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The X300 Review, Part 2: Running Ubuntu Hardy




x300 Screen

Originally uploaded by sogrady

Previously, on tecosystems: part 1 of our intrepid review of the X300, wherein we say nice things about Lenovo’s latest effort. Yes, the same effort that is tempting some to ponder a departure from the Mac attack.

Anyway, for those of you that are new around here, for reasons that are long and complicated and not worth going into now, Linux is my preferred desktop operating system. Which is another way of saying that once the X300 got here, it was just a matter of time until I replaced Windows with Linux. Where ‘time’ equates to less than two weeks.

So, by popular request, the rundown on running Linux on the X300.

The Distribution Choice

Having been an Ubuntu person for some years now, I chose Hardy Heron to run on the X300. According to Miguel, who’s in a position to know, OpenSuSE is also well equipped to run on the platform. Pick whatever seems appropriate.

What Works Out of the Box

Just about everything. The installation of Hardy Heron proceeded without a hitch – even the freaky new SSD, and post-installation I booted into a desktop in which everything more or less worked out of the box. The screen, as you can see for yourself, is gorgeous and spacious enough to accommodate a Firefox session and Twhirl with room to spare (that’s Google Reader in Prism in the background). The onboard Intel X3100 graphics chip handles 3D effects with ease, even with the “Extra” visual effects switch toggled.

Other notes:

  • Bluetooth:
    Although I haven’t leveraged the bluetooth functionality as yet, principally because the iPhone would make a very slow modem, it works and the machine is discoverable.
  • Camera:
    Works out of the box. Ubuntu users can install “Cheese,” a Photobooth like application, to utilize it.
  • DVD:
    “Just works” TM.
  • Thinkpad Function Buttons:
    All of the major functional controls – volume up/down/mute, screen brightness, keyboard light, wireless on/off, etc – are fully operational. The only exception is the blue “ThinkVantage” button, which maps to nothing.
  • Trackpad/Trackpoint:
    Both work seamlessly. The only issue I have is that disabling the touchpad under “Mouse Preferences” knocks out the trackpoint as well, meaning that you must leave the touchpad enabled (though you can uncheck the “Enable mouse clicks with touchpad” button). If you accidentally disable your mouse and need to reenable it, hit Alt-F1 which will bring up the GNOME Menu, from which you can navigate to the mouse settings via the keyboard.
  • Wifi:
    Works like a charm out of the box. Bless Intel’s little heart for their Linux driver support. I have had some minor speed issues, but am unable to determine at this time whether that’s a fault of the driver or my flaky connections.

What Works With Some Tweaking

Out of the box, suspend did not work for me which is a major issue given my laptop usage patterns. Primary symptom was an initial suspend followed by an immediate resume. Fortunately the fine folks over at Thinkwiki.org had the fix for me. Do this:

  1. sudo nano /etc/pm/config.d/local
  2. Paste in SUSPEND_MODULES="e1000"
  3. Hit CTL-O, then CTL-X

And you’re all set. That will remove the ethernet module before suspend, thus allowing the machine to satisfactorily suspend.

One note: use the function keys – Fn-F4 – to suspend the machine. Though the lid open action is detected and will resume the machine, lid close does not appear to be and will not trigger a suspend.

What Doesn’t Work

Sound. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I’m about the last man on earth for whom it will not operate. If you follow this ALSA bug, you’ll see several exchanges between users that have successfully gotten sound working and the ALSA maintainers actively working on patches. Patches which are available from the SuSE ftp site here.
I still have no idea why I cannot get sound working on my particular machine – it worked under Windows so is not likely to be a hardware issue – but I’m sure I’ll get it sorted sooner or later. And as mentioned, it’s pretty much working for everyone but me.

What I Haven’t Tested Yet

  • External VGA Out:
    I don’t have easy access to a projector, so I can’t test the external VGA out.
  • Fingerprint Scanner:
    No interest in this hardware, so determining whether or not it’s working is not a priority.
  • On Board EVDO Card:
    As mentioned in part 1, I’m not going to try and configure this because I don’t have a Verizon account, but Ubuntu sees the modem just fine:
    [ 26.094716] usb 4-1: Sierra USB modem (3 port) converter now attached to ttyUSB0
    [ 26.094880] usb 4-1: Sierra USB modem (3 port) converter now attached to ttyUSB1
    [ 26.095034] usb 4-1: Sierra USB modem (3 port) converter now attached to ttyUSB2

    Given this fact, I’m fairly confident that getting this working would be no more difficult than it was getting my Cingular card connecting.

Other Notes

It’s not likely to be relevant to many of you, but be advised that the RF killswitch – Fn-F5 – kills not just bluetooth as it did on older Thinkpads such as the X40, but wifi as well.

Categories: Laptops, Linux.

Tags: ,

  • http://brianbaggett.com Brian

    I had no idea that Twhirl worked with Air on Linux! Time to reinstall Air.

    Even though I don’t have a shiny X300, I’m still having Hardy issues:

    * My GeForce 7300 LE w/512 MB of RAM doesn’t deal with the extra desktop effects out of the box *at all* … even with EnvyNG installed. Odd considering it ran Beryl fine but always choked horribly on compiz.

    * Pulse Audio isn’t ready for primetime, in my opinion, until it gets along better with Flash. I have to cntrl+alt+backspace every couple of days because sound decides to die after too much context switching between Miro and YouTube in Firefox.

    * totem-xine doesnt’ automatically kick totem-gstreamer to the curb by default … leading to all sorts of DVD wackiness.

  • http://www.michaeldolan.com Mike Dolan

    While I’m not as lucky to have an X300 to try this on yet (can you sense the jealousness?) – in some of the prior Thinkpad models you could turn off the touchpad in the BIOS and keep the trackpoint working.

    The ThinkVantage button wouldn’t make sense to map to anything by default on Linux (it maps to the Thinkpad Windows setup tool – which is garbage on Windows anyway. I believe the utility ubuntu uses is tpbuttons or something like that. You can set it to fire up anything you want.

  • http://www.cia.gov Mister Megahurtz

    i was able to resolve all the firefox/flash problems with pulseaudio by doing nothing more than

    sudo apt-get install libflashsupport

    also, i have a Geforce 7300 too and dont have issues with compiz fusion.

  • elizabeth

    Thanks for the writeup! I am excited. I have had issues with the wireless set up in the past. It seems so painful to fix.
    I will give hardy a try.

  • https://launchpad.net/~crimsun Dan Chen

    You “just” need to compile alsa-kernel+alsa-driver from hg, or you can use the alsa-driver hg snapshot tarball from SuSE’s ftp site.

    Or wait until a “proper” build shows up via linux-backports-modules-$(uname -r).

  • http://www.ubuntu.com/ Chris Jones

    Good article – it’s saved me from writing up my notes on the subject (since I put the suspend workaround on thinkwiki and reported the ALSA bug ;)

    Regarding the touchpad, you can disable it in the BIOS and not lose the trackpoint.

    The audio is a shame, but the changes required to make it work were just too big to get into Hardy in time.
    I’m going to try and knock up a custom package in a Launchpad PPA. we might get something into linux-backport-modules, but since it seems to require a pre-release ALSA, I’m not sure that’s a good idea.

    The VGA port does work, although I’ve yet to find a way to get a native widescreen mode on the LCD and a 4:3 mode on the VGA (since all of our projectors at Canonical HQ are 4:3 this would be very nice!)

    The fingerprint scanner works fine if you install the thinkfinger packages and follow the setup bits from https://wiki.ubuntu.com/ThinkFinger.

    I don’t have an EVDO card in mine, so I can’t test it, but I am told that Sierra have published a Linux driver for their cards, so I would expect this to work with some effort.

    The ThinkVantage button not working is a known bug, but we’ve not quite narrowed it down, see:
    https://bugs.launchpad.net/bugs/217504

    Thanks again for the great article. The X300 is an awesome piece of hardware and I will be doing my damnedest to make sure the next Ubuntu release works perfectly on it (but I’m not actually an Ubuntu developer, so any/all help is welcome – sign up for the Thinkpad X300 Launchpad team at https://launchpad.net/~thinkpad-x300 and join the mailing list. It’s a bit quiet at the moment, but I suspect there aren’t many X300 Linux users yet (and for bragging purposes, I think I may have been the first because I couldn’t find anything on the web about it when i was doing it!))

  • http://tuxmobil.org/ TuxMobil

    A link to this guide has been included into the TuxMobil Linux laptop and notebook installation guides survey.

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  • Andy

    You don’t need a project to test, get a LCD/CRT monitor to test your VGA output, I am very interested in that.

    Keep up the great work!!

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  • http://geek.com sal cangeloso

    Nice write up!
    I ran ubuntu on the x300 for some time and had a great experience. My biggest problem was some lost battery life, but the sound was annoying as well.

    Luckily the sound was an easy fix. You just need to remove the old sound drivers and replace with a recent alsa-driver snapshot.

    edit- just noticed how old this post is. Hope you fixed it by now. It was recently linked to on the Lenovo blogs and I saw it today…

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  • andresmh

    In part because of this blog post I decided to get the x300. Did you install ubuntu as dual boot?

  • http://redmonk.com/sogrady sogrady

    @andresmh: nope. i installed Ubuntu natively, replacing the original Windows install.

  • http://www.uacoders.com Serge Zaschipas

    EVDO works propertly in my kubuntu 8.04. (in previous kubuntu 7.04 it worked too). Simple use /dev/ttyUSB0 as modem device in kppp. In Ukraine on Intertelecom operator I have average 1,5Mbit/s with EVDO Rev.A activated.

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