Ubuntu Linux on the Lenovo IdeaPad S206

Last updated: April 29, 2013

General Hardware Specifications of IdeaPad S206:

Note that there are several variants of the S206 with very divergent hardware. Some have the faster AMD E1-1500; some have Intel chips or no Bluetooth; some have bigger hard drives. This model is the cheapest — the M895AGE, with AMD E1-1200, Bluetooth, smaller hard drive, and FreeDOS installed.

Most of these instructions will also work for the similar IdeaPad S200, but the S205 has significantly different features, especially in keyboard layout.

Hardware Components Status under Linux Notes
CPU: AMD E1-1200 dual-core APU, 1.3GHz, 18W TDP Works No special procedure required during installation.
Display: 11.6" HD gloss finish Works No special procedure
Video: AMD Radeon HD 6290 (integrated)
HDMI port only
Works No special procedure
Sound: HDMI Audio;
combo audio jack
Works No special procedure
RAM: 2GB 1333MHz DDR3 Works No special procedure
Storage: 320GB (5400 RPM SATA) hard disk Works No special procedure
Wireless networking (WiFi 802.11b/g/n) With special drivers, works — mostly ee notes
Bluetooth 4 Works — partly Ubuntu bugs mar the experience. See notes
USB: (on USB 2.0, one USB 3.0) Works No special procedure
Camera: 0.3MP Works No special procedure
Card reader: 2-in-1 SD/MMC Works No special procedure
Power: 27.7 WHr internal lithium-ion battery Works No special procedure
Floppy drive none
Ethernet none
Modem none
Optical drive none

This laptop is operating under Kernel version 3.5.0-27

Quick review of the S206

One should be careful not to complain too much about a 200€, great looking, very thin and light, and pretty fast, laptop. That said, complaints would include: a sticky glossy touchpad partly unusable mouse buttons, stupidly placed screen-off and network-kill buttons, disappointing battery life, and no indicators for hard disk, radios, or caps lock keys. Some of these can be overcome. Not complainin' — just sayin'…

But man, once I got wireless working, and put the thing in my shoulder bag and headed to the cafe on my bike, I was sold. It's substantially smaller and lighter than my previous 12" laptops, but has similar functionality and battery life. It's cute but sensible — no girls yet, but they may be expected any minute.

Basic Installation of Ubuntu

WiFi issues

WiFi: Broadcom wireless chips as on this machine have a bad reputation — the story is, only under recent pressure from OEMs, has Broadcom begun to cooperate a bit with the free software community. Anyway, this one basically works with the built-in Ubuntu driver.

However, it did not work for me initially, and this caused a terrible headache. I could see my neighbors' WiFi access points but not my own!

Best Guess: either the wireless chip or the driver has problems with WiFi channels 11–13. Changing my access point's frequency to channel 9 made it visible to the computer.

There are at least four software packages out there for Broadcom chips. It seems two of these are known not to work on this particular version. The only one that worked for me was the one from the Ubuntu package bcmwl-kernel-source.

BIOS and special function keys

Usability issues

Post-install detail: re-map hardware buttons

The "OneKey Rescue system" button, located on the right side of the chassis, may be of little use to Linux users as-is, but it can be re-mapped to have other effects.

The button emits the 0x10 keyrelease event if it is held down for between 1 and 3 seconds and released. When held down about 3 seconds, it emits a 0x11 event. You could have those two do different thngs. For my purposes, it is handy to re-map the first to "sleep" and the second to "suspend".

This involves editing a rather important system file, and is therefore not recommended for the squeamish or clumsy.

Most of the existing udev rules for handling the special keys are inappropriate for this machine, but several of them are handled by the hardware, so it doesn't matter much. I'm investigating improvements.

Post-install detail: allow mouse clicks without moving pointer

By default, the whole touchpad moves the mouse, but unfortunately, the mouse buttons are part of the lower portion of the touchpad, so clicking the buttons invariably moves the mouse. It is usually adequate for clicking a GUI button, but for graphics work, it is an impossible setup.

To improve this situation:

The result should be that the touchpad's bottom half centimeter (or so) no longer effects mouse movement, but the buttons under those areas still work.

The value of this edge is of course configurable. It can be set temporarily without re-starting X by means of
synclient AreaBottomEdge=4016
To see other related numbers, in an X-Windows terminal, type
xinput list
Look for the input device ID for the touchpad. Use this ID in
xinput list-props ID | grep Edges
This will give coords Left-Right-Top-Bottom for the touchpad.

Post-install detail: improve power consumption

Your friends are top, powertop. and the laptop-mode-tools package.

To make laptop-tools start automatically,

With laptop-mode working properly, I see battery discharge rates of under 9W (screen backlight at max, WLAN and bluetooth on, Firefox, terminals, text editor running under Unity). Without it, the discharge rate is more like 10W. It's a good 10% savings.

Max screen brightness costs about 3W while at min brightness it is 1W. Running a small MPEG video costs around 2.5W. FireFox just sitting costs around 0.5 W. The radio takes about 1.5 W altogether—it's not very helpful to turn it off in software: turning off Bluetooth in software (using the Gnome BT applet) is around 0.1W—but even blocking the radios in hardware with the rf-kill key does not seem to change the drain from the radio device.

With laptop-mode enabled, and under normal use (no videos etc) in a dimly lit room with the screen brightness turned down, you can get over 3 hours of battery time.

Beware of Firefox: it's a hog just idling, but often some plug-in will suck you dry real quick — check with top, and just re-start Firefox if power usage goes way up.

Further power savings may be had by getting rid of Ubuntu's "Unity", but it's a very involved process, which isn't for the faint of heart. I can report that I have a neat (far less annoying) Gnome desktop going, and that it runs at under 8W in normal usage.

Post-install detail: proprietary ATI graphics drivers

This makes the "AMD Catalyst Control Center" available. It has a lot of controls for 3D graphics and color, which may be important to some people. There are also claims of performance improvements.

See https://help.ubuntu.com/community/BinaryDriverHowto/ATI

Unresolved issues

Useful utilities.

Linux On Laptops