Installing Slackware on a ThinkPad 750P

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I made my 750P an SMB print server. I may add file sharing. With this document, I plan to tell you how to install Slackware 10.1 on your 750.


The 750 has only 4MB RAM built-in. Linux really likes more than that. Thankfully, you can add a 32MB RAM card to the 750. 36MB should be enough for a few tasks.

The 750 has no CD drive, and I don't have a PCMCIA CD drive, so I have to boot from floppy and install over a network. Slackware supports installing over NFS.

You will need a wired, 16-bit NIC for the 750 series. Wireless install is not supported, and 32-bit cards won't work in any 750. The NIC I'm using is the LinkSys PCMPC100, which mostly works. It doesn't seem to like NFS, so I'm using the fizban FTP method. Fizban's page. By the way, if your system locks up with no messages, please try using the FTP method. If you get "still trying" messages with NFS, try FTP. If you get "next frame inconsistency" messages, it's probably a hardware issue. (I had a very bad network cable that caused this error. Now I get a few, but just re-seating the network cable makes it go fine for a while.)

If you get NFS installation working, please edit this page.

The 750 BIOS will recognize hard drives up to 8GB, so ensure your boot partition is entirely under that limit. Linux will use all of a larger drive once the kernel loads, as it does not use the BIOS to access the hard disk.

The Steps


Download these standard Slackware floppies: bare.i, install.1, install.2, pcmcia and network. If using fizban, download his modified network and install.2 instead.

Choose an IP address. Get your IP gateway and netmask.

On another machine, set up an NFS or FTP server with the contents of the Slackware CD's.

Getting ready to run Setup

Boot the 750 with the bare.i disk. The following line of parameters will suit our needs.

ramdisk floppy=thinkpad idebus=33 noacpi noscsi nousb nopci

floppy=thinkpad is needed for old ThinkPads that have the drive sense signal polarity inverted. The 750 does. idebus=33 tells the kernel that the ide bus runs at 33MHz. (Surprise!) noxxx means the kernel should not even look for that kind of device, because it's not present on the 750.

Insert install.1 when it asks for the root disk. Continue with the fizban modified install.2 when prompted.

Login as root. If you have a 750 or 750P (and its grayscale screen), you can type TERM=vt100 to get menus with higher contrast, but I think the color menus are nicer even on the grayscale screen. Insert your NIC if not done already. Type pcmcia. Put in the pcmcia floppy when asked. It should find and enable your NIC. If your card has blinky lights, some of them should be on at this point.

Type network and insert the modified network diskette when asked. It will display a menu and prompt you. Switch to another console (Alt-F2), hit enter to log in, and type modprobe ftpfs. Ignore the warnings. Switch back to the first console (Alt-F1) and type q to skip looking for your network card (since the pcmcia diskette already did it). Hit enter to unmount the diskette.

Now you are ready to partition your disk.

Partitioning your disk

Make partitions on your disk using the old school fdisk, or the easier cfdisk.

Remember that if your drive is larger than 8GB, you should have a /boot partition and that partition must be in the first 1024 cylinders or 8GB. There is no need to format the partitions as Setup will do that for you. A swap partition is also a good idea. 1.5 to 2 times as much RAM as you have is generally regarded as a good size. (On my 750P, I made a 80MB /boot, 150MB swap and the rest of a 2.1GB drive is the root partition. I also have a FreeDOS partition for running PS2.EXE.)

Running Setup


Use that to start installation. The normal installtion procedure should work pretty well from here. (But crossing your fingers won't hurt.) See the Slackware installation documentation.

Getting devices to work

The parallel port should work perfectly fine. The serial port should work too, but it uses the feeble 16450 serial controller with a one-byte buffer, so high speeds don't work well.


The 750 family uses the WD90C24 or WD90C30 video chip with 1MB RAM. This chip is supported by XFree86's SVGA driver 640×480@255 colours (tested with version 4.1.0). If you are using X11, the card is not support and one must use the VGA driver with 16 colours and maximum. Keep in mind that the SVGA driver for XF86 needs patching if your ThinkPad 750 features a dual-scan TN display.


Sound is provided by a Crystal CS4248. It provides 24-bit system Sampling Rates up to 192 kHz. Although many CS423* chips are supported in kernel 2.4 and 2.6, no driver supports this peticular chip.


The 750P has an untethered pen that allows you to write on the screen. It appears as /dev/ttyS03 on Slackware. I don't have it working at all yet.

Final Thoughts

After doing an install and configuring Samba, my 750P runs ably (if slowly) as a print server. Installing Slackware was relatively painless, once I got the method nailed down and destroyed a bad network cable.