Getting Frost Canyon to Play Nice with Linux Mint

Let’s start with a disclaimer: proceed with any of the below methods and instructions at your own risk. I am by no means an expert, and this is just what worked for me. If you blow up your system by following instructions posted by a guy on a blog…well you only have yourself to blame. Intel doesn’t provide support for Linux on NUCs anyway, so let’s set the bar low, ok?

When I reviewed The new Frost Canyon NUC I ran into an issue during Windows installation; my Windows 10 installation media (which I admit is on the old side) didn’t have drivers for Frost Canyon’s Wireless-AX WiFi card. I speculated this would likely be the case for Linux users too. After some testing, it turns out some flavors of Linux will have this same driver issue, but the problem is actually a bit worse.

With Windows, all I had to do was get through the initial install and the WiFi card started working. I tried the same thing with the latest version of Linux Mint, 19.3, and it wasn’t quite so simple. Just as with Windows, the Linux Mint installer didn’t recognize the WiFi. However, even after installation WiFi wasn’t working. What’s more, the on-board gigabit Ethernet adapter wasn’t recognized either. That left me with no network connection at all to download drivers or run updates.

I did a little digging into the situation and found the reason for this is twofold: first, the latest release of Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu 18.04 and Linux kernel 5.0. This kernel doesn’t include drivers for Frost Canyon’s WiFi adapter.

Pictured: the foundation of a solid operating system

As for the Ethernet, that required a separate driver installation and configuration.

So what to do? Without WiFi OR Ethernet I had no route to the Internet to fix the problem. I found a couple of ways to handle this.

Let’s Get WiFi Going

Let’s start with the fix for the missing WiFi adapter. I fixed this by updating the Linux kernel. It appears kernel 5.2 or higher does include the driver. I found easy to follow instructions for accomplishing this here. The instructions are courtesy of Hend Adel, who is clearly a better Linux geek than I.

“But Jason,” I hear you asking, “how can I update the kernel without an internet connection?” Fair enough. You have a couple of routes. The first is to use a different computer to download the updated kernel files to a USB drive, copy them onto Frost Canyon, and run the update commands.

The other option is to use a USB WiFi adapter, one that’s old enough to be recognized by the 5.0 kernel.

I tried both methods, and either works just fine. But the USB WiFi option is the easier way to go as you can just download the needed files directly on Frost Canyon. I went through three USB WiFi dongles before I found one that worked on my Mint installation. From there, it was fairly smooth sailing to update the kernel.

I used the first method in Hend’s instructions, the “Manual Kernel Upgrading (Terminal Way)” option.

After updating, I rebooted and my Wireless-AX adapter worked just swell.

Still No Ethernet Though

What didn’t work after the update was the Ethernet card. It seemed I needed something more for that. I found instructions for it here, courtesy of Intel.

After walking through the process, Ethernet was happy as a clam too.

Of course you could always get the Ethernet port working first, connect to the Internet that way, and THEN update the kernel. I guess. I mean, if you don’t mind that ugly cable.

And that’s about it. So if you’re the proud owner of a new Frost Canyon and, like me, you prefer to swim in the Linux side of the pool, you may find you have a few more steps to get onto the Interwebs.

Am I the only one who pictures this when I think of Mint on Frost Canyon?

I hope this helps!

Oh, and I meant what I said in the disclaimer. If you try this and smoke starts coming out of your NUC…that would be really weird.

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