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With every laptop I've had which had Ubuntu installed on it, first my Acer Aspire One and then my Dell Inspiron 15R, when I close it, it goes into suspend mode. When I open it, it attempts to power back up. Is this normal?

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It's normal. You can disable the suspend on close in gnome power manager (or xfce power manager). See this.

I haven't seen an option to disable the power-on on lid open function, however apparently it can be done by editing the /proc/acpi/wakeup file and setting the LID to *disabled as seen here.

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