Installing Debian Sid (October 2005) on a ThinkPad T42

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Debian netinst

Insert the Debian net installation disk (download size ~130 MB) and on bootup, the laptop should go directly to the Debian splash image prompting you for a boot parameter. If you don't see this screen, then you possibly need to change the boot device configuration in your BIOS and make the CD drive the first boot disk.

Enter expert26 to start the installation with Kernel 2.6, and it will take you through the regular Debian setup which contrary to published reports on Slashdot and SuSe forums is very intuitive and non-scary. Everything I had on this machine (lspci output below) was detected with the sole exception of the Intel Pro Wireless 2200 wireless card. It turned out later that getting wirless to work was really easy in debian.

Debian should install just fine and on first bootup, install the packages you want. X should just work with all the auto-detect options in the installer. I have a SXGA monitor and the display worked correctly from the first go. The only problem I had with the Debian installer is that at the time of my install, gnome was in transition so I couldn't immediately install the mail client of choice -> Evolution.

My configuration

Here is the lspci output from my system, a more non-cryptic description of my config is below

0000:00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation 82855PM Processor to I/O Controller (rev 03)
0000:00:01.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82855PM Processor to AGP Controller (rev 03)
0000:00:1d.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) USB UHCI Controller #1 (rev 01)
0000:00:1d.1 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) USB UHCI Controller #2 (rev 01)
0000:00:1d.2 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) USB UHCI Controller #3 (rev 01)
0000:00:1d.7 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-M) USB2 EHCI Controller (rev 01)
0000:00:1e.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge (rev 81)
0000:00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation 82801DBM (ICH4-M) LPC Interface Bridge (rev 01)
0000:00:1f.1 IDE interface: Intel Corporation 82801DBM (ICH4-M) IDE Controller (rev 01)
0000:00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) SMBus Controller (rev 01)
0000:00:1f.5 Multimedia audio controller: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) AC'97 Audio Controller (rev 01)
0000:00:1f.6 Modem: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) AC'97 Modem Controller (rev 01)
0000:01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: ATI Technologies Inc Radeon Mobility M7 LW [Radeon Mobility 7500]
0000:02:00.0 CardBus bridge: Texas Instruments PCI4520 PC card Cardbus Controller (rev 01)
0000:02:00.1 CardBus bridge: Texas Instruments PCI4520 PC card Cardbus Controller (rev 01)
0000:02:01.0 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation 82540EP Gigabit Ethernet Controller (Mobile) (rev 03)
0000:02:02.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 2200BG (rev 05)

In summary,

Intel 1.73 Pentium M (Dothan)
Intel Pro Wirless 2200
SXGA monitor (14", 1400x1050)
512 MB of RAM
Intel Gigabit Ethernet
IBM Security System
Integrated fingerprint reader
56 K modem

Getting wireless to work

Intel 2200BG wireless chipsets work right out of the box since the source is in the kernel tree since 2.6.15. You will still need to download and install the firmware for these cards. The firmware files change with the version number of the driver that is included in the kernel source. The version of the firmware may be checked by apt-getting the kernel source and viewing Documentation/networking/README.ipw2200

The ipw2200 sourceforge page at IPW-Sourceforge will have directions for you.

Check that everything works by

       $ iwlist scanning

Either eth1 or eth0 should show a list of available wirless networks (if any)

You can create your wirless preferences by modifying your /etc/network/interfaces file. I show a part of mine as reference

Network intefaces file

  mapping eth1
       map home 
       map work
       map none
  # The loopback network interface
  auto lo
  iface lo inet loopback
  # The primary network interface
  # auto eth0
  iface eth0 inet dhcp
  autho eth1
  iface eth1 inet dhcp
  iface home inet dhcp
       wireless-essid enter your wireless ID 
       wireless-key whatever your wirless key is
  iface work inet dhcp
       wireless-essid whatever your work wireleess ID
       wireless-key whatever your wireless key is
  iface none inet dhcp
       wireless-essid ANY
       wireless-key none

Getting power management to work

Power-management works with ACPI but there are issues with getting ATI Radeon cards to sleep (see below).

For power-management, apt-get install hibernate

ACPI sleep

ACPI sleep works out of the box. Just login as root and type

       $ echo mem > sys/power/state

Your laptop should go through the suspend cycle and the sleep light should come on. To resume, press the Fn key and the laptop shoud resume where you left it.

You can automate this whole operation, so that when you close the lid, the laptop should go to sleep automatically. Here's how.


I recommend using the suspend2 patch found on The instructions there are quite easy to follow and after downloading the patch you can patch the kernel by executing in the kernel directory the command

       $bzcat /path/to/patch | patch -p1

Select the suspend2 configuration options in the kernel tree. Make sure LZF compression is built in in the Cryptographic routines section.

Compiling the kernel

In Debian this is easy to do using the kernel-package program. apt-get install kernel-package initramfs-tools fakeroot and in the kernel directory, you can execute

       $ make-kpkg --initrd --rootcmd fakeroot --append-to-version <system_name> --revision <2.6.x-y> --arch i386 kernel_image

and after a while the kernel .deb package is made. Make sure you have initramfs-tools installed and NOT yaird because suspend2 is not supported using yaird.

To get suspend2 to resume successfully, you will have to pass resume2=swap:/dev/hdax as a kernel parameter in /boot/grub/menu.lst

ACPI sleep drain and framebuffer problem

Thinkpad laptops with ATI radeon cards currently suffer from high ACPI sleep power drain. This is because, the radeon card doesn't shut down when the rest of the laptop goes to sleep. This is probably because the Radeon driver programmers are working in the dark due to ATI not fully releasing the specs of their card. This problem may be fixed in kernel 2.6.21 where the ACPI subsystem is rumored to be completely revamped.

Another problem is that the current implementation of the radeon power management (drivers/video/aty/radeon_pm.c) maintains a whitelist of thinkpad systems where the radeon card can be successfully shut off using a kernel parameter. However, this stopped working sometime in eary 2007 with an upgrade of the server. Thus many have reported hangs as covered in [1]. For the time being, if you want to use the framebuffer, you will have to recompile your kernel with the Radeon driver built in. Pass video=radeonfb:ignore_devllist=1 as the kernel parameter in grub or lilo.

Sample kernel configuration in Grub

       title           Debian GNU/Linux, kernel 2.6.20-custom
       root            (hd0,0)
       kernel          /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.20-custom root=/dev/hda1 ro resume2=swap:/dev/hda5 video=radeonfb:ignore_devlist=1
       initrd          /boot/initrd.img-2.6.20-custom

ACPI sleep drain test script

You can test if your laptop suffers from the Radeon ACPI problems by running the script available at [2]. If your power drain during ACPI sleep is greather than 1W, its too much. When working correctly, power usage during ACPI sleep for most ATI cards is around 620 mW.

Enabling power management Fn keys

apt-get install acpi-support. Modify the scripts found in /etc/acpi/events to point to actions that will do the necessary function.

Enabling hibernate on closing lid

Modify /etc/acpi/actions/ so that it points to /usr/sbin/hibernate when the lid is shut. The one on my system is listed below

        test -f /usr/sbin/laptop_mode || exit 0
        # lid button pressed/released event handler
        /usr/sbin/laptop_mode auto
         test -f /usr/sbin/laptop_mode || exit 0
        grep -q closed /proc/acpi/button/lid/*/state
        if [ $? = 0 ]
        #        chvt 12
        #        rmmod uhci_hcd ehci_hcd usbhid
                sleep 2
        #       modprobe uhci_hcd
        #       modprobe ehci_hcd
        #        modprobe usbhid
               chvt 7

CPU Frequency scaling

In debian this is really easy. With your default stock kernel, you can just modprobe cpufreq_userspace and speedstep_centrino and your CPU will dynamically change the frequency to conserver power. Very cool. Most of the time, my processor sits at 599 MHz. Again, add them to /etc/modules to enable them at bootup.

HDD spin down

Again in debian, this is really easy. Just apt-get laptop-mode-tools and powernowd and your HDD will spn down when idle to conserve power. Very cool.

Misc tweaks

You can use the powerplay feature of your Radeon GPU by adding the following in your /etc/X11/xorg.conf

       Section "Device"
               Identifier      "ATI Technologies Inc Radeon Mobility M7 LW [Radeon Mobility 7500]"
               Driver          "ati"
               Option          "AGPMode" "4"
               Option          "EnablePageFlip" "on"
               Option          "RenderAccel" "on"
               Option          "DynamicClocks" "on"
               Option          "ColorTiling"   "on"
               BusID           "PCI:1:0:0"
               Option          "UseFBDev"              "true"
               Option          "BIOSHotkeys"           "on"

Check to see if DynamicClocks, etc are working by looking at /var/log/Xorg.0.log. These features doesn't work with XFree86.

Thinkpad buttons

You can get an online display for your screen brightness and volume control by apt-getting tpb. You need to make /dev/nvram user-writable to get it work with regular user perms. Add tpb to your .xsession file to have it running when you first start X. /dev/nvram can be made user-writable by adding yourself to the nvram group. This way you don't have to do it everytime you boot up.