03 Apr 2012, 19:38

Ubuntu on ThinkPad X220

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Recently I’ve got my hands on a new ThinkPad X220 (not mine, though :( ) and tried Ubuntu on it.

For various reasons I didn’t want to get rid of the pre-installed windows, so I’ve decided to go for dual-boot. When I got the ThinkPad it had three partitions. One Windows Partition, one Recovery Partition and one EFI partition I think.

I was just about the boot it with a gparted book disk when I discovered that Windows is able to resize it’s own partion. So I shrunk the Windows NTFS partition to about 50% of the initial size and made space for Ubuntu. Afterwards I’ve lauched the Precise Penguin (12.04) Installer and created a small boot partition and a large, encrypted, LVM partition. I did so using a TFTP-netboot installer image, since the graphical installer doesn’t support this. I made this experience when I did install Ubuntu on an X220 the last time (also not mine, bad luck).

After the installation was finish I’ve booted into the new system and got … nothing. Only a blank screen. However the disk was busy so I suspected that there was some issue w/ the graphics. Since the X220 is equipped w/ a Intel HD3000 Chipset (i915 Kernel Module), I thought that was unlikely. It turned out that I was able to switch to another VT using CTRL+ALT+F1, log in and install “Ubuntu Desktop” using “tasksel”. It seems the netboot installer didn’t pull in this task. Afterwards I was able to login to Gnome.

The last step was to tweak the power usage a little, head over to this post for the details on how to do it using powertop. However powertop, so far, has no way of storing the tuneable permanently. So you should install the package “laptop-mode-tools” which does most of the tweak for you.

However, this has one major drawback so far (tested on X220 and X220i with 11.10 and 12.04, same results): Shutdown is broken. Everytime I shut the ThinkPad down it immedeately reboots. This is annoying and I’m still investigating this issue. Update: It seems to be an ACPI issue in the kernel. See Ubuntu Bug #972722 for more details.

If you’re going to buy a ThinkPad be very, very alert about the little differences. Lenovo sells entirely different hardware under the ThinkPad brand with only minor variations in the naming. The ThinkPad X220 and X220i are basically the same. The X220i just got a Core i3 CPU which isn’t available for the regular X220. But the X220 Tablet is totally different and so are the other so-called “ThinkPads”. Some are what you expect from a “ThinkPad” (if you’re used to IBM ThinkPads), but some are really, really poor quality. I’ve seen one which didn’t deserve the name ThinkPad at all. If you ask me Lenovo is hurting itself by weakening this really strong brand but apparently they are happy with it …

Update: I’d suggest to get the Mini Dock 3 instead of the UltraBase. The Mini Dock comes with the 90W Power-Supply and two DVI outlets.

Update: If you wonder how to insert the SIM card for the WWAN module, see this page.