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TB15 Dock Linux Support

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TB15 Dock Linux Support

  • Today I received the new TB15 dock. I'm disappointed to find it doesn't work on Linux, unlike the WD15, with which some Linux users have had some success.


    My experience thus far:

    - XPS 15 9550. Windows edition wiped with only Ubuntu installed.

    - Ubuntu 15.10, Kernel 4.3.3

    - Connecting the dock *does* charge the computer (yay!) but when restarting, BIOS gives a warning saying it's only charging at 60W instead of the recommended 130W. I have the 230W power brick attached to the dock, so I'm not sure if that message is accurate.

    - Unfortunately, other than charging, the dock doesn't seem to do anything. No USB replication, headphones, ethernet, or any of the monitor ports work. Indeed, nothing is seen by the system at all. I'm a bit surprised as I expected firmware level support for the dock, such that at least the USB ports would work within even BIOS screens.

    - Other USB-C adapters I've had great luck with: VGA, DisplayPort, and Ethernet dongles all work flawlessly.

    - The one function that does work is the power button on the top of the dock. Pushing this button prompts Ubuntu to Sleep/Restart/Shutdown, as though I'd pressed the power key on the laptop.

    What has been others' experiences with this dock and Linux?

    UPDATE (July 26, 2016): Multiple users (including myself) have confirmed that the TB15 dock is now *mostly* working in Linux, including display ports, USB, and ethernet (with caveats). The key change seems to be upgrading the BIOS using "Dell XPS 15 9550 A10 System BIOS". For more info see this comment: http://en.community.dell.com/techcenter/os-applications/f/4613/p/19678284/20922879#20922879

  • From reading other posts on the TB15, it looks like even Windows users have to do a substantial amount of firmware and software updates before the dock works properly. Unfortunately, several of the firmware updates only run on Windows, and I wiped my Windows partitions (including recovery). Eventually I got Windows up and running on an external hard drive by using Rufus and configuring it to flash a Windows To Go image onto it from the official Windows 10 ISO.

    Once I had Windows up and running on the external hard drive, I ran through the series of BIOS updates, Firmware updates, and Windows Drivers, as documented here. Ultimately, I found the canonical source of information to be the TB15 users guide. Unbelievably, Dell didn't see fit to include the users guide in the shipped product. I was shipped nothing but the legal warnings and the quick start guide, which implied a much simpler set up ("just plug it in") than the 7-step driver installation in the full manual.

    I followed the steps and installed each driver/bios/firmware in order. I have a 9550 15" XPS, so I got my drivers here. FYI, with NO drivers, Windows acted exactly as Linux did: no USB, audio, ethernet, or anything (though the power button still worked, as did charging the laptop).

    After installing all the Windows drivers, I still couldn't get anything to work *in WIndows*. That's when I found that I had to right-click on the system tray icon for Thunderbolt Software (one of the installed packages from the drivers page), and specifically grant both the cable and dock access. After granting access within Windows, the dock worked with Windows. Yay! Everything: display ports, audio, ethernet, USB. I even tried plugging in my USB-C dongle for Ethernet just to see if I could throw it. That worked fine, Windows saw that I now simply had two Ethernet port. Excellent. I suggest getting the dock working first on Windows if you haven't already.

    With the newly updated BIOS and firmware updates, my computer no longer gives the 60W power warning. It must be getting its full 130W now. Great!

    In the users guide, it made a note that the dock should work in BIOS mode, prior to the OS booting at all. But it wasn't working for me. I found the trick (also in the users guide) was that you must enable Thunderbolt Boot Support in BIOS (it was off by default for me). After enabling, a USB keyboard and mouse worked when plugged into the dock in BIOS.

    Now, booting into Linux, I'm happy to report that the dock is working! At least providing power and USB. EDIT: See next post.

    Unfortunately, no other ports work yet: Display ports, HDMI, Ethernet, and audio. However, it's a start! Considering Windows requires specific drivers for each one of these things, I'm not surprised.

    The only other downside is Linux has a kernel panic if the dock is plugged in during start up. However, if plugged in after start up, it works fine after about 10 seconds for it to get everything recognized. I'm confident that eventually someone will be able to get the remainder of the functionality working. I'm happy to provide any information to others that would be useful in this pursuit. Right now I'm at a dead end getting the remaining functionality working.

  • Ah... sorry after my last post I realized my USB wasn't plugged in where I thought it was. USB support is also still a no-go. That puts me right back where I was before with Linux and the dock. No functionality other than just power.


    Sorry to have gotten anyone's hopes up. Confused

  • Joined the site to confirm more or less exactly what you've experienced

    Purchased a Precision 5510; it arrived last week. Immediately found that the pre-loaded 14.04 Ubuntu was not stable at all with respect to plugging in the dock. Typically, if the dock was plugged in prior to boot, the machine would freeze after POST and before login screen. If hot plugged after OS load, the machine freezes. On a side note, why are these notebooks shipping with 14.04 Ubuntu? Isn't 15.04 a more recent image, released sometime end of 2015?

    In any event, I am not an Ubuntu guy, so I wiped the drive and put my distro of choice, Arch linux, on it. By the way, I had moved away from GRUB to using EFISTUB and native boot loader capability built into EFI systems, but my experience is that such thing doesn't work right now with this laptop. There is a problem assigning kernel entry & parameters using efibootmgr, either a bug or simply machine isn't yet supported by efibootmgr. As such, I switched to gummiboot/systemd-boot, and finally got the machine to load the kernel and boot.

    So I finally have Arch installed (current Kernel is 4.4.3), but now I encounter brick-like behavior of TB15 dock. Only things at all that work are charging via USB-C, and the power button on the dock. Any USB drives/dongles plugged in aren't recognized; lsusb shows no change. Of course, the monitor outputs don't work either.

    The only reason I haven't sent this thing packing is the laptop itself is fairly nice machine, with good build quality. The battery life is not that good, and all I've been doing is applying software updates, no compiling, no VMs or other resource-intensive work.

    I think I've resolved to keep this, although I think there was a lack of information, perhaps even disinformation about the state of the TB15 dock support, and that is dissapointing. Whoever is in charge of the Dell marketing/sales did a lousy job of advertising linux compatability for the dock. It simply doesn't exist right now, and IMO, probably shouldn't be listed for sale until it works.

    Now I've said my piece :) I will wait patiently for Team Sputnik and various other kernel devs to work out the issues, helping if I can. This will be a great setup when it's all working, but we're not nearly there yet.

  • Thanks for testing. I was looking forward to combining the upcoming Latitude 13 with this dock, but at the pace Linux compatibility development is going with these new devices, I don't think I should upgrade this trusty E7440 until 2017.

  • sk3l
    Purchased a Precision 5510; it arrived last week. Immediately found that the pre-loaded 14.04 Ubuntu was not stable at all with respect to plugging in the dock. Typically, if the dock was plugged in prior to boot, the machine would freeze after POST and before login screen. If hot plugged after OS load, the machine freezes. On a side note, why are these notebooks shipping with 14.04 Ubuntu? Isn't 15.04 a more recent image, released sometime end of 2015?

    I think you meant 15.10.  (The subversion number indicates the month of the release, so 15.04 was released in April 2015 and 15.10 was released in October 2015.)  Both 15.04 and 15.10 are not LTS (Long Term Support) releases, so they are supported by Ubuntu for only 9 months.  15.04 was supported until the beginning of last month (February), and 15.10 is supported until July of this year.

    LTS releases have been occurring in April of even-numbered years, and since 12.04 have been supported for 5 years.  This means that 14.04 is our most recent LTS release, supported until April of 2019.  The next LTS release, 16.04, is scheduled to be released next month, and if so, will be supported until April of 2021.

  • I've got the Precision 5510.  Like others, so far the TB15 isn't much more than a $300 power supply.  I've had some success with Windows--I was able to boot Windows 10 off an external drive, update the firmware and drivers, and get the HDMI and USB ports to work.  Even after updating the firmware, I'm still not able to see the dock while running Ubuntu 15.10.  

    I've tried running the Ubuntu 16.04 daily build, and that gets me a little further.  In that setup, I'm able to get my HDMI monitor to work, but it still doesn't recognize the USB ports or the Display Port.  

  • I bought a Dell XPS 15 (9550) and this dock.

    I have the linux kernel 4.5.0 on a GNU/Linux Debian 8 installation.

    Like everyone in this thread, the only working features are the power button and the power.

  • I've tried running the Ubuntu 16.04 daily build, and that gets me a little further.  In that setup, I'm able to get my HDMI monitor to work, but it still doesn't recognize the USB ports or the Display Port.


    Wow, that's actually quite an accomplishment! My understanding was that the Linux does not yet support Thunderbolt at all, outside of this (private) Intel repository: https://01.org/thunderbolt-sw/overview. Manufacturers like Dell apparently have access to the source code, in which I imagine the Sputnik team is already collaborating.


    But Ubuntu 16.04 even getting *one port* working means that Linux might be understanding Thunderbolt. Or perhaps it only understands the dock as a DisplayPort device in the first place, despite being over Thunderbolt.

  • From https://github.com/torvalds/linux/tree/master/drivers/thunderbolt,

    At the very least, it would be great to have an ETA.

  • My message was redacted again, sigh. I think the HTML editor don't like links.

    I was saying that Thunderbolt 2 ("cactus ridge") is already supported in the linux kernel but not Thunderbolt 3 ("alpine ridge"). Like you @quicksketch, I have the same conclusions:

    * Intel is developing linux support for Thunderbolt 3 in a private repository.

    * Dell is developing linux support for their dock using this private repository.

    However, this is a really frustrating situation because:

    * Intel is developing in a private repository when it's supposed to be an open source project. I get it that it's "open source to partners"... but that's stretching the definition. With real open source, we could have follow the evolution.

    * Dell is giving zero information on the status of the linux drivers, apart a vague "we're working on it". In my book, it means there is a chance no progress is made and there is a chance the support is eventually dropped because there's only a bunch of us. At the very least, it would be great to have an ETA.

  • j0d1
    Dell is giving zero information on the status of the linux drivers, apart a vague "we're working on it". In my book, it means there is a chance no progress is made and there is a chance the support is eventually dropped

    We are the first (and to my knowledge only) ones requesting to Intel Alpine Ridge support on Linux. We're limited in what information we can give about future support at this point (basically we can't say what will be available until it is public and ships), but I can say that Thunderbolt 3 support on Linux is important to us, and Thunderbolt 3 dock support specifically has not been forgotten and is actively being worked on. 

    j0d1
    because there's only a bunch of us.

    It's more than just a few enthusiasts. :-) We get that docking is important to a lot of developers (and some enthusiasts), and that's not lost on us.

    --
    Project Sputnik development lead
    Software Principal Engineer
    Linux OS Architecture
    Dell | Client Product Group

  • I also have a brand new Dell XPS 13 and the TB15 dock. Mine doesn't even fully work on Windows yet... 

    More importantly though, I would love to have it working on linux. I think everybody is wondering why such secrecy regarding this project? Why not at least give a meaningful ETA? Do we have to wait in the order of days, weeks or months? The official release of Ubuntu 16.04 is coming up shortly as is the apparent release of the new XPS developer edition, will the dock drivers be ready for either of these two events?

  • I think Jared laid this out well.  To reiterate, we are hearing a lot of requests regarding the dock, some even coming from users within Dell :)  

    We are working with the various parties to make this happen but it may take a little while.  For us it couldn't come soon enough :)

    Barton George

  • Personally I'm not too much concerned with status updates or precise view over the progress. The only thing that bothers me, and I am fully aware this is not something Sputnik controls or influences, is the Dell sales policy on the TB15 dock. IMO , given driver and kernel support are still under very heavy dev, it shouldn't have been a selectable option on the site for building and purchasing systems. Or, if it had to be listed there, some caveat explaining the current severely limited functional status (i.e. disclaimer) would have been informative.

    Like I said, I know you guys are hard at work, and I'm sure this thing will be a top notch linux dock setup, maybe THE top setup, once it's operational. Nevertheless, the product rollout by the corporate sales staff, or whoever drives these decisions, should be subject to criticism.