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    You win. This adequately trolls me enough to join lobste.rs

    My primary BSDs are FreeBSD-related and OpenBSD, resulting in a small arsenal of aging ThinkPads and as of this week, a ThinkCentre. Brain dump:

    Preferred architectures: Sandy Bridge “2’s” and Ivy Bridge “3’s”, i.e. T420 and x230. SB: Classic keyboard layout. I can operate them in the dark: console switching, scrolling, huge ESC for vi… IB: Fixed IOMMU for Xen and VT-d, fixed GPT support for FreeBSD (later fixed in FreeBSD and SOME derivatives) Lesson: Lenovo BIOS can be crap and I hope to try coreboot and friends, given that the x220, plus probably others are supported.

    The CPUs also have the “2” in the name, i.e. i5-2540M for a Sandy Bridge one. They share the same “barrel” power connector as quite a few models back and the “T” models have UltraBay drives, allowing for additional disks, albeit at 3Gbps and some weird boot delays. I have seen hacks to fit “SB” keyboards into “IB” models but some keys do not map correctly with the factory BIOS. No surprise given that the “IB” “chicklet” ones removed… 7 keys.

    I have been working with a certain hypervisor and the VT-x/EPT features in the “Core” processors is need. I have one first generation Core i7 (Rusty Bridge?) that I could not pass up. Note that the first generation do not have UEFI.

    Models: T’s and x’s all the way. The T’s have UltraBay bays and all have mSATA slots. Yes, you could run a 3-disk RaidZ array on one with the penalty of the slower UltraBay interface, for those running OpenZFS.

    Price: DAMN CHEAP. ThinkPads generally exist in two conditions: Trashed and mint. Most for sale on eBay are in fact close to new, being lease spares and perhaps former property of the CEO who always used a desktop. I have seen double digit HD hours on “used” models plus all the original stickers, zero space bar gloss etc. (!)

    Average price: $180 to $225 USD, $400 for fancy models like a quad-core 1920x1080 15"

    RAM: I use 16GB Corsair “Mac” RAM on all models or left over RAM from upgraded models. I still cannot tell if they will take 2X16GB modules but I have one unit I would like to truly max out.

    Models: x220i, x220, x230, T510, T420, T530 and T400, T61 just because and the majority around $200 in near-new condition.

    Note that the “T4” and “T5” indicate 14" and 15" screens. I guess “x2*” is 12"?

    The “i” models like the x220i are “Celeron” models but support VT-x/EPT (!). For some reason, I think Lenovo punishes Europeans with things like T530i’s with Celeron or i3 processors. Beefy machine, anemic processor. Kinda pointless on the used market given that you can have an i7 for a few <currency> more.

    Note that the x2n0’s and all IB’s appear to need low-profile HDs or SSDs. Generally not a problem with SSDs.

    I avoid the x*20T “Tablet” models and “s” models which are “slim” T series ones. I have heard of overheating issues with them and they would take a slimmer UltraBay caddy. They may have USB3 for those who must have it.

    UltraBay caddys: http://www.newmodeus.com/

    As for the ThinkCentre. It was $100 with no RAM or HD. It’s louder than I expected and the odd-ball power supply is quite big. It’s a quad-core i5 but will probably perform some network serving task. Maybe as a PXE server with a low-profile network card…

    I finally have dock (looks new, $10) and am mostly happy with the “travel” keyboard that has both the NavNub and a trackpad. These are reportedly fragile and for some reason have ESC above F1, rather than left of it. To its credit, it does not ghost-tap like crazy like the other models. (Sees if the trackpad can be disabled in BIOS…) It can! Not sure why I didn’t do that long ago. So. I love trackpads but have muscle memory for MacBook ones (and the command key for that matter). FreeBSD specifically enables trackpad touch/clicking by default and let’s just say the butterfly effect is in full effect. Everyone says to disable something in xorg.conf but recent FreeBSD tags seem to just work out of the box with an empty /etc/X11/ (Anyone know the fix? If I fixed it however, I would then want to know how to get two-finger scrolling working, which seems to work quite well in OpenBSD… out of the box.)

    Pros: Sturdy, interchangeable parts, three mouse buttons!, affordable. I thought I would add a used MacBook Air as I get off of Mac: $650 min? Cons: I want my function keys back, plus the classic layout. Sandy Bridge BIOS bugs. 3Gbps UltraBay bays. HEAVY by today’s standards, especially if you travel with a few of them.

    Either way, I have not used a desktop since about 2000. I want the computer to follow me, rather than me follow it. Nor can I stand the noise of most desktops. Nor can I give a presentation from a desktop. This does however make NAS software developers think I’m crazy given that most of my NAS use is on a ThinkPad for support, testing, documentation, training etc. Portable bare metal is really, really useful.

    What was the question?

    Update: Many T models include NVidia graphics. This was critical to use on FreeBSD but now might even be less-supported than the on-board Intel. You can choose in BIOS and with one I didn’t realize for some time that it also had NVidia. FreeBSD suspect and resume (formerly reboot) works quite well. I’m sure OpenBSD’s has worked a long time.

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      Lenovo BIOS can be crap and I hope to try coreboot and friends, given that the x220, plus probably others are supported.

      You should give Libreboot a shot on an x200! Unfortunately it doesn’t support models newer than that – Intel’s/Lenovo’s BIOS is locked down pretty hard.

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        Well, I am only interested in SB/IB so it may not be a problem! https://www.ericholzbach.net/blog/x230_coreboot/

        Until… http://blog.lenovo.com/tag/retro+thinkpad

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          Oh, I didn’t realize there was partial support! You still can’t extirpate the dreaded Management Engine, but it does look like SeaBIOS ought to work.

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        I like ThinkPad build quality and keyboards (I hear the new ones aren’t as bad as people let on) but the screens and batteries are terrible. The modern high-end IPS panels and the old FlexView panels were good, but anything other than those are dim, low res, and have poor viewing angles. The batteries might be OK when new, but they deteriorate rapidly and you’re often lucky to get an hour or two. If you have a secondary battery, it will suck the battery dry; a fast way to kill LiIon ones.

        My dream laptop would be some kind of MacBook in a ThinkPad chassis, as long as Apple provides the battery and screen. (I’d like the retina MacBook in a slightly slimmed X-series body. Jam it full of batteries, no fan, and all-day life. I’d carry that around.)

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          Good point about the IPS screens. They are tricky to find used and I have never bought one. The 1920X1080 is the best I’ve had while yes, the other screens are kinda crappy. The biggest shock was the T510 which is shockingly low res for its size. The VGA does however interface with about 90% of the projectors/displays I have used and a crazy 42" touchscreen I have looks great.

          The batteries have treated me well and I have made a point of having slim and extended ones. I don’t have the massive ones that work like a base or the UltraBay ones. What one SHOULD take a minute to note is the 70++ or whatever versioning numbers they use. They seem to be backwards-compatible but not forward-compabile. That is, a T420 battery will not work with a T430. But, the reverse should work.

          As for MacBook like. I am hearing good things about the X1 Carbons from the TrueOS folks. I confess I love UltraBay drives… pull out your data in seconds and run like hell…

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            No, the X1C is more like a ThinkPad in a MacBook chassis, which is basically the opposite. In addition, I’m over full performance in mobile, and would really enjoy something that doesn’t need a fan and gets good battery life..

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          Update 2: brycv and I reminded ourselves of the W530… the Workstation that will take 32GB RAM using four modules. They will cost more than a similar T530 but may even take multiple hard drives.

          Others made good points about the IPS screens. Do try to get one unless of course you work mostly from a docking station and only need the built-in display periodically.

          If anyone at Lenovo is listening… I think my dream ThinkPad is “X” sized with a decent display and FOUR easily-accessible mSATA devices for file systems work.

          Capital “X”! My bad.

          Update 3: The battery numbering: Within reach I see:

          T510: 55+ Low-profile battery - Doesn’t extend past back surface - Maybe from a Sandy Bridge model?

          T420: 55++ Extended battery - Extends on cell width (guessing that’s ++)

          X220: 29+ Low-profile battery

          X220: 29++ Extended battery

          X230: 44++ Extended battery

          Somewhere: 70+ (T series 1, 2 and 3)

          Somewhat helpful: https://support.lenovo.com/us/en/documents/pd012165

          N = 4 cell N+ = 6 cell N++ = 9 cell

          But, the chart does not have the 55++ in my hand which is seems is for T series 1 and 2.

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            RAM: I use 16GB Corsair “Mac” RAM on all models or left over RAM from upgraded models. I still cannot tell if they will take 2X16GB modules but I have one unit I would like to truly max out.

            Let me save you some time & money with the short answer: No, 2x16GB module will not work.

            Long answer: Intel Core series prior to Skylake only supports up to 4Gb DRAM packages (don’t confuse that with the actual SoDIMMcapacity). Take a look at this picture on this Newegg product:


            That’s the SoDIMM for a single 8GB laptop RAM stick, front and back, there are a total of 16 DRAM packages, each one is 4Gb in size.

            For a single 16GB SoDIMM stick, there will still only be 16 packages, but each DRAM package must be 8Gb in size. However, as per the Intel spec sheet (page 19), the maximum supported DRAM package is 4Gb for Intel Core Generation 5 (Broadwell).

            It is only with Skylake that support for 8Gb DRAM packages were added Intel spec sheet (page 20-21).

            Apparently AMD CPUs don’t have this limitation and have been able to address 8Gb DRAM packages for quite a few generations now (I’ve seen this chalked up to as “bug” with the Core architecture that was resolved in Skylake, but I can no longer find the source where I originally read this).

            EDIT: Found the source for the claim that Intel CPU’s is “buggy” and AMD CPU’s support this fine:


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              I think some Broadwell chips (like with some NUC models) will support 2x16GB DDR3L modules but that’s mostly based on Amazon reviews and a Crucial 2x16GB DDR3L set of SODIMMs. I have been considering buying to test but it’s $330 or so for the memory. Not worth it when a 2x16GB DDR4 set of SODIMMs is $130.

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                Thank you! Every conversation I have read on the matter to date had came before the modules were available, making for pointless analysis.

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              So. If you can suppress any and all Apple/Mac bashing for just a minute and accept that many MacBook users are working hard to move to a more open platform…

              Has anyone worked out an authentic CTRL-ALT-Command swap/remap to give Mac-style Command-Z|X|C|V|Q|W… (where the ALT key is) and Command-tabbing? Also where the ALT key is.

              That. Would. Be. Great!

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                I’m running FreeBSD 12-CURRENT on a Thinkpad X220, and have FreeBSD 10.3 on my desktop machine. I’ve been using a FreeBSD laptop as my daily driver since sometime in the mid 2000s.

                I’ve been exceedingly happy with how FreeBSD works on the X220; it’s more than fast enough for most of what I want to do, and sound, wireless, suspend and resume, etc. “just works.” Admittedly the X220 is getting a little old now, and FreeBSD’s got a little ways to go with contemporary Intel graphics, but we’re close. Friends of mine are using the work-in-progress graphics stack update on recent Thinkpads like the T450 or X260.

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                  Do you have a way to disable the trackpad in software?

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                    I just turned it off in the BIOS, and haven’t looked for a way to do it in software.