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X on IBM ThinkPad 760ED //at 00:13 //by abe

from the finally dept.

As many of my friends know, I installed Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 aka Woody on my IBM ThinkPad 760ED (Pentium 1, 133 MHz, 48 MB RAM, 1 GB HD) named bijou at Chemnitzer Linux-Tage this spring. Although many helped me trying to configure X, I didn’t get rid of the LCD “forgetting” more or less pixels each row so that the picture got blurred towards the right rim.

During Berlinux, a not so convinced Linux user (he told me he likes the feeling of Windows, but got stick with Debian because his modem just didn’t work with Windows) told me that he had similar problems with a graphics card with similar chips as the ones in my ThinkPad. Since I never was sure, if my problem is a hardware defect, a driver or a configuration problem (but I tended to hardware defect or a not supported chipset, since I read about several Trident 96xx and 98xx chipsets to be unsupported under Linux), his comment was a ray of hope to me. He told me he found the solution on Werner Heuser’s TuxMobil website, whom I showed my X problem also Berlinux but who hadn’t an idea what it could be. He also told me, that XFree86 4.x doesn’t support this graphics chip, but XFree86 3.3.x does.

But somehow I had forgotten that TuxMobil not only has informations about Linux on laptops but also a big bunch of links to pages which deal with specific models. I can’t remember, if I looked there already back in March, but it felt like I didn’t although my own small text about bijou is linked there, too. I looked through the other 760/770 ED/XD pages and on the second or third I found someone who seems to have had the same problem and also with a 760ED. He wrote, someone else has gone down that path already so he linked directly to the XF86Config he found elsewhere. That sounded like an easy earned money so I followed the link — 404. Shit! For luck a few lines down he linked also his own XF86Config, so I grabbed it, uncommented everything unnecessary and put in the essential parts of his XF86Config of which the most important parts probably were the modelines. The one for 1024×768 was commented as the only one working, those for 800×600 and 640×480 were commented out. Then I downgraded X to XFree86 3.3.6.

It didn’t work as expected. The display stayed black which was less than I had accomplished before. Shit! But giving up is not my style. So first I reduced the color depth. No change. Then I started with reducing the resolution. With 800×600 and 16 bit color depth, it finally worked. No hardware defect, no unsupported graphics chip. Just not the right modelines. That was all. YESSS!

I guess the guy whose XF86Config I used didn’t have a 760ED but a similar model with a LCD with higher resolution. because my 760ED definitely has no 1024×768 resolution because 800×600 fills the screen completely.

Still leaves the problem with the svgalib: The system just freezes with a black screen if I start a svgalib application like e.g. zgv. First I found out, that svgalib indeed has a configuration file which (at least under Woody) can be found at /etc/vga/libvga.conf. Copied the modelines from the now working XF86Config, configured the mouse and tried again. Freeze. Hmmm, in the config there is mentioned that if svgalib doesn’t correctly recognise the graphics card’s chipset, you can hardcode it with a configuration directive, e.g. “chipset VGA” for otherwise unsupported chipsets. And that worked, although only with 640×480 yet. So I tried the only setting for Trident cards found in the list of supported chipsets. And what happend? Right, the system froze again. So svgalib probably recognised the card as Trident and used the only available Trident driver which was obviously the wrong one. So here are my XF86Config and my libvga.config working on the IBM ThinkPad 760ED.

But nevertheless — this 0€ laptop has just proven that it can be even more useful than it already was with text mode only. I also already played Frozen Bubble up to level 25 or so on the train back from Berlin. Old hardware rules.

But I now also have another problem (again): Since X works now, I can run Galeon 1.2 on the ThinkPad, but GTK 2 respective GNOME 2 are much slower than in the 1.x versions and also need much more ressources, which the laptop just does not have. And since I — as most of the people who read my blog or Planet Debian should know ;-) — don’t like Galeon 1.3, I probably won’t dist-upgrade my ThinkPad to Sarge that fast although I already thought about it. XFree86 3.x isn’t in Sarge either IIRC but this should be no problem since the Woody packages are said to work under Sarge, too. Well, still yet another reason for forwardports.org… ;-) Or maybe I can get Kazehakase running on Woody so I can drop at least the whole ballast GNOME 2 comes with. We’ll see…

JFTR (Update on 2nd of May 2007): My current XF86Config-4 for Sarge on my ThinkPad 760ED named bijou.

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This is the blog or weblog of Axel Stefan Beckert (aka abe or XTaran) who thought, he would never start blogging... (He also once thought, that there is no reason to switch to this new ugly Netscape thing because Mosaïc works fine. That was about 1996.) Well, times change...

He was born 1975 at Villingen-Schwenningen, made his Abitur at Schwäbisch Hall, studied Computer Science with minor Biology at University of Saarland at Saarbrücken (Germany) and now lives in Zürich (Switzerland), working at the Network Security Group (NSG) of the Central IT Services (Informatikdienste) at ETH Zurich.

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