiFi dongle since there is no wired ethernet port on this laptop. I used my old trusty TL-WN725N which uses the standard rlt8192cu driver in the kernel. After that, the wifi card worked like a charm.
Broadcom 216F BT
The built in Bluetooth module also requires a little tweaking. While the drivers are available in the kernel, the required firmware wasn’t. This required a little workaround to get the firmware from the Windows drivers. However, I had already wiped out Windows from my laptop. Good thing then that the drivers are available from Microsoft themselves.
The downloaded file is a CAB file that needs to be extracted. Then, the appropriate HEX firmware needs to be located and converted to a HCD file using the HEX2HCD tool.
# cabextract 20662520_6c535fbfa9dca0d07ab069e8918896086e2af0a7.cab
# hex2hcd BCM20702A1_001.002.014.1443.1572.hex /lib/firmware/brcm/BCM20702A0-0a5c-216f.hcd
That’s it. Bluetooth worked like a charm.
There are reports of problems with the built-in touchpad freezing and keyboard experiencing stuck keys. This can be fixed according to the official DELL blog by adding some kernel parameters.
The last thing to get working is the analogue audio but since I pipe most of my audio through HDMI, I have not really bothered with this one. But it turns out that the kernel parameters worked.