Archive for the 'Mobile' Category


Kubuntu 17.04 on Dell e5470 for extreme battery life

So apparently it’s been 5 years since I last updated this series:

i’ve restarted most of these configurations over the past 5 years, especially as I’ve switched away from WWAN to tethering, and from spinning rust to SSD, but a lot of the core concepts remain: about 6 years ago my battery died after 3.5 hours of VM troubleshooting, while on a flight, and I lost some data in the emergency “go to sleep, not hibernate”, which cost me 2 hours of rework in the hotel at midnight. My goal, now, is “be able to work multiple simultaneous tasks, have a VM running, and still get super-long battery life when I need it, but not impact performance noticeably.”

With powertop reporting <5W (14h remaining) power consumption while idle, and <6W (11 hours) with firefox open while I start to write this post in August, 2017, I think I’ve hit the mark reasonably well.

As with the Lenovo T430 in the previous post, everything I care about works right out of the box, but when I first started my custom kernels, I missed a few things that I had to add back in before writing this up.


CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-6300U CPU @ 2.40GHz
Memory: 16GB RAM
VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation HD Graphics 520 (rev 07)
Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation Ethernet Connection I219-LM (rev 21)
Network controller: Intel Corporation Wireless 8260 (rev 3a)

Audio device: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP HD Audio (rev 21)
Bluetooth device: Intel (integrated on the USB)
Synaptics Touchpad and Twiddler Mouse

Jump to main sections with these links:
CPU Configuration
Network Configuration
Video Configuration
Encryption / Security configuration
Battery saving configuration
Custom kernel .config

CPU and Battery

I have a series of posts on my love of getting the most performance and battery life I can from my systems, see the last and first of the series for a bit more, or dig through my twitter on the subject. What’s new this year is the latest i5 Core CPU with Linux 4.4 has a new “pstate” performance governor that’s not actually buggy anymore, if you configure it right. I used to use the acpi_cpufreq governors “ondemand” on AC and “conservative” on battery. But the new pstate drivers apparently perform better (thanks Phoronix) AND scale down for battery savings better, so I needed to switch that. Since I was switching governors, I figured it was time to re-check my 2007 finding that moving from “GENERIC_CPU” to “MCORE2” saved me 30+ minutes alone.

Well, it does. But I didn’t keep the data, sorry. What this means is I once again needed to custom compile a kernel to get the right CPU options, and to get the new pstate driver. Since I was in doing that, and since the 2012 post, I’ve moved away from the default kernel Scheduler to Colin Kalvis’ BFS scheduler, so we get to patch THAT in as well. More on those options down at the custom kernel config section, but the point here is that BFS added some stability to heavy “running multiple VMs, and processing 4GB of raw data in Perl” swapping problems I was having, even with 16GB RAM, as well as not hurting my battery life, with a high possibility of 10-20 minutes extra life on normal operations.

The battery in the system is designed at 8157000 mWh, and after 6 months is down to 6621000 mWh. The “amount of time running” is based on the past 2 months, not day 1 of receiving the laptop.

Lastly, I’m still using cpufreqd, but the configuration is vastly simplified – pstate “powersave” when my AC is not plugged in, or the battery’s below 70%, and pstate “performance” otherwise. Ubuntu fixed the broken cpufreqd daemon sometime in 2014, so I’m back to the distribution default version of that, yay!

My custom cpufreqd.conf.


I stopped using my jumbo frames script from here in Kubuntu 16.10, because apparently NetworkManager can figure that out on its own, and it’s been relatively successful. My wireless adapter connects to the new Netgear T6400 at near gigabit speed, but the R6400 doesn’t support jumbo frames itself, so I’m segmenting off some new VLANs to break the Jumbo Frames hosts from the wireless / nonintelligent hosts. That’ll mean resurrecting my jumbo frames script to instead set the VLAN Tag when I’m home.h


Sound has always been a joke for Linux users, but the Intel HD-Audio has been really solid for me for several years, especially with pulseaudio actually being relatively stable for me. When I recieved the laptop, I was having a problem where full-duplex audio was causing what appeared to be a storm of interrupts that hung the entire laptop. But about 2 months of debugging resulted in “I built a new kernel, and now it works fine.” I don’t know if it was a bug in the codec in the kernel, or something that silently patched. How I have Bluetooth audio headset, bluetooth headset for online conference calls, and appropriate switching for apps and reminders (reminders / alerts go to speakers and bluetooth in my config, in case I take the headphones off), with the options int he PulseAudio configuration in KDE. I have no “.asoundrc” or /etc/asound or /etc/pulse or ~/.pulse/client.conf anymore either, which is great!


For the first time in years, I do not have a multi-graphics card system to deal with. The i915 driver works out of the box and is unremarkable, but functional. And great for battery life. But boring to discuss.

Encryption and Security


During installation, I chose the option to use an encrypted LVM volume. This uses DM-Crypt to encrypt the full HDD, so that it has to be unlocked at boot time. The Kubuntu installer seems to forget this fact, so it also asks you to set up ecryptfs private home directories, which is NOT neccessary for a single-user laptop, since the whole OS is already encrypted. The only oddity with dm-crypt is that sometimes the splash screen prompt to unlock the computer doesn’t show. Originally, if I just wait for disk activity to disappear, and have a blank screen, I can just type the passphrase, and it’ll still unlock successfully. But I instead made a change to /etc/default/grub:


And now I don’t get the splash screen, and the prompt comes up properly right away. And I get all the hacker-y looking boot errors from systemd.


Because this laptop has some sensitive work information on it, I wanted to get a bit more paranoid with the “unattended on a conference table” and “connected to a public wifi network” situations, especially since I actually have OpenSSH listening on all interfaces (yes, I ssh into my laptop from my phone more often than you do). I purchased a multi-protocol Yubikey and downloaded and installed the Yubikey PAM module for Challenge-Response, with the instructions on their website, here. Combined with Active Directory authentication, my cached user can only log in if the Yubikey is inserted into the laptop. So when I step away in meetings, the laptop locks, and my password can’t be cracked.

For additional security, I enrolled the root account on my laptop into my BeyondTrust Password Safe (since I’m working for them right now). This product rotates the root password every 14 days with a 50+-character random passcode, so even an attacker getting physical access once it’s booted (decrypted) will have little chance of breaking into the box even when I have the yubikey in place.

Additional Power Savings

I still run laptop-mode tools to cut down on power utilization from non-CPU peripherals. I could get more by having the ethernet port actually turn off when on battery, but I actually use it on battery quite a lot, so I’m not sure the hassle of re-enabling it is worth the battery savings. Here are the configurations I use:

What I’m now getting is 5-7W of power utilization while online with firefox and chrome both running, bluetooth running, and no VMs. Booting my Windows VM in VMware Workstation bumps me up to 15-20W, but I’m still getting 5 hours of battery life with no features disabled AND running a full Windows VM (the Windows VM has battery detection disabled, too). My non-VM battery life is reporting in the 9-11 hour range, but I’ve never had to use it that long to worry.

Kernel Config

I use the Ubuntu Kernel sources, mostly because the laptop tells me when there’s new Kernel sources with security fixes. I’m using BFS as my scheduler, which is fantastic when I get into “3 VMs using 12GB RAM and a reporting job wanting another 6GB” swap death. I have enough keyboard control to kill the reporting job, then shut down the VMs, and try the reporting job again. Before BFS, I either waited 6 hours, or rebooted the whole damn laptop.
BFS patches are here. If that doesn’t make sense, don’t use them. Please.
My custom kernel .config is here.


The build system I use is the same as in 2012:

sudo apt-get install fakeroot build-dep linux-image-`uname -r`
sudo apt-get install linux-source
sudo usermod -a -G src YOUR_USERNAME

Now log out and back in, so that you’re a member of the “src” group.

cd /usr/src
sudo chown -R $USER:src .
tar -jxf ./linux-source-4.4.0/linux-source-4.4.0.tar.bz2
ln -s linux-source-4.4.0 linux
cd linux
mv rob-config-20121204c.txt .config
make oldconfig
make menuconfig

Make any changes you want in here, then exit and save

make-kpkg --initrd --rootcmd fakeroot --append-to-version=.20170912a kernel_image kernel_headers

You’ll get 2 DEB files in /usr/src that you can then install and boot to. the “append-to-version” I use as a dating system for my kernels. “20170912a” means the 2nd kernel attempt on September 12, 2017, the day I’m writing this post (first attempts get no letter).


K9Mail Hosted Exchange ActiveSync Errors Solved

I’ve been fighting K9Mail for weeks now, trying to get it to sync with MailStreet who hosts “”) hosted Exchange. If you’ve already followed the instructions at the K9Mail Wiki with no success, read on.

Thanks to the k9mail wiki on debugging connection issues and the fact that I already had the Android SDK installed, I was able to solve the 2 related errors I was getting. I would either get an “HTTP 404 not found” or an “HTTP 501 Not Implemented” depending on the settings I chose. With no additional settings other than suggested in the Wiki, I’d get a “501 not implemented”. If I tried to set a mailbox path, or a WebDAV path, I’d get the HTTP 404 Not Found.

In the debugging log, I saw that the system was calling “http://mail.$”$webDAVpath/Inbox – if I set it to a full URL, the full URL was getting appended. When I attempted to hit those same paths in a full browser, I’d always get an HTTP 404. So, digging in my history in Firefox, I found the following (cleaned) path:
In this case $emailaddress was my Exchange mail address with the “@” stripped out. Appending “Inbox” to the end of this path resulted in a valid load of my OWA inbox.

Plugging then: /exchange/$emailaddress/ into the WebDAV box in K9Mail, and my email immediately loaded up.

Now I have Android syncing my calendars and contacts, and k9mail is handling my massive inbox!


How To: Increase Battery Life in Ubuntu or Debian Linux

EDIT Dec. 4, 2012: Update!  I’ve written a new update to the configuration files referenced in the post below, over here: so please check out the CPU and battery sections of that post.


With the popularity of the last How To on Domain Controllers, I thought we should do some more. So here�s how I�ve nearly doubled my battery life on my laptop (2 hours max with Windows to 3:30 average with Ubuntu, which was originally 2:30). I used to use a series of programs on Debian Etch which are also available in Ubuntu. However, probably because of their lack of nice GUI interfaces, they�re not installed by default. If you are more interested in increasing your battery time, however, follow along.

  1. Install laptop-mode-tools and cpufreqd
    sudo apt-get install laptop-mode cpufreqd cpufrequtils
  2. Make sure that the proper CPU governers are installed for your processor. I have an Intel Centrino Duo 1.6Ghz (which clocks down to 1Ghz).
    sudo modprobe acpi-cpufreq (or speedstep-centrino or powernow-k8|k7|k6 or longhaul, depending on architecture – acpi-cpufreq should be the most compatible)
    sudo modprobe cpufreq-conservative
    sudo modprobe cpufreq-ondemand
    sudo modprobe cpufreq-powersave

    I use ondemand and conservative – ondemand for when I�m plugged in – no point running at 1.6Ghz when I�m idle – it just heats up the system and overworks the fan – and conservative on battery life – it only steps up slowly as requires, and I can still limit it well with cpufreqd. However, having powersave available on a moments notice to keep the processor locked at 1ghz is nice.


  1. Add acpi-cpufreq or whichever cpufreq driver you picked in the previous step to the end of /etc/modules to force the system to load them at bootup. Ubuntu didn�t pick this up properly for me on any install yet (Dapper, Edgy or Feisty), but Debian did in Sid and Etch
  2. Now open up a terminal (or Konsole) window and edit the files (or replace them with my versions). I�ve attached my versions below.
  3. A few things to look out for when editing these files
    1. set your cpufreqd.conf to the proper CPU speed limits. You can get the hardware limits for your processor from
      cpufreq-info -l
      Mine are obviously (when you read my
      cpufreqd.conf) 1000000 to 1667000
    2. Note which steps are available to you. On my Centrino Core Duo, I only have 3 steps, but on one Celeron processor I saw 10 steps from 2GHz down to133MHz.
    3. Make sure in this configuration that you�re disabling CPU monitoring in laptop-mode.conf. Laptop-mode-tools seem to do this well, but when I last read the man pages, it does all its switching with the usermode driver, which is a more expensive operation than kernel mode – where cpufreqd runs at; letting the speedstep operations run as intended in the core is much more efficient, cpu-cycle-wise� which saves even more battery life. Yes, every second counts.
    4. I personally set �noatime� as a default mount option in /etc/fstab for every physical drive in my laptop. However, you�ll also see my laptop-mode.conf has �control_noatime=1� set, in case I forget, or edit fstab. This does a mount -o remount on all drives when you unplug from the wall, setting the noatime mount option ONLY on battery power. This got confusing to me, having access timestamps sometimes, so I just disabled it completely, and know that my access timestamps are 100% worthless, rather than 50% worthless.
    5. Look closely at the cpufreqd.conf that I�ve created – you�ll see several different scenarios for how to control the CPU limits, based on utilization, battery life, AC status, and even which programs are running. These are settings that work very well for me – I doubt they�ll work well for everyone, but they do cover pretty much every situation I�ve been in on battery power, from doing a presentation out of VMWare to taking notes in a 4 hour meeting. I rarely play games in Linux, much less on battery power, so I can�t speak much to that. But I can get a full DVD easily, and 2 movies if they�re ripped to DivX on the HDD.
  4. Last step is to check the brightness of your laptop. In mine, I can set the brightness on battery power vs. AC power in the BIOS. I also have controls for it. Lowering your brightness by half increases your battery life a HUGE amount. I try to keep it as low as required to see it – in a dark meeting room, that means �as low as it goes�. Being a touch-typist becomes important here, cause that�s not bright enough to see the keyboard on my system.

That�s it. For reference, this whole post written on battery power tonight, while doing other things (like cooking dinner and going for a walk), never in sleep mode. Percentage battery remaing thanks to

# Using governor powersave
# Battery max design 5100 mWh, last 4321 mWh
# Using last max for percentages.

robert@laptop:~$ uptime
23:00:51 up 3:09, 4 users, load average: 0.20, 0.14, 0.10


Sprint PPC-6700 – Op-Ed

I have a Sprint PCS PPC-6700 Windows Mobile 5 PDA/Phone. The battery life on it is decent, considering all that it does, but I still dislike it.

Heres why: its a terrible consumer device. Its great for geeks like me who understand software is buggy and difficult to write, but I couldnt imagine any of my end users dealing with this thing. Examples:

The phone is ok, but the Bluetooth radio randomly shuts off on me. The worst is in the middle of a conversation, my headset will go silent. And its ONLY ever in the car. So there you are, driving down the street, and having to fumble for a soft-button to turn on the speakerphone. Many MANY people will mention something or other about software upgrades required, and believe me, I have them. I had them before Sprint support knew what I was talking about. Im still 100% up to date, according to Starcoms site. No, Im not going to run a 3rd party update to a business tool, like I would my own personal phone.

The device requires a reset every 3 days. I have 2 pieces of add-on software, and Ive actually REMOVED 8 installs from Sprint (from the hidden ROM, so they dont come back during a hard-reset). I installed Google Maps, because its fantastically worthwhile, and TCPMP for media playing (Windows Media Player doesnt play Cisco UNITY voicemails sent to email). Out of the box, it required a reboot every 1-2 days. After 3 days of no reboots, ExchangeActiveSync stops reliably retrieving email. The touchscreen becomes wildly out of sync (I cant hit the scrollbar anymore, usually). Phone calls actually hang up in the middle of conversations. And the phone finally wont respond to any buttons or screentaps, save for the power button.

It Phantom-Dials. Ill read an email, put the phone back in its holder, and walk down the hall. 45 seconds later, one of the recipients of the email will call me back asking me what I called them for. Best I can figure, is that the joystick is getting depressed, scrolling up, getting depressed again (on a recipient of the email), and the call button is getting hit. In the holder designed for the device, on my hip. Ive been wearing cell phones on my hip for work since I was 19 – dont tell me Im hitting it with my elbow. Having to lock your phone in your pocket is understandable. But in its designed holster?

So, what DO I like about the phone?

I dont have to open my laptop at home to watch email every night, in case something breaks. Exchange ActiveSync DirectPush in conjunction with SMS for alerts is fantastic. I turn on the sounds for text messages, but not email, and if its an actual issue, I get the alert, hear it, and respond. But if its a co-worker sending out a I finished doing this overnight work. email, I dont get woken up. Better response time for the business, more sleep for me.

Charges from USB on my laptop. On the road, this has been a life-saver.

Can install all sorts of neat software. Games, document readers, etc. Adobe Acrobat for PPC and Microsoft Reader, combined, give me hours of reading material. Especially manuals for things I have to do the next day.

Pocket IE:,, (which has a great mobile device reformatter). I took just my phone to New York City for a 3 day weekend, and was able to book every dinner, find directions, and verify that Ferries were open on the days I wanted to go places.

Google Maps. I use this to check the traffic of my drive on my way to the car in the parking lot, so I can decide which way to drive home. Add accurate directions that I can pull from my contact list wow.

Now I just have to figure out RAPIP, so I can plug it into my Ubuntu Feisty laptop and sync THROUGH the GNU/Linux OS, rather than just through WinXP.

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