[sf-lug] thinkpad

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Oct 22 21:46:00 PDT 2007

Quoting Alex Kleider (a_kleider at yahoo.com):

> Thanks again for your responses.
> Please allow me to try to redeem myself:

Eh, don't worry about _that_, Alex!  ;->

> The old laptop in question has i Series written just above the F4 key
> IBM ThinkPad written just below the lower left hand corner of the
> screen and Type 2611 written on the back of it just above where are
> given the 19v-2.4 A power input specifications.

Hmm.  Most ThinkPads have the model number written in a sans serif font
at the bottom right of the LCD frame -- kind of near the inside
clamshell hinge, if that makes sense.

> I did a cat /proc/cpuinfo       and got
> Genuine Intel
> cpu family: 5
> model: 8
> Model name: Mobile Pentium MMX
> stepping: 1
> cpu MHz: 266.621

Well, there you go.  It's a P266.  FWIW, I'm still unclear on what
ThinkPad model it is.  Knowing that would determine if, for example,
this RAM is appropriate:


...or this RAM...


...or something else.  (Note the vendor.  It's one I like.  Point is, 
the machine's total capacity and type of RAM it likes can be determined
from the ThinkPad model number.)

Intel family history, of machines that are capable of running Linux
kernels (except for special freak kernels lacking memory protection,
such as that of ELKS for the 286):

Pentium = 586 ------ \
Pentium MMX = 586 ---/   You are here.
Pentium Pro = 686
Pentium II
Pentium III
Pentium IV
(onwards to variations on the P4/Xeon architecture, including multicore).

For all practical purposes that merit mention here, the Pentium and
Pentium MMX are the same thing.

> What I didn't previously mention and probably should have is that on
> the little "Intel Inside" sticker that's on the computer it has MMX.
> Would that have id'd the processor for you?

Yep.  But I suspect there's a model number somewhere.  Not a big deal,

> Much of the other material you threw at me I need some more time to
> digest. It seems though that the problem is not the kernel but the
> compilation there of.

Um, the problem, specifically, is that the _installation_ kernel is
provided compiled to use a later family of processing instructions (686)
than your CPU can support.  The _installation_ kernel is the one on the 
installer media.  So:

> Should I go back to Gentoo? Those guys force you to compile
> everything. 

(Actually, they don't, but:)

The one thing you almost certainly do not install is the kernel of the
Gentoo installer disc, itself.  ;->  See the problem?  Your obstacle
is getting a distro _onto_ the machine:  If the distro's installer 
relies on a 686-optimised kernel binary, then you cannot use that
(particular) installer to put the (particular) distro onto your hard
drive, and therefore simply do not get the opportunity to compile a
fresh, 586-optimised kernel.  It's a chicken-and-egg problem.

Some distros actually are downloadable in both i586 and i686 binary
images.  Mandriva is, for example.

However, other distros, such as Sidux, have intentionally written off
the ability to run their installers on pre-686 CPUs, by building the
installer images to include 686-optimised installation kernel binaries. 
They do this because, well, they've looked at the calendar, noticed the
dawn of the new millennium, and made a judgement call that 586 and
earlier machines have become too old to care about, any more, and that
it's time to claim the small performance advantage that
better-CPU-optimised kernel compilation brings.


> That was the distro I first tried and actually got a couple of old
> computers going on it but the frustrations were great and I had no
> where to turn.

I'm not really a Gentoo guy, but I have to put in a few words on their
behalf, here:  It's just not correct to say that they force you to
compile everything.  You can install Gentoo solely from precompiled
binary packages, and never compile a thing.  The docs stress that you
_can_ (e.g.) install a very minimal installation image, and then build
up from there by compiling everything.  Many Gentoo people do that by
choice.  However, you are definitely not obliged to.

> By the way, the thinkpad is working very nicely! (Using Damn Small
> Linux )(without a memory upgrade which a local computer guy told me
> he'd do for close to $200!)

See, the trick is to not have a computer guy "do" the upgrade, but
rather to find for yourself the little door giving access to the SODIMM 
bays, buy a pair of SODIMMs, and swap them in yourself.  Not difficult.

> The only thing I've been unable to do that I did set out for myself is
> get flashplayer working on it. I did get it working on several other
> computers. Installation of flashplayer seems to involve placing two
> files: "flashplayer.xpt" and "libflashplayer.so" into a directory
> called  "plugins" that usually resides in "/usr/lib/mozilla" but the
> DSL distro has no such file path. The closest I can find is
> "/usr/local/firefox/"

Try "locate plugins".  (If you get an error about there being no locate
database, then run "updatedb" as the root user, let it run to
completion, and then try again.)

> I haven't heard of anyone on this list using DSL.

See, DSL is a neat trick, but there's a great deal that they had to do
in very strange, not-easily-maintainable ways in order to save disk
space.  If you like it, by all means feel welcome to keep using it, but
there _are_ better things.  (Most better things do require more RAM,

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