Installing Ubuntu on a ThinkPad T20

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Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

Hardy Heron will install on a T20. The Desktop install Live-CD has been reported to work on machines with 256MB of RAM or more. If your T20 has less than 256MB RAM, you should consider using the alternate install CD.


ACPI is (still) not enabled by default. You will most likely want to enable it. To do so, add 'acpi=force' to the line in /boot/grub/menu.lst beginning '# defoptions='. Then (as root) run:

sudo update-grub
sudo grub-install /dev/sda


The Belkin f5d7050 Wireless 802.11g USB adaptor (version 3) 050d:705a mentioned below now works flawlessly "out-of-the-box".


Broadcom Bluetooth adaptors (or the same but branded) with 0x0a5c:0x1021 as idVendor:idProduct as reported by lsusb work flawlessly.


OpenGL hardware acceleration

Make the following changes in /etc/X11/xorg.conf and reboot.

Section "Screen"
        Identifier      "Default Screen"
        Monitor         "Configured Monitor"
        Device          "Configured Video Device"
        Defaultdepth    16
Section "Device"
        Identifier	"Configured Video Device" 
        BusID "PCI:1:0:0"
        Option "DmaType" "PCI" 
        Option "BusType" "PCI" 

OpenGL hardware acceleration should now work.

Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon

From :


There are a few known high-impact flaws which you don't need to bother reporting if you encounter them:

The desktop CD hangs on a lot of systems, especially slower ones with little RAM. Sometimes it is just slow, sometimes it will hang eternally. If you experience this and waiting a bit longer does not help, try to restart the computer and the live CD. If that still does not help, use the alternate CD. ("

This happened on my T20 (384MB). The alternate CD is probably a better bet as usual.

GRUB bug

If upgrading from Feisty to Gutsy, you may need to run:

sudo grub-install --recheck /dev/sda

in order to be able successfully to run e.g.,:

sudo grub-install /dev/sda

to update the acpi=force setting (see below).



defoptions=quiet splash acpi=force

to menu.lst and grub-install to force ACPI to be used. Unlike the procedure described below, this will (should) persist across kernel upgrades.

Ubuntu 7.04, Feisty Fawn

Feisty works well on the T20.

Whether you install or upgrade, you will need to force ACPI to be turned on. N.B., You will need to repeat the acpi=force procedure described below each time Ubuntu does a kernel upgrade.

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 work "out of the box" with Ubuntu 7.04. See below for how to get it working.

Some of the other notes from below may apply.

Installing from the Alternate Install CD

It should work to install from the standard LiveCD, although the notes about possible video problems below apply.

If the LiveCD is unable to start X (perhaps a blank screen, even using 'safe graphics mode'), the Ubuntu alternate install CD is another option, since it doesn't rely on X.

After the alternate installation finishes, X still may not load. To workaround this, Go into 'recovery mode' from the boot menu.

When it gives you a prompt, edit the X config file. For example: `nano -w /etc/X11/xorg.conf`. Find the section for 'Device'. (shown below, it may have more items) Look for "savage" and change it to "vesa". This is one of several workarounds, but seems successful for one contributor. Note: This will disable Direct Rendering / OpenGL acceleration.

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

Also see Video section below for a fix that is known to work.

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.

Update: A potential fix is available in the 2.6.23-rc1 kernel. This is not yet available as a formal Ubuntu package.

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!

Following a Feisty to Gutsy upgrade, tpb (ThinkPad Buttons) functionality disappeared. After tpb was re-installed, it worked for a day or two with a different GUI which was not that well integrated with the window manager but then tpb stopped working at all.


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 graphics 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.

A "blue bar" or a "blue band" may impede the video rendering when playing videos or DVDs with mplayer when using the savage driver and xv video output. Work around this using x11 video:

mplayer -vo x11 video.mpg


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.

Under Feisty, to get the Belkin f5d7050 Wireless 802.11g USB adaptor (version 3) to work:

Add the following lines to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist

blacklist rt73usb

blacklist rt2570

$ sudo apt-get install ndisgtk

Use ndisgtk to install the Windows 2000 / XP drivers on the CD supplied with the adaptor.

$ sudo modprobe wlan0

$ sudo dhclient wlan0

It works but still doesn't integrate fully with the nm-applet. I wouldn't recommend it for purchase but give this advice for those that already have it.


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 T20 and T21 models are so similar, the instructions describing installation of Ubuntu onto a ThinkPad T21 may also be helpful.

External Resources