Debian issues on Lenovo's Thinkpad T400

Kernels, Network, and Services configuration
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Debian issues on Lenovo's Thinkpad T400

#1 Post by BetterButterBuddha »

Hi there -

I am a computer enthusiast who, thinking to celebrate my recently achieved graduate-studenthood, went out and bought a notebook to make my life easier over the next several years. I ended up choosing the Thinkpad T400, and am super-happy with my choice. It's a perfect blend of speed, power, and portability, it has a beautiful LED screen, and there's a neat power management option allowing met to choose between discrete and integrated graphics. And since it's very cheaply produced, I was able to soup things up a bit. Here are the specs:

Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 (2.8 Ghz)
320 GB 4200 rpm HDD
ATI Mobility Radeon 3470 with 256MB
DVD Recordable 8x max speed
Intel WiFi Link 5300 (AGN)
Integrated Bluetooth PAN
9 cell Battery (which lasts forever!)

Now, I'm the sort of user who likes to be able to control my system to a very fine degree, which naturally makes me fairly skeptical of Windows. I would therefore like to run a Linux system, dual boot at first, and possibly abandoning MS altogether if I can convince myself that I can get done all I want with just the one OS. I would like to use Debian for this, because it seems like a nice blend between guaranteed functionality and do-it-yourself-ishness.

However, some creative websurfing has revealed that because the T400 series is so new, many people are having trouble getting Linux onto it with full support. This is making me rather concerned about trying out Debian on this puppy. Here are my specific issues:

-Will I be able to pick up on the wireless card? Intel's support website says there are no Linux drivers for the 5300 yet.
-How will it handle the switchable graphics? I read on other forums that people were having display issues (couldn't get X11 to start) because of this issue. Can I get around it? Can I do it without compromising the functionality of the switch?
-Will I be able to use bluetooth devices under Linux?
-How about the built-in webcam?
-What happens to the little built-in volume control button, and the "ThinkVantage" button, under Linux? Can I give them specific functions?

I'd appreciate any and all input people can give on this situation. Are there specific ways around the above problems? Or even creative suggestions? Or should I wait until The Powers That Be get productive enough that specific distros are able to accommodate my rather cutting-edge hardware?



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#2 Post by BioTube »

For your wireless, try to find an XP driver. If you can, then use ndiswrapper(however, you'll need to use the i386 flavor). For your video card, you might want to try fglrx, ATI's official Linux driver. The version in Etch is ancient, so either use the one from ATI's site or install Lenny.
Ludwig von Mises wrote:The elite should be supreme by virtue of persuasion, not by the assistance of firing squads.

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#3 Post by infinitycircuit »

For the wireless to work consistently with native drivers, you should run the latest 2.6.27 release candidate. You can get the experimental debs, for instance: ... 6_i386.deb

In the same directory you can find the amd64 kernels, the headers, etc.

For fglrx to work you should just use the latest 8.9 from ATI - it should work fine. If you have troubles with the 2.6.27 kernel then apply fglrx_8.9_2.6.27.patch
from ... u2.diff.gz.

Bluetooth works fine--the bluez-utils package, along with bluethooth-gnome and bluez-gnome or kdebluetooth will include what you need.

acpi-support should handle the special buttons no problem, at least on my older Thinkpad.

If you need help is a great resource.
I am currently a Debian Maintainer. I am also in the New Maintainers' Queue.

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Thinking about purchasing a t400

#4 Post by guptaxpn »

are the t400 kinks worked out yet?

Have you tried installing debian or another linux on this?

Also, just a note of curiosity, can you dim/raise the brightness of the LED screen as you can with a regular laptop screen?

Thank you!

Is the t400 a good linux purchase?

do you think it will be soon enough?

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#5 Post by BetterButterBuddha »

An update:

No, I actually haven't got linux onto this thing yet, for several reasons.

Here's the first:


Some websurfing revealed that there's been a bug discovered that can permanently damage hardware when the 2.6.27 experimental kernel is run with chipsets that need the e1000e module (like the one my ethernet hardware would have to use).

Read carefully: ... stcount=18

In other words: My sense from surfing around the web is that other T400 users have not yet consistently been able to use the Intel 5300 WiFi Link for their wireless without resorting to the 2.6.27 kernel, which we now know has a bug that would probably fry my ethernet card.

Until people who know more than me get these problems sorted out, I'm going to hold off on linux on my T400.

Otherwise the machine is great. And yes, the brightness of the LED monitor is easily adjustable. If you're really set on it, I would get one with one of the less-new wireless devices - seems like there's better support for those.

BTW, I had to fool around in the BIOS to get the debian install cd to work. I set the Display to disable switchable graphics, and held them at "Discrete" (the ATI video card). I also needed to switch the SATA settings to "Compatibility" in order for the cd to be recognized. I do not know why.


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