GNU/Linux on an IBM ThinkPad i1452

This document describes how I installed and configured GNU/Linux (henceforth "Linux") on an IBM ThinkPad i1452 in November 1999. Because the instructions contained herein are based largely on personal experience, and because they were written several years ago, they should not to be taken as the final authority on installing Linux on a 1452.

Though I have chosen to use SuSE 6.2, the information here is fairly distribution-neutral. Furthermore, many models of ThinkPad share similar hardware, so users of other ThinkPads (particularly the 14xx series) may find this document of use as well.


For the most part, this was a piece of cake. There were a few minor caveats, however, so read on.


If you're new to partitioning, I recommend you use a user-friendly tool like Partition Magic 4.0 or higher to do your (re)partitioning from Windows before you install Linux. You'll want a swap partition of 64 to 96 MB, and ideally at least a gig for everything else (the more the better). Linux doesn't care if it's installed on a primary or extended partition. To make more room for your Linux partition, there are several things you can do:

  • IBM tech support has confirmed that it's safe to archive the C:WINDOWSOPTIONS directory and then delete it. This directory contains all the CAB files that should have been provided on a Win98 CD. If you've got access to a CD burner, you might want to do this as it will free up about 200 MB.
  • If you don't plan on using Windows much, you should uninstall all of the preloaded software that you'll never use (ConfigSafe, PC-Doctor, AudioRack, IBM Global Network, et al.). This will probably save over 50 MB.
  • Finally, you can squeeze another 10–20% more space out of C: by running the Windows 98 FAT32 converter on it. Note, however, that some of the recovery CDs that ship with the 1452 will not work with FAT32 drives. This never bothered me, though, since it's possible to manually extract the files you need from the CD using your favourite unzip utility.

X Windows

In SuSE 6.2, that the xsvga package is not installed in the default configuration. This package is required to properly set up your X server, so make sure you include it in the installation (you'll find it under the xsrv category). If you already completed the installation without selecting xsvga, simply run yast again and follow the menus to change your configuration.

When your installation is complete, type SaX to start SuSE's X configuration program. You will be asked to set up your mouse and keyboard; as long as xsvga is installed, the video card and monitor will be automatically detected. In the last window tab, I recommend choosing a resolution of 1024×768 at 16-bit colour.

Keyboard and screen size

The list of keyboard mappings you are asked to choose from in the initial setup is woefully small. (This issue was of importance to me as I use the Dvorak layout.) Fortunately, there are a lot more mappings available once installation is complete. To access them, run yast and select "Adjustments of System" and then "Select Keymap". Scroll down until you find the keymap you want; you'll have an opportunity to test each keymap before it applies the changes. Note that "Dvorak / ANSI" refers to the original Dvorak layout with punctuation in odd places; most Dvorak typists will want to choose "Dvorak / dvorak" instead. Keyboard mappings will also have to be assigned in KDE since it apparently decides to get its keyboard input directly from BIOS.

Also in the "Adjustments" menu can be found a means of changing your text screen font and screen size. If you've got good vision, you'll probably want to put your monitor in an 80×50 text mode; to do this, select "default 8x9" from the list.


When the install program originally asked me if I wanted PCMCIA support, it shamelessly crashed with a "syntax error" of all things — so much for that. SuSE 6.2 ships with an old version of the PCMCIA module, anyway, which is known to be flaky with the OZ Micro OZ6832/6833 CardBus controller in the ThinkPad. Newer versions (3.1.0+) have supposedly fixed this; you can get them at the Linux PCMCIA Information Page. Here's how to install the drivers:

  • First, make sure you have the kernel sources installed. Run yast to change your configuration, find the kernel sources, and install them. (I did this by going to "Package Information" and doing a search for "kernel".)
  • Next, download the drivers into /usr/src/linux/.
  • In that same directory, run tar xvzf pcmcia-cs-3.1.3.tar.gz (Substitute the name of the file you downloaded.)
  • cd to the new directory created by the previous command.
  • Type make config. In general, it's best to stick with the defaults, though I opted to install PnP BIOS resource checking.
  • Type make all
  • Type make install

Reboot, and if your card isn't correctly identified, you'll need to consult the PCMCIA HOWTO. If you get a cs: warning: no high memory space available! message, you will most likely need to restrict the high memory scan in /etc/pcmcia/config.opts to 0x40000000-0x40000fff. Some cards just plain aren't supported; check the SUPPORTED.CARDS file for details. Personally, I was unable to get my Micra 10/100 Ethernet Adapter to work at all. I ended up trading it for a Netgear FA410TXC, which worked fine (well, almost — see Bugs below.) Don't forget to edit your /etc/pcmcia/network.opts file, as YaST doesn't seem to do this for you.

Sound card

You need to install the ALSA drivers to get the ThinkPad's ESS Solo card to work in Linux. This is most easily done during the initial installation, but if you're already through with that then just run yast again. The relevant package is probably in the snd category. Once ALSA is installed, create a file called /sbin/init.d/boot.d/S05soundon with the following contents:

depmod -a
modprobe snd-esssolo1
modprobe snd-pcm1-oss
amixer master 100
amixer master unmute
amixer pcm 100
amixer pcm unmute
amixer cd 100
amixer cd unmute

Sound will be enabled next time you reboot. (If you want sound right away, either type in the above commands manually or execute the file.)

Update: The above modifications to S05soundon may not work if you are using a recent version of ALSA. Steve Dearth writes:

It appears that the latest ALSA release renamed a number of cards/modules. An updated version of their HOWTO was released yesterday and explained the renames… Anyway, as I mentioned before, I am running RH6.1 on an IBM Thinkpad 1452i and finally got around to recompiling my kernel. Noticed that there is now experimental support for the solo1. I enabled it and its been working great. Just thought you might like the info.


The DVD drive in the ThinkPad functions as a normal CD-ROM in Linux. When this document was originally written, there was no Linux DVD player fit for public release.


The Winmodem installed in the ThinkPad is virtually useless since it's not a real modem. People are working on writing the necessary software to run Winmodems on Linux — check out Linux Winmodem Support and also Richard Close's Winmodem page. I haven't yet heard of any success stories from ThinkPad owners using the existing Winmodem software, but even if you could get your Winmodem working with Linux, do you really want to give up 15% of your CPU time to run it? Get an external serial modem or a PCMCIA modem instead.


At the time of this writing, USB support for Linux is still in an experimental stage; personally I haven't tried playing around with it.

Power Management

APM must be compiled into the kernel in order to access such things as the battery level. Unfortunately, SuSE does not install an APM-capable kernel by default, so I suppose you'll have to build one yourself. I haven't gotten around to doing this myself, so I'm afraid I'm not much help.

Not being a regular user of the hibernation function (Fn-F12 under Windows 98), I haven't done much research on how to get it too working with Linux. If you check the other ThinkPad pages on the Linux on Laptops site, you may find someone else who has figured out hibernation. Don't restrict yourself to the 1452 pages; I'm sure hibernation is similar on all ThinkPads.

As for putting your system in standby mode, you'll be pleased to note that your Fn-F3 and Fn-F4 buttons still work. I have noted that the computer doesn't want to stay in standby mode when it's connected to my LAN, so I have to go into root mode to shut off my PCMCIA Ethernet card first. This is accomplished with cardctl suspend n, where n is the socket number of the Ethernet card. To resume from a suspend, I reactivate the card similarly with cardctl resume n.

When resuming from a standby or hibernation, you will note that the system clock has not been updated. (Linux does not assume a hardware timer, using instead a software clock.) To resynchronize the software clock with your PC's hardware timer, type in the following as root: hwclock --hctosys.

To reduce the trouble of logging into root and manually manipulating your network card and system clock each time you suspend and resume your computer, you will probably want to set up a simple shell script, such as the following, runnable via sudo or su1:

cardctl suspend 0
echo "Press Fn-F4 to suspend now. Then, press enter to resume."
hwclock --hctosys
cardctl resume 0

Bugs/known issues

  • In KDE, when I call back a hidden bottom panel by clicking on the bottom right corner, the display becomes garbled. I don't know whether this problem is unique to KDE and this model of Thinkpad.
  • Despite the fact that my network connection works perfectly, I still sometimes get errors during bootup with messages like "eth0: no such device".


Thanks to Scott Bronson, Wayne Sipkins, and all others who posted their experiences with Linux on ThinkPads. Thanks to Steve Dearth for updates on ALSA and kernel support for the ESS Solo1.

Special thanks to David Hinds for his help with PCMCIA.

This article is Copyright © 1999 Tristan Miller. Permission is granted to reproduce this work, in whole or in part, so long as this copyright notice remains intact.