Solus Linux (and Windows) on Dell XPS 13 – 9360 Kaby Lake

Time to put Linux on my XPS 13.

Pick a distro, any distro.

Historically I’m an Arch Linux user and what is not to like about a rolling distribution with good software availability.   No reinstall’s every few months. I’ve tried Fedora 24 Live on this machine and it worked just fine but didn’t have some software I want/need.  I’m not a fan of Ubuntu or re-spins of Ubuntu.

I decided to give Solus gnome a go.  I like the fact that its also a rolling distro with a reasonably up to date kernel based on the latest LTS kernel.  I’ve heard good things about its updates and dual boot support on UEFI hardware.  As far as the software I need, well that’s an unknown as I start installing.

Windows Technical Debt

My existing Windows 10 install was not shrinkable despite only 100 of the available 512 Gigabytes of the disk being used.  I was looking at either deletion of the recovery partitions and trying to squeeze Solus into that space or a full re-install.

First I went into the UEFI with F2 and disabled secure boot.  Then changed the disk controller mode from RAID to AHCI.  This makes the existing windows install unusable as the factory enabled Bit-Locker encryption freaks out from the lack of secure boot.  Instructions to decrypt the drive are all you will see when you boot.  As I’ve already given up on this Windows install I decided to just wipe the drive.

Install Windows

We will install Windows 10 first, but we will boot the Solus installer first.  When the Solus Live environment was running I opened GParted and deleted all the existing partitions on the XPS 13’s internal NVMe drive.  Next boot windows and create one partition (I went with 200 Gigs) This will actually create a few partitions within that space.  Continue the Windows 10 install until finished.

Install Solus

Boot the Solus install media and again open GParted, create your swap partition (I have 16 Gigs of ram and made swap the same size).  Your root partition (around 200 Gig) and most importantly a 512MB partition as per the instructions here.

Booting each OS

My system was set to default boot windows in the UEFI.  Pressing F12 will present you with a boot menu where you can pick which loader to use.  I went into F2 and put Linux Loader as the default.  The boot menu provided by Solus didn’t add the option to boot Windows.  I’ll add that manually later, but for now I just have to press F12 any time I want to boot into Windows.


This was the bit I was most worried about, but turned out to be easy.  Open gnome software center.  Install almost everything I want (Atom, Vivaldi, Docker, Kitematic, htop) go into the 3rd party section and install Android Studio. That’s it.  On Ubuntu I’d have to add PPA’s.  On Arch some of these are in pacman, some in AUR and some would have to come as snaps.  So I have everything I need, with minimal fuss and in future I don’t need to ask myself which tool I used to install this app.  Its all there in software center!


Wifi works great with the built in Killer Nic 1535.  Suspend/Hibernate worked first time with no issues.  HiDPI looks great in Gnome.  Tap to click is enabled by default and also works on the login screen (always a problem for me on Arch and Fedora).  Sound works good, battery life seems decent but requires more testing.   Bluetooth paired easily with my Mad Catz RATM wireless mouse. Touch screen works just like it should.


Very impressive distro so far, I still need to tweak the boot menu but that’s about it everything else has been pretty much perfect so far.  The mouse cursor is too small on the login screen with HiDPI but generally I just hit enter and type my password.  Android Studio virtual devices don’t start and need to be launched from the command line, but I’ve had that problem on every distro.  It’s an Android Studio problem.

I would highly recommend Solus as a distro for the XPS 13 9360 Kaby Lake. Easy install, works, performs and minimal fuss.

Dell XPS 13 9360

New laptop time!

My Inspiron 13 (7000 2-in-1) was a nice laptop.  It wasn’t the lightest but it was light enough.  It was a good size.  After adding an SSD is was plenty fast enough.  With the addition of the Killer Wireless 1535 and 8 Gigs of RAM it basically was just about perfect.  I had only a couple of complaints.

The screen resolution of 1366×768 was workable for everything except android VM’s and the soft touch finish was starting to come away in places and look worn in others.

I had previously set myself the goal of finishing the Android Basics Nanodegree in under 6 months. In order to get half the tuition back.  I managed it in just 5 months.  I took this money and added a little I had  saved and decided the laptop for me is an Dell XPS 13.  I went with this specification

  • Intel i7-7500u
  • 16 Gigs of RAM
  • 512 NVMe
  • QHD+ Touch Screen (3200×1800)

So far its been great, I like the keyboard, layout, touchpad, battery life.  I love the screen and the speed.

I’ll take some photos and talk about software development on it in a later post.

Killer Wireless in Dell Inspiron 7000 2-in-1

I’m unhappy with my wireless performance on my laptop so I decided to upgrade.  If you decide to do this it is at your own risk, I’m not recommending it, just documenting my experience.


I’ll explain why later but for now above is the new card (Killer Wifi 1535) and the old one (Dell 1708/Broadcom 43142).  Both cards provide Wifi and Bluetooth functions.


Taking apart the Dell 7000 2-in-1 is quite easy with care, you have no less than 10 Philips head screws on the base, removed them, then you need to (gently) pry the plastic base lose.  There are a number of plastic tabs all around the edge , I used a plastic guitar pick to free them, if you get stuck don’t push it, just try again from the other side, take your time.

And we’re in…

Before you do anything else, remove the 2 remaining screws holding the large black battery and take it out!

Between the fan and the silver coin-cell battery you will see our WiFi card with a couple of aerials attached (black and white wires)

Lift the aerial until they detach from the card.  Unscrew the black screw holding the card in place, the card will lift up at an angle, pull it out.  The new card is a bit longer because the old one doesn’t use the full slot available to it.  I would strongly recommend attaching the aerial cables before putting the new card in.  When they are attached put the card back in at the same angle, then push it down and hold it in place while you put the black screw back in.  (Magnetic head screw-driver or an extra pair of hands might be required)

Put things back together, battery first with 2 screws, then click the plastic back on, then put the 10 screws in the base.  Its tempting to boot the notebook/tablet before putting the plastic back on but I’d advise against running this machine open!


On booting Windows 10 the device was automatically added and installed as a WiFi card using a generic driver.  But we want the official driver and the Bluetooth driver also.  Download and install them and run through the configurations.

Initial testing:

This test is on 2.4 GHz channel 1 which has the least interference at my location.  From the same location in my home previously my best download was 67 Mbps, so already I’m seeing a 37% improvement in download in typical usage, upload is limited by the broadband connection.  5 GHz easily breaks into the hundreds, so both together (more on that in a later post) should be able to get 150 – 250  Mbps in normal usage.  100 Mbps should be possible at the edges of the range where previously I would get 20 Mbps.


The WiFi connection is faster and more stable, the Bluetooth is so much better for listening to music.  The combination of more stable network connection and Bluetooth connection means that voice calls and Skype is a far nice experience.

The old card was such a struggle to use with Linux, so I’m happy to report I’ve also had some success getting Arch Linux to work with the card, but that’s a story for later.