Ubuntu Feisty Fawn on ThinkPad T60

After the release of Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, I decided to try upgrading my installation of Edgy Eft directly using Ubuntu Update Manager. It wasn’t working for various reasons so I used the command line to run apt-get upgrade. That was a big mistake. It downloaded and installed a few packages which upon reboot, broke Gnome. I was able to only get Ubuntu to boot into run level 3. I poked around a bit and couldn’t fix the problems mainly because I didn’t have a wired Internet connection and I couldn’t effectively connect to a Wireless Access Point using Network Manager from the command line (I need to figure out how to connect to a wireless AP from the command line, especially when I can’t remember the WEP or WPA passcodes).

After a frustrating night, I decided to use my MacBook to download the Feisty Fawn LiveCD. I started the download at night via BitTorrent and by the time I woke up, the download was done. I burnt the iso image to a CD and popped the freshly minted CD into my ThinkPad T60. During the installation, I decided to do a completely fresh install of Ubuntu so I wouldn’t have to worry about all the broken dependencies from Edgy Eft and how they might make Feisty Fawn unstable. I did, however, preserve my home partition and mounted that into the installation of Feisty Fawn. The installation process was very easy and allowed me to get my T60 up and running within and hour.

Feisty Fawn picked up all the necessary drivers for the ThinkPad T60. The Intel 3945 wireless drivers were also installed and setup. The Ubuntu installation also allowed me to use the ThinkPad keys for volume control and brightness control with complete OSD. It didn’t appear to install the tpb packages but managed to provide similar functionality.

Feisty even recognized the proprietary ATI drivers that are necessary for the Radeon X1400 in my ThinkPad T60 and made it very easy for me to download and install the drivers, though, they aren’t open source. The open source drivers for the ATI video card were loaded by default and worked pretty well. I’m not doing any gaming on Ubuntu so 3D graphics aren’t a major concern.

I have wanted to play with Beryl and Compiz for a while and now I finally got my chance. It took a bunch of tweaking to get going. Unfortunately, Feisty Fawn has a broken package that doesn’t include the beryl-xgl package. I was able to download an older package and extract the relevant binary and put it into the right place. After a few hours of fiddling with driver updates and getting to the bottom of the whole beryl-xgl problem, I have the ATI drivers running with XGL on Feisty Fawn. Though, I’ve read it’s pretty unstable to use the proprietary drivers with XGL, I’ve yet to see any major problems. Beryl is pretty slick but it’s a resource pig. Even so, I haven’t stopped using it. The only thing that’s a bit annoying is that every time I login, I have to reload the Beryl Window Manager. If I don’t reload, my Metacity mobile themes load up and Beryl doesn’t. This is apparently caused by Beryl crashing immediately upon login but not crash when I reload. I’ll get around to writing a full post on my experience installing Beryl on the T60. Below are some screenshots of Beryl under Ubuntu on my ThinkPad T60.

The obligatory spinning cube
Desktop Under Beryl
Water Effects in Beryl
Wobbly windows effect

Upon booting up into Feisty Fawn, I didn’t notice any significant changes. Luckily all my settings were saved in my home directory and I was quickly attached to my wireless network. I did find that the Network Manager Gnome applet had an option to create a manual configuration which I don’t think it did before.

The sleep functionality is still broken. I can put the T60 to sleep using the hotkeys but waking up from sleep is a problem. However, applying this fix solves the sleep and hibernation problem on Feisty Fawn (unless you are using Beryl).

Overall, I find Ubuntu to be the best desktop Linux distro I’ve used thus far. Though, I’m still more comfortable using and developing on Fedora, I find that the basic things a distro should do work very well on Ubuntu and not so well on Fedora or OpenSuse. There’s a lot more tinkering involved with these other distros. Hence, I’ve decided to install Fedora 7 from the LiveCD into a VMWare appliance. Below are a few screenshots of Fedora 7 running in a VM.
Fedora 7 in a VMFedora 7 Welcome Screen

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openSUSE 10.2 on Lenovo ThinkPad T60

Well, I finally got around to installing openSUSE 10.2 on my ThinkPad T60. Unfortunately, I was running very low on disk space and couldn’t get any screen captures of the installation process.
In general, the installation process went very smoothely. The biggest advantages of openSUSE 10.2 over Fedora Core 6 during the installation process are:

  • Installation picked up my Intel Centrino 3945 and installed the kernel module. Fedora requires you to set this up manually later.
  • openSUSE has the ability to connect to the Internet, get a list of add-on repositories and add them during the installation process. Fedora has a screen where you can add the repositories manually during the installation process but this requires you to know the full URL of the repository.
  • openSUSE also allows you to install third-party applications like Sun’s Java JRE along with the Centrino firmware and kernel module that Fedora requires you download and install from a third-party provider of RPMs such as Livna or RPMForge.

openSUSE also has better fonts and looks “cleaner” and cripser than Fedora. Proprietary ATI drivers on openSUSE are easily available and installable. The default installation used a VESA driver and set the resolution to 800×600 so installing the ATI drivers was important. Fedora does a better job of providing a hi-res driver but installing the ATI drivers on Fedora is also very easy and well documented all over the place.

I’m not using openSUSE as my primary desktop yet. There’s some hacking to be done with my user settings that would allow the same user id and home directory to be used on both systems. I might remove openSUSE and give Ubuntu a whirl.

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Windows Vista Upgrade from Lenovo …

Lenovo is offering users of ThinkPads and other Lenovo products who purchased their PC between October 26th, 2006 and March 15th, 2007 a free upgrade to Windows Vista. Take a look here. Personally, I would rather pay for an upgrade that would allow Apple OS X to run natively on my ThinkPad T60.

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Setting up the ThinkPad T60

The first thing I did after I got the T60 was to format the drive, keeping the rescue partition, and resize the first boot partition to give Windows XP 15 GB. I’ve decided to keep XP on this laptop for being able to do firmware upgrades to the Nokia E61 and to be able to access the Motorola SLVR with the Motorola Phone Tools. Other than that, I don’t need XP and I might eventually do away with it.

I manually partitioned the drive into multiple partions. I created at 15GB partition to hold my home directory as I expect to share it between multipe Linux distributions. I created at 2.5GB Swap partition and a 20GB partition to hold Fedora Core 6.

Installing FC6 was as normal as any Linux distribution goes except it crashed when I tried to customize the package installation. Once I ran a standard development environment install, it went smoothly.

After everything was installed, I got to configuring this puppy. I found there was a bit of manual intervention beyond what was required for my old T40. No big deals other than not being able to get the bluetooth working well enough that I can synch all my contacts and calendars from my Nokia E61 to Evolution. I’m not entirely sure where the problem is but I think it’s somewhere in the libsync libraries. Still trying to find an expert who can help me with this.

Configuring the Intel 3945 wireless was pretty painless – for one specific network. Fedora, in my humble opinion, still does not support location based network profiles very well. And for some ver weird reason, running NetworkManager is the only way to get DHCP working on the laptop with the wireless. It’s very weird, but at least I know I have to keep it on if I want to use DHCP. Conversely, if I don’t want to use DHCP (wired or wireless) and I want to employ a static network configuration, NetworkManager MUST be turned off.

Overall, I’ve been very happy having my ThinkPad T60 running Fedora Core 6 but the little things like synching my phone with my calendar and addressbook are things that Fedora is just not cut out for. I’ll see if i can get it working with Ubuntu when I get some time to install it.

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Apple MacBook vs. Lenovo ThinkPad – Final!

Well, as much as I love OS X, the MacBook just wasn’t cutting it for me. The MacBook is a great computer for people who want to get things done and not have to worry about the underlying technology. I need to be able to get things done without futzing with configurations, but I also need a flexible environment where I can work with new technologies, get back to working on my open source social networking project, and also be able to work with Linux environments like Fedora, OpenSuse and Ubuntu.

The MacBook is great for multimedia things and I will probably continue to use OS X for video editing, managing my music collection, and managing the fast increasing number of digital photos that I take. However, it will probably NOT by my MacBook. I have decided to sell my MacBook. It was a tough decision, especially since I bought it less than six months ago and I upgraded the RAM to 2GB less than two months ago. I might try another Apple portable someday in the future but for now, the geek in me is screaming for a ThinkPad running Fedora Core 6, OpenSuse 10.1 and Ubuntu 6.10.

On Thursday, I picked up a Lenovo ThinkPad T60. Sorry, but i was just too excited about getting a new ThinkPad and I didn’t take the required unpackaging pictures. The ThinkPad T60 comes with 1 GB RAM, 120GB 5400 RPM HD, Intel 3945abg Wireless, ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 with 128MB Hypermemory, SXGA+ video at 1400×1050, Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 at 2GHz, DVD Recordable, 56k Fax modem, Infrared, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, Verizon Broadband Connect EVDO, 3 USB, Mic and Headphones, 1 PCI Express Full and 1 PCMCIA Slots, Fingerprint Reader, Security chip, 9 cell battery, and a three year warrant. The only real difference in specs is that the ThinkPad doesn’t have any sort of webcam (Apple MacBook has iSight) or remote control (Apple MacBook has FrontRow).

The ThinkPad has an Intel Core 2 Duo chip, 128MB of video RAM, double the hard drive capacity, double the RAM of the MacBook, and also the Verizon EVDO built-in. That’s a substantial amount of hardware for $1600. The only thing I’ve found so far to complain about the ThinkPad is that the screen isn’t as bright as the MacBook and considering winter is approaching, the ThinkPad can’t double as a heater like the MacBook can.

The 14.1″ version of the ThinkPad T60 is a bit smaller and lighter than the 15″ version. I had considered an ThinkPad X60 or X41 but I decided against it mainly because they both use an Intel 950 graphics chip with 64MB of shared memory, the units in stock didn’t have DVD-RW capability and the HD was maxxed out at 60GB.

The feel of the lenovo ThinkPad T60 isn’t very different from my old IBM ThinkPad T40. However, Lenovo has made a few changes like changing the battery type and the power adapter. I won’t be able to use the battery from my T40 nor will I be able to use the two T40 chargers I have. I presume that dock options are also different for the T60 than for the T4x series of ThinkPads. This ThinkPad T60 also has the Lenovo name displayed prominently next to the T60 logo.

I’ll get into what I’m doing with my new T60 in another post but suffice it to say, I am very happy to be typing on a ThinkPad. However, I do miss having OS X working with such ease and finesse. As much as I love Linux, it is a serious PITA getting things to run and things still don’t run as cleanly or well as they do in OS X. Synchronizing a phone over bluetooth with your PIM is a perfect example … Oh well, I guess that’s part of the fun and challenge of using Linux 🙂

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