My Linux Thinkpad (T22 2647 LCU)

NOTE These notes are now somewhat outdated. I removed the original Caldera Linux and installed Red Hat 8.0. The install was completely uneventful. Red Hat 8.0 detected all hardware components automatically, with no intervention on my part.
NOTE You may also be interested in my dual-boot installation on an IBM Thinkpad R40 or IBM Thinkpad T41p

I used to like Windows. I used to understand it pretty well too. I even got used to the wretched registry and c:\windows\system folder that fill up with more crud every time you install some software. I lived with the fact that programs and devices would eventually stop working when the crud conflicts became unbearable. I stoically went through the rite of backing up all my files once in a while, reformatting my hard disk, reinstalling Windows from scratch, reinstalling my applications, and enjoying a reasonably well-working computer for a while. Then I found out that Windows XP won't let you reinstall from scratch just because you feel like it's that time again. You need Bill's permission. I decided that was an evolutionary dead end.

My HP 8200 USB CD burner had just failed to work on Windows. Reinstalling the drivers didn't solve the problem. I wasn't about to follow the dead end and reinstall Windows. It was time for a change.

[In the meantime, more news appeared that confirmed my earlier misgivings about Windows XP. A staff writer in the Christian Science Monitor was apparently ticked off by the relentless XP dialogs that push users to sign up for Microsoft services. He writes: "More than anything else, XP reminds me of a tourist trap. You arrive in a foreign city, and a handsome stranger walks up to you and says he will show you around the city. He offers to take you to the very best shops and restaurants. But you soon realize that he is taking you only to places that are owned by his relatives or by someone who gives him a kickback. " (full review... ) At least for now, it actually seems downright unsafe to entrust your credit card number to the "passport" service--Marc Slemco reports some scary security problems .]

I checked out OS X and I liked it, but I wondered whether OS XI or XII would require Steve's permission to reinstall it. So, the obvious choice was Linux. I had installed and used Linux before, but I never got everything to work just right. That's ok for occasional use, but on the system that I use everyday I want my display, mouse and audio to work, not to mention the CD burner.

I looked at Thinkpads--I like the rubber stick mouse, 3 mouse buttons, and the keyboard layout. One Thinkpad model came with Linux preinstalled. Great--no install hassles, and no tax for an OS that I wasn't going to use. There even were multiple sources that had the machine in stock. Pricing Central found me a good deal. Here is a log of my experiences--the good, the bad, and the ugly.

You can also find a nice review of the machine at http://www.linuxhardware.org .

The Hardware

ThinkPad

The OOBE

IBM did a good job with the "out-of-box experience". The machine booted up much more quickly than Windows. I entered a root password, KDE came up, and a web page was launched to tell me how to add users. I added a user account and logged into that account. I had never used KDE before, but it was straightforward.

Suspend/resume works very nicely. Close the lid, and the machine suspends. Open it, and it resumes again. I haven't had a glitch so far. On Windows, this was totally hit-and-miss.

I tried the DVD player and got an error "can't play back in this region". That had me stumped for a while. There are no online documents because the software is a pre-release version, and the web site only has information for prospective OEMs. I finally found the magic button that brings up a properties dialog and set my region. I don't know why audio/video program designers are enamored with user interfaces that look like bad remote controls.

I found that magic button while being on hold with IBM's technical support. I am glad they have support, but clearly they aren't very experienced supporting Linux. Their suggestion was to reinstall the software. (That, by the way, is easier said than done. IBM only gives a whole disk image, not an individual installation for the DVD software. So you can't reinstall it without wiping out your hard disk. And, of course, reinstalling won't solve your problem since it comes again installed with no preset region.)

By the way--the DVD software seems to be tied to the distro. If you change the kernel, you would appear to lose the DVD ability. At least, that's what I think is implied in the interesting article by Keith Frechette, the IBM development lead in charge of the software for this machine.

Software Setup

The machine comes with Netscape 4.7, StarOffice 5.1 and the Java SDK 1.2.2. I downloaded Netscape 6.1, StarOffice 5.2 and Java SDK 1.4 beta instead. All installed without a hitch.

I then tried installing a couple of utitilities--an image viewer and a GUI FTP frontent, to replace what I had on Windows. I was stumped instantly because the Caldera Linux has RPM 3.0, and just about every RPM package I tried required RPM 4.0. I tried getting that, but to no avail--it is packaged as an RPM that couldn't be opened by RPM 3.0. I then got a copy of RPM 4.0 from a Mandrake machine, but it did me little good. All of the RPM packages that I tried required graphics libraries that aren't preinstalled. Be prepared for some major library hunting if you want to install recent software. 

The good news is that I found a Java equivalent for everything that I needed. Since SDK 1.4 works fine, this solved my problem. Installs were trivial: unpack and run java -jar program.jar. Forget what you heard about Java programs being total dogs--all the utility programs ran at a good speed. 

Here are some of the Java programs that I like:

I ended up getting tired of KDE. It was too heavyweight for what I wanted to do. I built WindowMaker , and edited the session types in  /opt/kde/share/config/kdmrc to
SessionTypes=kde;failsafe;gnome;wmaker

Hardware Setup

Of course, the display came preconfigured and I didn't have to do anything to make it work. Several people asked me about my XF86Config file. Use at your own risk :-)

My wireless network card (NetGear MA401) was recognized right away--no configuration was necessary.

An ancient Adaptec "APA 1460 SlimSCSI" card and external SCSI drive worked fine. 

A SanDisk Compact Flash adapter worked fine as well. I was able to transfer photos without a problem. (mount -t vfat /dev/hde1 /mnt/flash )

The trackpoint mouse has a silly habit: It doesn't work when you plug in an external mouse. Remedy: Reboot, hit F1 to enter setup mode and change the trackpoint from AutoDisabled to Enabled.

One big annoyance was the hard disk setup. For some reason, there are two 4G partitions for / and /home, with the remaining 12 GB on an unmounted Windows partition. I only discovered that after shoveling lots of stuff onto the /home partition, so I removed the Windows partition, added a Linux partition, and mounted it as /home2 .

Here is some information that I hope you never need (but I did, a few weeks after I first got the machine). My partition table looks like this:

Disk /dev/hda: 240 heads, 63 sectors, 2584 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 15120 * 512 bytes

Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/hda1 * 1 555 4195768+ 83 Linux
/dev/hda2 556 630 567000 6 FAT16
/dev/hda3 631 648 136080 82 Linux swap
/dev/hda4 649 2584 14636160 f Win95 Ext'd (LBA)
/dev/hda5 649 1203 4195768+ 83 Linux
/dev/hda6 1204 2584 10440328+ 83 Linux

/dev/hda1
/
/dev/hda2
Thinkpad hibernation
/dev/hda3
Linux swap
/dev/hda4
Extended partition (just a container)
/dev/hda5
/home
/dev/hda6
/home2 for me; a Windows partition by default

The partition table got damaged spontaneously, and /dev/hda5 and /dev/hda6 mysteriously vanished. Removing and re-specifying partitions 4, 5, and 6 with fdisk fixed it, but it was a very nerve-wracking thing to have to go through. If your partition table is trashed, and you didn't keep a record of  it, try gpart (see here or here) to recover it.

I never got a CD burner to work. When I realized that the Caldera preload doesn't support USB CD burners, I spent $50 on a Smart and Friendly CD-R 4012 that others had used successfully with Linux. It kept hanging in the most annoying manner. After too many hours of frustration, I gave up. To add insult to injury, it works fine with Windows.

The Clock

The clock came set to local time, so it didn't adjust to the end of daylight savings time. I changed it to GMT, but then I had trouble getting Caldera to believe that. I also had to modify /etc/rc.d/rc.boot as follows:

# Set GMT="-u" if your system clock is set to GMT, and GMT="-l" if you lose.
# GMT="`get_val CONF_KERNTZ_FLAG`"
GMT="-u"

Printing (HP OfficeJet R80xi)

This turned out to be a tremendous hassle. Maybe these directions will help someone--I sure wish I had them.
  1. Power up the computer and hit F1 to get into setup. Change the printer mode from Bidirectional to ECP.
  2. Go to http://hpoj.sourceforge.net and get the file hpoj-0.8.tgz (or whatever the latest version is)
  3. Compile and install, according to the directions.
  4. As root, edit /usr/local/etc/ptal-start.conf: Remove the # in front of the ptal-mlcd and ptal-printd commands. Add
    modprobe parport_pc
    modprobe lp
    to the section with the commented-out modprobe command. (This really should have been part of the Caldera configuration.)
  5. As root, run
    ptal-init start
    ptal-devid mlc:par:0
    You should get a status message such as
    MFG:HEWLETT-PACKARD;MDL:OFFICEJET R80XI;CMD:MLC,PCL,PML,SCL;CLS:PRINTER;DES:Hewlett-Packard OfficeJet R80xi;CMT:OFFICEJET PRO;SERN:SGB96AG33PWZ;VSTATUS:$HB0$FC0,ff,DN,IDLE,CUT;LSS:01;LDF:1;LDE:1;
    Congratulations: You have just reached level 2.
  6. To have ptal-init start automatically, execute (as root)
    ln -s ../init.d/ptal-init /etc/rc.d/rc5.d/S99ptal-init

  7. Go to http://hpinkjet.sourceforge.net/sourcecodeinstall.php . Download the Ghostscript files from the indicated link and set up exactly the indicated directory structure. Download the HP Inkjet source from the indicated link, set up the directory structure, and copy the files into the GhostScript directory as indicated.
  8. Run the Ghostscript and HP Inkjet make commands in the directories as indicated.
  9. Because Caldera has GhostScript 5.10 and HP needs at least 5.50, run make install from the GhostScript directory (as root)
  10. As root, copy the hpijs file to /usr/bin as indicated in the directions.
  11. As root, run the command
    cat /usr/share/ghostscript/5.50/examples/escher.ps| gs -q -sDEVICE=hpijs -sDeviceName=DJ8xx -r300x300 -sPAPERSIZE=letter -dNOPAUSE -dSAFER -sOutputFile=- - | ptal-print mlc:par:0
    You should get a printout. Congratulations: You have just reached level 3.
  12. As root, run lisa --printer. Select "Generic postscript printer" and the defaults for all other options. This sets up the spool directory, a printcap entry and a filter.
  13. As root, edit the file /etc/printcap. Change the ps entry as follows:
    ps:\
    :sd=/var/spool/lpd/ps:\
    :mx#0:\
    :lp=/dev/ptal-printd/mlc_par_0:\
    :if=/var/spool/lpd/ps/psfilter:\
    :sh:
  14. As root, copy the file /var/spool/lpd/ps/filter to /var/spool/lpd/ps/psfilter . Change DEVICE=PostScript to DEVICE=hpijs. Add a line
    -sDeviceName=DJ8xx \
    into the gs command line. (Remember the backslash).
  15. Run
    lpr /usr/share/ghostscript/5.50/examples/escher.ps
    You should get the same printout again. Congratulations: You have just reached level 4.
  16. Now you are ready to set up your various applications. Netscape 6, StarOffice 5.2 and Emacs work out of the box. With other applications, try choosing a "generic PostScript printer".
  17. A few tips:

Scanning (HP OfficeJet R80xi)

Once printing is installed, this is pretty easy. There is a good set of instructions at http://hpoj.sourceforge.net/hpoj-0.8/doc/setup-scan.html . Just be careful to really follow the instructions and remove the existing version of the "sane" program. When I tried that with rpm, it dumped core. I never seem to have any luck with rpm. I had to remove the following by hand:
/usr/bin/
/etc/sane.d/
/usr/lib/sane/
/usr/bin/scanimage
/usr/bin/xcam
/usr/X11R6/bin/xscanimage

Conclusions