I converted my Toshiba Z830 ultrabook from Windows to Linux in 7200 seconds because Windows 7 was too annoying. You can choose to use anything from this page any way you like. There are no guarantees. I am just telling you my experience as it unfolds. This process used about two hours including typing out what was happening. I am not a fast typist and I used a slow old CD drive to install Ubuntu instead of my Corsair GT USB3 drive.
This page is occasionally updated with my experience from ongoing use. I found a few problems and some solutions for some of the problems. Toshiba replaced the Z830 with a Z930 which appears to be identical to Ubuntu as the only change is a slightly more power efficient Ivy Bridge processor.
Good, bad, ugly
- 35 GB more space available.
- Cannot run Winmerge.
- Screen brightness control does not work. I cannot read the screen outdoors.
- SSD life.
- The first update installed 350 megabytes of changes.
Backup windows and your data
If you have data on your computer, backup everything before doing anything else. Create a backup Windows media thing because Toshiba do not provide an installation CD for Windows. The Windows recovery disk requires about 12 GigaBytes. Slow 16 GB USB sticks are really cheap, so cheap you might want to create two for safety.
Your data is more important. Create several backups. If you create a dual boot machine, your data may survive the installation of Ubuntu but one of your Linux programs may mistreat some of your files and you are stuck with restoring the damaged files.
Dual booting Windows and Linux is an option. The problem is disk space. With only 128 GB available and 52 GB gone after Windows eats everything, there is not enough room for any of my where Windows based programs are of use. If I had 512 GB, I might dual boot so I can use Winmerge.
512 GB SSD is still expensive and most fast SSDs chew too much power. My next upgrade will be to one of the reasonably priced fast low power 256 GB SSDs. See Best SSD for your notebook computer 2013.
Ubuntu released Ubuntu 12.10 to replace Ubuntu 12.04 LTS after I installed 12.04. I have not found anything in 12.10 to fix any problems related to the Z830. I may test the upgrade later this month.
I am installing Ubuntu 12.04 LTS from their alternate edition because the alternate edition provides more control over disk usage and I want to see how the disk is used.
Record some things before you kill Windows
You need to answer some questions when installing an operating system. You can find the following answers in Windows before you kill Windows.
- Wireless network name
- Wireless network type (WPA etc)
- Wireless network password
- HTTP proxy? I forget what you need.
You do not need the wireless network information if you use a wired connection and a wired connection is usually faster but you may not be able to sit in front of your big screen watching the Olympics if you are tied to a network.
Whichever network you use, test it under Windows before you start the switch.
A 128 GB disk does not last long. You soon fill it up. The Z830 arrives with Windows installed and less than 80 GB left for your files. Mine had 76 GB left with just a few basic applications installed and heaps of Microsoft junk removed. After I upgraded to Ubuntu and installed most of the applications I want to use, there was 111 GB left, 35 GB more than I had with Windows.
Connect to mains power
Connect to mains power before starting a long process like this. I chose to charge the machine while I was doing other things then perform the install while watching the Olympics. I might not have connected to the power. I know how long the machine lasts on full power, over four hours, and how long Ubuntu installs last. You might not have the same success.
The install lasts forever from CD. The install is not so long from a USB2 memory device and faster from a USB3 memory device but a lot of the time is decompressing the files, not the disk read time, so the difference is not spectacular.
Changing the BIOS settings
The Toshiba quick start sheet says you press F2 during startup, when the Toshiba advertising appears, to access the BIOS but F2 on my machine at that point gives only two choices, Windows or Windows Memory.
One forum entry said you press F2 then you can press F9. On my machine, F9 produced a message telling me to press F8. F8 produced a list of Windows options, not BIOS options.
I let Windows start then told Windows to shut down. I then started the machine again and pressed F2 immediately, before the Toshiba advertising started. This time I entered the BIOS. Here are some of the things in the BIOS.
- System Time
- System Date
- CPU Type i5-2467M
- CPY Speed 1.60GHz
- HDD/SSD1 Toshiba THNSNB128GMCJ
- Total Memory Size 4096 MB
- System BIOS Version 1.40
- EC Version 1.10
- Language <English>
- BIOS Password
- User Not Registered
- Supervisor Not Registered
- HDD1/SSD1 Password
- Mode <User Only>
- User Not Registered
- Wake-up on LAN <Disabled>
- Wake-up on LAN on Battery <Disabled>
- Wake on Keyboard <Disabled>
- Critical Battery Wake-up <Enabled>
- Panel Open - Power On <Disabled>
- Dynamic CPU Frequency Mode <Dynamic Switch>
- Core Multi-Processing <Enabled>
- Intel Turbo Boost Technology <Enabled>
- Intel Display Power Management <Enabled>
- SATA Interface setting <Performance>
- Keyboard Backlight Control Mode <TIMER>
- Backlight Lighting Time 
- BIOS Power Management
- Execute-Disable Bit Capability <Available>
- Virtualization Technology <VT-x Only>
- Change Boot Order
- HDD1/SSD1 :Toshiba THN....
- USB ODD
- USB Memory
- LAN :IBA GE Slot 00C8 v1366
- Exit Saving Changes
- Exit Discarding Changes
- Load Setup Defaults
Change Boot Order
I changed the boot order to put the DVD drive first but that did not make the machine boot from the drive. The BIOS recognises the drive and the disk activates in the drive but the BIOS continues booting Windows. I tried all three USB ports without a successful boot. This setting is useless. You have to do something different, as described next.
Shut the machine down. Make sure you use the Windows option to shut down. Pressing the off button only puts you into sleep mode with Windows waiting to take control again.
Start the machine again. Tap on F12 a few times during start up before the Toshiba advert. If you are lucky, The Z830 will open up a special boot option different to the one in the BIOS.
Select ODD. Press Enter. Boot Linux from your CD.
Ubuntu asks which language you want to use. Reply whatever you need. I use English. This is the language for the first menu in the installation process, not the language for the rest of the installation or your keyboard or for Linux when installed.
Ubuntu gives you the following choices. F6 offers more choices.
- Install Ubuntu
- Check disk for defects
- Test memory
- Boot from first hard disk
- Rescue a broken system
Checking the disk is useful (the CD, not the hard drive). I do not have to check memory because I have already used the computer but I would check if I was not the most recent user of the computer.
I selected the Install Ubuntu option. Somewhere during this process you will damage the Windows on your disk plus all the other data on your disk.
Select a language
This is the language for the next part of the installation.
Select your location
I selected English so Linux presents a list of countries where people might use English. Select your country. I selected Australia.
Configure the keyboard
English US from the list on the next page. You might do something different in a country where there are multiple languages in use or if you purchased your computer in a different country. You may then have to select the layout. The exact mixture of options varies across keyboard configurations.
Configure the network
There are two network devices.
- eth0: Intel Corporation 82579V Gigabit Network Connection
- wlan0: Atheros Communications Inc. AR9285 Wireless Network Adapter (PCI-Express)
I selected the wireless device.
Wireless ESSID for wlan0
Type in the name of your network.
Wireless network type for wlan0
My wireless network is WPA. Check your network type in your computer's network connection before writing over Windows.
WPA passphrase for wireless device wlan0
Enter your passphrase. The network should connect if you had a working connection under Windows.
Please enter the hostname for this system
Enter a unique name. You can change the host name later and you might as well use something good now. I have two Toshiba Z830s on the network and called them t1, t2. Really letting my creative self let loose on those names.
Set up users and passwords
Full name for the new user
Choose a nice sounding name. If you are female, try Peta.
Username for your account
This defaults to your name in lower case. Make it short because you have to type it in every time you log in.
peter is a nice short choice. :-)
Choose a password for the new user
Use something like
Some rules for passwords.
- Use lower case because case issues are the biggest cause of password support issues.
- Do not use special characters because they do not work on all keyboards.
- Do not use zeros and ones because they look like o and I when used with common fonts.
Encrypt your home directory
Yes. This is to protect your data if someone steals your computer. The Z830 is so impressive, the risk of loss is high.
Another form of protection is to buy your wife, husband, partner(s), and children Z830s before you buy yours.
Configure your clock
This page usually displays the right selection for me and I press yes. You can change it after the operating system is installed.
- Guided - use entire disk
- Guided - use entire disk and set up LVM
- Guided - use entire disk and set up encrypted LVM
The best choice is
Guided - use entire disk. LVM is of no use because you cannot add extra disks to a Z830. (You might use LVM on a desktop where you can add extra disks.)
Select manual then look at the existing partitions to see how the disk is used in Windows.
- #1 primary 1.6 GB B ntfs
- #2 primary 105.9 GB ntfs
- #3 primary 8.6 GB
- #4 primary 12.0 GB ntfs
Switch to guided partitioning. You get the following partitions. Linux is painful sometimes and one is the choice to use a logicl partition when a primary partition is available. You can have four primary partitions on a disk and rarely use more than three. You would think that Linux distribution developers would wake up and make both partitions primary partitions.
- #1 primary 123.8 GB f ext4 /
- #5 logical 4.2 GB f swap swap
Configure the package manager
Do you use a HTTP proxy? If so, answer the questions. I have only struck a HTTP proxy once in several thousand installations.
Armagnac or Calvados?
The computer will do stuff for a while. I received a bottle of Armagnac for my birthday so may have a sip during the break. Calvados is something else you should try. If you are not into chemicals, at least smell an apple then smell apple cider then smell Calvados to appreciate the transformation and retention of the apple aromatic compounds. The techniques used to produce Calvados and Armagnac are some of the techniques used to produce perfume.
This installation step is taking a while and I am running out of things to write. There are periods where the CD drive is active and you realise a USB drive would be slightly faster. There are periods when the CD drive is not active and you are limited to CPU speed. Later on there are big chunks of time where the network is the bottleneck and a wired broadband connection might be faster.
Speed is not right
Back to the installation speed. We are writing to an SSD. SSD read speeds are fabulous and give us the superb value of SSD. Write speeds on SSDs are not much faster than magnetic disks until you get up into the top price bracket. Most of the Linux install is writing and is almost exactly the same speed as writing to magnetic disk.
There are SSDs for desktop computers with very fast writes. Their retail price is almost as much as the total price I paid for the Z830. I looked at upgrades for the Z830. The Z830 uses a 1.8" mSATA drive and there are very few that are larger than the installed SSD. None of the higher capacity devices are on sale at big discounts.
Toshiba does produce a 256 GB Z830 and a 512 GB Z930. I cannot find a 512 GB 1.8" mSATA drive in local shops. The Z930 is just a Z830 with the Sandy Bridge processors replaced by Ivy bridge processors, giving a tiny improvement in processing power.
Install the GRUB boot loader on a hard disk
Reply yes. GRUB is the Linux standard for regular disks. You need something special and different if you try to dual boot and when you use disks larger than 2 terabyte. I am not dual booting and the disk is not that big.
The space on a 128 GB SSD is only about 100 TB after formatting and only 70 GB free with Windows 7 installed to the default configuration created by Toshiba. The space is so limited that it is a reason to switch to Linux where I can choose to not install some junk and to uninstall most other junk after the operating system is in place.
Who is PAM?
You get to set the system clock. I usually use UTC because most servers are set that way and it makes life easier when i test Web site code on my local computer.
The CD drive pops open. Remove the CD and press
Continue to reboot.
Ah, the Ubuntu logo. The install worked.
I have Ubuntu 12.04 LTS installed from the alternate edition. Ubuntu is supplied with some annoying user interface named Unity. The first thing I will do is install Gnome. you might choose something else. At this point there is only one clean up task.
Reset the BIOS boot list
Remember how I changed the BIOS boot list at the start. It did not work. That is no excuse for leaving it with a sloppy setting. I will reset it.
Use, enjoy, install
You are ready to use your computer the way you want to use it, not the way Steve wants you to use it. (The two evil Steves. Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs both worked hard to restrict what you can do on your computer, or hand held device in Jobs case, without paying them heaps of money for every little change.
Enjoy the freedom to do anything, except maybe to use Winmerge and a couple of other programs.
Install almost anything, certainly a wider choice of useful stuff than for any other operating system outside of the deceased Windows XP. Windows has more choices but most of them are duplicates. Windows 7 lets you install anything from XP but severely restricts how you use the installed programs. Linux has fewer choices and lets you make full use of every choice, resulting in more usable choices.
Something you might want to do is improve your disk speed using
noatime. The same change can extend the life of your SSD.
When Linux/Unux/OSnuX accesses a file, the operating system records the access against the file in a field named
atime. You end up wasting a lot of time writing stuff you never read. Switch off atime to save all those disk writes. Reducing writes will make your SSD last longer because it is the writes that kill an SSD, not the reads.
One reason for using the Ubuntu alternate install is to set noatime on each partition during the disk configuration step. I forgot to do that this time and had to go back into Linux to change the setting after installation. You open the DOS box, called Terminal in Linux/Unix, then you edit a system file. The DOS box is called terminal for two reasons, first it pretends to be a 1935 teletype, and the second reason is more important, a slight mistake can terminate your operating system.
You open the DOS box, switch to /etc, edit the fstab file, and add noatime to the etc4 disk partitions. There are lots of Web pages showing you how to do it. I want you to follow their instructions and annoy them with complaints about problems, including a dead computer.
The process is primitive but can be safe when you have the right experience. Fstab is not the file you should practice on. Pick something less dangerous. If you do make the change and damage the file, you may have to reinstall Linux from the start so make the change before you load up your data.
The fan noise was horrible after installing Ubuntu 12.4 then I ran the update program and the noise went away. Somewhere in the updates, the power settings were fixed. The update installed 350 megabytes of changes so I did not try to find the exact change you require to fix the fan.
The screen brightness buttons activate and change the Ubuntu screen brightness indicator but the screen brightness does not change. There are some pages mentioning changes you can make. There is disagreement about the changes you have to make. The latest versions of some Linux distributions remove some, or all, of the changes.
Ubuntu 12.04 still needs something fixed. The screen brightness was full on before before I applied the updates. After the updates, the screen is set to a middle level of brightness.
I am happy with the upgrade from Windows 7 to Linux. I would have stayed with Windows on the Z830 if they offered XP instead of Windows 7. Microsoft lobotomised Windows and forced the change to Linux. The Z830 works with Linux. We are heading from winter to spring. All is right with the world.
Experience after a few months use
What is my experience after a few months use? Ubuntu is slightly better than Windows 7 and more difficult than Windows XP. Windoes 7 does more than you need and you continually have to switch things off. Ubuntu is the same. In Ubuntu you have to switch off Unity and install Gnome classic with no effects. You can no longer switch off the automatic update system in Ubuntu, something you can still do in Windows.
Ubuntu updates frequently need reboots, just like Windows. Windows has big updates about once per month. Ubuntu has big updates once per week. If you are on a dialup or wireless connection paying for your data byte by byte, Windows would be cheaper than Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.
Ubuntu 11 lasted a week before needing a reboot due to software lockup. I have to reboot Ubuntu 12.04 almost each day to fix problems including the wireless connection. Windows 7 can last two weeks before requiring a reboot. Ubuntu 12.04 is a step backwards but you need 12.04 to work with all the new chipsets in the Z830. If Windows XP worked on the Z830, I would choose XP over Ubuntu 12.04.