Difference between revisions of "Lenovo ThinkPad X100e"

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(Setting up Arch Linux on the Lenovo ThinkPad x100e)
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Revision as of 20:33, 23 November 2010

Live notes & install instructions

I've made good progress on getting the x100e working and all hotkeys are working, it's stable. There are only a few issues that are still being ironed out. I've been using gdocs for a scratch pad and if you want to see the current status of my notes (rough as they are) see: http://ethanschoonover.com/x100e

Note that once I iron things out (particularly on the power management front) I'll do a bit of editing and post the final content here.


The Lenovo Thinkpad x100e is the first netbook-form factor unit in the Thinkpad series and makes an appealing Arch Linux laptop. Key features:

  • excellent keyboard
  • solid build quality
  • easily accessible system components (disk, ram, wifi/wwan PCI slots)
  • cheaply available wifi card upgrades (Intel 5100 for 5ghz N support, see caveats below)
  • WWAN card availability (can be ordered built in or purchased later, untested in this initial write up)

Possible negatives include:

  • The unit does run hot and ejects a steady stream of hot air from the left hand vents. The following write up does not yet include experiments with undervolting or fan/power control which may help address that issue.
  • Battery life is not “netbook” class. With a six cell 17+ battery (default when ordered) 2-3 hours are reasonable. With a three cell 17 battery pack, the unit gets about 1.5 hours (at full brightness, wifi up, no power savings, max CPU speed, so this might change with later tweaking).

Configuration Notes

This writeup was done based around a single x100e unit in two specific configurations (two different wifi cards, noted below):

  • 2GB RAM
  • 40GB SSD (Intel X25-V)
  • no WWAN card
  • First wifi card: Realtek 8172 (working on 2.4GHz b/g/n)
  • Second wifi card: Intel 5100 agn (working on 2.4GHz and 5Ghz b/g/n but ‘n’ connections drop after 5 minutes at time of this writeup - Sept. 2010 - Intel is working on a fix and there is a stopgap workaround to turn off ‘n’ functionality)

Known Issues

Prior to kernel 2.6.35 there were several issues that plagued Linux installation on the x100e, including audio jack issues, wifi driver problems, display issues.

Some of these remain but for the most part a straight Arch install with kernel 2.6.35 or later on the x100e gets most things working almost immediately. Wifi continues to need love and care to bring up successfully, but once configured seems relatively reliable on both the Realtek wifi card.

Thinkwiki reports that wifi should work out of the box on kernels 2.6.32-22.33 but this did not seem to be the case as of 2.6.35. Others may have better success with out of the box support and if so please note here.

If using the Intel 5100 agn wifi card (must be the lenovo part, FRU 43Y6517, as the BIOS detects non lenovo cards and will fail to boot) the card will work out of the box 2.6.35 or later (possibly eariler kernels as well, but those weren’t tested in this writeup).

Poweroff stalls unless clocksource-jiffies kernel parameter is set. There may be other work arounds or kernel parameters that would address this. noalpic-timer parameter also works but results in failure to bring CPUs up to high res mode (though I assume jiffies prevents high res mode too... out of my depth here and will be researching more).

Upon resume from suspend to ram, there are rare incidents of the filesystem not mounting properly and being set to a read-only state due to a journaling failure at the time of suspend. This seems to be addressed in a patch submitted for inclusion in kernel 2.6.36-rc4. It is unclear whether this is related to the x100e alone, the Intel X25-V alone, or the specific combination of unit/drive. It is rare enough in the installation described here that no steps have been taken to patch ahead of expected availabilty of kernel 2.6.36.


For this successful installation, the net install ISO (2010.05, current at time of initial writeup) was used. Many of the issues that the x100e faced with 2.6 kernels have been addressed as of kernel 2.6.35. There is no optical drive in the x100e so you’ll need to use a USB key or network boot. See Putting installation media on a USB key or the Beginners Guide for more details on booting off a USB key.

Installation Notes

Unless otherwise specificed, defaults were used throughout the Arch setup process.

Partitioning (SSD Specific Notes)

Note: The partitioning and disk related content below is not relevant unless you are also using an SSD in this unit. If using a harddisk you can just auto configure or manually configure if you feel confident that you know what you're doing.

In this writeup, the Windows hard drive was removed and replaced with a solid state disk (Intel X25-V 40GB). See the excellent Solid State Drives article for details on how best to set up this drive. The working procedure used was to manually partition the drive prior to entering the Arch setup process. At the command line:

# fdisk -H 224 -S 56 /dev/sda

The head and sector values are designed to align with the expected erase block size of the SSD for optimal performance, but there are alternatives. see the above linked SSD article for more details.

Four new primary partitions were created to the following specifications. The root partition may be (likely is?) too large but this was a first-time Arch install and bigger rather than smaller seemed a safe bet.

partition	purpose (to be assigned later)	type		size		fs type (later)
1		/boot					83/Linux	+100M		ext2
2		/					83/Linux	+18G		ext4
3		swap					82/Linux	+2G		swap
4		/home					83/Linux	remaining	ext4

Filesystem creation (SSD Specific Notes)

The filesystem creation as follows for this example (stripe-width to align to erase block size, as was the H/S specification for fdisk above):

# mke2fs -t ext2 stripe-width=32 -L boot /dev/sda1
# mke2fs -t ext4 stripe-width=32 -L root /dev/sda2
# mkswap-L swap /dev/sda3
# mke2fs -t ext4 stripe-width=32 -L home /dev/sda4

Note that the labels as included here using the -L parameter are optional but if set should then be automatically detected and applied to the GRUB configuration. GRUB2 does not detect/apply these labels automatically (defaulting to UUID).

Arch Setup - Prepare Hard Drives

During the “Prepare Hard Drives” setup in Arch setup:

  • Manually configure block devices, filesystems and mount points
  • Setup will detect existing partitions, select “yes” to use as starting point
  • Select partitions in sequence and do not recreate filesystems
  • Match filesystem types to partitions along with intended mount points
Note: /etc/fstab will also need to be modified (see below) for optimal SSD performance.

Arch Setup - Select Packages

No additional packages need to be selected, though the “Wireless Tools” package can be installed at this time. The Realtek wifi driver needs special care and handling, and there will be some manual changes required to get it working later.

Arch Setup - Configure System


The only change needed during initial setup is hostname. There will be some other modules added later.


Again, see the SSD article for more details on this. If using an SSD as configured above, the follow ing fstab changes will optimize performance/minimize writes:

/dev/sda1 /boot ext2 defaults 0 1
/dev/sda2 / ext4 defaults,noatime,discard 0 1
/dev/sda3 swap swap defaults 0 0
/dev/sda4 /home ext4 defaults,noatime,discard 0 2

Arch Setup - Install Bootloader

GRUB or GRUB2 both work fine here. Keep it simple, go with GRUB unless you have a specific need for GRUB2.

Continue with system configuration after rebooting from internal disk.

First Boot - System update and configuration

System updates and installation

Standard stuff. Get curl in preparation for AUR and the Realtek wifi drivers if needed.

# pacman -Syu
# pacman -S curl
Note: remainder ot content to be added asap after I complete testing, formatting

Currently able to get power usage to under 12W with wifi *on*: [1]