Zerocat Label  v0.1.6
General Documentation for the Zerocat Label.
Qubes R4.0 Installation Guide

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Note this guide is based on weird experiences that have been gathered during installation of the Qubes R4.0 Operating System on Zerocat ZC-X230 Machines, which are laptops running with free coreboot firmware.

The Basics

A typical ZC-X230 runs with...

  • proprietary ethernet firmware fully applied
  • proprietary IME Firmware stripped down with ME_Cleaner
  • Coreboot Firmware >= “4.8.1”
    • cpu_microcode_blob.bin
    • GRUB 2.02 as first coreboot payload, chainloading SeaBIOS “rel-1.11.2” which allows to boot the Qubes R4.0 ISO Image from USB-Stick.
Warning
What about cpu_microcode_blob.bin?? It seems as if the listed issues further down were based on a missing microcode update file. To be checked!!

The Qubes R4.0 Installer

...is running a fedora system, which seems to NOT run reliable on every set of hardware. The system often hangs or freezes, thus forcing you to reboot and to try again. In case you manage to get through the installation process successfully like one of ten times, you are lucky!

# uname -r
4.13.16-100.fc25.x86_64

Zerocat’s Workaround

On a ZC-X230, you will hopefully see installation success like one of ten times by trying the following tweaks and settings:

Hardware

  • Remove Power.
  • Remove Main Battery and do not re-attach later on.
  • Remove RAM Modules.
  • Insert one single slow RAM Module which is known to work quite fine with the Qubes Installer. See below.
  • With NVRAMCUI...
    • enable bluetooth (even if not available physically)
    • enable WWAN (even if not available physically)
    • enable WLAN
    • disable trackpoint
    • enable touchpad

Using the Installer

  • Boot the installer from USB-Stick via SeaBIOS until you get to the language select screen.
  • Use <TAB> to select the “Proceed” button and hit <Enter>.
  • Switch to a console with <Ctrl><Alt><F2> and set up a dmesg monitoring:

    watch "dmesg | tail -n 20"

  • Switch back to graphics with <Ctrl><Alt><F6> and provide settings for...

    • Keyboard layout
    • Time Zone
    • Hard Disk

    Use <TAB> rather than mouse pointer.

  • Use <TAB> to select the “Proceed” Button and hit <Enter>.
  • Switch to the monitoring loop with <Ctrl><Alt><F2>.
  • Keep looking at the HDD LED, which should flicker occasionally.
  • When the HDD LED is idle for a long period, switch to graphics with <Ctrl><Alt><F6> and see whether installation is announcing status “Complete!”.
  • Now provide missing account information, using the graphical interface.
  • Use <TAB> to select the “Finish” Button, hit <Enter>.
  • Switch back to console as before, using <Ctrl><Alt><F2>.
  • Wait until HDD LED is idle for a longer period.
  • Switch to graphical user interface and check if button “Reboot” is provided.
  • Now press the power button rather than button “Reboot” and your system should power off gracefully.
  • Remove the power plug, insert final RAM (more capacity, higher speed).
  • Insert the power plug again, boot the laptop.
  • Use GRUB Menu Entry “NVRAMCUI” to configure your hardware, i.e. bluetooth, wwan and touchpad disabled, trackpoint enabled.
  • Boot the harddrive. The qubes configuration process is now starting from disk and should not freeze.
  • Once qubes has been set up, shut down.
  • Done! Your Qubes Machine should now boot up fine.

Error Messages

When the installer freezes, the dmesg monitoring loop sometimes provides information, such as...

  • Bug: Stack Guard Page Hit
  • Kernel Stack Overflow

However, if you see error messages related to thinkpad_acpi only, things should work fine...

DSCN7909.jpg
Error Messages during Successful Installation

Compatible RAM

Installation of Qubes has been executed successfully (that is, one of ten trials work out fine) with one of the following RAM Modules located in SLOT-0 only:

  • Samsung 2GB 2Rx8 PC3-8500S-07-10-F2 (M471B5673EH1-CF8 0903), Made in Korea
  • ELPIDA 2GB 2Rx8 PC3-8500S-7-10-FP (EBJ21UE8BAU0-AE-E), Made in Taiwan

Statistics

Number of successfully tested ZC-X230 Machines: 2

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