Ubuntu on the Atom Z3735f-based Cenovo Mini PC

Brecht Carnewal
Dec 26, 2016 · 3 min read

I bought this Intel Atom z3735f Cenovo Mini PC (Windows and Android dual-boot) for around €100 and have mainly been using it as a server, running XAMPP to serve a simple sign-up form for my dad’s business. The thing isn’t super fast but it does the job. At my internship as a software developper at PieSync, I started using Ubuntu and since have been moving all my devices to Linux. This Cenovo Mini PC was next. It took a while, but I got it running.

Atom z3735f devices like the Asus T100, Meegopad T02 all have the same problem in common: they’re 64-bit systems with 32-bit UEFI installed and no legacy mode. This is a guide on how to install Ubuntu on those devices, the Cenovo Mini PC in particular (other devices like tablets might need additional drivers). The Windows/Android installs will be deleted, so backup those partitions if you think you’ll want them in the future. I didn’t, but in hindsight should have.

Most of this post was based on Ian MORRISON (Linuxium)’s post on the google plus forums here, but I thought writing down all steps wouldn’t hurt.

Following steps were performed on the Cenovo itself, running Windows 10. First off, I downloaded the Ubuntu 64-bit ISO image and burned it to a USB drive with Rufus. It won’t be able to boot yet so we’ll need this bootia32.efi file which should be placed under /EFI/BOOT on the USB. The USB is now bootable.

To go into the UEFI on this device and boot the USB, we’ll go to the Windows restart button and before pressing restart, hold the shift button. A menu will pop up, press Troubleshoot — Advanced — UEFI Firmware settings. You’ll now boot into the UEFI Firmware.

Once there, turn off secure boot, and while we’re there also turn off silent boot so we get a nice “press del/esc to enter uefi” message in the future. Go to the last tab and pick your USB from the “boot override” option menu (or place it as the first boot option).

Sometimes, for me, the device would hang at a black screen before even showing the “press del/esc” message. The solution here was removing the usb drive after which the “press del/esc” message will pop up, pressing del or esc to enter the uefi, inserting the usb drive and rebooting the device.

You’ll be presented with a GRUB menu, pick “Try Ubuntu without installing”. We’re now in the Live Ubuntu environment. In the left sidebar, press the “Install Ubuntu” icon, press “Erase disk and install Ubuntu” when presented the option and follow the next steps. When the install is complete, we won’t be able to boot yet so don’t restart! (If you did restart, just boot into the live usb again and mount /dev/mmcblk0 to /target, needed for the following script but automatically created when installing ubuntu)

What we’re going to do is swap the 64-bit GRUB2 Bootloader we just now installed with a 32-bit one that will allow us to boot. Open up FireFox from the sidebar and save this linuxium-32bit-patch which will do the work for us. FireFox will save it to Downloads so enter these commands in a fresh terminal:

cd Downloads/
chmod 700 linuxium-32bit-patch.sh
sudo ./linuxium-32bit-patch.sh

Let it complete, restart, pull the USB, boom! Ubuntu.

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