Nov 14, 2009

Trying & Failing with Linux & The HP Envy

I currently use a Dell XPS m1330 as my full time work laptop. After playing around with Sidux for about a year I settled down on Ubuntu where I've been happily plugging away for quite a while. The biggest nag I have is that my hardware is starting to show its age. Since it's been about 2 years I decided to reward myself with the beautiful, powerful, and expensive HP Envy 13.

Loaded with a great graphics card and 5GB of RAM, I expected that this stunning crafted metal would serve me well for the next 2 years. But, after about 36 hours with the machine I decided to send it back. Here's why:

1. BIOS problems. After doing some digging around I discovered that the BIOS (version F.05 of this writing). Didn't play nicely with linux. Apparently it does not correctly report temperature and whatnot making Speedstep and ACPI problematic or non-functioning. link

2. The trackpad was not functional in linux. People complained about the trackpad behavior in Windows but frankly I thought it was passable.. something I'd get used to after a while or even learn to enjoy with a few software tweaks. Unfortunately, the synaptics drivers in linux didn't allow me to even click on the trackpad. I was relegated to tapping to click. That's well and good but it means that right-clicking isn't possible without major hacking.

I felt that both issues above might eventually get fixed but I couldn't use Windows 7 while I waited. (BTW, it's still a horrible operating system..) As a last resort I thought about installing VMWare 7 and using linux full-time within it. Not ideal, sure, but it would hold me over for a few months while drivers and bios updates rolled out.

Unfortunately, VMWare 7 won't work on the Envy 13 out of the box. I kept getting an error about it being unable to access the .vmdx file. Googling around I discovered the error is basically caused by either the Firewall, Virus detection (both of which I had disabled) or any of a billion 3rd party preinstalled apps.

And that's where I decided my time had been sufficiently wasted.

So if any readers are considering the Envy 13 in conjunction with Linux, I'd suggest taking a pass for now. By the time HP decide to take linux seriously and provide basic support then maybe the Envy 13/15 will be more reasonably priced.

Lastly, if anyone has a suggestion for a laptop under 1" thick (everywhere.. no games please), with a decent graphics card, please post a link below.


  1. Ubuntu upgrades always wear me thin. I'm thinking of buying one of last year's iMacs.

  2. well, i thought about buying one of those, but not after these reports anymore.
    as if it were not enough paying the windows-tax...

  3. I am happy with my Envy 13 and Windows 7. But having Ubuntu on it would make me real happy. Is there no hope on this yet?

  4. so what did you end up buying? I'm looking for a slim laptop to run Ubuntu myself. thanks