Installing OpenSUSE 10.2 on a T60 Thinkpad

A while back I got a new Lenovo T60 Thinkpad. Of course it can pre-installed with WinXP taking up all of the harddrive except for the 4gb hidden recovery partition.

Installation

The setup I wanted was a dual-boot with OpenSUSE as the default OS and WinXP as an option. I decided to keep the recovery partition, create a small FAT32 partition for easy sharing of files between the OS’es and split the remaining disk into two equally sized partitions for Linux and Windows.

At the time, OpenSUSE 10.2 had just been released, so I figured this would be a good chance to try it out (I am still using 10.1 on my stationary PC). When I started installation for the first time, the installer reported that the filesystem in the Windows partition had been uncleanly unmounted and therefore it could not safely resize the partition. This happened because the WinXP installation was somehow broken so all attempts to install updates would hang the machine. Well, this was easy to fix, so I booted WinXP and shut down without allowing it to install updates. Points to SUSE for detecting the filesystem inconsistency!

On the next attempt the Windows filesystem was successfully resized and the remaining partitions were created. However, after completing the partitioning, the installer reported errors reading from the drive… The error message mentioned something about SATA. Not quite sure what to do about this, I tried rebooting and repeating the installation steps. Same result.

Realizing that the SATA controller was probably causing the problem, I rebooted and went looking for settings in the BIOS. Under SATA I found a setting for SATA mode set to AHCI. I changed this to Compatibility and restarted the installation.

This time, the installation worked like a charm. All of my hardware was detected automatically.

First impressions

One of the first things you notice coming from 10.1 is that the Gnome/KDE menu has been changed from the traditional program groups into a Windows-ish menu with your favourite applications, a Beagle-driven search field and some system-related icons. I have rather mixed feelings about this new style of menu.

New start menu in Gnome

The search facility is useful in that it finds applications, documents, recently visited web pages, etc. Generally it is quick and the presentation is clean. However, once you launch an application, the search window remains. Soon, you will have a whole bunch of Beagle windows open on your desktop. To me, it would make more sense to close the window once an icon is activated.

When you want to browse to an application rather than search, you have to click the More applications button. First problem here is if you do not want to use the mouse, you have to hit Tab eight times to get to the button! Once you have the application browser window open, you will find a huge number of icons (ok – depending on how many applications you installed) sorted into nine groups. Rather confusingly, the individual elements of the Gnome Control Center have been included as individual applications. Maybe I am just stuck in the old way of doing things, but I find it to be illogical.

On the positive side, I really like the NetworkManager applet, which makes it a breeze to switch between wired and wireless networks. I am not sure if it was included in 10.1, but I have not used it before. It automatically lists available wireless networks with their signal strength and security setting. It also manages VPN connections, though apparently only OpenVPN and Cisco type VPNs – not PPTP, L2TP or IPSec.

As with most Linux distributions, OpenSUSE comes somewhat crippled in terms of media capabilities. No DVD or MP3 playback and no or limited 3D graphics acceleration. Fortunately, the fabulous Jem Report will have you playing all your favourite DVDs, MP3s and WMA files in no time and have 3D acceleration for your games or perhaps 3D desktop effects with Compiz.

Compared with 10.1, the package management applications work much better. YaST is still takes a long time loading the package database, but it has been markedly improved. The Zen updater also seems to be more robust in this release.

All in all, OpenSUSE 10.2 has been a pleasant experience so far.

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5 Responses to Installing OpenSUSE 10.2 on a T60 Thinkpad

  1. Eudoxus says:

    Thanks for good review! I like SuSE very much for its overall polish and Yast control center. However for various reasons I switched to PCLOS. One of them was SuSE’s speed – unfortunately it is very sluggish and bloated. I hope they will improve that in future.

  2. Peter Berg says:

    I read your article on installing SuSE 10.2 on a T60, and have been doing exactly the same, or trying at least.

    You say that in the installation, that all your hardware was detected. Did this apply to your modem as well? I have had no sucess with this at all. The other non-success story has been loading VLC.

    Any help with these two topics would be much appreciated.

    Peter

  3. Norbert says:

    Thanks for your review – I installed Suse 10.2 yesterday on my new T60 (after removing XP – I want to try to install it later on a virtual machine in Linux).
    Everything was OK so far – except what you say here: “I really like the NetworkManager applet, which makes it a breeze to switch between wired and wireless networks. . . It automatically lists available wireless networks with their signal strength and security setting.” That is what it did on my former 10.0 and 10.1 machines (not on the new T60). On the T60 I have wired access to the Intent, but in spite of several hours of work, I cannot get the wireless access to work. KNetworkManager sees only my wired network.
    The KNetworkManager allows me under Options to Enable or Disable Wireless – but this does not seem to have any real effect.
    I have installed ipw-firmware “Firmware for Intel PRO/Wireless WLAN Cards” for “2100/22ooGB (aka Centrino) WLAN cards” – I do not know what else I may be missing or have done wrong.

    Any advice would be highly appreciated.

    Norbert
    (writing from a different computer under XP)

  4. Hi Norbert.
    As far as I recall, I did nothing special to make the built-in wireless work. I found this over at ThinkWiki (http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Installing_openSUSE_10.2_on_an_IBM_ThinkPad_T60#Hardware):

    * Intel 3945ABG Wireless ethernet adapter

    NOTE!
    Install w/Extra’s CD, or later you will need to install the ipw-firmware and ipw3945d packages from a non-oss repository or the Extras CD. Also, make sure when you are testing that you have the hardware based network kill switch turned off for network/bluetooth. It is located near the IR port in the front. You can also turn the kill switch on and off using Fn + F5, so you do not really need to use the hardware based kill switch should not be enabled.

    After you enable the wireless with the kill switch, you will need to reboot for the interface to be detected.

    So far the only problem I have with the wireless is that it fails to reconnect to a WPA2 encrypted network after the computer has resumed from suspend mode. I have to reboot to connect again. I have heard that this is a known problem on Windows too.

    Hope that helps?

  5. @Peter:

    For VLC check out:
    http://www.videolan.org/vlc/download-suse.html

    I do not use VLC myself, so I have not checked whether it works.

    As for the modem, it was not autodetected and I have not tried to get it working. Apparently, some people are able to make it work with the linuxant (http://www.linuxant.com/drivers/).

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