Installing Ubuntu on a ThinkPad T20

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Ubuntu 7.04, Feisty Fawn

Feisty reportedly works well on the T20.

Whether you install or upgrade, you will need to force ACPI to be turned on.

See Video section below to fix video problems. Desktop effects don't work. TORCS, ppracer and Actioncube work well.

The Belkin wireless adapter listed below does not seem to work "out of the box" with Feisty. It gets stuck on authenticating (at least with WEP).

Some of the other notes from below may apply.

My experience with T20 and Ubuntu

My Install of Feisty required the alternate CD, as the liveCD was unable to start X (blank screen, even using 'safe graphics mode' After alternate installation finished, it still wouldn't load (a bug with S3 Savage drivers), so I needed to use grub to go into 'recovery mode'. From the prompt it eventually gives you, I used `nano -w /etc/X11/xorg.conf`, Found the section for 'Device'. (shown below, it may have more items) It said "savage", changed it to "vesa". This is one of several workarounds, but seems the most successful. N.B. This will disable Direct Rendering / OpenGL acceleration.

Section "Device"
       Identifier      "S3 Inc. 86C270-294 Savage/IX-MV"
       Driver          "savage"
       BusID           "PCI:1:0:0"

See Video section below for a fix that is known to work (at least on one T20 model).

For more info, and other workarounds/fixes, check out:

Ubuntu 6.10, Edgy Eft

Blank Screen when booting Live CD

There is an issue with the Savage driver which makes the initial boot into X hang.

1. Hit F6 on the boot menu, delete "quiet splash" from the boot parameter line, and add "break=bottom".

2. After a while you will get a prompt (initramfs), type "chroot /root nano -w /etc/X11/xorg.conf".

3. Find your video card, and change driver "savage" to "vesa".

4. Save (ctrl+w), exit nano (ctrl+x), then press ctrl+d.

5. After that the live cd will work

This is most likely the same issue as gdm hanging on start. See Video section below for a fix that is known to work (at least on one T20 model).

Howto with screenshots Ubuntu Wiki

Using APM to Suspend

To enable APM when booting the Live/Install CD, add these boot options:

`noacpi acpi=off apm=on`

After booting, `Fn-F4` will still only put the command in a standby state, but using `apm --suspend` on the command line will successfully suspend machine, and it resumes as well.

Another user reports that APM leads to a unsuccessful shutdown, hanging on the last splash screen.

Suspend and Hibernate with ACPI

ACPI is a newer and preferred alternative to APM. On the T20 it necessary to force the use of ACPI, using the following instructions.

gksudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst

Look for an uncommented line starting with "kernel" and add "acpi=force" to the end of the line. There should be a "title" line above describing the default kernel that usually boots. Making the change for just the default kernel should be sufficient.

Once the file has been re-saved, you can re-install the bootloader. The command for that is:

sudo grub-install /dev/hda

NOTE: This assumes your hard drive is at /dev/hda. Use "df" to see your hard drive names if you are not sure. This operation can potentially make your computer unbootable if there are mistakes, so be careful! (Of course, even if the hard drive became unbootable, you could most likely boot off a CD and fix it. )

Fixing Sound-After-Suspend

Sound doesn't work after a suspend/resume cycle without some help. This is due to a bug in the sound card driver. Until that's fixed, a workaround is available.

Install the files available here:

They automatically kill all sound applications when resuming, and then restart them. Be sure to save your playlists, etc., before you suspend!

In `/etc/default/acpi-support` adjust the following values:

MODULES="sb uart401 sound soundcore maestro cs4281 snd-cs46xx"

Suspend while using the LiveCD

ACPI Suspend does not work on the LiveCD. `gnome-power-manager` logs to `/var/log/messages` that is beginning to suspend, but nothing happens. This looks like it might be a known bug in Ubuntu.

Getting rid of the password upon resuming

If you don't want the password prompt when resuming, Use "Alt-F2" to open the run box and type `gconf-editor`. Navigate to "apps / gnome-power-manager ". Browse the options that start with "lock". Each has a description to read. While it's possible to directly disable the password prompt here, consider setting `lock_use_screensaver_settings`. Then, you can control the option through "System : Preferences : Screensaver", and you won't have to use gconf-editor in the future.

Special Key Support

The light and brightness keys work as expected. The volume and brightness keys have some on-screen visuals that automatically appear to illustrate them, using graphics that match the current theme. Rather nice!


Edgy: Direct rendering / GL acceleration works with the following xorg.conf changes. Use "PCI" in BIOS rather than AGP. I removed all modes apart from 1024x768. ppracer plays well at c. 10fps with all the eye candy on.

Feisty: On the 2647-21G model, with default BIOS settings, the following changes to xorg.conf work with Direct Rendering enabled and fix the gdm blank screen issue (see above). I have confirmed this over a few months of trouble free operation with and without the dock.

Driver "savage"
BusID "PCI:1:0:0"
Option "SWCursor" "on"
Option "ShadowStatus" "on"
Option "DMAMode" "Vertex"
Option "DmaType" "PCI"
Option "BusType" "PCI"

HorizSync 28-51
VertRefresh 43-60

Have to set DefaultColorDepth to 16 in section Screen, otherwise, the memory card won't have enough memory to do acceleration.

Make sure the package libgl1-mesa-dri is installed. Deborphan may decide it is just a futile library, but that is false.


Ubuntu has a great wireless networking tool that is not installed by default in Breezy or Edgy but is installed by default in Feisty.

 sudo apt-get install network-manager network-manager-gnome

To launch the applet: Alt-F2 and then nm-applet.

A networking applet should appear that you can click on to browse wireless networks and connect to them.

You may also want install network-manager-pptp which is a plugin for the system which makes it easy to connect to PPTP-based VPN networks.

Confirmed compatible wireless cards

The Orinico Gold card works great with no configuration at all. They may be sold branded as Lucent or 2wire. These cards can be found for around US $30. Be aware that they may support WEP but not WPA, which is considered more secure and required in some cases.

The Belkin f5d7050 Wireless 802.11g USB adaptor (version 3) works under Edgy. The procedure is essentially to install the ndiswrapper-1.8 and work through WirelessTroubleShootingGuide at the Ubuntu Community pages.


DVDs play great once you've installed all the missing multimedia plugins. Use the MultimediaApplications page at the Ubuntu Community pages and follow the links to the freeformats and restrictedformats pages.


Processor frequency scaling causes interruptions in sound output. To avoid this, disable scaling by removing the service powernowd (System > Administration > Service ...). This may reduce your run time on battery as a trade-off.

If sound appears disorted after resuming, check your mixer settings. From the volume icon in the dock, you can right click and select "Open Volume Control". Check if "PCM" is all the way up. Turn it down some to reduce the distortion.

Software memory requirements

Here are some test results from trying software with Ubuntu on this model.

  • OpenOffice - OK with 128Mb
  • Eclipse - 128Mb is not enough, 384Mb is OK

Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, Dapper Drake

When booting the Live/Install CD, adjust the boot options to add the following parameters:

noacpi acpi=off apm=on

Sometimes the CD may stall on boot with a blank black screen. Trying again with "Safe Graphics" mode may help, but is no guarantee that it will work. Best way is to follow the same procedure as for Ubuntu 6.10, i.e., use the alternate install CD.

Once booted, suspend and resume using Fn-F4 was successfully tested running from the LiveCD. However, in at least a couple of cases, the Live CD froze at seemingly random points shortly after resuming.

Results from a complete install still need to be documented.

See Also

Because the models are very similar, Installing Ubuntu on a ThinkPad T21 may also be helpful.

External Resources