How to install Linux/Ubuntu on the HP Notebook 14-cf0014dx

Installing the newest version of Ubuntu on my new computer, HP’s 14-cf0014dx, was a bit more challenging than I was counting on, but it’s a task should easily be doable for anyone familiar with the open-source operating system.

I’m sharing my experience here because I suspect the new model will be a popular Christmas gift. Over Thanksgiving weekend, the model was available (at least in the U.S.) at Best Buy, and it was sold out before the weekend was over, thanks to its sub-$300 Black Friday sale price. These days, the Notebook model has a street price of just under $400, and that’s still a decent deal. Don’t expect a gaming computer for that price, but this machine is fast for everyday use, both in Windows and Linux. And with 8 gigs of RAM, I haven’t had the computer bog down yet, even when running multiple browsers and a word processor simultaneously. The computer is also lightweight and sharp-looking for the price.

Installing Linux on a brand-new computer model can be a bit of a crapshoot, because there may be no compatibility reports online. Knowing I wanted Ubuntu on my new laptop, I took my chances anyway, thanks to Best Buy’s, well, best buy. And since HP designs most of its computers to be Linux-compatible, I knew my chances were good that I wouldn’t be stuck with a Windows-only installation.

The good news, as far as I can tell, is that every feature of the 14-cf0014dx, including the touchpad and webcam, is compatible with Ubuntu 18.10 (Cosmic Cuttlefish) except one. The bad news is that the incompatibility is with the wi-fi driver. Simply put, the wi-fi doesn’t work out of the box with Cosmic Cuttlefish.

But a driver is available and can be installed right after installation. But to do that, you’ll have to connect to the Internet somehow, such as by plugging the computer directly into a wired network or router. I was able to connect using the computer’s Bluetooth and setting up my phone as a Bluetooth hotspot.

First, a caveat: If you’re completely new to Linux or Ubuntu, I wouldn’t recommend installing a second operating system on a brand-new computer without some experience on an older machine. The chance of a catastrophic problem isn’t great, but it is possible to make a computer inoperable, such as by damaging a boot file. My instructions here aren’t completely step-by-step, but should be sufficient for someone experienced with both Windows and Linux. I can’t guarantee everything will work, but that’s the nature of do-it-yourself installation. Again, this is what worked for me; your mileage may vary.

Here are the steps I took, after some research, trial and error on the final steps:

  • I’m not sure it’s strictly necessary, but I disabled Secure Boot in the BIOS. This didn’t affect the operation of Windows, although it may make the computer slightly more hackable.
  • Use the Disk Manager in Windows to shrink the main Windows partition. I arbitrarily reduced the partition by 47 gigabytes, leaving 80 gigs in the Windows partition. Ubuntu will be installed in the space that’s left unallocated.
  • Create a bootable USB stick with either Ubuntu 18.04 (which has long-term support) or 18.10 (which doesn’t).
  • Installation is easiest if you can plug into a wired network now. Otherwise you’ll need to set up a wired or Bluetooth network after installation. By getting the network now, you can install updates and “restricted extras” at the time of installation.
  • Boot into the USB stick and follow the instructions. I encountered no problems at this stage. If you’re using a later version of Ubuntu than 18.10, it’s possible that the wi-fi will now be working, so be sure to check before you continue.
  • Once installation is complete, connect to a network if you haven’t already, open a terminal and follow these steps to install the driver:
    sudo apt-get install git build-essential dkms linux-headers-$(uname -r)
    git clone -b extended https://github.com/lwfinger/rtlwifi_new.git
    sudo dkms add ./rtlwifi_new
    sudo dkms install rtlwifi-new/0.6
    sudo cp /usr/src/rtlwifi-new-0.6/firmware/rtlwifi/* /lib/firmware/rtlwifi/
  • Chances are that the wi-fi will more or less function, but the signal will be extremely weak. If so, run the following code in a terminal to select an antenna:
    echo "options rtl8723de ant_sel=2" | sudo tee /etc/modprobe.d/rtl8723de.conf 
    sudo modprobe -rfv rtl8723de
    sudo modprobe -v rtl8723de

I hope this all works for you. Enjoy!

 

Photo by G.F. Erichsen, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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