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How to install SLED 10 on the ThinkPad T60p

By Jem Matzan

The Lenovo ThinkPad T60p is the first ThinkPad to officially support GNU/Linux. Unfortunately that support is not quite as broad as some would like -- you're more or less forced to install and use SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 (SLED 10). The good news is, SLED 10 is a highly usable, stable, and configurable operating system. Officially you're supposed to buy a support contract from Novell if you need help installing the operating system on a ThinkPad T60p, but if you'd prefer to do it on your own, this guide will walk you through the process.

Supported models

There are many different T60p models and sub-models, all with very slightly different configurations. The models that support SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 are the 2007 and 2613, though as of this writing the only Linux-compatible models available for sale are the 2007-8ZU (14.1" LCD) and the 2007-9ZU (15" LCD). Realistically just about any T60p model (and probably most T60 models) should work, but I can't guarantee that, so if you do not have an officially supported model, proceed at your own risk. At very least you should end up with a mostly functional operating system.

Obtaining the proper media

You will need at least the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 installation media -- the DVD preferably. You can buy it from Novell for U.S. $50, or you can download and install it on an evaluation basis.

You will also need the the SUSE Linux 10.1 non-OSS Extras CD, which is available from the OpenSUSE Web site:

SUSE Linux 10.1 non-OSS Extras CD (or use the torrent instead)

If you plan on doing software development in Python, Java, Ruby, Mono (.NET), C, C++, or Tcl/Tk, you will also need the SLED 10 Software Development Kit, which you can download for free from the Novell Web site (registration may be required):

Novell SLED 10 SDK (4 CD ISOs) (make sure you get the right architecture -- you need the x86 discs)

The time to download and create these discs is now -- before you start to install SLED 10. You can add them later, too, but it's much easier if you add them as "add-on products" during the installation procedure.

Lastly, it is much easier to download the RPMs you will need from Lenovo and put them onto a USB flash drive or a CD so that you don't need a network connection to install them later. If you do this, you'll also have a nice backup of all of the RPMs you'll need in case you have to reinstall SLED 10 (in case of hard drive failure or if you have to replace the ThinkPad under warranty). Here are the files you need:

Installation walkthrough

WARNING: it is strongly recommended that you have a wired Internet connection available during and immediately after installation. The Centrino wireless chip will not work properly until after installation is complete, and an Internet connection will be necessary to do a successful installation. It is possible to work without it, but you are going to end up with a misconfigured system that you will have to work through YaST to fix after installation is finished. It is not easy to do it this way, so once again, you are encouraged to have a wired Internet connection available for the SLED 10 installation.

Power the system on and insert the DVD as quickly as you can. If you don't get it in before the system boots from the hard disk, just restart the machine. In some instances you may have to press the ThinkVantage button, enter the BIOS, and set the boot order to put the DVD drive before the hard drive. The standard configuration for supported T60p models is to boot from the CD first, though.

When the disc loads, you'll see a blue SUSE boot screen. Select the Installation option and press Enter. After a few minutes you'll be asked to choose a language. English (US) is the default, and probably the option you want. If you primarily speak a different language or dialect, select it in the list and click Next.

The SLED 10 license agreement is next. Read it if you want to, but to continue you must click the radio button next to "Yes, I Agree to the License Agreement" and then click Next.

Next you'll be asked what sort of installation mode you'd like to perform. "New Installation" should be selected by default, and it's the option you want. Check the box next to "Include Add-On Products from Separate Media", then click Next. If you miss this checkbox, either go back or restart the computer and start over from scratch.

The next screen should be the add-on product installation window. It will start out blank; click the Add button at the bottom of the screen to change that. Select the radio button for CD, then click Next. A popup window will ask you to insert the add-on CD. Eject the installation disc and put the SUSE Linux 10.1 non-OSS Extras CD in, then click Continue. It'll take a few seconds for the disc to register with the installer. Once it does, you'll see another license agreement. Click the radio button next to the "Yes, I Agree, etc." and click Next. You should find yourself back at the add-on window, this time with a single entry in the list. Click Add again, select CD, insert the SLED 10 SKD disc 1 and click Continue. Yet another license agreement -- you know the drill. When you get back to the add-on product screen, you should see two entries in it. Click Next; you'll be asked to insert the SUSE Linux 10.1 non-OSS Extras CD again. I have not been able to figure out why this request is made, but you must comply in order to successfully complete the installation procedure. Eject the SDK disc, put the SUSE Linux 10.1 non-OSS Extras CD in, then click OK. After a brief period, you'll be asked for disc 1 of the SDK again. Swap discs and click OK.

Next is the time zone and clock screen. Select your region and time zone, then select "Local Time" from the "Hardware Clock Set To" drop-down box in the lower left (unless you have a specific need to use UTC). Verify that the time and date are set properly; if they are not, click the Change button and make the necessary changes. Click Next when you're finished.

Now you'll be shown the default disk partition scheme and software package selections. Both will have to be changed. First click on Partitioning, then select the radio button next to "Create Custom Partition Setup" and click Next. Click the radio button next to "Custom Partitioning (for experts)" and click Next. In all likelihood you will see two partitions here. One should be fairly small; this is for your suspend-to-disk function, which requires its own partition to hold data. If you delete it, suspend-to-disk will not work properly (but suspend-to-RAM will still work). So do not delete it. If somehow you do delete it, it's possible that Lenovo tech support can help you create a new one, but that will very likely involve removing other partitions first, and that means your Linux and/or Windows partitions -- so you'd lose all of your data and have to reinstall the operating system. The second partition should span most or all of the drive, and will probably have a FAT32 filesystem on it. This you can safely delete -- it's just FreeDOS, which you probably don't want to keep -- so select it and click the Delete button. If you make a mistake, you can click the Back button and all changes will be undone. The disk will not be written to at this time.

At this point you should have a mostly blank drive. Click the Create button, then select Extended Partition and click OK. This will bring up the partition creation window. Just click OK to accept the default, which is to span the entire free area of the disk. You'll shortly find yourself back at the partition screen. Click Create again. This time the partition creation screen is different. In the "File System" drop-down box select EXT3 (Reiser is the default, but for technical reasons you need the partition you boot from to be EXT2 or EXT3, and EXT3 is faster and safer). Now in the "End" field on the right, erase the number that is there and type this in:


Click OK to create the root partition. Now click Create again. In the "File System" drop-down box, select Swap, and in the "End" field type this in:


If you have less than 1GB of RAM in your T60p, you may want to make this swap partition larger -- say, 2GB. You should have more than enough space to work with, so don't worry about wasting the extra gigabyte. Click OK to create the partition.

When you get back to the partition screen, click the Extended partition you created first, then click Create. If you want, you can leave this filesystem as Reiser, but I've found EXT3 to be a better option for me for various reasons (inter-OS compatibility for one). In the "Mount Point" drop-down field, select "/home" and then click OK. You're done with partitions -- click Finish to go back to the previous screen.

Now it's time to select software packages. Click Software to open up the package selection screen. Now click the Details button in the lower left to change the view. The first thing you'll see is a popup window that warns you about a smartlink-softmodem dependency. Click the radio button next to "Ignore this requirement just here" and click the OK -- Try Again button. Now click the checkboxes next to KDE, "C/C++ Compiler and Tools", and "SDK: Linux Kernel Development." Any other packages or package groups in this screen are optional; install them if you think they will be useful to you. Don't worry too much about the extra packages -- you can browse and install them later through YaST if you like. Click Accept when you are finished. More license agreements will pop up; you must click Accept to continue installation. Lastly, a list of dependent packages will appear; click Continue when you see it.

You'll find yourself back at the partition and software package summary screen. Click Accept to commence installation. Depending on what packages you selected, you may be greeted with a number of license agreements. You must click "I Agree" to continue. Lastly, you'll see a confirmation window that warns you of the fact that this is the point of no return. When you click the Install button, your hard drive will be written to. Since there's nothing on the drive but FreeDOS, there's no need to worry about losing important data, so go ahead and click Install.

The rest of the installation will take quite a while to complete, but don't walk away just yet -- you still have the SDK disc in your DVD drive. After the hard drive has been partitioned and formatted, you'll be prompted to insert the SLED 10 DVD. Do so, then click OK. Unless you really need to watch the progress bar move, or want to read the Novell ads and messages, go ahead and leave the system to install on its own, and come back in about a half hour.

When you come back, you'll probably see a popup window requesting one of the add-on discs. Insert the disc that it asks for and click OK. You'll be asked to do this switch a few times, then installation will complete and the system will restart. Don't take the DVD out yet, but when the DVD boot menu comes up, either let the timer run out or press Enter to boot from the hard drive. You'll then see a SLED 10 boot screen -- press Enter or let the timer run its course.

The installation utility will start again, this time in the middle of the process. The first screen asks you for a hostname and domain name. Unless you are on a corporate network -- in which case your system administrator or IT manager should know these settings -- neither of these should matter. The hostname will identify the ThinkPad on whatever network it is connected to, so if you plan on connecting remotely to it, you should probably choose a descriptive and easy-to-remember name, like for instance "thinkpad". Click Next to continue.

Next is the root password. This is the password that will give full access to any part of the operating system, so if several people will be using this computer, choose a password that no one can guess. It must be typed once in both fields. Click Next when you're done.

Network configuration follows. In general you can leave these settings at their defaults, but if you need to use OpenSSH, be sure to click the "blocked" link under the Firewall heading. If you plan to use wireless networking, you need to click the Change button in the Network Interfaces section and put in the settings for your access point. The modem is not functioning yet, so you can't put its settings in right now -- you'll have to do that later. Click Next to finalize the settings.

Now you will be asked to verify your Internet connection. If you do not have a wired Internet connection, you'll have to skip the test, which also skips the setup for the online update service, and that makes life very difficult. If you are just connecting the Ethernet cable now, you will have to go back to the network configuration screen, then click on Network Interfaces, then edit the Lenovo Ethernet card, then click Next and save the settings, and click Next again to go to the Internet connection test. This will enable the wired network adapter and connect to your router or DHCP server. The test should take a few seconds and should report as a success. If it does not, press the Back button and verify your network settings. Note that wireless networking will not work properly here. If you absolutely can't get a network connection, then just continue with installation and you can deal with it later. Click Next to move on to the next step.

The next step is to configure the online update service. Leave the settings at their defaults and click the Next button. A little popup window will tell you that the update server is being contacted, then a larger window will come up to tell you that it needs to launch a Web browser. Click Continue.

A Firefox window will appear. You must put in your email address twice to continue. If you have a SLED 10 activation code, type it into the appropriate field. Your hostname is automatically entered in the fourth field. Click Submit, then click Continue Install; the Web browser will close and you'll go back to contacting the update server. After a minute or two, you'll be asked to import an "untrusted" GnuPG key from ATI. Click the Import button in this and any subsequent GnuPG windows. You should eventually see a popup window that says the configuration was successful. Click OK.

You'll be asked if you'd like to run online update right now. "Run Update" is selected by default, and it's the option you want, so click Next. No further user intervention is required in this step -- the updates are automatically detected, downloaded, and installed. Sit back and watch the progress bar, or walk away and come back in 20 minutes or so. When both progress bars reach 100%, click Next. You'll see a popup message that says you must reboot due to kernel changes. Click OK. The system will reboot; once again, press Enter or let the timer expire for both the DVD and the SLED 10 boot menus.

Installation will resume at the next step, which is the creation of user accounts. The first screen asks which authentication method you need to use. If you are on a business network, your sysadmin or IT manager should know what this setting ought to be. If you're not using any kind of directory server or remote authentication method, then just leave it at the default setting -- Local (/etc/passwd) -- and click Next. Type in your name, the username you'd like to use, then your password, and your password again, then click Next. The system configuration will be written and then you'll be shown the release notes. Read them if you like; click Next when you're done.

The last step is hardware configuration. If you've followed this guide to the letter and done everything right, this should be easy -- the default settings are all fine just the way they are. You may end up finding the default resolution to be a bit too high; 1280x1024 may be more to your liking, but you can change that later through the SaX2 utility. If you need to set up a printer, click Printers and add yours. Click Next to continue, then click Finish to complete the installation process.

The next screen you'll see is the standard SLED 10 login screen. Before you log in, you have to set the session type to KDE. While GNOME is SLED 10's default desktop environment, the ThinkVantage utilities only work properly with KDE. So click the Session button in the lower left corner, then select KDE from the popup menu and click OK. Type in your username and press Enter, then type your password and press Enter. Another popup window will ask if you would like to make KDE your default desktop environment. Click the Make Default button. Welcome to SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10.

Updating the system

Before you go any further, click the round orange circle with the exclamation mark through it in the lower right corner. This is your ZENworks update applet, and it informs you when there are updates available. In most cases, there will still be a few updates left to apply even though you already took care of many of them during installation. If you see a blue globe with arrows going around it instead of an orange circle, then no updates are waiting to be applied and you can skip the rest of this paragraph. When the Software Updater window comes up, click the All link in the lower right corner, then click Update. A popup window will come up to tell you that this user is not privileged enough to perform the operation. Click "Add Privileged User", then type in your root password in the ensuing window, then click Close. Click Update again to apply the updates. A popup window will inform you of package dependencies; click Apply. Eventually you will see a popup window that says the update was successful; click Close, then click Close in the Software Updater window.

Installing the Lenovo drivers and ThinkVantage utilities

If you made a CD or put the ThinkVantage RPMs onto a flash disk earlier, insert it now. A Konqueror window will pop up and ask you what you'd like to do with it, the default selection being opening it in a new window. Click OK. Drag and drop the RPMs to your desktop. If you did not retrieve the RPMs earlier, then you'll have to do it now. Download the following packages (these are for the T60p; if you are using the T60, there won't be any model-specific RPMs for you. You can try the T60p RPMs if you want -- most should work, but I can't guarantee it):

You do not need the ATI video driver RPM provided by Lenovo. You already have the latest driver directly from the ATI FTP server, and it is already setup and working properly, as you can see. If you download the Lenovo ATI RPM and install it, the display will not work properly and you'll have to uninstall the ATI package with YaST.

Right-click each RPM, then in the popup menu select Open With, then click on Install Software in the submenu. Type in your root password when prompted. Click the Install button in the Software Installer window. After a few minutes, you should get a popup window that says the installation was successful. Click Close. You will have to do this four times -- one for each RPM.

When you are done (or if ZENworks seems to stall in its installation procedure), go to the K menu (the round green chameleon in the lower left corner) and select Log Out. In the ensuing popup window, click the End Current Session button. This will bring you back to the login screen. Log in again and when you reach the KDE desktop, all of the programs and drivers you just installed will be available.

Getting the Centrino wireless chip working

To get wireless access, click once on the ThinkVantage Access Connections icon in the lower right -- it's the three monitors with the red X through them. After a moment, the Access Connections screen will come up. Click Next, then type in the name of the wireless profile you want to create, then click Next (you have to make a "profile" for every wireless access point you connect to). From here, the options you select are entirely dependent on how you prefer to connect to the Internet and what your wireless access point settings are. If you need further assistance, Lenovo's tech support should be able to help you.

Other hacks

I've compiled a separate how-to on expanding SLED 10's capabilities and software selection, called Hacking SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10. You should be able to move on to that guide from this point.