This guide is intended for ThinkPad laptops using the Upek Biometric Touchchip/Touchstrip Fingerprint Sensor.
As it seems, there is a fingerprint reader application available for Debian-based distributions, which is called Fingerprint GUI. The problem is that in my case it works only if I run the application as root. I’m not sure if it’s a general issue or just something related to my ThinkPad T420 model. Anyway, here is what I did…
You can follow these steps to install the fingerprint reader application, and hopefully in your case it will work straight away.
1. Add this PPA to your sources:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:fingerprint/fingerprint-gui
sudo apt-get update
2. Install the packages:
sudo apt-get install libbsapi policykit-1-fingerprint-gui fingerprint-gui
3. Log out of your session and log back in (the new session defaults need to be picked up). Just be aware that for some people it didn’t work so they had to reboot.
4. You can now start the application either by launching it from System > Preferences, or through a terminal:
In my case, when I reached the Scan/Verify step, the application complained, showing this message: “Could not open fingerprint device. Permission problem?“.
This led me straight away to suspect that the device was created with the wrong permissions. To find more details about the driver and device, you need to run the command
lsusb. You will then see something like this:
Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
Bus 001 Device 002: ID 8087:0024 Intel Corp. Integrated Rate Matching Hub
Bus 002 Device 002: ID 8087:0024 Intel Corp. Integrated Rate Matching Hub
Bus 001 Device 003: ID 147e:2016 Upek Biometric Touchchip/Touchstrip Fingerprint Sensor
Bus 001 Device 004: ID 04f2:b221 Chicony Electronics Co., Ltd integrated camera
Bus 002 Device 003: ID 17ef:1003 Lenovo Integrated Smart Card Reader
The line in bold is the one we’re interested in. You can see the ID numer is 147e:2016, the bus is 001 and the device is 003. Using these numbers you will get the path for the device, which in this case is
Next, you can check the current permissions by issuing the following command:
andrei@nayu:~$ ls -la /dev/bus/usb/001/003
crw-rw– 1 root plugdev 189, 2 Apr 29 10:51 /dev/bus/usb/001/003
It seems that the group owner is plugdev. Now you have two choices: either add your user to the plugdev group, or modify the permissions to add read/write rights for others as well. I tried adding myself to the plugdev group and I still couldn’t get the application to work, so I went with plan B, modifying permissions:
andrei@nayu:~$: sudo chmod 666 /dev/bus/usb/001/003
Running fingerprint-gui again allowed me to reach the Scan/Verify step, and I successfully scanned and I enrolled my fingerprint(s).