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Various Things

Linux on an IBM T23 Thinkpad


Yes, I still have my T23. It’s in a closet. I no longer use it for day-to-day computing and therefore have not updated this page in ages. The information is still true, though.

That has got to be one of the worst help documents EVER, totally worthless

Also, I’m aware of an Ubuntu Forums thread that was very critical of this article. Therefore, I’ll explain how to read it. I avoided wasting your time by not duplicating documentation written by others. When I link to a project and say “install it,” you can refer to its documentation for how.


So you bought an IBM T23 Thinkpad.

Good choice; not only is it a very good laptop, it also works very well with Linux. For the rest of this article, I’ll assume you have a modern distribution, including a 2.6 kernel, ALSA sound drivers, and a reasonably updated X server.

Kernel Level Configuration

Kernel Parameters

You want to pass “acpi=off vga=792” to the kernel. You’re turning ACPI off because most distributions require you to do so to get APM support, and APM works better than ACPI does on this laptop. The vga option gives you a 1024×768 framebuffer with millions of colors. Usually you’ll specify these when installing the distribution. If not, have lilo or grub pass them to the kernel.

Kernel Modules

CPU Frequency Scaling
Sound Card
PC Speaker
Parallel Port
USB Support

In most modern distributions, a program like hotplug will load these modules for you. If not, modprobe them.

Notes on Sound Support

The official instructions for setting up ALSA with the T23’s soundcard are here: Module-intel8x0. For setting up sound support, this is all you need to know.

The Modem

Running “lspci” tells us that the modem is a Lucent Microelectronics WinModem 56k (rev 01). Lucent winmodems require a third party “ltmodem” driver. The one you want is at:

Martian – Agere Systems WinModem driver for Linux »

Do the obvious, then use minicom (or something similar) to test the modem. You should see an initialization string and be able to dial out.

The X Server



Set your display to 24-bit color, 1024×768 resolution, with the sync ranges specified above. The trackpoint uses the PS/2 protocol and the device node is /dev/psaux. The graphics driver you want is “savage.” That will get get you a true-color, 1024×768 display with an 85Hz refresh rate.

3D Acceleration

The Direct Rendering Infrastructure Project, which provides 3D-accerated drivers for X servers, has supported the S3 Savage for some time. If you have a sufficiently recent version of X, therefore, then 3D acceleration should work out of the box.

Type “glxinfo | grep direct”. You should see “direct rendering: Yes.”

If you see “direct rending: no, ” then you don’t have 3D acceleration and you probably need newer Savage drivers. Go to dri.freedesktop.org, download the appropriate binary snapshots (you need a “common” one and a “savage” one), and install them according to the instructions on that webpage.

If you’re using XOrg 6.8, then you want the snapshots from July 05. If you’re using XOrg 6.9 then you want the ones from January 06. Anything newer than January 06 is for XOrg 7.

Do you have 3D acceleration working now? Of course you do.

On-Screen Display

Installing ThinkPadButtons will give you an onscreen display for the volume and brightness keys.


Linux on Laptops

Linux on laptops. ’nuff said.

Go There »


A wiki about Linux and Thinkpads

Go There »

Linux-Thinkpad Mailing List

A mailing list about Linux and Thinkpads.

Go There »

Tim Robert’s Home Page

The man who wrote the Savage driver. Today he runs a mailing list about its status.

Go There »

Portable Freedom with Debian

Great article on installing Debian on a T23.

Go There »

T23 Gentoo Blog

The adventures of a Gentoo user with a T23.

Go There »