The Letter I’ll Never Send

Relationships have always been a difficult thing for me. I suppose that’s a truism for a lot of people, but it’s easy to get caught up in a self-centered pattern of thought where you believe no one else suffers from a similar malady. Most of us do at some point. It’s just life. It’s natural.

No one enjoys it when someone airs dirty laundry, so unless you’re into personal gossip, I’d recommend skipping this post. I haven’t been posting very often in years, partially for reasons that will be made clear in this post, but if you are into juicy gossip then you’re in for a bit of a ride. Bear in mind that what I write here is obviously rather one-sided. The individual in question will never be one I identify publicly. She knows who she is.

This post will also not be tagged or categorized. I don’t think that’s appropriate. I do want to get this off my chest, and posting it here seems to be a reasonable course of action. If it is eventually retracted, then I apologize, but take solace in the fact that such a retraction will be of my own volition as there is no information in this post that might lead to the identification of the person in question outside my social circle.

Some ten years ago, in the middle of 2010, I was struggling with a woman whom I’ve been in a relationship in more or less since. It was a time when I discovered she’d lied to me about a number of things–important things–that presented a significant emotional challenge for a couple of years. But, I did something far stupider than this, and I hope this tale is one that gives those of you who are likewise single pause for thought.

I forgave her. More importantly, I elected to continue the relationship. It became something of a long distance one, which added to the difficulty, given her schooling and the likes. I did what I could to be there with her, but I never quite knew where she’d end up moving to, and because of my own personal issues, I didn’t want to drop everything I was doing here to follow her around the US. I have to wonder how much the start of our relationship held a bearing on its eventual trajectory, but I’d like to believe that we came out of it stronger because of my willingness–and forgiveness–to work with her to make things right.

When she was in school, I’d answer her calls in the middle of the night no matter how often something went wrong: The apartment alarms woke her up in a start, or she was feeling down from the stress of classes. It was difficult because I couldn’t be there physically with her, but I tried to make up for it by flying her out here to spend time together.

I’ll always look back on those times we were together with a great deal of fondness. Holding her, kissing her. Enjoying her company. The things two people in love usually enjoy. The specter of distance always loomed–and the unknown–because I knew that would present a challenge that would inevitably prove insurmountable.

She eventually went to obtain her DVM, and continued at a university in a far away land for another 4 years. That’s when things started to change.

I felt a sense of remorsefulness in her voice at times. Maybe even a tinge of resentment or regret. Was she disappointed in us? I’ll never know. Yet, because of my continued lack of trust from a continuation of events I shouldn’t go into here, she seemed to slowly transform into someone I didn’t recognize. I tried to persist, stupidly perhaps, by constantly telling her how much she meant to me, and that I wished I could one day show her such that we could be together at long last. But she’d always bring up the fact I hadn’t moved out there.

True enough, of course. I hadn’t. I should have. There’s always going to be regret in my mind over this. She had a point: Past performance predicts future results.

But the truly unforgivable and unthinkable happened just this morning.

I spent much of the night pining over her, wistfully thinking about what things would have been like if we were together again. So I texted her. This was my first mistake. I told her that I still loved her, and that I wished we could be together again. Then I tried to get back to sleep.

Morning came with not a word spoken. I asked her if we were still on speaking terms, since we were supposed to be friends after all, and the reply was immediate. Yes, but she was busy with work, and family, and the COVID-19 disaster. She’d been meaning to set aside more time to spend with me. Then came my next mistake. Blissful, and somewhat hopefully I could rekindle a sensation lost since last September when she’d told me she couldn’t keep doing this without me there, I texted her back, again repeating how much I missed her and wanted to see her again.

Then a figurative atomic bomb went off just seconds later. A reply came from someone identifying himself as her “current boyfriend,” instructing me that it’s fine if her and I stay friends, but that the rest of my pining is something I should understand was “not OK.”

This came to me as a complete surprise. I was blindsided by this, because I had no idea she was in a different relationship. It must’ve happened rather quickly, because only a short time before we’d lamented being unable to see each other. She echoed my sentiments that we missed each other despite the events toward the end of last year only a month or so ago. The “end” felt open-ended and certainly not something that would have resulted in this.

The response floored me, to say the least. I thought better of her. I thought if she’d been seeing someone else, she wouldn’t have told me in February that she missed me and (perhaps half-jokingly, now that I think about it) urged me to buy plane tickets to spend time with her. But to pass her phone over to someone else, to monitor an otherwise private conversation, and to have not the courage to tell me herself that I shouldn’t consider such things after we’d already shared what I felt was a mutual feeling of wishing to see each other again… it was probably the single most outrageous thing that I have ever experienced. (Edit: She later told me that he heard the text message notifications and took it upon himself to unlock her phone, read each of them, and reply to me without her immediate knowledge.)

I suppose you never truly know someone until they’re in a stressful situation, and from her perspective, facing the finality of our relationship’s end was no doubt such a circumstance. But I can’t help myself from thinking that it was a small bit of callousness and carelessness for her to commit such a heinous act after we knew each other for so long. I considered her my best friend for close to a decade. We spoke every day for hours at a time, even when we were separated by distance. When she was out here, we spent virtually all of that time together. I held her, often into the early hours of the morning. I kissed her. Deeply. She’d gaze into my eyes and tell me she loved me, and I her. We called each other soulmates. All the soppy things you’d expect from two people who felt they were meant to be together.

Perhaps that was optimistic. Hindsight has a certain clarity that is void from the moment. I’ll explain.

She told me of a dream she had once where she saw me with my head hung low. She explained that when I looked up at her, I held a sad expression on my face and said something about “us” being over, and that she saw me turn around and walk away into the setting sun. Moments before I faded from her sight, she woke up in a panic and called me. That was years ago, well before our relationship blossomed into what it was for many, many years. It always stuck with me in the back of my mind that perhaps she felt me leave her long before we were together.

I’d long forgotten about this dream of hers and have since remembered it exactly twice. First, when I was holding her for a good chunk of the night. She expressed a sudden feeling of sadness that it would be the last time we’d see each other (ironic, in fact, because it was–the night before her flight back home and the last time we saw each other). Second, when she’d told me the relationship was too difficult for her to continue unless I was out there (via text message, of all things; yes, this became a trend). In retrospect, I believe she had convinced herself as though I was never truly a part of her life–no matter what I tried to the contrary. Also in retrospect, I believe she acted this out. To this day, I don’t think her parents really knew I was her boyfriend. Neither most of her friends. In fact, I think the only other person who knew of me was a friend of hers from veterinary school in whom she confided a great deal.

The greatest irony in all of this came from her alleged boyfriend’s response. He concluded the rather terse text with “I hope you find what you’re looking for in California.” I’m not sure where this came from, considering I’m not from California and have never lived there, but it gave me pause for thought. Was she been honest with him? Did she lie about her past relationship (“he’s just a friend,” or “I don’t know him that well”)? Did he even know that there was a rather complicated circumstance between her and I that had yet to fully resolve? Was she dishonest with everyone?

As an aside, the phrase “I hope you find what you’re looking for” after ending someone else’s relationship is one that I’ll never forget and always disdain with a ferocity reserved only for those who’ve done me immeasurable harm, because it represents to me the height of intellectual laziness, immaturity, and a myopic disregard for a situation presented without contemplating the possibility of missing context. It represents a blatant disregard for privacy, respect, and trust. It shows that one or both parties on the other end of the phone hadn’t communicated an important facet of past misgivings with each other, and it demonstrates a sort of ignorant callousness that has me judging the man who sent it as one who is incredibly shallow and insecure. Shallow, because of his ineptitude to consider more deeply the gravity of the events surrounding my texts to her; insecure, because he must have felt her incapable of handling her own affairs, needed to defend his honor by rubbing my face in the fact he was dating the woman I loved, and needed to delve into her private life presumably without permission. Maybe he didn’t trust her either, and she’s since developed a habit of dating multiple men behind each others’ backs? Or maybe he wants to control everything she does?

Part of me wonders if he instructed her never to talk to me again as long as they’re together… If you truly love me, you won’t ever talk to this friend of yours.

But it’s the part about gleefully rubbing my face in the fact she was his and no longer mine that will leave me bitter about the end. While I’m angry with her for all the things she didn’t say to ease me through this, or to offer up some defense in my absence, I’ve absolutely no respect for her new lover as he demonstrated none for me. To call him the most vile, disgusting, and filthy scum on this Earth would be something of an understatement, and I can think of plenty more colorful adjectives to describe what I think of him that are not appropriate to print here. With the force of a single text message, he managed to condense the entirety of his persona, belief system, values (lack of), and arrogant disregard for anyone but himself so succinctly that I feel I know everything about him. And there is nothing about him I like. It almost disgusts me that he shares my first name (albeit in truncated form, which I’ve always detested–more so now).

The most disappointing outcome from this is that it saddens me how I’d rather see him hurt her so she can know the heartbreak I’ve felt first hand than to see him lift her up and adore her. It’s sad that I harbor a secret desire to hear one day that he cheated on her and she had no one to turn to. All of this ill will isn’t healthy, and I’ll eventually forget about it, but at the time of this writing I harbor schadenfreude toward each of these possibilities.

Through all of this, it’s difficult to shake the thought that he’s with her only because of her title, a doctor of veterinary medicine, and feels no true love for her. I can only hope God will forgive me for these thoughts, because He knows how much I cherished her when she should have otherwise meant nothing to me. Yet I forgave her and loved her so much. Perhaps more than I ever should have loved her.

In the end, there are so many questions I have that will remain unanswered. While I regret instructing her to never talk to me again in the heat of the moment (and secretly wish she’d call me one day), I would be lying were I to say I didn’t wish to sit down and ask her, genuinely, what the truth really is.

I’d write my former lover a letter I’d never send, telling her that after all the years we were together, after all the stories and memories we shared, after all the love and kindness, it had to end in the ugliest, shallowest, and most childish manner possible: By having someone else wave the black flag and sink a spear into my heart as a lover’s coup de grâce. If it was her objective to devise the worst possible way to hurt me, she did a stellar job.

To her credit, she was always an overachiever.

It also hurt that she never offered an apology for his actions. What I got instead was a non-apology apology matter-of-factly stating how things were and that she couldn’t do anything to take away the pain. Truthfully, taking away or otherwise diminishing the pain isn’t what I wanted from her (or expected)–she was no longer mine, and I suppose none of this was my business–but an apology for what transpired, a genuine apology, that hinted she still held a fondness and respect for all the years we were together would have gone miles to ease the suffering. An indication that she held disdain toward the actions perpetrated against me as someone who gave her so much love and attention is probably too much to ask.

I’m sure there will be a time for reflection and many lessons learned from what essentially amounted to a wasted decade of my life, by foolishly persisting after someone who ultimately shared no respect or consideration for someone she said she loved for so long. The sleepless nights talking to her to calm her after a harrowing day. The patience I expressed at dragging out of her whatever it was that was a bother to give her guidance and a shoulder to rest on.

Perhaps it wasn’t compassion she wanted so much as a domineering man to tell her how things were going to be, rather than one to cooperate with her and help her through how things are.

As I write this, which I confess is somewhat therapeutic (though limited in scope), I recognize that none of these emotions will be things she’ll ever learn I hold. She’s unlikely to read this post unless directed toward it; I’m not even sure she remembers I’ve maintained a blog for more than a decade and a half. I’m sure she knows something has to be going on in my head–she’s a brilliant woman–but I’m not so sure there was ever room enough in her heart for anyone but herself. I always felt she was thoughtful and kind, but I’d catch fleeting glimpses of a reality that existed in her mind that I never fully understood. Whether or not her apparent kindness was genuine or a Pharisaic display of alms-giving intended to appease watchful audiences is largely between her and God.

However, I possess knowledge that she never thanked my mother for all the apartment-warming care packages she was sent when she went off to veterinary school and may have even discarded them completely. Does this mean anything? I don’t know. Perhaps to an outsider looking in this will provide greater clarity than it does to someone in the middle of the weeds.

The most frightening thing about moments like these is that they coerce you into questioning your knowledge. You question everything you were ever told. You question everything about the person you thought you knew. You wonder if they ever truly loved you. You wonder if the mistrust was justified. You question whether they were faithful to you. You quickly journey to a dark place where you spend much of your time gaslighting yourself with unknown answers to questions you once thought never existed.

In fairness, the decision makes perfect sense for her. I hadn’t any interest in traveling across the entire country due to my own circumstances, and rather wished she’d chosen a location somewhat closer (she had the opportunity to attend vet school in Colorado). She needed someone out there. I can’t fault her for that, no matter how much I may fault her for what she did to me.

I conclude this with a word of advice that might be useful to anyone who might read this post in the future. Be cautious if you believe you know someone. Pay careful mind to them when under duress. They might surprise you. Pray that it is pleasant–and run far away if it is not.

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New PayPal/GoDaddy Scam?

As I was getting ready to enjoy a couple relaxing hours this evening on the 8th of July, 2019, a notification popped up via KDE Connect from my phone. Ordinarily, if it’s an email (which this was), I’d ignore it and go about my business. But something caught my eye: It said “invoice” somewhere in the text and also mentioned “GoDaddy.”

Puzzling, I thought, because I have all GoDaddy-related emails go to a separate folder, and they typically say nothing about an “invoice” in the message text. I quickly clicked on my email and, there, at the bottom of the window, sat a new message from PayPal with the title “Invoice from GoDaddy” with one of my domains in parenthesis at the end.

Before I continue, I’ll confide a small secret: I panicked. Oh, yes, I panicked. I don’t know why, because I use a password manager for everything, and 2FA where possible, but there’s always a small seed of doubt lurking in the darkness, desperately trying to convince you of the worst.

Escaping from my brief delirium, shortly after rationality finally kicked back in, I thought to myself “Ah-hah! It’s most likely this is a phishing email! This is the first one I’ve received in quite a while!”

I won’t deny that I felt the pangs of confidence–and a healthy sprinkling of arrogance–as I clicked through to examine the email headers in their entirety. Of course it was going to show up as an email that neither originated from PayPal nor from any reputable email service except, perhaps, from a hacked account being exploited for spam.

As I scrolled through the DKIM signatures and the SPF validation, not to mention the SMTP exchanges that clearly identified this as a legitimate PayPal emailing, reality set in. This wasn’t going to be quite so simple as an email scam. This was, in fact, a legitimate mailing from PayPal themselves.

Now, I’d be lying to you if I said that I was completely free of my panicked state. Nay, it returned, with somewhat more strength, to concern me even more deeply that perhaps my PayPal account was victim of an as-yet unknown attack or exploit. Quickly, or as fast as fumbling and vaguely worried hands could manage, I logged in to my PayPal account. There, at the bottom of the activity list, was an invoice–for $56.00 USD.

First, I’ll point out that this is just an invoice. It doesn’t mean that any money has exchanged hands. Yet. But it was still cause for alarm, because someone had decided it might be cute to exploit trust and the general imposition people feel toward settling outstanding debts for services rendered. To say this is a scummy, disgusting practice would be something of an understatement.

However, here’s where the scammer made a couple of critical mistakes (ignoring the more obvious ones–more on that momentarily). Of these, the most obvious was their account name on the requested transaction: It was written in Russian. Second, the string they used for “GoDaddy” did not match what GoDaddy actually uses for their billing statements. I don’t expect most people would consider the latter until it was too late, but I think the Russian name might’ve been something of a flashing neon sign that really ought to give pause for thought.

There were a couple of other clues that immediately shouted “SCAM!” (in capital letters), but they might not be helpful toward potential victims that have dozens of domains or are otherwise pressed for time and simply cannot consider these alternatives. The first of these was the timing. The domain they were targeting was indeed up for renewal, but they missed the expiration date by one day. I had already received an email from GoDaddy about the pending (automatic) renewal several days before and had it floating around in the back of my head. This invoice was therefore something of a surprise. As such, considering this background provided an immediate indication that something wasn’t quite right. The second was that all of my domains automatically renew. I don’t receive invoices from GoDaddy–only receipts. Oh, and finally, I don’t use PayPal to pay for my domains.

Admittedly, that last one was something of a dead ringer for potential scam (or a cracked account) material.

Before doing anything, I immediately started scouring the Internet for clues. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find anything about fake invoices from GoDaddy. I found some from buyers looking for shoes (of all things), and dozens of examples of phishing emails. This wasn’t a phishing email–this was a legitimate notification from PayPal informing me of an invoice that had been fraudulently sent. So, I did what any self-respecting (lol) person would do in a time of abject puzzlement: Take to Twitter.

It didn’t take me long to find someone else complaining to both the GoDaddy and PayPal Twitter accounts about receiving an invoice for $47 on a renewal that wasn’t up yet. I replied, suggesting that it might’ve been a scam, and that I received something similar.

Of course, I don’t know that the Twitter user in question was complaining about a fraudulent invoice. They didn’t provide enough information to deduce whether or not there was anything off about the invoice they received. But hey, why not offer it up as a possibility?

About 5 minutes later, I had a notification waiting for me on Twitter. It was PayPal’s support account asking for details via DM. I’m still a bit shocked in retrospect, to be completely honest, because I didn’t expect to hear from anyone much less one of the companies in question. I certainly can’t complain, either.

As expected, they asked for account information, location, and the nature of the issue. However, they also asked for screenshots of the offending invoice (couldn’t they see it?). After a brief back-and-forth, they strongly recommended I report it to their abuse department. I was quite pleased with the immediacy of their interest, but it remains to be seen what happens with the abuse report. (I’ll have to wait until later in the week for a reply, if any; I’m not holding out much hope.)

But the saga doesn’t end there.

I’ve heard mixed things about GoDaddy’s customer support. I’ve had a wide array of experiences myself but limited mostly to their sales department (they’re rabid up until the moment you turn off the whole “I’d like to be contacted for sales purposes,” which was apparently re-enabled at some point in my account’s history). I mused for a while about whether GoDaddy should know their name was being exploited for the gains of less savory individuals. I strongly considered against it, I won’t lie, but my conscience got the better of me.

I loaded up their web chat and almost immediately got in touch with one of their support representatives. She (I’ll assume it was a she, based on the feminine accents on the name; if not, for privacy, we’ll just roll with it) asked for my name and a description of the problem.

Well, this was awkward. I hadn’t really thought that far ahead, because the problem wasn’t really a problem with GoDaddy. It wasn’t a problem with my account. It wasn’t a problem with my domains, customer service, or any particular product offering. I told her as much. The problem was weird, I can’t deny that, but I felt someone needed to know. Even if it didn’t matter, at least I could sleep better at night knowing that I tried to do something about it. After all, I can’t be the only one targeted in this scam. What if someone else were to fall for it?

I explained the issue, and she quickly escalated the ticket through the account verification process, and then asked for some additional information. I explained a couple of times that the problem wasn’t with an account or domain per se so much as it appeared to be a new-ish scam, and that I mostly wanted to report it for my own satisfaction.

We went back and forth with a couple of relevant questions, and then she asked for a copy of the scam email. I was somewhat surprised, because I hadn’t exactly received a scam email from anyone. I asked if she meant the PayPal message; she said yes. So, off went the PayPal message (as an attachment to preserve headers), and I asked if she would like screenshots of the PayPal account pages with the invoice. Much to my surprise, she also wanted copies of those.

At this point, I’ll be honest. I don’t know what good any of this is going to do. I do know that the GoDaddy support representative was incredibly helpful, and she seemed genuinely interested in my concern (even going so far as to say “You are such a responsible person” to sate my worries). I was a bit taken back by her kindness, to say the least.

What surprised me with this whole ordeal was GoDaddy’s interest in the problem. They weren’t the ones who were dealing with invoices to third parties masquerading as someone else. They were merely the third party whose name was being exploited to commit fraud. It remains to be seen if PayPal expresses concern outside social media. I hope they do, but for now, it’s been awfully surprising to me that I received far more customer care from a company who couldn’t do anything about the problem. (I say “couldn’t,” even though technically they could, as the scammer was using their name and logos–i.e. trademarks–without permission.) Nevertheless, PayPal’s social team responded to me very quickly, so they at least get a few points for expediency.

All things considered, I feel the night ended on mostly positive terms. The initial shock of receiving a fraudulent invoice that wasn’t via a phishing attempt certainly took me by surprise, but in the end, the positive experiences with a random customer service representative probably half-way across the world expressing concern and compassion for others who could become victims of this scam more than made up for it. It’s a reminder that no matter how big a company is or how variable its reputation is viewed by customers on the receiving end, there are still humans who work for them. Sure, there are humans who typically see it as just another job. That’s normal.

However, no matter how rare it may be, it’s worth noting that there are those who see it as their duty to help. It may be woefully uncommon in our society today, but there are genuinely people who want to do the Right Thing™.

I don’t expect I’ll ever know if the representative who helped me managed to escalate the ticket and share the information about this scam to others who might be able to do something. Even if they could, there isn’t anything GoDaddy could do about this scam in the first place. This is clearly in PayPal’s sphere of influence, but perhaps if they know about it they can inform their customers when they inevitably receive the calls asking “Why am I receiving this invoice?”

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Linux on the Lenovo Y740 Legion (2019)

It’s easy.

No, really, it is. There’s a couple gotchas and some minor inconveniences (probably self-induced in my case), but provided you didn’t do anything particularly unusual with the system configuration at purchase, it should work.

First, I want to preface this with a brief overview of my configuration. I selected one with an NVMe SSD for its primary drive and a mechanical SATA drive for the secondary. I did not select one with Optane and with good reason, but I’ll get to that in a moment. All things considered, it’s a fairly banal, boring configuration with the exception of some of the features new to the 2019 lineup (notably the Corsair RGB keyboard and configurable fan LEDs). Interestingly, the behavior of this system’s EFI isn’t especially novel or noteworthy. It just works.

Caveat emptor: The configuration I discuss in this post may not work for you. I made decisions specific to how I wanted to use this system and performed some tasks manually to avoid overwriting defaults that shipped with the laptop. I’m also using Arch and other distros may present challenges specific to the software they ship or the utilities they package. Always back up any important files and do not perform these steps if you’re unwilling to lose data. I didn’t, but I’d only just gotten the laptop a couple days prior. Had I been using it for some months, I might have performed these steps differently. Some may also question why I didn’t perform a clean install of Windows; I considered it, but I didn’t feel the need to do so.

Now to the meat of the process: Before I started, I made certain to have available two USB sticks (both bootable): One with the Arch ISO image, and the other with a bootable Windows 10 installation via the Media Creation Toolkit. The latter was in my pile of tools in the event things went south and I needed to reinstall completely.

When booting to Linux on the Y740, you’ll note that the NVMe drive is not visible from Linux. This appears to be due to the storage configuration in BIOS. By default, it’s set to Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology; switching it to AHCI resolves the issue. One of the curious things to note when changing this configuration is the ominous warning that applying a different setting will delete all data on attached disks. I found this isn’t the case, but this is also why I’d recommend against selecting a model with Optane installed. I’m not certain on this point–you should certainly do your own research–but I believe with Optane installed, BIOS transparently configures it as a drive cache. Changing this on such a system may cause data corruption which is possibly what the warning implies. (The help text for this setting also mentions it’s specifically for Optane-equipped systems, hence my speculation.)

Once the drives were configured to use AHCI, the NVMe disk was accessible via Arch, and I proceeded to image it to the mechanical storage drive (using dd, of course). This image was then moved to permanent storage on my other systems in the event I did something incredibly stupid.

I look at it this way: If I didn’t have it available, I can almost guarantee I probably would have done something stupid. Always keep a backup!

(Speaking of stupid: This section is somewhat intentionally out of order but necessary for the story to flow; read below for potential video issues, because you will encounter them.)

Now, at this point, I had two choices. My initial thought was to partition the drives accordingly, and reinstall Windows completely. This would have been the ideal situation, but I wanted to save some time (and use the system in its stock state, minus some annoying cruft like McAfee). So, the next choice was to shrink the volumes on the SSD and the storage drive to roughly half. I gave Windows somewhat more storage, because it’s Windows, and because I plan to use this as a casual gaming system in addition to doing work. Doing so is easy enough: To resize the NTFS volumes, go to Computer Management -> Storage -> Disk Management. Then, you’re only a reboot away from getting started.

This is the easy part.

With the partitions resized, and a USB stick in hand, I feverishly pressed F12 to bring up the boot device selection screen–and promptly noticed that the USB stick wasn’t anywhere to be found. After unplugging it and putting it back in, BIOS appeared satisfied enough to present me with it, and off I went. I didn’t notice this with another stick I was using, and I had some difficulty replicating the problem. I’m not sure if this is a fault with the USB flash drive I had the Arch ISO written to or whether it’s just an idiosyncrasy of this BIOS. Either way, things appeared to work great…

Until the stick booted, that is.

Apparently the nouveau drivers that ship with Arch don’t work with the GeForce 2060 particularly well. I was greeted with what looked like vague video corruption and a line roughly one pixel high that appeared to be the bottom strip of whatever text was printed to the screen. Bummer. Rebooting, pressing F2, and getting into BIOS to examine whatever other configurations might help seemed to be my only salvation. Without much clue what else to pick, I noticed the graphics configuration had two states: Discrete graphics (that is the NVIDIA card) and “switchable graphics.” I knew from helping my girlfriend with her now-crippled Acer that the “switchable graphics” setting likely allowed the system to select between the integrated Intel UHD graphics on the CPU die and the discrete (NVIDIA) card; my theory at this point was to presume that doing so would allow Linux to boot up using the Intel chipset, hopefully avoiding the video corruption immediately after the kernel loaded up.

It worked, and from here we could progress.

The Arch installation was fairly pedestrian from this point: Setup the free space with partitions (I went with /boot and root on the SSD, although I should have left them merge–more on this in a moment–and the mechanical drive got a /storage mount point and swap), format as appropriate, install, configure, and… done!

Just kidding. That last part should be cry while you figure out how you want to setup your boot loader. You see, I’ve rarely used EFI systems outside virtualization. All of my systems are pre-2014-ish, and the one or two I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of poking at were all Windows machines. So, what are we to do?

(Aside: Wiping my girlfriend’s system and installing Linux would probably end with my face on a milk carton.)

First thing’s first: We need to figure out the time. No, I don’t mean how long the whole process had taken up to this point! I quite literally mean the time. One of the pain points dual booting Windows and Linux is how to handle the system clock. Once upon a time (sorry), Linux would begrudgingly chug along with the system clock configured to local time. This is a terrible idea, and I still have no idea why Windows insists, but fortunately, you can change Windows’ behavior easily enough. However, doing so requires the foresight to change this setting before getting started–something I didn’t have because I’m stupid and it only occurred to me when I got to the point of configuring the clock. Perhaps you’ll be luckier. You’re reading this after all!

Now, where were we? Oh, right! The bootloader. This is one of the deficiencies with using Linux on newer systems. Generally speaking, EFI, UEFI, or whatever your motherboard manufacturer has decided to call it, requires special attention that we Linux users haven’t had to give to boot loading since the 2000s. No, I wouldn’t use grub either–it does apparently have EFI support, but I have painful memories getting it working under VirtualBox with EFI enabled. Perhaps this is a VirtualBox-specific issue, but I’m inclined to believe we’re better off using tools designed for a specific purpose. In this case, rEFInd.

I won’t pretend to be a subject matter expert. I’ve never used rEFInd before. The Arch Linux wiki does have fantastic resources that can help you get started, but the thing I noticed with my particular configuration is that special attention had to be placed on configuring the OS declarations in esp/EFI/refind/refind.conf. If you’re following along at home, you should at least read this section on UEFI and the entry on rEFInd.

For my system, I did not follow the automatic installation with refind-install, because I didn’t want to overwrite the default EFI boot entry. Thus, I followed the manual installation process by copying rEFInd into the EFI system partition. Note that this alone is not enough to get rEFInd to work with the Y740’s BIOS. I’m not certain whether this is due to a step I’d skipped earlier in the installation or whether it’s an artifact of the manual install, but I found the only way the Lenovo BIOS would see rEFInd even if it’s in the EFI system partition is to configure the boot order via efibootmgr –bootorder 0004,0009,2001,2002,2003. I assume this should just work, but nothing I did would force the BIOS to recognize rEFInd (with the ID 0009). Changing the boot order did work, however, and with Windows (0004) as the primary–temporarily at least–and rEFInd (0009 on my system) as the secondary, I learned that BIOS had been forcibly configured to see rEFInd allowing me to change the UEFI boot order accordingly.

I also discovered that I could not get rEFInd to recognize the /boot/refind_linux.conf configuration. I’ve not investigated why, but I suspect it’s either due to my choice of partitioning (remember, I’m using a separate /boot and root!) or misunderstanding of rEFInd. However, configuring Arch via esp/EFI/refind/refind.conf has worked just fine. I should also note that by esp in the former example and above paragraphs, I mean the EFI System Partition. I mounted this (/dev/nvme0n1p1 on my system) to /boot/efi for ease of access. I’d suggest doing the same if you plan on going down this route.

Finalizing the Linux installation was relatively painless once the bootloader struggle was resolved, and I had NFS plus KDE working more or less out of the box. The system does quite well under Linux thusfar, although I’ve yet to configure wireless networking. I suspect the wireless NIC will work fine: I can see the card in ip link and the ridiculously named “Killer 1550i” cards are, as far as I know, simply rebranded Intel 9560NGW chips.

There is some unfinished business, and I’ve encountered at least one or two teething problems. First, this configuration doesn’t address secure boot. I was primarily focused on getting Linux working rather than working with secure boot. I’m hopeful this won’t be especially difficult, and from what I’ve read it appears the process is relatively straightforward. I’m planning on going the machine owner’s route with regards to kernel signing, with further plans to automate the process in a pacman hook. I’ve also noticed the wired network didn’t come up automatically in spite of being enabled via systemd (I prefer using systemd network configurations via /etc/systemd/network over NetworkManager), and there’s a large amount of i2c_hid spam in the journal. I suspect this may have something to do with some of the peripherals in the system (touchpad? wireless mouse?).

I’ll eventually write a part two once I get some of the remaining issues resolved, along with documenting whatever else I may encounter. If you’re using Linux and just bought one of these systems, please don’t feel overwhelmed with the installation process. Just be cautious, think things through, and have a plan of attack. Don’t forget to back things up, too. Oh, and as much as I don’t like Windows 10’s Microsoft account option, I would recommend logging in with one at least once because it ties the software license for that machine to your account. If you decide to reinstall Windows, this is a good thing, in my opinion!

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