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Thermal Issues on Dell Latitude with Microsoft Teams for Linux

  • Friday, March 20 2020 @ 06:26 PM UTC
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With work from home orders due to COVID-19, I am now working remotely fulltime.

My company is relying on Microsoft Teams for chat and video conferencing. Thankfully, Microsoft released a native Linux client.  Not really, it appears to be an electron app. But at least it doesn't need to run in a browser tab somewhere.  And it actually works... audio, video, and screen sharing. And after using a variety of video conferencing solutions over the years, I can say that video and audio quality of Teams is quite good.  Unfortunately, as of Microsoft Teams Version 1.3.00.958 (64-bit), the app is a CPU hog and causes my Ubuntu laptop to heat up. When the laptop heats up, the fan winds up like a small jet engine.  This is especially noticeable in a quiet home office environment.

I spent a lot of time with i8kutils and cpufrequtils to no avail. On Linux, the Dell Latitude 5501 seems to have only three fan speeds: off, low, and high. There is no medium speed. It is possible to tweak the temperature at which those fan transitions happen, but it is not possible adjust the fan RPMs.  On "low", the temperature will just continue to rise while Teams is running and eventually the fan has to kick into high (or the laptop overheat and crash).

The most significant change I was able to make to resolve the heat issue was to turn off TurboBoost. Whereas my temps were shooting up to over 90 degrees C if I tried to run the fan on "low", with TurboBoost disabled the temperature rarely goes about 50 degrees C. I disabled both Hyperthreading and TurboBoost in the system BIOS. This is disappointing to say the least, but this laptop still has 6 cores running at 1.4 GHz, which has been fine for all of the types of work I have been doing.

After disabling TurboBoost, the cpufreq-info tool shows:

 

 

$ cpufreq-info
cpufrequtils 008: cpufreq-info (C) Dominik Brodowski 2004-2009
Report errors and bugs to cpufreq@vger.kernel.org, please.
analyzing CPU 0:
  driver: intel_pstate
  CPUs which run at the same hardware frequency: 0
  CPUs which need to have their frequency coordinated by software: 0
  maximum transition latency: 4294.55 ms.
  hardware limits: 800 MHz - 2.60 GHz
  available cpufreq governors: performance, powersave
  current policy: frequency should be within 800 MHz and 2.60 GHz.
                  The governor "powersave" may decide which speed to use
                  within this range.
  current CPU frequency is 1.40 GHz
.

...

 

The i8ktools show a cool 47 degrees C:

$ i8kctl
1.0 1.6 3Z***** 47 -1 0 -1 0 -1 -1

 

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