Toshiba NB10 – booting Linux

The NB10 ships with Windows 8. UEFI Secure Boot is enabled, and there is no support for legacy BIOS (CSM).

As of May 2014, the latest BIOS version appears to support CSM, so BIOS mode booting should be possible. I haven’t tested this. See http://unofficialnb10.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/bios-1-40-release/.

It will only boot a 64-bit OS, so you need an amd64/x86_64 ISO. An i386 one will not boot – and no useful error message is produced when it fails.

The first hurdle to overcome is booting a Linux installer. Accessing the BIOS is done by holding F12 down before pressing the power button, until the BIOS splash screen is displayed.

Once you’ve disabled Secure Boot, you can boot from a USB device holding a Linux installer. Choosing an alternative boot device at boot-time is done by holding down the escape key before pressing the power button similarly to accessing the BIOS. Alternative boot devices (the boot order) can also be configured in the BIOS.

The left-hand USB port does not seem to be reliable for booting. Use one of the ones on the right.

Issues with older kernels and the new Bay Trail-M chip lead to a crash either immediately after loading the kernel, or a couple of seconds after booting. Linux 3.14 appears to have complete (or almost-complete) support for the NB10; unfortunately at the time of writing, every common distribution is shipping an earlier kernel.

The wheezy (Debian stable) installer will boot and run via use of the ‘noapic’ and ‘nolapic’ commandline options to the kernel, but will not successfully bring up the built-in ethernet interface (r8169), nor detect the wireless interface.

The Ubuntu 14.04 (Trusty) installer would boot and run similarly, but I had trouble with it crashing and gave up.

The jessie (Debian testing) installer would boot and run via use of the ‘noapic’ option at the kernel commandline. It could successfully use both network interfaces. I installed this.

The NB10 BIOS in UEFI mode seems to only be able to boot from a file on the EFI partition named boot/bootx64.efi – which is how the Debian and Ubuntu installers ship. If your OS does as Debian, and installs to a different directory or uses a different filename, the BIOS will refuse to boot. It’s simple to move/rename the file on-disk before finalising the installation and rebooting. Alternatively, if you forget, it can be done by booting the installer again in rescue mode.

At the time of writing, it was preferable to replace the installed Debian kernel with the 3.14 from Debian experimental, which will consistently boot the system successfully without the use of any extra commandline options. This can be done from the installer either before rebooting, or in rescue mode if you forget. Things which I have confirmed to work in Debian jessie:

  • USB support.
  • Webcam.
  • Trackpad including multi-touch gestures.
  • Suspend to RAM and resume.
  • Sound input, internal microphone, speakers, and output.
  • Wireless network.
  • Wired networking – but it appears to fail after a resume from suspend.
  • Battery charging.
  • Internal monitor.
  • Touch sensors on internal monitor (unsure if multi-touch is supported).
  • VGA output.
  • Suspend-to-disk (hibernate).
  • SD card reader.
  • Bluetooth.

Confirmed Blueooth working once the firmware for the card is supplied.

Things which do not work:

  • SD card reader (nothing happens when I insert a card).
  • A number of command-line kernel options are necessary to make suspend & resume work.
  • The built-in wired ethernet is broken after a suspend & resume.

The SD card reader is working fine. My test SD card is not.

Updated 20140615 – noted that BIOS/CSM support is now available.

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14 thoughts on “Toshiba NB10 – booting Linux

  1. Unfortunately I could not even boot from the USB! Very frustrating. I’ve downloaded the latest debian “jessie” XFCE iso, written it on a USB stick with dd, disabled secure boot and tried to boot from the USB (pressing F12 and selecting the usb, the Esc key does not do anything). No matter what I do, the bloody thing keeps loading win8.
    The USB stick seems OK, I’ve tried booting from it on another system (non UEFI) and it boots. So what am I possibly doing wrong?

    • Hi Theodore,

      Thank you for the comment!

      What model number is your NB10? (The long string after “SATELLITE” on the sticker underneath it)

      Which version of the BIOS is installed?

      Which USB port is the USB stick in? The left (USB3) port doesn’t seem to be bootable.

      One issue that you might be having relates to Windows 8 shutdown. By default I think it hibernates rather than shutting down fully – and it possibly tells the firmware to always boot it rather than another boot device in this case. So you could try an “unclean” (battery off, power cable out) shutdown of Windows – or whatever it is you do inside Windows 8 to tell it to shutdown “properly” (I don’t know).

      If you give me the URL to the ISO that you used, I’ll verify it boots on my NB10.

      I don’t recommend installing Ubuntu (the kernel is a problem) but you could try an Ubuntu ISO too just to see what happens. These are definitely UEFI bootable too.

      A final thing you could do is try with the hard drive removed…

      It can definitely be done, I have done Debian installs on several NB10s.

      • Hi mentalnirex,

        I don’t have the laptop nearby at the moment, but I know it is a NB10T-A-103 (PU141E-00F00JGE). I’ll check the bios version later today.

        I’ve tried with both USB ports on the right side. Regarding the win8 shutdown/hibernate, I thought that might be an issue, so I’ve tried (1) shutting down from windows powershell with the command “shutdown /s /f /t 0″, which is supposed to do a full shutdown, and (2) asking win8 restart, which I understand is also supposed to shut win8 completely down and do a reboot. Indeed I have not tried taking out the battery, maybe I should try that as well. But note that in both (1) and (2), I can then enter the UEFI setup, disable secure boot and tell it to boot from the USB. But when I press Enter, it still boots Win8 from the hard drive!

        The ISO image I used was this one:

        http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/weekly-builds/i386/iso-cd/debian-testing-i386-xfce-CD-1.iso

        I guess removing the hard disk would be moot, since the goal is to install debian and dual-boot it along with windows…

        It’s a pity because the NB10 is quite a neat little machine! I’ve actually bought this one as a gift for a friend, and he has asked me to install Linux on it…

  2. Hi,

    I will wait to hear which BIOS you have. If it’s before 1.20 then I suggest you upgrade – which may fix the ESC thing, and if nothing else will lower your power consumption.

    You can definitely get Linux on to it, don’t give up! :-)

    Regarding holding down the ESC key – you seem to have to hold the ESC key, tap the power key to start it up, and keep the ESC key held down until the menu appears.

    Cheers

  3. Hi,

    Another question – after you’ve held down F12, are you changing the system boot order, or just selecting which device to boot from on this occasion?

    The Toshiba firmware is not very good (to put it mildly), so whichever one you are doing, try the other :-)

    Cheers

  4. Hi mentalnirex,

    I have also bought a NB10-A-10N, but i don´t have installed Linux yet. I want to do it when I come home to Germany in 4 weeks, now I am at work in Brazil.

    Which Image did you Use? Theodore Lytras wrote: “The ISO image I used was this one:
    http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/weekly-builds/i386/iso-cd/debian-testing-i386-xfce-CD-1.iso

    Is it the correct one? I thought, it has to be an 64bit Image, not one for X86 Platforms. Wich version is the right one?

    Cheers

    …and sorry, my English is not so good….

    • Hi Jochen,

      Thank you for the comment. Your English is fine :-)

      You are right of course – I failed to spot that Theodore was using the wrong architecture’s disk image. The NB10 has 64-bit UEFI, so an i386 iso will not boot. UEFI requires that the correct architecture’s image be used.

      You/he need a 64-bit image.

      I’ll update the post to state this clearly.

      Cheers

  5. Same problems with ubuntu 14.04 64-bit
    – i changed the boot order and cancel the safe boot option , then i use the right usb ports
    – when i try to run ubuntu i get lot of “SQUASHFS errors” and
    – when i try to install ubuntu the computer freezes

    any ideas ?

    • Hi Vangelis,

      Thank you for your message.

      I did see squashfs errors with one of my USB sticks. It may be that this is a problem with the USB stick, or that the image you downloaded is corrupt (have you checked the md5? does it boot on other machines?).

      Because 14.04 uses a problematic older kernel. You may have more luck if you use one of both of the “noapic” and “nolapic” commandline options. Possibly you will need “acpi=off” as well.

      If you don’t succeed, let me know, and I’ll try with mine.

      Cheers

  6. Great notebook.

    No problems at all installing Kali Linux v1.0.8 (Debian – Linux 3.14 kernel) – although this distribution supports USB EFI booting I still had to disable secure boot & select CSM BIOS mode; apart from that no significant issues.

    I still wanted Windows 8.1 support for a few pesky programs so I just shrunk my Toshiba partition & installed Kali to the free space. As per mentalnirex’s blog wifi wouldn’t work during install so I used an ethernet connection (wifi shared from a MBP via CAT5 crossover cable). Bluetooth required a few extra packages but otherwise didn’t require any drivers to work with Kali. Grub (v2) didn’t detect my Windows partition but was easily fixed – it still boots automatically if I revert my BIOS settings to UEFI secure boot which is OK with me. Linux support with the latest kernel is good, especially for a newer notebook & I really hope the NB10 becomes a favorite among Linux users.

    A BIG thank you to mentalnirex for an awesome blog & great feedback. The sometimes quirky NB10 has really grown on me this part week. Great notebook for sure :)

    SP

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