Original Post: June 12, 2003: Revised webpage: RedHat 9. Includes details of wireless LAN.
Got IrDA working and Jpilot to sync my Palm Pilot in Linux.
Who is this page for anyway? I wrote this page for people like
me. I am not a Linux expert and I do not want to spend hours
configuring and playing sysadmin to a laptop. I want quick a simple
solutions. Here I generally assume you do not know much of anything
Disclaimer: The following represents what I think I should
have done. The route I actually took involved several mis-steps. I'm
not Linux expert, just someone who uses Linux all of the time to get
real work done. I'm sure there are better ways to do this than I
have shown here. No promises. Your mileage may vary.
The IBM X23 has been my companion for almost two years. This is an
extremely versitile and effective machine for getting real work done.
I highly recommend this machine. Durable, lightweight, long battery
life. Very productive. (Update March 29, 2004 -- see note about
If you only want single-boot (Linux RedHat 9 only) on the
Thinkpad X23: Almost all of the little hassles I have encountered
are related to the desire to have dual boot with both Windows XP and
Linux -- two operating systems that do not play very well together.
If you just want only single boot RedHat 9 on you Thinkpad
X23, and you want to kiss Windows XP goodby forever, the steps are
much simpler. If you want to do this you are probably already a
pretty hard-core Linux type and so the following one-sentence verbal
description will suffice: Boot the RH installation disk, run fdisk,
delete XP NTFS and Recovery partitions, make your own Linux partitions
and install or -- if you are a partition weeny like me -- stop the
installation of Linux at point after you have deleted all partitions,
reboot your Linux install CD, select graphical install, default
partitions, install, select generic laptop display, note that X works
out of the box, and , ta-da, you are all done except for putterting
around with your odd devices like the IR port, your wireless LAN, your
modem or or maybe (heaven help you) an UltraPort web cam. Phwew!
For the rest of you who want to put Linux RedHat on your fancy new
IBM Thinkpad X23 while retaining the ability to boot and run Windows XP,
Please read on.
Why even mess with Windows XP? As a physicist
doing teaching and research, I spend 90 percent of my time working in
Linux. Unix is the first "real" operating system I ever used, and
I've been doing almost all of my useful work on a Unix box of some
flavor since 1984. But with annoying frequency I still get stuff from
colleagues, administrators, and funding agencies that require
Microsoft Windows on a PC just to look at. And while current Linux
tools provide a certain level of being able to look at MSWin stuff
while running Linux (i.e. Win4Lin is a cute product lets me see about
90 percent of all MS Word documents I get in the mail using my old
Win98 software inside of Linux). Still, on occasion, I need to boot
Windows native to see in bug-free detail someone's complicated
latest-version PowerPoint display with all of the bells and
whistles. So there is no way out -- especially since on occasion I
need to edit or even create such documents. And besides, my wife
likes to run Eudora and Quicken when we travel together. And finally,
when I travel I can invoke my ATT ISP seamlessly in Windows-land using
the preloaded access numbers and auto-configuring software. I will
wait for a rainy day later to sort out how to kick in the modem under
So dual boot it is. And since XP comes with the box it seems alot
simpler to stick with XP than to load an old Windows 98 (which would
probably work but I'd have to track down and install all of the new
drivers) or worse yet shell out new dollars for Bill Gates to buy
Windows ME. The drawback, of course, is that XP -- being a derivative
of Windows NT and 2000 -- does not get along with Linux as well as
Win95/98/ME does. In the latter case, you can automatically mount
your "C:" drive by adding a appropriate line to your fstab. However,
with the kernel that ships with RH 9 you cannot "simply" mount the
Windows XP NTFS file system partition in Linux, and -- apparently --
you cannot or should not simply install LILO over the Master Boot
Record lest you risk getting it entangled with XP's
overwhelming desire to keep it's mitts on the boot process. And doing
this this may disconnect you from easy access to the XP recovery
partition which you will need if your XP system gets corrupted.
So, Linux and Windows XP are like two unruly siblings sitting in the
back of your car and you need to set the rules down carefully to
ensure they do no damage to each other. But it can happen so carry on
-- with care.
Hardware Details of the IBM Thinkpad X23: I got this
delivered straight from IBM Direct:
800 Mhz Pentium iii,
128 meg memory originally. Boosted this by 512 meg -- RAM is
very inexpensive direct from IBM. This has been most useful for running
memory-hungry "Open Office" Impress.
30 Gbyte internal drive (big is good!),
Built-in wireless (this is great for home and trips!)
Ethernet and modem are built-in.
IBM Ultrabase X2 with a CD-RW/DVD put in the bay.
An extra battery (two are plenty for coast-to-coast air flight).
AC car/airplane power adaptor. I can plug in many places now.
The Ultrabase also comes with a handy floppy drive and parallel and
serial ports. Very nice. When I travel light, I leave the Utrabase
at home and at 3.5 pounds, the Thinkpad laptop proper is both light
and strong with the titanium alloy cover. This is good because this
laptop is not so cheap and I want to keep this thing for a good while
-- I physically killed my previous unnamed "bargain" laptop before it
could achieve technological obsolescence. First the screen got
scrozzled, then the "N" key popped off, then the floppy failed, and
finally the display cover cracked at the hinges. After over a year of
similar abuse no obvious signs of any wear or tear on the X23.
An aside -- the XP system on the Thinkpad X23 comes with a whole bunch
of little fancy IBM tools and widgets. Some of these, like power
management, are kinda cute. If you click on the battery icon it tells
you everything there is to know about your battery, like, for example,
the date it was first used in your PC and the number of times it has
Factory delivered partitioning: Most important is the fact
that the factory-delivered hard drive comes partitioned into two
pieces. The first partition is the NTFS file system where XP is
pre-installed. The second partition is the FAT32 IBM "recovery"
partition which, in case you inadvertantly trash your XP partition,
you can boot the recovery partition and it will automatically
re-format the main partition and reinstall XP from scratch including
any pre-bundled stuff that came with your PC. I had the misfortune of
having to do this and the re-install takes about 90 minutes and it is
both illuminating and scary to watch the XP recovery process go by --
you can learn alot about how very strange Microsoft is by watching the
scheme by which the XP disk is recovered. Anyway, there was
no XP recovery CD or anything like this shipped with the laptop from
IBM -- gulp! If you plan to dual-boot with XP and Linux, as I did,
one of the first steps you want to take is to invoke the recovery
partition (F11 key) in the IBM boot manager and make your own recovery
boot floppy. This way, in case you somehow screw up and trash the XP
partition and the master boot sector on your hard drive, you can still
use your recovery floppy to reinstalled Windows XP from the recovery
partition -- assuming that you have not trashed this as well. I am
a strong advocate of making recovery and boot disks whenever you
can since they can save you if you make a mis-step and I certainly
made my share of these. I know, we are all supposed to be moving to
a brave new world with no floppies. Call me old fashioned.
Get Partition Magic So here's what I did: I bought a
copy of Partion Magic Version 8 from Power Quest Software. You can
get this in minutes online with a credit card, $65. This latest
version of PM includes Boot Magic, it recognizes the ext3 file system,
and it properly handles access to "hidden partitions" with XP. I
realize that shelling how dollars for this product will be a very
bothersome option when in principle this can be done by hand.
Perhaps I am just thick but it seems every time I try
to mess with partitions "manually" with fdisk or even disk druid I
somehow mess things up and need to start from scratch. With Partition
Magic it is (mostly) a breeze. Not too bad for $65.
Use partition magic to set up your non-Linux partitions:
Here is what I did with Parition Magic. Note, I would strongly
recommend that you do these steps one at a time. That is, you set up
a single change and then you ask Partition Magic to invoke the change.
In principle you can ask Partion Magic to set up and invoke all of
these things in one throw, but if something gets scrozzled it might
not be so clear where you are. Better to go one step at a time. Some
of these steps Partition Magic will ask for a reboot.
First, I reduced the size of the XP partition from
about 27 Gig to about 4.5 gig. WARNING. There is a "gotcha"
here. If you use the "resize" wizard option on Partition Magic and
you ask to reduce the size of the XP partitionm, it also sets up to
move the Recovery partition from the end of the disk down to next to
the smaller XP partition. I am pretty sure that you do not want
to do this. Do not move/resize or otherwise touch the XP recovery
partition. I think if you do, this would be a Bad Thing since I am
guessing that neither your boot handler nor your recovery floppy will
be able to find the partition if you mess up. You simply want to
resize the NTFS XP partition without moving the other partition so
that the unused space appears between them on the disk. Make sure
that you only have this one action -- resize -- before you commit
Partition Magic to execute the change. This will force a reboot.
Second, I used Partition Magic to create a new FAT
partition just beyond the now smaller NTFS partition. You need this
if you are going to use a boot handler like Boot Magic which comes for
free with Partition Magic. The size of the FAT partition can be quite
small -- I chose 900 meg but you can probably get away with much less.
However, you might want a partition this large if you use it as a
"shared space" between Linux and XP.
Third, Check it all out again. When you are done you
will have three partitions and a large region of unused space on your
disk. At this point it it worth rebooting XP, running Partition Magic
one more time just to make sure that the partition look okay after a
reboot, and then reboot yet one more time, and use F11 to make yet another
up-to-date recovery boot disk.
Install Redhat Linux 9 (finally!) This is easy as
pie. Reboot, hit F12 and boot from CD rom the first of three Linux 9
install CD's (yes I shelled out dollars to RedHat for the company
disks. Someone somewhere has got to pay for all this stuff.)
The Really Good News: Redhat 9 installs on your Thinkpad X23
like a charm. I chose the graphical Laptop configuration with
automatic partitioning option and of course it set up the Linux
partitions in the unused space and left the NTFS, FAT, and recovery
partitions alone. Installation is extremely straightforward and you
just chose defaults for everything except the instalation of the boot
record. If you want to keep the IBM boot handler (probably a good
thing) and you want to make use of Boot Magic to handle your dual
boot, then you need to avoid having Linux installing GRUB or Lilo into
the MBS --- at least that is how it seems to me. I got a little
scared reading the GRUB documentation -- which as far as I can tell is
set up so that an expert can reboot your toaster oven, given the
proper command line arguments and kernel support -- so I stuck with
the old friend Lilo. You want to boot Linux only from lilo and you
want put this on the Linux root partition and NOT the master
boot record (MBR). Check the appropriate boxes in the dialog window.
After this, you just still the CD's in, one, two, three, and in less
than an hour your Linux installation is done. When you get to the end
and it is time to deal with X windows, chose the highest resolution
Generic Laptop display -- NOT the one that the package picks for you.
Once you pick the generic display the installer correctly tweaks this
to match your laptop display and low and behold X works right out of
the box. I run KDE and it appears to run completely bug-free. This
is a great improvement from previous versions with respect to
Thinkpads. Don't forget to make a Linux Boot floppy. You will need
it if you cannot otherwise get the dual booting stuff working
Trackpoint -- One possibly little gotcha -- depending on exactly
what you are doing, you might find that the little TrackPoint nub comes
up in a sort of "hyper" state where the slitest touch sends the mouse
skittering into the corner. I fixed this by disabling the trackpoint
in BIOS, rebooting, then rebooting again, re-enabling the trackpoint,
and then using PS2 mouse options when blue-screened Kudzu autmatically
kicked in to configure my "new" device. Honestly, I do not remember
exactly what I did in Kudzu but I selected reasonable choices here
and the trackpoint works fine now -- whether or not I also have
my USB mouse plugged in.
Reboot back to XP and check things out: It's time to set
up your dual boot and since you got Boot Magic for free when you
bought Partition Magic why not use it? Warning: do not try to use
Boot Magic until you get to the right place as indicated below. I
know from personal experience that if you invoke Boot Magic before you
are certain that your partitions and operating systems are in their
final form, things can get completely messed up. So when you are done
with Linux instalation, reboot. Then I would follow the following what
I think this is the safest possible sequence of steps:
First, reboot, and you will go back to XP. Here, first,
immediately invoke Partition Magic. If something got scrozzled on
your parition table when Linux installed, Partition Magic will fix it
automatically for you. This happened to me once or twice -- I do not
know why. If this happens, reboot again and double check a second
time with Partition Magic
Second Reboot again, invoke F11 and make a Third Recovery
Boot disk for XP. This is last and best recovery boot disk. Throw the
other two that you made earlier away.
Third Reboot yet again and invoke Partition Magic. Look
at the FAT partition. You should do two things (1) reformat it as a
FAT file system, and (2) if it is hidden, you should make it visible.
This is an option under the "advanced" menu item.
Once this is done, reboot yet even again, and go into Partition Magic
again to double check that all is well.
Important Warning: Now is the time to run the install program
for Boot Magic. As I found out the hard way it is important that you
not do this before this point since Boot Magic really want everything
completely all set and ready to go with your partitions and your
operating systems. In particular, if you try to install Boot Magic
before you have your FAT partition ready, it just won't work. Also,
there is a little problem with a "trap door" on Boot Magic. Once
you install it on your visible FAT partition, that partition
become hidden again (apparently since it is now bootable) and
so you cannot simply modify things if you are unhappy -- you need
to reformat the FAT partition and start all over with installing
Boot Magic. Also check out the option in the (very long) PDF manual
for unhiding partitions in XP. You will want to do this is you
want this disk space accessable to both XP and Linux. So go slow.
Setting up your dual boot with Boot Magic:
Okay, you now have XP installed in the first partition. An empty,
formatted and visible FAT partition is second. The Third partition
is extended and includes all of your newly installed Linux stuff.
The forth partition is the recovery partition which has remained
unmolested since the start. Partition magic tells you that everything
is as above and happy. You have your latest recovery boot disk. You
are now all set to set up dual boot:
First, Run Boot Magic install. This looks like a setup
Install Shield wizard thingy that is supposed to just
install Boot Magic but it is much more and running the installation
program immediately kicks in the new boot scheme. In other words,
you do not first install, then run Boot Magic. Rather, the installer
does everything in one step. By the way, you weill get yet another
recovery disk. By now you have a stack of these. Note, if you
do not have a visible, primary FAT partition on your disk Boot magic will
simply give up immediately.
Second, when Boot Magic install appears complete you will
have popped up a Boot Magic configuration window. Take the time to
configure this now since it will be harder later for the annoying
reason that your FAT partition will revert back to being hidden once
you install Boot Magic for good. (I suspect that there is a way to
inhibit this in Boot Magic but I cannot figure it out). You need to
decide if you will default boot to Linux or XP. You probably do not
want to boot the FAT sector -- what will happen (an infinite boot
loop?) You probably want to rename each of the boot options --
especially the last boot option something like XP recovery.
Third, Okay, cross your fingers. All goes well and now
on your way to Linux, three boot handlers go by -- the IBM one, Boot
Magic, and finally lilo. After arriving happily in Linux land, you
probably want to reboot to XP, use Partition Magic to verify your
partitions one last time. Maybe even make one more recovery boot disk
for XP. Yes, I know I am probably paranoid about
That's it.I have XP and a good working Linux RedHat 9. There are
lots of things I have not tried yet in Linux:
Printer stuff. Between CUPS and the Gnome printer GUI it was
easy to setup connections to network printers.
Redhat Network -- This is a subscription service that
automatically tells you when you need a new RPM for security or
whatever reason and then it downloads and installs them. I count
six (!!) kernel upgrades alone since th release of RH9 a few
months ago. This little thing is quite worth the money I think.
Consider it money in RH employee's tip jars. Something.
Ethernet works out of the box for DHCP configurations. You can
configure this using the KDE network configuration tool. I set
things up so that eth0 (Intel Express 10/100) is deactivated on boot
and activatable by the user.
I have not tried the modem.
Wireless LAN -- this took a while. Apparently there are
many flavors of built-in WiFi cards for different makes and models of
IBM Thinkpads so one driver does not serve all. For my X23 apparently
the WiFi is or looks like an orinoco device. Some or all of these
commands need to be invoked (as root)
before you actually try to activate the WiFi device:
Once this is done, you can use the KDE network Configuration GUI
to install a new Wireless device on eth1. Standard default options
work fine for me at home. Easy. Once you figure it out.
Advanced Power Mamagement (APM)
came up but I turned it off. I do not understand why so
many laptop users really want this to go. There's alot of bandwidth
on Linux for Think Pads (ltp) mailing list about troubles with APM,
suspend-to-disk, resume from hibernate, etc., etc. For me all of these
features are not even worth the trouble. A clean, cold, boot into
Linux about two or three times a day (once each morning in the office,
once at home in the evening) does not represent a huge waste of time,
especially since I can do other things like chaging out of my boots or
making a cup of tea whilst booting. If I want to move the laptop off
of my desk and into the lab or someone's office, I just fold down the
clamshell, leave the power and display on, and carry it. If I am going
to be away from my desk for more than an hour, I'll throw
the AC adaptor into a bag
and carry them both along. If I am walking or
driving I take half a minute to turn off my apps and shutdown.
The only time I can
think of where I have any real worries about power saving is when I travel,
and so far there is no situation where two batteries, a 12V DC adapter,
and a set of universal AC pass-through adapters
haven't given me evertthing I need. Finally, since
presentations are critical, the
last thing I need is for my laptop to decide to hibernate in the
middle of my OpenOffice presentation because it has decided that
it should be saving power or haven't hit a key for a while or whatever.
So I just turned the whole kit and kaboodle off. Note added March 29, 2004 --
I would not be surprized to learn that my regular reboot and an avoidance
of suspend and hibernate functions has constributed substantially to the
remarkable level of reliability I have experienced with this system. See
Update March 29, 2004 below.v
I havent tried reading a DVD or writing a CD-R in Linux yet.
I have a little web cam that sits on the top of the screen. It
works very nicely in XP with associated software. I
have not tried this under Linux, although there is apparently
a driver for it out there somewhere.
Update: June 27, 2003, IR working
I finally got my IR port to go. Simply invoking the gui "Handheld PDA"
(gpilot) does work. In fact, while running KDE I never got gpilot to
work at all.
The process I took to make IR work boil down to these -- examimining
the Infrared HOWTO, ignore what appears to be a bunch of information
that does not apply, and trying out various things until it works.
Warning: I made no attempt at a systematic installation. Getting IR
up was about five or six hours of "trial and error" work, mostly
done in 20 minute intervals in airport waiting lounges over the
past several months. So this hardly counts as a defininitive
set of instructions.
Specifically the following things work for me:
Make sure that the IR port is enabled in bios. That would be IRQ
set to 3 and the address set to 0x2f8.
While running irdadump try bringing your palm device over to your
IR port. You should see some extra stuff as the palm and your laptalk
say hello to each other.
How to sync? I tried "kpilot" - it worked, sort of. I found
that KOrganizer was not so compatible with my Palm IIIxe.
Specifically every time I synched each entry was put into multiple
catagories. My hands-down favorite syncing and calendar app is
which is terse, simple, functional, and has never failed to
Update: August 26, 2003
Everything still works A-okay. A total of 12 kernel updates from
RedHat since the initial release of RH9. I stumbled onto the program
"gkrellm" which is the most compact and informative graphical system
performance monitor I have had the pleasure to use. Meanwhile, I
still cannot say enough good things about jpilot for syncing my PDA. This
single piece of software has freed me from daily booting XP.
Now I boot XP perhaps once a week.
Update: March 21, 2004: Pondering Fedora Core
As you know, RedHat 9 is being cut off at the knees by RedHat.
The obvious option is to move to Fedora Core. I have not
decided how and when to do this. Fedora Core 1 is alot like
RH9 only perhaps a little buggier. Fedora Core 2 should be better --
BUT it will have kernel 2.6 which is a worry for laptop hardware.
Update: March 29, 2004: A Word about the reliability of the Thinkpad
I can't say enough about how happy I am about the reliability of the
IBM Thinkpad X23. I admit it -- I am not a careful guy when
it comes to computer hardard. I type too hard on the keyboard. I
toss the laptop in a backpack with a bunch of books and other junk.
Once I got my foot tangled in the power cord and the whole laptop came
crashing from the dining room table onto the hardwood floor -- WHAM!
Except for a slightly bent USB connected on my mouse no damage at all.
I have never had even the battery fail. I use it every day for hours
every day. No hardware faults. Once in a blue moon the battery
connection gets a little flacky -- simply popping the battery out and
re-seating in always fixes it. The external display has worked in
nearly every environment I have given presentations with. I have
never had the system hang or reboot unexpectedly. Really. Titanium
rocks. Disclaimer: I do not use any sort of suspend or hibernation
or avdanced power control. I believe in a clean shutdown and a clean
reboot from power-off each time I start my computer. Wholesome living and a fresh reboot each day keep the weird computer glitches away. IMHO.
Corbin E. Covault, Department of Physics, Case Western Reserve University
Mailing Address: 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland OH 44106-7079
Office: Room 207 Rockefeller Physics Bldg. Phone: (216)-368-4006
Secy: Lori Rotar: (216)-368-4257 Fax: (216)-368-4671
Home Phone: (216)-707-1618 Mobile: (216)-496-2077
Lab: Room 11 A.W. Smith Building Lab Phone: (216)-368-3632
Email: email@example.com Web: http://hea.cwru.edu
Research: Experimental Physics -- Ground-based High Energy Astrophysics