Installing Debian 7.0 (Wheezy) on a ThinkPad T42

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The machine

This is a T42 that I ordered brand-new from IBM shortly before the Thinkpad line was sold to Lenovo. Various parts have been changed and upgraded from the stock configuration. This is its current configuration.

  • Intel Pentium M 1.70GHz
  • 2G RAM
  • Fujitsu MHU2100AT HD (100G)
  • 1024x768 LCD panel
  • ATI Mobility Radeon 9600
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG
  • BIOS version 3.23


I installed Debian 7.0 (Wheezy) from a bootable flash drive. The process of creating bootable flash drive is described here. It is helpful to add the non-free firmware package and wifi firmware package to this drive so wifi can work as soon as you're done installing. Deselect the option to install a desktop. We'll install MATE instead. The install process is uneventful. You will end up with a bootable and usable system.

When you boot into the new system, go to here and create a sources.list file that's suitable for your geographic location and software needs. I highly reccomend that you select at least Main, Contrib, Non-free, and Security. Put the resulting text in /etc/apt/sources.list and comment out or delete references to a CD repository. Now, if you didn't add them to the flash drive, install firmware-linux-nonfree and firmware-ipw2x00_0 by doing # apt-get install firmware-linux-nonfree firmware-ipw2x00_0.

The sudo package is not installed because we deselected the desktop packages. These commands will install it and add you to the sudo group.

 #  apt-get install sudo
 #  adduser <myusername> sudo

Now let's get MATE installed. Add this line to /etc/apt/sources.list:

 deb wheezy main

Install the MATE keys with

 #  apt-get install mate-archive-keyring

and press 'Y' when you're asked if your sure. Then do:

 #  apt-get install mate-core

This installs the basic environment. If you want more, do:

 #  apt-get install mate-desktop-environment

For even more:

 #  apt-get install mate-desktop-environment-extra

Now, if you don't want to install GDM, you'll need to install the xinit package:

 #  apt-get install xinit

This will enable you to start an X session by typing "startx".


I prefer using wicd for controlling network connections. Doing the following as root should install all you need for that # apt-get install wicd-cli wicd-curses wicd-gtk You will need to explicitly tell wicd the name of your wireless device name. It won't guess. Go to Preferences and you'll see a section labeled "Network Interfaces". The "Wireless Interface" field is blank. Put eth1 there.

Sleep and Hibernate

This will install some packages and dependencies that will allow for presses of Fn-F4 and Fn-F12 to cause sleep and suspend respectively.

 #  apt-get install acpid acpi-support hibernate nvram-wakeup

Commands will also be installed that allow you to put the machine into sleep or suspend mode at the command line. That can be done with either of these command:

 #  hibernate-ram
 #  hibernate-disk

Make sure the thinkpad_acpi and nvram modules are loaded at boot time. We won't load them now because a reboot will be necessary.

 #  echo "thinkpad_acpi" >>/etc/modules
 #  echo "nvram" >>/etc/modules

Next, go to /etc/modprobe.d and look at the file radeon-kms.conf. There should be one line in there that reads:

options radeon modeset=1

That '1' there turns on KMS mode for the video interface. This does not work with the T42. Change that '1' to '0'.

 # echo "options radeon modeset=0" > /etc/modprobe.d/radeon-kms.conf

You might have a problem with Fn-F12 (see Debian Bug number 704275). To work around that, edit /etc/acpi/ and replace the call to "pm-hibernate" with "hibernate-disk".

Now reboot so that the kernel picks up of the above radeon modeset=0 setting. Your computer should now go into suspend and hibernation when the appropriate key combination is pressed.

Other Things

The thinkfan package may be desirable for exerting finer control over the CPU fan. The tpb package may be desirable if you want to use Fn key combinations other than Sleep and Suspend.