IBM ThinkPad X41

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Installing Arch Linux isn't exactly trivial if you happen to be a lucky owner of an ThinkPad X41 laptop. As a rather new machine with a Serial-ATA (SATA) harddrive, no internal CD or DVD drive, and a slightly unusual networking chipset, you'll have to have some patience and time in order to get it “Arched”.

With this guide, we hope to make it easier for you to run your new favorite Linux distribution on your laptop. Please help us improve and keep it updated.

Update: As of June 17th, 2008 remastering the installation CD is no longer needed. The same IBM Thinkpad X41 boots and installs without a hitch with the official, standard ISO discs.

Performing the installation

So you've got your very own, customized Arch Linux bootable CD, and now you want to get it installed. Well, be warned. Since we kind of hacked that CD together, we'll need some magic fingers to get it to install properly.

First off, plug in your USB-based CD-drive into your laptop and put the CD in. Power up the laptop, and make sure you have your BIOS set to attempt to boot from the CD-drive. You'll be greeted with the standard Arch Linux boot prompt if you succeed.

Just press enter and your homemade kernel will begin booting shortly. If you get an error message about '/dev/ram0' not existing, you probably forgot to compile initrd support into your kernel (the ramdisc will hence not be created). If so, rebuild with support enabled and make a new CD (bummer, eh?).

After the boot messages have washed by, you will be left in the initial environment, from where you can load modules, change keymaps etc. Since I have a Swedish keyboard layout, I first wanted to change that. You will need to load the keyboard mapping files from the CD.

Examining the 'dmesg' output, you'll probably notice that no USB CD-drive is mentioned. You can either unplug the CD-drive and plug it back in, at which time it will be identified and assigned to '/dev/scd0', or simply “know” that the CD is actually already identified and assigned to '/dev/sr0'. Either way, you'll load the CD data by issuing the 'loaddisk <device>' command, where '<device>' is either '/dev/scd0' or '/dev/sr0', depending on your preference.

Then type 'km' and choose keyboard mapping in the list. Us swedes use 'i386/qwerty/', choose whatever is appropriate for you.

Now you are ready to launch the Arch Linux setup program, located in the 'arch' directory. Type '/arch/setup' at the prompt.

From here on, the installation is pretty much smooth sailing. Just follow the on-screen instructions, and you should be home free.

Myself I chose not to install a kernel at this point (since I wasn't sure it wouldn't install the shoddy, home-made one used for booting the system), and instead booted up the system from the CD-drive once again, but using the freshly installed root filesystem on the harddrive. Then I used pacman to install a kernel directly from the Arch Linux repositories.

If you want to do the same, just reboot with the CD-drive plugged in, and when the boot prompt shows up, issue 'arch root=/dev/sda2 noinitrd ro' (if you root Linux partition happens to be '/dev/sda2', as in my case).

Login as root, make sure your network interface is running properly (I use DHCP), and then issue the following pacman commands:

pacman –sync –refresh
pacman -S linux

Then add your new kernel to '/boot/grub/menu.lst', or to whatever file your bootloader uses.

Other information

Some interesting packages for your IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad X41:

  • acpi
  • acpid
  • laptop-mode-tools
  • xf86-video-intel
  • thinkpad
  • tpb
  • tbctl

The IBM X41 comes with ipw2915 wireless Centrino (A, B and G) module. You use the ipw2200 modules (installable via pacman, several versions available depending on your kernel version). There seems to be some problem with the drivers for both wireless and cabled ethernet, since I've experienced weird behavior from those devices a number of times, both under Debian, Ubuntu and now also Arch Linux. The devices just doesn't respond to certain commands, or simply doesn't work. For example, the wireless device can sometimes not switch mode via the iwconfig command, "operation not supported". A reboot usually fixes these issues. They can be related to having performed a sleep earlier.

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