I recently started looking for a small, affordable computer as companion for my “smart”-TV. My reason to get a small PC for my TV was that the capabilities of Fire-OS which is running on the TV and the built-in hardware. Both were too limited for me.
I wanted to extend my options and my wish was to have a Linux PC, to have maximum freedom.
After some research I settled for the GK41 by Minisforum, the price and features were closest to what I was looking for, I got it discounted from Amazon.
In the following sections, I will touch on a few topics that I faced and how I solved them.
Windows key extraction
The GK41 came with Windows 11 already installed, since I wanted to run Linux on it, I decided to extract the license key, for a possible usage in the future.
You might know that the situation around license keys and Windows has become much more blurry, it is no longer the case that each active windows does also have an actual license key.
In this case, it seems that at least my GK41 still came with a classical OEM key.
The installation of Linux was relatively eeasy,you download an Image and flash it onto an USB stick. I decided to use Manjaro since I’m quite familiar with it. But I can imagine that Ubuntu would also work fine.
The key to open the BIOS/UEFI menu during boot is the delete key, there seems to be no key for a temporary boot override. Therefore, I simply changed the boot order to start with USB and then continue with the disk. You can of course change this back to save a tiny amount of time during boot.
I also wanted a wireless keyboard at first I bought a cheap Bluetooth keyboard from Amazon, that turned out to be a mistake, while the keyboard did work in principle the connection was not optimal.
Input was sometimes delayed, but the biggest issue was the pairing process. The keyboard would not automatically pair, a constant loop of connecting and disconnecting greeted me as soon as I turned the keyboard on, after a fresh start of the GK41.
I found out via some research that it’s apparently a common issue, the pairing comunication between these devices and Linux does not work correctly. For a device like an Android tablet or phone that is no issue, you simply reconnect to the keyboard via the touchscreen if the connection doesn’t directly work.
In the end I gave up and bought the K400+ from logitech, it comes with a small USB dongle, so it does not rely on any pairing process. I’m very happy with the quality and functionality.
GK41 sound not working
During the setup phase I encountered a very annoying issue, the sound was not automatically going over HDMI. In fact when I checked the sound settings I only found a “Dummy Device”.
So none of the actually available sound inputs and outputs were usable. I also tested audio via Bluetooth, which worked without any issues.
This “Dummy Device” is used when for some reason there is simply no audio device available. I’m not an expert on this topic, but to my understanding, there can be multiple reasons why your soundcard is not usable.
First thing I tried was different distributions, but without any success. In the end, I went back to Manjaro and decided to activate the testing update channel, with the idea in mind that the latest software and kernel might be able to deal with the soundcard in the GK41.
That was unfortunately not the case.
As of today (2023-03-06) the latest kernel (6.2.1) and software do not support the soundcard.
Since Kernel 5.19 or 6.0 at least the dummy device disappeared and was replaced by “Celeron/Pentium Silver Processor High Definition Audio Stereo”
If you check with
arecord -l which audio devices you have, you get the following output.
**** List of CAPTURE Hardware Devices **** card 0: sofessx8336 [sof-essx8336], device 0: ES8336 (*)  Subdevices: 0/1 Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
The ES8336 is not that new anymore, but support under Linux is unfortunately still not working.
Workaround via HDMI
I did find a workaround which was ok for me, you can disable all other audio options and force your system to output the audio via HDMI.
To achieve this, you have to create a new file
/etc/modprobe.d/inteldsp.conf as root.
You add simply one line and reboot your system.
options snd-intel-dspcfg dsp_driver=1
This should also work with other distributions than Manjaro.
After a reboot, you will see in the sound settings that you are now limited to the HDMI option. With this you at least have HDMI output and for my use case that is actually enough.
I also use my GK41 for gaming. To achieve that, I stream games from my main PC.
So far I tried two option, Steams streaming worked most of the time without issues and performs well. But you will find some games that do not work.
Since my main PC has an Nvidia graphics card, I came across Moonlight, it allows you to stream games from your pc to another device. It also worked quite well for most games, that did not work with Steams integrated streaming.
As controller, I use an old X-BOX-360 controller and for player two, a replica of the original.