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Surface Pro 3 with Linux

I bought this very nice tablet which has almost all I wanted :
  • hight DPI (retina)
  • a large screen with a decent ratio (16/9 is not for work), 14" would be the best, A4 size to be precise
  • a processor I can run Linux
Now I must confess it is a pain in the *ss to make it work under Linux even if I waited half a year before buying it. But I have no choice, I cannot work under Windows so the first (easy) step was to reformat the hard disk. (It is easy to install now -- 02/2017)

I chose to install Mint 17.1 since I am used to it. I might be a bad choice since Ubuntu is more up to date (Mint 17 is based on Ubuntu 14.04). After few days I decided to switch to Ubuntu 14.10 since it is better for tablet and I can expect upgrades sooner than with Mint.

I upgraded the kernel to 3.18-6 first and to 3.19 next. (no more upgrades is needed -- 02/2017)

What works

Most things work out of the box if you succeed to boot. UEFI is the main problem however I did not personally make it work, I gave it to a friend... Few issues are still present after the installation, here what I solved:


Wifi is fine however you may see an asymetric behaviour:
ping SP3 to Wifi router: time=2 ms
ping Wifi router to SP3: time=1000ms
To be more precise ping to SP3 is slow getting a little faster than slow. The reason is the power management for the wireless chipset. If you switch it off everything works fine in both directions. To do so:
iwconfig mlan0 power off
and you should see Power Management:off when you type iwconfig. To get it automatically, save this script in /etc/pm/power.d/wireless:
/sbin/iwconfig mlan0 power off

Rotate the screen

Here is a script to rotate the screen. It does not work for me (syntax error).

I changed it to make it work. Here is my script rotate and the rotate.desktop file I used to add it in the launcher (open the file manager and drop the file on the launcher).

Screen saver

It works but the screen is not off which heats and consumes energy. If you want it really off do:
xset +dpms
xset dpms 300
300 being seconds, it turns off the screen after 5 minutes. It can be put in Xorg configuration by adding a file in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d with:
Section "Monitor"
  Identifier "Monitor0"
  Option "DPMS" "true"

Section "ServerLayout"
  Identifier "ServerLayout0"
  Option "OffTime" "5"
I must confess it is not a perfect success since sometime it does turn off the backlight, sometime it does not...

What does not work


Suspend does not work, let hope next kernel will change that... (seems to work -- 02/2017)

Onboard virtual keyboard

It seems to be the best choice however :
  • typing too fast activate the possibility to resize the keyboard... so you must be slow !
  • I could not make Ctrl-Alt-F2 to open a terminal session (it works with a USB keyboard)
  • I didn't see how to modify its configuration (I need Esc since I use vim and I like to replace Caps-Lock with Crtl)
I use version 1.0

Cursor disappear

I use the SP3 with the mouse and keyboard of my computer (through x2x). Sometime the cursor disappears. I must use the pen to make it reappear.

Touch screen

It works until I use Onboard witch, at some time, will restrict the touch capacity only to its area. To click somewhere else I should use the pen.


Ubuntu focuses on dumbies therefore if you want it to behave as *you* want, you must install Tweak advanced GNOME 3 settings to get access to more settings like windows manager, keyboard setting (capslock as a crtl)...

apt install gnome-tweak-tool

Gnome ssh-askpass

I wish the guy who made a popup to ask my about my password when I am using a terminal burns in hell for centuries. He is at the same level of insanity than these Windows users who introduced Crtl-C to copy what is already inside the mouse buffer. Please KISS (keep it stupid and simple). Why do I need a popup to type "yes" I do want to connect to that computer when I type ssh inside a term?

With the SP3 when the popup appears, the virtual keyboard disappears and I cannot type "yes".

I tried to removed ssh-askpass-gnome package but ubuntu-desktop depends upon it (WTF, couldn't a desktop work without ssh?). I know I found a solution long time ago to avoid this hateful popup, I will try to refind it.

BTW there is also a stupid Pinentry popup which interfer with gpg. Here is the trick to remove it:

Comment the line with

if you have that in your file.
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