Installing Slackware on a Thinkpad W520

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Slackware 13.37 64-bit installed like a breeze on a hot, humid day! For the most part all of the essentials to get the system up and running on the W520 was detected and put into play with little or no intervention or editing of files on my end.


Coming from a W510, the W520 introduced me to the concepts of discrete and integrated graphics, as well as NVIDIA's Optimus technology. Unfortunately because of NVIDIA's unwillingness to bring Optimus support to Linux, you have three choices. You can use the integrated Intel HD graphics, NVIDIA's discrete graphics, or look into the bumblebee project here. I went with the NVIDIA discrete graphics route with plans to try out the bumblebee project at a later time. Make sure to specifically set your graphics option in the BIOS to discrete, otherwise Slackware/Linux will select integrated.

Instead of the open source nouveau driver, which is limited to 2D graphics I went with NVIDIA's binary, version 275.09.07. With X.Org's X Server 1.9.5 in Slackware, xorg.conf is pretty bare these days as detection is done pretty smoothly at start. Using NVIDIA's installer to create a default xorg.conf, the only things I edited were

Section "Device"

   Identifier     "Device0"
   Driver         "nvidia"
   VendorName     "NVIDIA Corporation"
   BoardName      "Quadro 2000M"
   Option         "RenderAccel"       "true"
   Option         "AddARGBGLXVisuals" "true"
   Option         "HWCursor"          "yes"
   Option         "CursorShadow"      "yes"
   Option         "RegistryDwords"    "EnableBrightnessControl=1"


The Option "RegistryDwords" "EnableBrightnessControl=1" line allows you to change the brightness of the notebook's LCD via the Fn-HOME and Fn-END key combinations.

Section "Screen"

   Identifier     "Screen0"
   Device         "Device0"
   Monitor        "Monitor0"
   DefaultDepth    24
   Option         "TwinView"                  "1"
   Option         "DynamicTwinView"           "True"
   Option         "TwinViewXineramaInfoOrder" "DFP-1"
   Option         "MetaModes" "DFP-1: 1920x1200_60 +0+0, DFP-0: NULL, CRT: NULL; DFP-0: 1920x1080_60 +0+0, DFP-1: NULL, CRT: NULL;"
   SubSection     "Display"
       Depth       24


Here I set up the 2 MetaModes:

  • notebook LCD off, external LCD on, VGA off
  • notebook LCD on, external LCD off, VGA off

By setting CRT-0: NULL, you can save some battery by turning off the VGA port.


The Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 Wi-Fi card and Intel Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000) PCI-Express Ethernet card both worked right out of the box.