March 31, 2004

Linux on IBM Thinkpad T41p


I got an IBM Thinkpad T41p from work yesterday, planning to install Linux on it. The Thinkpad has a really great piece of hardware, well designed and with a robust feel. I really like the trackpoint, it's much faster than using the touchpad.

I prefer using Linux when doing real work, since all the tools I have just work there, as opposed to their equivalents on MacOS X or Windows. My XEmacs environment is heavily customized and I've never been able to make it work to my satisfaction anywhere else.

Anyways, after repartitioning the drive and installing Redhat 9 on the new partition, I started to look into how to configure various things: X-Windows, wireless access and printing on the printers connected to my HP JetDirect 500x print server are the most important ones.

A quick search on Google, revealed these instructions on how to setup Debian on the laptop: horrendous! The basic idea is that I need to recompile a custom 2.6 kernel, install a customized version of the X-Windows server, and use a commercial driver for the wireless card! This is a horribly long set of things one needs to follow to get Linux mostly working on this laptop. I'll give it a shot though. Now I'm downloading the latest updates for RH9 from Redhat, about 300Mb of packages!

BTW, Windows XP works amazingly well on the laptop (I know, this is blasphemy ;). The feature I liked most is that it switches automatically from a wireless network to a wired one as soon as you plug in the Ethernet cable; pretty cool!

Update (16:20pm): After about an hour, I got all the updates installed on my machine. I copied the Linux boot sector on my Windows NTFS partition and rebooted the system.

It turns out that updating the X-Windows server was a lot easier that I expected. I got the ati_drv.o and atimisc_drv.o from here and placed them in /usr/X11R6/lib/modules/drivers. I didn't manage to compile the DRI kernel modules as described here, because of a compilation error related to mismatched arguments to a function. I'll investigate this later, perhaps by getting a new version out of CVS.

I rebooted the machine and ran X in the command line, to generate a configuration file for XFree86:

$ X -configure

I verified the generated config file works fine by running:

$ XFree86 -xf86config ~/

then copied the newly generated file in /etc/X11XF86Config. This configuration file enables X-Windows to use the maximum 1400x1050 resolution with TrueColor enabled (32bits/pixel)

I configured the printers using the excellent PrintManager from Gnome 2. I created the two printers I have connected to my HP JetDirect 500x print server. For the first printer I specified port 9100, and for the second port 9101. CUPS on RH9 comes configured with knowledge about a lot of printers, including my HP OfficeJet D145 and HP DeskJet 970. Printing worked out-of-the-box, I was really impressed!

In fact it worked better than in Windows XP, where I had to dig for the installation CD of the OfficeJet and had to hunt for options to create a printer attached to a print server. On XP I had to create a new TCP/IP port type, and the n create a local printer using that port. Totally confusing, since the printer is really networked.

Sound is working just fine with the builtin sound card. I ran sndconfig to detect and configure the sound card, and install the necessary module information in /lib/modules.conf.

Posted by ovidiu at March 31, 2004 12:18 PM |
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