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Finding the right distro for my Thinkpad T61 – Part1 November 23, 2007

Posted by rm42 in Computers, Linux.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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This is an important update to this review:

A standard feature of mainstream multimedia PCs and laptops has been the ability of being able to record digital sound… if you think that this feature is important to you or someone you know you may want to read this before purchasing a Lenovo Thinkpad.

http://temporaryland.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/consumer-alert-sound-mix-intentionally-crippled-laptops/

Introduction:

I am a long time Linux user (almost 10 years), but I do not consider myself an expert by any means. I guess I would consider myself a power user. I started with a floppy disk install of Slackware. From there I moved to RedHat, Mandrake, Vector, and SUSE. I used SUSE’s 9.2 through 10.1 versions. After that, I started searching for an alternative. I tried Kubuntu, Ubuntu, Mepis, Freespire, and finally settled on PCLinuxOS. I really love PCLinuxOS and have enjoyed it for about a year and six months. It is not coming off of my desktop machine for sure. However, I have just acquired a very nice ThinkPad T61, with the new Intel GMA X3100. The fact that Intel released open source drivers for this graphics card made me chose it over the Nvidia options, and of course the fact that it consumes less power and gives longer battery life was also a consideration. However, being that this chipset is so new, I wasn’t too sure that my favorite distro was ready to support it with its usual polish. So, this was the perfect opportunity to do some distro hopping and see how the rest of the Linux distros are doing, especially in regards to supporting my hardware.

This are the relevant specs of my machine:

  • ThinkPad T61
  • Intel Core 2 Duo (2.0 GHz 2MBL2)
  • XP Pro (to be moved eventually into a Virutal Machine)
  • 15.4 WSXGA+ TFT display
  • Intel GMA X3100 GM965 (video card)
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 160 GB 7200 rpm hard drive
  • Intel/PRO Wireless 3945ABG

Before relating my experience, let me tell you a little bit about how I am biased, since that has a lot to do with how I end up judging a distribution. For example, I want all basic functions to work, of course, like sound and wireless, for example. But, I am not too concerned about functions like “suspend” or “hibernate” since I can do without them. Another bias I have is that I am much more familiar with KDE than with GNOME. I used to run both desktops until GNOME tried forcing everyone to open a new window per directory on its file manager (Spacial mode?). I know that they finally gave in and offered an option to configure this, but the incident left me with me with a bad feeling about their view of the users, like they wanted to force us to do things the way they liked, or else … On the other hand, a lot of time has passed since that incident and I know that a lot of work has been done to polish GNOME, especially, so I hear, in Ubuntu. So, I think I am ready to give it another try. Finally, I like being able to use 3D effects like Compiz-Fusion. I think this is a great way to get Windows users curious and interested in trying Linux. So, if possible I wanted to see which distro made this an option for me.

But, which distro should I try. I obviously can’t try them all. I decided to visit some laptop specific forums where I hoped to find people with similar hardware. I told them of my situation and asked them what distro they would recommend for my hardware. Of course, the usual top Linux distributions were mentioned, but there was one exception. Someone suggested that I give Frugalware a try saying that he had heard great things about it. So, you’ll be able to see how that went latter on this writeup, which by now has almost turned into a book. (I guess I had a lot to say.) :)

Remember, what I was looking for was the distro that best supported my hardware, at this particular time, hopefully “out of the box” or with minimal work on my part. (While I enjoy tinkering, I don’t have much time for it these days.) So, with that in mid, please follow along with me on Part 2 and let me tell you what I found.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

The Follow-up is here.

Comments»

1. bevil - November 29, 2009

I just partitioned my Lenovo T61 hardisk, which came with Windows XP, and have installed Centos4. I changed the screen resolution to be 1280×800 (which I think is the native resolution, and what looks great in Windows), but it is still blurry in Linux. Any hints why and how to fix it?
bconway@hms.harvard.edu

rm42 - November 30, 2009

Are you sure that is the right resolution for your laptop? Mine’s is 1680×1050.

2. tothedew - July 29, 2013

@rm42, T61 comes in different screen size; wide and non-wide.


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