Saturday, February 6, 2016

Fixing Lenovo U31-70 WiFi Problem


Lenovo U31-70 is a lightweight laptop. Its WiFi performance has been a headache to many people. Most people report unstable signal dropping.

For those who use Windows and are experiencing unstable WiFi problem, you just need to solve the hardware problem.

I use Linux, so I had to go a different route to solve my driver problem.

The Hardware Problem

I opened up the laptop, and found that the two antenna cables were not properly attached to the card. There was a tape (not shown in the picture) trying to keep the two cables attached, but failed due to the tension from the bending; also, the screw to attach the card onto the main board is too close to one of the antenna contacts so it automatically grounds it, making that antenna useless. This is a design problem.

I first re-attached the two cables back to their contacts and re-tape them, and put some non-conductive material between the screw and the contact to prevent the grounding. It helped.

The Atheros 10K Driver Problem under Linux

I had used several Thinkpads since its IBM days, so I was quite surprised to have found that this Lenovo's Atheros 10K chip was not supported under Linux. People were reporting stable driver performance under Windows, and some efforts were made to bring the firmware from Windows driver to Linux. I waited a few months for Linux kernel to come to version 4.3 and spent a lot of time trying various hacks to get the driver working. I was never able to get stable performance.

I decided to replace the card with Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 3160, which is well supported by native Linux.

(I have no idea which antenna cable is intended for WiFi and which is for bluetooth, but this works for me; besides, tension-wise, this is the only way I could keep the contacts isolated.)

It has been working flawlessly.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Coordinate Transformation Matrix for Touchscreen in multi-screen setup in X11

Currently I have a twin screen setup in Arch Linux, like this:

On the left, DELL 1901FP is turned 90 degree counter-clockwise in its portrait mode. On the right, DELL P2314T, a touch screen, is in its regular landscape orientation, with its bottom line aligning with the bottom of the rotated screen on the left.

Here's my xorg.conf for that. (Although one can also setup screen arrangement in KDE/Plasma/Gnome/etc., for KDM/SDDM/GDM/etc. to recognize it in the login screen, it's important to put this in xorg.conf)

X11 sees a (1024+1920) wide * 1280 high DISPLAY, with an upper-right corner being invisible.

Since the touchscreen is just a regular pointer device (through its driver), when I put my finger on the left border of the touchscreen on the right, the cursor goes all the way to the very left of the DISPLAY. Touchscreen is only useful if the cursor follows my finger. Therefore, we need to do some Input Coordinate Transformation.

Coordinate Transformation Matrix is precisely the needed configuration.

From the documentation above, our goal is to map the following coordinates on the left (X11's default behavior) to the ones on the right:

So that means we are solving the following system:

Here's the solution:

Convert it to float numbers:

Now we can put these numbers into the configuration, as the document instructed.

However, it doesn't work. The cursor stays on the lower right. After some debugging, I found the offsets 1024 and 200 were the culprit. They need to be a percentage, i.e. relative to the full width and height.

So 1024.0/(1024+1929) = .3476766, 200.0/1280 = .15625

I put it in /usr/share/sddm/scripts/Xsetup (or /usr/share/config/kdm/Xsetup if you haven't upgraded to plasma) as well as ~/.xprofile so it automatically runs every time.

Edit 2016-02-22: I ended up having 3 screens with two in the portrait orientation. SDDM correctly uses metamodes setting in xorg.conf, regardless of the screen power. However, KDE is more sensitive to that so sometimes the layout is messed up. Here's a script to quickly correct that.