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Getting Ubuntu working on the Acer Aspire S3 (Updated: 17June2013)


The Acer Aspire S3 is a prety cheap Gen 1 Ultrabook, sporting an i5 processor, a 500Gb Hard Disk, 20Gb SSD and 4Gb of Ram, it comes with Windows 8 installed, but thats not an option for me, however getting Linux running on it has deemed to be a bit of trial, one i’ve still not 100% solved.

Apologies, this is a bit of a mish mash of a post, its late, and I just wanted to get it on paper (so to speak)


So i’m keeping the information below, as it might help someone diagnose issues, however post reboot on a cold laptop, the problem occurred again, serious tearing from the login screen..

There is a comment below from an individual who has suggested if i use the right driver for the intel, I couldn’t possibly have an issue because it “works for him”, while i appreciate the comments, I do find these “it works for me” comments counter-productive as  it appears, for now at least that the problem actually has nothing to do with the driver, and possibly more to do with the hardware.

I got to thinking that i’ve seen issues like this  before in the early days on Fedora and Red hat systesm and they were always solved by sorting out the Sync variables in xorg.conf. I can’t do this in Ubuntu 12.04 however, and many pages suggest installing the Compiz Config tools and setting the V-Sync from there.

This doesn’t work

It resets every reboot for some reason, however again, lots and lots of web surfing seems to have uncovered a possible resolution

Again, it comes down to the command line is king..


So the solution to this is the following.

First we check available modes.
$ xrandr
1440x900       59.9+*   75.0
1280x1024      75.0     60.0

Then we pick the mode, including resolution and refresh rate.
$ xrandr -s 1440x900 -r 75

Or just the refresh rate
$ xrandr -r 75

Let's see if it worked
$ xrandr
1440x900       59.9+    75.0*
1280x1024      75.0     60.0

Alright. Then all you have to do is add the command to Startup Applications and be done.

I’ve actually setup an Alias for this as well in ~/.bashrc

alias setres=’xrandr -s 1360×768 -r 60′

i’ve not had any screen tearing post running setres after 3 cold reboots (and i mean cold, i left the laptop off for 30 minutes each time

Graphics Tearing

The first thing I installed was Ubuntu 13.04 and that was a problem from the get go the screen tearing was terrible, all the time on the OS was flickering, to the point i thought I had a defective unit, however there was no sign of this happening when I then installed Windows 7.  So I tried another distro in the form of OpenSuse, which I will blog about as a viable alternative to Ubuntu later, this displayed exactly the same issue as did my fall back works on all distro Sabayon.

This posed a problem, i’m not a Windows user, but i’d got a problem here with a dubious Graphics card, and a seemingly lack of Intel support. I say this because scouring the internet for the last week it seems that just about every modern distro has this problem with the Sandy Bridge processor set.

This afternoon however I stumbled upon a WordPress blog where the author recommended Ubuntu 12.04 the LTS version, which i’ve installed this afternoon and while it was definatly better than Ubuntu 13.04, OpenSuse and Sabayon, post an apt-get dist-upgrade the flickering got worse, not bad, but worse.

However with a few changes to Grup and package installs I have got the screen tearing to a minimal and I’ve rebooted a few times just to check. However if this changes i will update the header of this blog.

So what did I do?

I edited the following file


and updated the following lines

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash i915.semaphores=1 acpi_osi=Linux acpi_backlight=vendor nouveau.blacklist=1″

These updates specifically the mem= line seem to have made a huge difference in reducing the tearing on the device.and somehat improving the battery life.

Make sure however you run

sudo update-grub

After editing this file or the changes won’t take effect once you reboot.

I then installed some additional packages, these were suggested after reading 50 or so posts over the evening on sorting out the problem, all or one may have made the difference, however this is what I installed and the order I installed them:

apt-get install libtxc-dxtn-s2tc0 mesa-utils mesa-utils-extra

add-apt-repository ppa:xorg-edgers/ppa

apt-get update && apt-get upgrade

apt-get install intel-gpu-tools

apt-get install laptop-mode-tools

nano  /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-local.conf

and added the following to this blank file

blacklist rts5139

then carried on running commands

modprobe rts5139

The next thing i added was from about page 200 of a forum site

nano /etc/grub.d/01_915resolution

add the following text

echo insmod 915resolution
echo 915resolution 58 1366 768 32

This by all accounts will attempt to hard code the resolution and screen settings on boot

chmod a+x /etc/grub.d/01_915resolution

at this point I performed a reboot and the tearing has been less, but not 100% removed, and if anyone can help with this, i’d be happy to add to this section of the post.

The screen tearing does seem less when the power is plugged in to the laptop,

Installing on SSD

When I first read about the laptop, someone had posted it wasn’t possible to use the SSD to boot Linux from well thats incorrect with Ubuntu 12.04, and during install the 20gb ssd is available as sdb and the 500gb drive as sda, i chose advanced partitioning, and setup swap and root / on the SSD and /home on the 500Gb drive. Ubuntu boots in about 10 seconds from cold to login prompt.

I’ve included my fstab file and highlighted some recommendations i found about prolonging the life of the SSD by reducing writes to it.

This is my /etc/fstab

# /etc/fstab: static file system information.
# Use ‘blkid’ to print the universally unique identifier for a
# device; this may be used with UUID= as a more robust way to name devices
# that works even if disks are added and removed. See fstab(5).
# <file system> <mount point> <type> <options> <dump> <pass>
proc /proc proc nodev,noexec,nosuid 0 0
# / was on /dev/sdb2 during installation
UUID=d329af20-c649-427f-a590-c7a119d402c5 / ext4 noatime,nodiratime,errors=remount-ro 0 1
# /boot/efi was on /dev/sdb1 during installation
UUID=FFAF-1230 /boot/efi vfat defaults 0 1
# /home was on /dev/sda1 during installation
UUID=68486721-c51b-43fa-bf7c-c36f9818e474 /home ext4 defaults 0 2
# swap was on /dev/sdb3 during installation
UUID=5bf7a0b0-06c7-42b1-b9b8-7c23de87359e none swap sw 0 0

#supposed to put temp and log files into ram
none /var/log tmpfs defaults 0 2
none /var/tmp tmpfs defaults 0 2
none /tmp tmpfs defaults 0 2

Again, i tried so much stuff this should at least be a pointer, and I’m happy to answer in the comments

Useful Links

I thought it was probably prudent to share some of the links i’ve used to get this far incase anyone else wants to read them again, i will add if i find any more.


The Aspire S3 is a lightweight, fast, decent laptop which I belive is spoilet by the intel graphics card, while it’s easy to point at NVIDIA and ATI as having less than great open support, at least thier screen drivers work. It has fealt a bit like 2002 over the last week trying to get a year old laptop working with the best of breed linux distributions in 2013. Screen drivers are supposed to work, linux is supposed to be a mature OS but the very fact i’m running on a 2012 Distro says a lot. If Linux is to have a hope with the mass public, it needs people like me to be able to not have these issues and to be happy to say ANY laptop runs linux. This is the 2nd one in 2 months i’ve had screen driver issues the last being a Lenovo with an NVIDIA optimus card which Unity wouldn’t load up on..


4 comments on “Getting Ubuntu working on the Acer Aspire S3 (Updated: 17June2013)

  1. Arup Roy Chowdhury
    June 16, 2013

    Intel graphic card works superb, far better than buggy Nvidia or ATI with their drivers causing heat and power issues. However it depends on the laptop designs. At our university, we have only used ASUS K53 series with Sandbridge i5 and never had any issues with Ubuntu 12.04 or 13.04 although we use the former in majority of the laptops. What I also do is put the Glassen PPA for getting latest Intel drivers the easy way. Give that a try later. I have to do none of the modifications you had to do with your ACER.

    • projectzme
      June 16, 2013

      Perspective is an interesting thing, I’ve never had issues with Nvidia cards always with intel..

      I will try the Glassen PPA do you have any details? Examples of install?

  2. Pingback: Is OpenSuse a viable Ubuntu alternative? | projectz

  3. Pingback: Stopping Screen Flickering on Ivy Bridge Laptops using Linux | projectz

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