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PCLinuxOS 2008 on my ThinkPad T61 – Part 2 January 17, 2008

Posted by rm42 in Computers, Linux.
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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.

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

Using PCLinuxOS 2008

As I mentioned on Part 1 of this review, the version of PCLinuxOS I am using is the MiniMe 2008 edition. This edition comes with very few applications pre-installed. The regular edition of PCLinuxOS, already populated with the most common and popular applications for each task, is soon to be released. However, for those of us that already know what applications we need, the MiniMe edition is actually preferred. It is very easy to install the needed applications from Synaptic (the package manager), and you end up with a leaner setup.

While I am talking about adding applications, I think it is important to mention that PCLinuxOS offers something that I wish other distributions offered too. Besides the normal repositories, PCLinuxOS offers special high-bandwidth repository servers. This are only available for those that contribute financially to the distribution. Contributions can be as small as $20, just a bit more than a Chinese restaurant meal. But, I think the PCLinuxOS developers (and I am not one of them) are more than deserving of these. I think that these voluntary donations are a good way of showing gratitude and ensuring that this great distribution continues providing us with such a delightful computer usage experience, aside from the fact that they make downloading hundreds of megabytes worth of applications a lot easier. Nevertheless, you can use the regular repositories and everything else in PCLinuxOS at no cost at all.

However, what if you don’t know what applications you need to accomplish certain tasks? Well, you can always consult the PCLinuxOS Forums.

The Forums

Almost every free software program in existence has an Internet forum associated with it. The reason for this is that free software thrives with community participation. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear that people choose one distribution over another due to the quality of its forums. So, how good are PCLinuxOS forums? In my opinion, they are very good. One aspect that I appreciate is that they are very closely moderated. What this means is that threads are encouraged to stay on topic and civil. Personally, I like that. I like the fact that I don’t have to worry about running into foul language or other indecencies in the forums. They are very active. It is not uncommon to see posts by the PCLinuxOS developers and even Texstar himself (the creator and top coder of PCLinuxOS). They like to mingle with the user community and are very down to Earth, even when they are evidently passionate about their work. And by that I don’t mean that they want PCLinuxOS to be the top Linux distribution at all cost. They are frequently seen praising other distros and congratulating them on their achievements. So, if you have a question, chances are good that someone will chime in to give you an answer. The forums are very amicable to newbies. Just make sure you read the forum rules.

The Control Centers

KCC Icon PCC Icon

There are two Control Centers in PCLinuxOS, the KDE Control Center and the PCLinuxOS Control Center. Yes, this is a bit confusing for new users at first. The KDE Control Center is available to all users of the system without the need to know the root (Administrator) password, although accessing some of its features will require it. This is a great place to make changes to the way KDE (the desktop environment) looks and works for the current user.

The KDE Control Center

The PCLinuxOS Control Center is only available through the use of the root password. This where you can make deeper, system wide changes, such as enabling or disabling system services, add or remove users to the system, configure the firewall, etc. Explaining all that you can do through the PCC is beyond the scope of any review. But, I will give you a screen shot mini tour of what you can expect to find in it.

PCC - SharingPCC - GroupwarePCC - BootPCC - HardwarePCC - Mount Points

PCC - Network & InternetPCC - SecurityPCC - System

General and ThinkPad T61 Specific Recommendations

As I said in Part 1, I had no hardware related issues with this release of PCLinuxOS. However, since MiniMe is such a bare bones release by default, I thought I would point you in the right direction with a few basic packages. So lets use Synaptic to add these.

Synaptic Icon

First of all, I would recommend that you install the following packages:

  • NetApplet
  • laptop-mode-tools
  • kdeutils
  • kdeutils-klaptop
  • kpowersave
  • PowerTOP
  • ksynaptics

Once you do that, go to KDE Control Panel -> System Administration -> IBM Thinkpad Laptop.๐Ÿ™‚ Check the box that says “Run Thinkpad Buttons KMilo plugin”. I think you need to reboot for these to take effect. That will setup your ThinkVantage, brightness, and Zoom buttons to do something that you can configure. (I don’t know where the Home, Search, or Mail options point to or how to change them. If you do, please let me know.)

You can then install Keytouch. Once installed, you will find it under System > Configuration > Hardware > Keytouch. For the Keyboard I selected IBM Thinkpad T60. That will setup a few other extra keys, like the Media Player buttons which happen to work great with Amarok.

If you are like me, and prefer the use of the Trackpoint over the Touch Pad, you will want the ability of disabling the touch pad. This is easily done with ksynaptics. Just launch the application from Applications > System > Configuration > Hardware > Synaptics TouchPad. You will then be able to configure it to your liking, or disable it altogether.

Now, go to KDE Control Panel -> Power Control -> Laptop Battery -> ACPI Config and click on the “Setup Helper Application” button. That will allow you to select the other options on that tab. Select all of them, click the “Apply” button, and close the KDE Control Panel. You can then start it again and configure it as needed.

Fortunately, I have very little use for Suspend to RAM/Disk options. But, I know this is important for some of you. So, I gave it a shot to see how it works. Unfortunately, for the most part, I found that it doesn’t. Well, with Klaptop I was able to suspend the laptop to RAM, but when it came back from suspend, the display was black. So, using the newly assigned ThinkVantage button, I opened a terminal window (in the dark), and I typed in the following commands to reboot the machine cleanly:

su
[root password]
reboot

I couldn’t find an option for Suspend to Disk under Klaptop. KPowersave does have an option for it, but it only locks the screen. However, I was able to suspend to disk successfully by issuing this command from a terminal:

klaptop_acpi_helper –hibernate

It came back from hibernation just fine. You can easily create an icon for it by right clicking on the panel (task bar) and selecting “Add Applet to Panel…”. Scroll down to “Non-KDE Application Launcher” and click OK. You can then select a nice icon for it and enter the following settings:

A custom hibernate button

So, if anyone has any advice on how to get Suspend to RAM working, it would be much appreciated as well.

Now, I know that the real reason many of you want to run Linux is because of Compiz-Fusion. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am happy to say that it works very well as far as I can tell. Just install compiz-fusion and compiz-fusion-icon. Afterwards, you will need to go to the PCC -> Hardware -> Configure 3D Desktop effects to enable it.

Compiz-Fusion

Conclusions

Well, as you can see, PCLinuxOS is not perfect. If Suspend to RAM is important to you other distros may work better for you. (Under Linux Mint and Mandriva I had the same results suspending to RAM.) I wonder if there is something Lenovo can do to help Linux distros support their hardware better.

I also agree that having two Control Panels is a bit confusing for new users, especially because some functions seem to be duplicates (like adding a printer, for example). Maybe in the future something can be done to streamline this aspect of the interface to make it easier for new users.

Although wireless works, there are still a few little bugs that are being worked on. If you have a problem don’t hesitate to check the forums for help.

Other than that, I am tremendously happy with this release of PCLinuxOS. It bears repeating that the final version of PCLinuxOS 2008 is not out yet. So, you may want to hold off until that one comes out. But, as for me, PCLinuxOS has once again overtaken Mandriva as my default option when booting my laptop.

Comments»

1. davecs - January 17, 2008

Nice review rm. Practical and helpful.

If you want hibernate working with klaptop, you might need to load up an older kernel from synaptic, one of the 2.6.18.8 versions. This is due to a known bug in klaptop itself, which prevents it recognising that it can hibernate safely with later kernels. Strange!

Of course other stuff may not work. But laptop users might be best advised to try the older kernel and check everything out. If it all works, then the kernel is new enough!!

2. rm42 - January 17, 2008

Davecs,

I don’t believe that kernel works well with the Intel GMA X3100 GM965 video card. I rather just hibernate from the custom button I made and make sure the rest of the machine is OK.

3. manmath - January 28, 2008

RM, nice review! I am glad that you have got your gma965 working in PCLOS MiniME. I would suggest you to look for PCLOS 2008 full version. I am sure it will be more polished and usable.

4. rm42 - January 28, 2008

Yes, I am very happy that I went with that graphics card. It performs very well for my needs and gives me better battery life. As for the full version of PCLOS 2008, I’m sure it will be great. Every day that passes, a little more polish is being applied. The good thing is that by just keeping my current installation up to date I get all those new goodies.

What I am looking forwards to is to try the “Digital Photography Edition of PCLinuxOS”:

http://www.dfpe.pclinuxos.nl/

There were some minor language related glitches with the first release, but I think I will give the next release a try.

5. blip- - May 25, 2008

I managed to get suspend-to-Ram working with MiniMe 2008 on my Lenovo T60, so this should work for you as well (i’m using ext3 file system for root and home in case this has any effect on suspend-to-ram recovery).

From Synaptic get the following:
1) The latest kernel 2.6.22.17.tex2
2) “suspend”, “suspend-s2ram”, “suspend-scripts”, “kpowersave”.

Now edit your grub menu.lst manually or through the PCC Boot area and remove the 2 bootcodes that say:
splash=silent
vga=888
This will give you a simple text-mode startup but it helps with recovering from suspend-to-ram.

Now try kpowersave or klaptop to suspend-to-ram. Both of these should work. Also on my system the Fn+Sleep shortcut button works as well.
It’s worth mention that i have laptop-mode-tools disabled because all it does is control the spin down time for hard disks (nothing to do with cpu speed or standby support) and in my experience it caused my battery to last less in fact, since the drive was frantically spinning up and down.

NOTE: In some rare cases, the system may fail to recover but it rarely happens with me. I’m still trying to find out what causes that failure. To avoid any probs if it fails to recover, just save your work before going into standby.

Hope that helps๐Ÿ™‚

6. rm42 - May 29, 2008

blip,

Thanks a lot for the tip. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on my T61. I disabled Compiz and 3D desktop effects, but even then it won’t come back from Suspend to RAM. I wonder if it is a display driver issue since the machine does in fact return from sleep, but the display remains dark.

7. PCLinuxOS Minime 09.1 on my Thinkpad T61 « An alien’s viewpoint - July 10, 2009

[…] install the English version from Synaptic if you prefer. For further recommendations see the “General and ThinkPad T61 Specific Recommendations” section of my 2008 review. I can’t think of anything else that would be a stumper. You […]


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