My Lenovo x220, which I've owned for almost four years now (I remember fetching it from the supplier shortly before driving off to Banja Luka), was getting somewhat worn out. The keyboard and the screen had both been replaced at some point already, and the wwan interface had given up as well. The case was all cracked, and the NIC connector wasn't doing very well anymore either; there have been a few cases of me trying to configure the wireless network at a customer, but this being harder than it needs to be because the NIC will only work if I put in the network cable just so, and someone dropped a piece of paper onto the cable.

In other words, it was time for a new one. At first I wanted to buy a Lenovo x250, but then I noticed that the Fujitsu came with an i7 4712MQ, which I liked (as today it is still quite exceptional for an ultrabook to have a quadcore processor). Fujitsu also claims up to 9 hours of battery life, but it's not clear to me whether this is supposed to be the case with the default battery only. They also have a battery for the modular bay, which I bought as well (to replace the optical drive whic I sometimes use, but only rarely), and on top of that it came with a free port replicator.

Not all is well, however. In the x220, getting the WWAN interface to work involved some creative use of chat against /dev/ttyACM0 wherein I issue a few AT commands to put the WWAN interface into a particular mode, and from then on the WWAN interface is just a regular Ethernet interface on which I can do DHCP. The new laptop has a "Sierra Wireless, Inc." WWAN interface (USB id 1199:9041) which annoyingly doesn't seem to expose the ttyACM (or similar) devices, and I'm not sure what to use instead. Just trying to do DHCP doesn't work -- yes, I tried.

Unfortunately, the keyboard isn't very good; it's of the bubble gum type, and I keep getting annoyed at it not picking up my keystrokes all the time. When I'm at home or at my main customer, I have a Das Keyboard Ultimate S (3rd (customer) and 4th (home) generation), so it's only a problem when I'm not at home, but it's still extremely annoying. There is a "backlight" function in that keyboard, but that's not something I think I'll ever use (hint: "das keyboard ultimate s").

The display can't do more than 1366x768, which is completely and utterly wrong for a computer -- but it's the same thing as my x220, so it's not really a regression.

The "brightness" ACPI keys don't seem to work. I may have to fiddle with some ACPI settings at some point, I suppose, but it's not a major problem.

When I plugged it in, I noticed that fdpowermon ignored the second battery. I had originally written fdpowermon with support for such a second battery, but as my x220 had only one, I never tested it. Apparently there was a bug, but that's been fixed now -- at least in unstable.

On the good side of the equation, it has three USB3 ports in the laptop, and four in the port replicator, with no USB2; this is a major leap forwards from the one USB3 and six USB2 in the x220. A positive surprise was the CCID smartcard reader that I somehow missed while reading the specs, but which -- given my current major customer, is very welcome, indeed.

Update: After having used it a few days, there were a few minor annoyances:

  • Audio didn't work whenever I plugged the laptop to its port replicator and used the external screen. It took me a while to figure out that the default ALSA card (i.e., card 0) is the HDMI output, whereas card 1 is the PCH output, and that since I'm using the DVI port and analog audio, I hear nothing. To fix, create a .asoundrc containing:

      pcm.!default {
        type hw
        card 1
      ctl.!default {
        type hw
        card 1
  • Backlight didn't work. My .config/awesome/rc.lua now contains the following lines:

      awful.key({ }, "XF86MonBrightnessDown", function() awful.util.spawn("xbacklight -dec 5") end),
      awful.key({ }, "XF86MonBrightnessUp", function() awful.util.spawn("xbacklight -inc 5") end),
      awful.key({ modkey }, "XF86MonBrightnessDown", function() awful.util.spawn("xbacklight -set 1") end),
      awful.key({ modkey }, "XF86MonBrightnessUp", function() awful.util.spawn("xbacklight -set 100") end),

    The lines with "modkey" allow me to go to "brightness max" or "brightness min" in one go, rather than have to hit fn+f6 or fn+f7 repeatedly, which is a useful extra.

  • It was suggested to me that ModemManager might be able to figure out how to enable the WWAN modem. The good news is that it detects the modem, and mmcli should have a way to enable things. The bad news is that mmcli -m 0 -e just comes back with "error: couldn't enable the modem: 'timed out'" (partially translated into Dutch). I haven't had the time to look into this much yet, but it seems to be another one of those dbus complications. To be continued, I'm sure.