Saturday, December 24, 2011

ThinkPad T60 and Ubuntu - A Good Mix

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of Linux.  As my "work hardware" has aged out over the years, I've taken to installing Linux on whatever "old laptop" I might have at the time.  For the last 12 years or so, my laptops have been ThinkPads - first manufactured by IBM, and later by Lenovo - so it's safe to say that I have a great deal of experience when it comes to combining Linux with ThinkPads.  (In case you were wondering, Red Hat 5.0 DOES install on ThinkPads 560Z and 600!)

Well, I just received a "laptop upgrade" from my employer, so my ThinkPad T60 was an immediate candidate for Linuxhood.  I chose the Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) distribution, and installation was virtually effortless.  I was immediately presented with the choice to upgrade to Natty Narwhal (11.04), which I did.  There were a few minor glitches, the most noticeable of which was that the infamous "ThinkPad buttons" for volume up/down/mute and "ThinkVantage" were inoperational, but I fixed that with the install of ThinkPad utilities from the Ubuntu Software Center. 

Some time later, I had the chance to upgrade to Oneiric Ocelot, aka Ubuntu 11.10.  This one was a little different, because the upgrade immediately informed me that my graphic hardware might have a rough time after the upgrade.  This was due to Ubuntu's change from straight GNOME to the new Unity 3D interface.  Well, they were right; while everything was operational after upgrading to 11.10, video responsiveness was HIDEOUSLY slow.  Now, for folks like me who still run ThinkPad 600s and T41s, it wasn't unusably bad, but it was poor nonetheless.  Thankfully, there's another option - Unity2D.  Since I'm not much for eye candy in general, I switched to Unity2D; the positive results were immediate.  It's visually zippy in all but the most intensive operations (such as Workspace view, where it does a split-screen view of all four workspaces).  It does everything I need, and does it "fast enough" for me.

Why am I mentioning this?  Because IBM still sells used/refurbished laptops.  While they don't currently have any T60s in stock, they do have T61s at a VERY affordable price.  The links below will take you to IBM's used equipment marketplace, ThinkWiki (a great reference for Linux on any model of ThinkPad), and the Ubuntu homepage.

IBM Certified Used Equipment

Homepage | Ubuntu




matnewman said...

Good review mate, I rolled my T61P back to 11.04 since I'm not a Unity fan at all. Even 5 year hardware is immensely useful on an OS as zippy as Ubuntu. Nice that Notes consumes less than 200meg of memory on this OS too!

Sam Sawatzky said...


I just upgraded to a Dell D630 on 11.04....I've got Notes mostly working (installing dependancies, etc), but some messages or windows don't show up. Have you run into that, or is it just me?

David Schaffer said...

I've been running an X60 with OpenSUSE. It's a bit less user friendly for installing software than Ubuntu from what I gather, but Notes runs well and most ThinkPad features seem well supported -- docking, WiFi, buttons, power management, etc.

Wes said...

Sam, I'm just now installing Notes/Domino this week; I've been saving it for a "over vacation" project...we'll see how it goes.

PhrenicGermal said...

Excellent! My T42 has been acting up lately, so I'm using that as an excuse to get a T60 (and a new 9 cell battery). It's got a 120 Gig HD so I'm planning to dual-boot this one with XP (included). I've been anxious how 11.10 works because I've seen some threads with issues with sound in linux. My girlfriend's brand new acer timelineX dual boots ubuntu, but she hardly uses it because she has *never* gotten the sound working in that.

Alex said...

Also got recently T60 from my work as hardware replacement took place. And I decided to go for Ubuntu 11.10 (was using fedora so far on my other, even older machine). Good to hear some info from other people.
So 3D versus 2D on T60 is not a matter of getting some newer graphic drivers, I guess, though I was hoping till now it is.
Are you using extended monitor configuration in 2D and experiencing Terminal windows problem which stays on top of other windows. There are works around. Anything you would recommend?
BTW, I was not able to use 3D at all when extended monitor configuration. I was not able to set my monitor to use standard 1920x1080 resolution to be precise.