IBM ThinkPad X31

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The IBM Thinkpad X31 is a wonderful little laptop which contains everything you need for your everyday work, and even some gaming, if you tweak things a little. The X31 is rock solid, light (3.7 lbs), and nowadays very cheap. The only drawback is the lack of internal optical drive. You can see the specs of the X31 on ThinkWiki, a wonderful resource with additional information.


A basic Arch Linux installation will do just fine for about everything, so I won't talk about sound or other basic stuff. No custom kernel needed. However, you will need the following particular packages:

The following useful packages are in the AUR.

  • rovclockAUR for boosting direct rendering (see above)


To hibernate using pm-utils (tested with kernel 2.6.37), you have to adjust some screws of the default setup. Doing this, hibernation works flawlessly. You have to setup pm-utils first. If it's working out of the box, do not read further.

Don't forget to install radeontool from the AUR, as it's needed to turn off the lcd backlight.

If your X31 freezes during hibernation or just reboots instead of resume, when you power on again, this might help you:

Append the following to your kernel line in grub's config:

nomodeset acpi_sleep=nonvs 

Xorg and direct rendering

This section assumes the ATI Radeon Mobility M6 LY video card. This can be verified using:

$ lspci | grep Mobility

Here is a minimal xorg.conf, optimized for performance:

Section "ServerFlags"
	Option "AutoAddDevices" "False"

Section "Device"
	Identifier	"Card0"
	Driver		"ati"
	BusID		"PCI:1:0:0"
	Option		"AGPMode" "4"
	Option		"AGPFastWrite" "on" #Faster than default (off)
	Option		"SWcursor" "off" #Faster than default (on)
	Option		"EnablePageFlip" "on" #Faster than default (off)
	Option		"AccelMethod" "EXA" # or XAA, EXA, XAA more stable, XAA is deafult
	Option		"DynamicClocks" "on"
	Option		"BIOSHotkeys"   "on"
	Option		"AGPSize" "32" # default: 8
	Option		"EnableDepthMoves" "true"

Section "Extensions"
  Option "Composite" "Disable"
Note: This configuration disables compositing to improve performance. If you need this feature, set Composite to Enable. Also, if you want to use Xorg Input Hotplugging, set AutoAddDevices to true.


You can also overclock your graphic card. As far as I know, there is no real drawback, but you can play it safe and only use it while running a game or compiz or any application using your graphic card:

rovclock -c 220 -m 210

Use this command to get back to default settings:

rovclock -c 144 -m 144

If you want to enable it permanently, add the first command in xprofile.

If, on the contrary, you barely use your graphic card, you can lower both power usage and temperature slightly by underclocking your graphic card at boot by adding this command to xprofile:

rovclock -c 90 -m 100

Dual Screen

If you want to use an external screen for a presentation or as an extended desktop, you can use xrandr. For an extended desktop, you should first add one line in your /etc/x11/xorg.conf configuration file in the SubSection "Display" area:


SubSection "Display"
 		Depth     24
 		Modes "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"


SubSection "Display"
		Depth     24
		Modes "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"
		Virtual 2304 1024

The numbers are the total rectangular resolution that you need to use. In this case, I'm using the internal 1024x768 screen and an external 1280x1024 screen on the right. The total resolution is 1024+1280=2304 pixels large and 1024>768=1024 pixels height.

Note that in 24 bits with this option, the performance is affected for 3D drawing, so you may need to comment it and use only one screen when you need the graphical power.

Then restart your X server. You can issue this command in a shell:

xrandr --output VGA-0 --right-of LVDS

To find the exact name of the monitors and the maximum resolution that you set up in the configuration file, you can type just xrandr without arguments.



This will put your screen brightness to the minimum level when on battery and restore it to maximum when on ac power:

echo -e '#!/bin/bash\necho 0 > /sys/class/backlight/thinkpad_screen/brightness' > /etc/laptop-mode/batt-start/battscript
chmod 0755 /etc/laptop-mode/batt-start/battscript
echo -e '#!/bin/bash\necho 7 > /sys/class/backlight/thinkpad_screen/brightness' > /etc/laptop-mode/lm-ac-start/acscript
chmod 0755 /etc/laptop-mode/lm-ac-start/acscript
ln -s /etc/laptop-mode/lm-ac-start/acscript /etc/laptop-mode/onlm-ac-start/acscript

It will create scripts, executed by the laptop-mode daemon when switching the power source, that change the brightness of your screen using the thinkpad_acpi module.


The X31 CPUs can be undervolted, which means they will offer you the same performance, but with more battery life and a cooler laptop. From personal experience, my CPU temperature,during 100% activity, dropped by 15-20°C just by using this patch. This is extremely easy using the linux-phc patch, but only if you know the proper values to give the CPU. Informations on how to find them is available here or here. I know it can be hard to find your own values, so here is a table were you can indicate what are the good values for each of the X31 CPUs:

  • Pentium-m 1600MHz : 34 26 18 12 8 5
Warning: Your computer may freeze once a month because of those values. If you find more stable ones, please indicate them.

Once you have your values, just run:

# echo VALUES > /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/phc_vids

For example:

# echo 34 26 18 12 8 5 > /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/phc_vids

You can add this command to your /etc/rc.local to make the undervolting permanent.


Create the following file:

 options usbcore autosuspend=1
 options ipw2100 associate=0
 options thinkpad-acpi experimental=1 fan_control=1

The three first lines put some of your devices in power-saving mode, respectively the USB ports, and the wireless card. Note that you need the last line in order to control your fan speed (see above).

See power saving for more details.


To see additional sources of power drain, install powertop:

# pacman -S powertop

And run it while on battery power. See Powertop for more information.

Hard drive dilemma

As set earlier, the hard drive is on a power-saving mode that can make it spin off and on often. It may reduce its lifetime. You can install the smartmontools package and issue this command:

# smartctl -A /dev/sda | grep Load_Cycle_Count

If the number is growing too fast, you might want to set off the powersaving mode by issuing:

# hdparm -B 254 /dev/sda

Put it in /etc/rc.local to modify it at boot time.

ACPI and Hardware-related


You can use a script from ThinkWiki to considerably lower your CPU temperature. Simply download it from here, rename it to tp-fancontrol, and run:

# chmod 0755 tp-fancontrol
# mv tp-fancontrol /usr/bin

To run the script at each boot, add this line to your /etc/rc.local:

tp-fancontrol -d

Also, I suggest changing the first maximum temperature threshold (the CPU one) to 55. Just edit /usr/bin/tp-fancontrol, the file is self-explanatory.

thinkpad_acpi and tp_smapi kernel modules

To make use of all hardware, use Tp_smapi and thinkpad_acpi. The former is in the AUR, thinkpad_acpi is merged into the kernel and has just to be loaded.

Have a look at Thinkwiki for scripts and tweaks:


If you have the Cisco neta504 wifi card, it's a bit tricky to use the wpa encryption with it. First, unload the airo and the airo_cs modules. remove the module airo from the kernel

# rmmod airo
# rmmod airo_cs

Next, blacklist the modules in /etc/modprobe.d/.

then install ndiswrapper

# pacman -S ndiswrapper

download the neta504 driver for windows and unpack it (Be sure that you have unpacked the whole driver !) Then run :

# ndiswrapper -i /path/to/your/dir/netA504.inf

Save the ndiswrapper conf file :

# ndiswrapper -m
# ndiswrapper -ma
# ndiswrapper -mi

Now you can add to your kernel the module :

# modprobe ndiswrapper

and voilà ! I've tried this with wicd and it works flawlessly !

Audio keys

To have an on-screen Display for volume change or thinklight activation you can use Tpb: ThinkPad_OSD. The audio volume up/down keys will change audio volume independently from ALSA/OSS mixer. This works quite well, so try it out.

To enable the audio keys interfacing with ALSA, add:

event=ibm/hotkey HKEY 00000080 *
action=/etc/acpi/ %e

to /etc/acpi/events/soundkey, create the following file and make it executable:


echo here > /tmp/fish
echo $4 >> /tmp/fish
case "$4" in
		amixer -c 0 set Master playback unmute
		amixer -c 0 set Master playback 3%+
		amixer -c 0 set Master playback unmute
		amixer -c 0 set Master playback 3%-
		amixer -c 0 set Master playback mute

You'll also need to add:

echo enable,0xffffffff >/proc/acpi/ibm/hotkey

to /etc/rc.local or somewhere similar for the events to be recognized.