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Thread: Ubuntu On Thinkpad W520: Your Experiences

  1. #1
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    Ubuntu On Thinkpad W520: Your Experiences

    Hi everyone,

    I am new to this wonderful forum, and I am already blown away by the amicability and willingness to help others (even with problems that are probably very easy to solve) that the people on this forum have. Hopefully, I can take advantage of some of your experience. Right now, I am 95% sure I am going to go for a new Thinkpad W520 in the near future; however, I wanted to get a feel for people's feelings toward it after having used the machine for awhile. In particular, I have read a few threads about dealing with nvidia optimus, the wireless card, brightness controls, the sandy bridge architecture, and hibernate/sleep (perhaps there have been other issues as well). For those who have had these or any other issues, have you found a way to correct them or at least some sort of a workaround? From the threads I've seen, it isn't so clear whether or not these issues have been solved. That, and in general, what has been your experience thus far with the W520? Thank you all for your input.

    -Steve

  2. #2
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    Re: Ubuntu On Thinkpad W520: Your Experiences

    Hi, welcome to the fora. Good that you like the 'Ubuntu' spirit

    Does this help?
    http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1757821
    About problems due to upgrading
    Bringing old hardware back to life.
    Please visit Quick Links -> Unanswered Posts

  3. #3
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    Re: Ubuntu On Thinkpad W520: Your Experiences

    sentraser,

    I have had a W520 for about a week now as an upgrade to my old W500 (I skipped the W510 generation). I have to say that this W520 has been a little challenging, although I am writing into this forum using it so it's at least functional.

    The thread cited by mörgæs above has about the only information I could find on configuring this machine with Ubuntu. Some of the information in that thread is a little confusing because it's not clear in all cases if they are talking about the nvidia proprietary driver or the open-source nouveau driver.

    Here is a brief summary of my experiences thus far:

    Graphics configuration done in the BIOS. Select "Integrated" for the Intel graphics built into the chipset and "Discrete" for the separate NVidia 1000M/2000M chip (whether you use the open-source nouveau driver or the proprietary nvidia driver). Optimus is OS-switchable graphics and might be supported somewhat by the bumblebee project, but I haven't tried it and really have no need for it. I figure it's just one more headache I don't need right now.

    In short, if you don't need the NVidia graphics, you will be much happier with this machine. The integrated (Intel) graphics pretty much works out-of-the-box with the Ubuntu 11.04 release. However, there still seems to be a problem with the 2.6.38 kernel (the stock Ubuntu 11.04 kernel) that causes a "stuttering" problem in that the mouse freezes for a fraction of a second every few seconds or so. I followed the directions provided by this link (cited at the end of the other thread) to upgrade the kernel to 2.6.39-0 which seems to solve the stuttering problems:

    http://www.addictivetips.com/ubuntu-...l-to-2-6-39-0/

    However, upgrading the kernel to 2.6.39 breaks VMWare (if you care about that). Fortunately I found a patch that fixes up VMWare to work with the 2.6.39 kernel. There certainly may be other things that get messed up in the 11.04 distribution when you upgrade from the stock kernel.

    On my setup, suspend-to-RAM also does not work reliably. It seems to work 4 out of 5 times, but what good is unreliable resume, right? I'm not certain if this is related to the 2.6.39-0 kernel upgrade I did, or if the stock 2.6.38 kernel exhibits the same problem. It seems like others have gotten suspend/resume to work reliably, and I don't know yet what the difference is.

    Meanwhile, the NVidia graphics seem to be poorly supported for this machine at the present time. I'm actually using the proprietary nvidia driver at the present time (as I type), and the graphics are beautiful, however I had to boot with the "acpi=off" kernel parameter to get the machine to boot with either the nouveau or proprietary nvidia driver. Otherwise, with the proprietary driver the machine hangs at boot. With the nouveau it boots and runs well for about an hour at a time, and then hangs without warning.

    The main problem with running without ACPI is that the kernel disables the multi-core CPU and drops the machine down to a single core. Very, very sad considering this is a quad core with hyperthreading. Regardless, even with a single core this thing runs way better than my old W500, so I've been limping along for now in single core mode when I use the dock with my dual monitor setup at work (dual DVI off the dock requires the NVidia graphics chip). If I am at home and just using it as a laptop without external monitors I use the integrated graphics and the machine properly reports in /proc/cpuinfo as having all 8 cores (due to the hyperthreading). But the integrated graphics only supports the built-in LCD and the external VGA connector, no DVI/Displayport.

    I'm still searching for a better way to configure the machine to get the NVidia graphics without disabling ACPI and dropping the machine to a single core. Ubuntu 11.04 ships with the proprietary NVidia driver version 270.41.19, and NVidia already has a 275.x.x release, so I may try upgrading the driver to see if the ACPI conflict is solved. Otherwise, I might try the 2.6.39-1 kernel, but I'll probably be waiting for a new 3.0.0 kernel and/or Ubuntu 11.10 to see if these problems get fixed.

    All that said, the W520 is WICKED fast when all 8 cores are enabled, and the NVidia graphics are beautiful with the desktop effects. I just haven't figured out how to get both at the same time yet.

    The machine also runs very cool, especially compared to my W500. My dual-core W500 would easily reach the 95 degrees C throttling temperature even with the integrated graphics when running a heavy workload, and with the ATI graphics it would practically melt down (I had numerous thermal shutdowns running ATI graphics). With the integrated graphics, the W520 idles at 35 to 40 C and barely cracks 60 C with two simultaneous compute jobs. With the NVidia graphics using nouveau driver I have seen it hit 80 C, but that's it. I think the proprietary nvidia driver runs cooler than nouveau, but I can't measure the temp because I can't boot it without turning off ACPI.

    Plus, did I mention that it's fast? When I run a single job on the W520, the job completes about 10% to 15% faster than on one of our big bad Xeon X5570 servers. I have run 8 jobs simultaneously, and it's still pretty respectable running each job as long as you're not hitting the disk too often.

    I look forward to better kernel and driver support in the coming months.

  4. #4
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    Re: Ubuntu On Thinkpad W520: Your Experiences

    Update on my experiences...

    64-bit is a no go, at least for me. I tried 10.10 and 11.04. 10.10 was a total disaster; the machine would sometimes hang on boot, and sometimes ran at an incredibly slow speed (move the mouse, wait 30 seconds, etc.) 11.04 ran better at 64-bit, but the best I could get was to run with NVidia proprietary graphics with a kernel update (2.6.39-0) and disabling ACPI as a kernel boot option (acpi=off). With intel graphics it worked better but it seemed sluggish at times and suspend was flaky. There were various other problems, such as broken VMWare due to the 2.6.39-0 kernel.

    When I switched to 32-bit on 11.04 the storm clouds parted and everything just worked. Fortunately, 32-bit uses a PAE kernel that makes use of >4GB RAM (I have 8 GB, and all of the memory is available). When I'm docked I used the NVidia proprietary driver with a dual-monitor display, and when I'm undocked I switch to the integrated (Intel) graphics (I have a boot script to auto-detect which graphics chip is present and auto-switch the xorg.conf, because intel barfs if the nvidia xorg.conf is present, and nvidia needs its own xorg.conf). With the integrated graphics, suspend also seems to work fine now too, I was successful testing 10 out of 10 suspend cycles.

    For me, at least, the 32-bit version of Ubuntu 11.04 is golden on this machine. The 64-bit versions of Ubuntu are a mess on this machine.

  5. #5
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    Re: Ubuntu On Thinkpad W520: Your Experiences

    Quote Originally Posted by gatman3 View Post
    Update on my experiences...

    64-bit is a no go, at least for me. I tried 10.10 and 11.04. 10.10 was a total disaster; the machine would sometimes hang on boot, and sometimes ran at an incredibly slow speed (move the mouse, wait 30 seconds, etc.) 11.04 ran better at 64-bit, but the best I could get was to run with NVidia proprietary graphics with a kernel update (2.6.39-0) and disabling ACPI as a kernel boot option (acpi=off). With intel graphics it worked better but it seemed sluggish at times and suspend was flaky. There were various other problems, such as broken VMWare due to the 2.6.39-0 kernel.

    When I switched to 32-bit on 11.04 the storm clouds parted and everything just worked. Fortunately, 32-bit uses a PAE kernel that makes use of >4GB RAM (I have 8 GB, and all of the memory is available). When I'm docked I used the NVidia proprietary driver with a dual-monitor display, and when I'm undocked I switch to the integrated (Intel) graphics (I have a boot script to auto-detect which graphics chip is present and auto-switch the xorg.conf, because intel barfs if the nvidia xorg.conf is present, and nvidia needs its own xorg.conf). With the integrated graphics, suspend also seems to work fine now too, I was successful testing 10 out of 10 suspend cycles.

    For me, at least, the 32-bit version of Ubuntu 11.04 is golden on this machine. The 64-bit versions of Ubuntu are a mess on this machine.
    Dear gatman3, are you able now to boot the Ubuntu 11.04 32-bit with discrete graphic running undocked and on battery?

  6. #6
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    Re: Ubuntu On Thinkpad W520: Your Experiences

    Quote Originally Posted by wolfindersteppe View Post
    Dear gatman3, are you able now to boot the Ubuntu 11.04 32-bit with discrete graphic running undocked and on battery?
    wolfindersteppe, yes I have done that, and yes it worked for me with 11.04 32-bit selecting "Discrete Graphics" in the BIOS. But I only tried it one time a few days ago just to see if it would work, and it did. I also tried one suspend/resume cycle, and that also worked, but I certainly didn't test it exhaustively.

    When I booted undocked with Discrete graphics, my fonts were oversized for some reason -- kind of like X made a bad dpi choice without the monitors attached. But that may also have something to do with my xorg.conf file. I didn't mess with it, but I'm sure with some fiddling that could be solved. I just let it boot with same xorg.conf I use for the dual monitors even though I wasn't docked and connected to any monitors, and it actually came up and used the LCD screen and set the resolution properly (1920x1080) but the fonts were kind of big. It might have just solved itself if I ran the nvidia-xconfig utility and reconfigured everything for the LCD, I don't know for sure.

    My recollection is that after about 5 minutes of operation it reported about 3 1/2 hours of remaining battery when running with the Discrete graphics. When I run with integrated graphics it shows about 5 1/2 hours. I have the 9-cell battery and the i7-2720QM CPU with a 500 GB mechanical hard drive, and I usually run the display about one tick lower than full brightness.

    EDIT: FYI, I have not tried the open-source nouveau driver undocked on battery, just the proprietary nvidia driver.
    Last edited by gatman3; July 1st, 2011 at 06:06 PM. Reason: Added comment about nouveau vs nvidia

  7. #7
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    Re: Ubuntu On Thinkpad W520: Your Experiences

    gatman3 - thank you, thank you, thank you very much for pointing out to Ubuntu 11.04 32-bit version!!!
    I have performed extensive tests in any combination of W520 (i7-2820QM, 16 GB RAM, NVidia 2000M, Vertex3 240 SSD for OS, 2nd Vertex3 Pro 240 GB SSD in caddy) running docked, undocked, on battery, with GPU integrated only, discrete only and optimus. My conclusion so far:
    - boot on battery works in any GPU combination - optimus, integrated only, dedicated only;
    - 16 GB RAM (aka 15.7 usable) is fully recognized and usable - tested running several VMWARE virtual machines up to maximum RAM available,
    - suspend works in any given combination, heavily running virtual machines, flash, UMTS, wireless and then suspending docked, undocking, opening lid and resuming it or running on battery, suspending, putting in dock,resuming etc - works any time, extremely charming;
    - if mouse focus was on external monitor, then suspended, detached second monitor and W520 resumed, it looks first that W520 is not resumed but actually it is, only the login screen is on the "invisible" external monitor, just typing blind the pwd brings the GUI back;
    - hibernation does not work, but having SSD 6.0GBs/s it does not bothering me, the shut down / start / reboot is fast enough - who needs hibernation in case of SSD ;
    - once I have experienced external mouse cursor movement being extremely lagged after suspending on battery and discrete GPU (aka NVidia) and then resuming in the dock station but restarting the X server cured it.

    Now I am going to backup my current installation before doing anything else. Next step is to test the Optimus support for Linux, have to install bumblebee https://github.com/MrMEEE/bumblebee. And tonight I will enjoy the box fight Klitscho vs. Haye
    Last edited by wolfindersteppe; July 2nd, 2011 at 08:48 PM.

  8. #8
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    Re: Ubuntu On Thinkpad W520: Your Experiences

    Finally some W520 owners running Linux! While Ubuntu is not my Linux distribution of choice, I find the Ubuntu community to be very helpful!

    While my experience with this notebook and Linux is far from perfect, perhaps I may be able to shed some light on my dealings with this machine, as well as obtain some knowledge on this particular machine and Linux in general. My distribution is Slackware 64-bit 13.37 and I'm currently running kernel 2.6.39.2 and BIOS 1.22. I mention the BIOS version because it seems that BIOS 1.24/25 that this machine came with had some issues with Linux and ACPI. Unfortunately I do not recall the specific nature of these ACPI issues, but it forced me to downgrade to 1.22. I am also running the latest "stable" NVIDIA drivers, 275.09.07. Haven't had any problems with 64-bit and NVIDIA's drivers other than what looked like compiz dying just now on me, forcing me to restart KDE.

    I have tried putting the machine to sleep a total of 5 times consecutively, with all 5 times resuming successful. Hibernation has been a little spotty for me however, as I am able to put the machine into hibernate and successfully resume maybe 2 out of 3 times.

    In Windows 7 I have seen the CPU GHz go from 2.2 to a max of maybe 3.1GHz. Under Linux however, I have never seen it go past 2.2GHz. Not sure what's up there...

    I am also having some difficulties reading CPU temps and suspect it's a combo between the BIOS and the Linux kernel. Under BIOS 1.06 the CPU temps are all available for reading. Under 1.22 and higher, I get only one reading and I'm not even sure if it's accurate or what it's actually reading from.

    Lastly, I have tried Ubuntu 11.04 64-bit off of a Live CD to verify my findings with the CPU temps and during this time period I did not have any issues with Ubuntu.
    Last edited by dimm0k; July 3rd, 2011 at 12:01 AM.

  9. #9
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    Re: Ubuntu On Thinkpad W520: Your Experiences

    dimm0k, welcome!

    Interesting comments about BIOS version and ACPI. I'm pretty sure I was running BIOS 1.22 when I had all those problems with Ubuntu 11.04 64-bit with Discrete graphics, although it might have been BIOS 1.21. I'm not real motivated to mess with it any more at this point because things are running so well with 11.04 32-bit.

    I have also noticed that the CPU frequency as reported in /proc/cpuinfo never exceeds 2.2 GHz, while Intel's "Turbo Boost" feature is supposed to allow my i7-2720QM to hit 3.3 GHz if only one core is under load.

    I did a little research and found these links:

    http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1321028
    http://saveandrewgarib.com/201004/ar...nd_turbo_boost

    These articles suggest that (1) kernels newer than around 2.6.33 or so have Turbo Boost support, but (2) The Turbo Boost core speeds are not reported properly in /proc/cpuinfo, and you need to run a special Intel utility called "turbostat" to see the true core speed with Turbo Boost.

    Intel's turbostat utility is included in the acpidump package:

    Code:
    sudo apt-get install acpidump
    If you run turbostat in a terminal:

    Code:
    sudo turbostat
    It displays something like this:

    Code:
     CPU   GHz    TSC 
     avg   0.80   2.19
       0   0.80   2.19
       1   0.80   2.19
       2   0.80   2.19
       3   0.80   2.19
    and updates every few seconds.

    This is as far as I have gotten, though. I still do not see any of the cores crank up to 3.3 GHz under load. Still researching...

  10. #10
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    Re: Ubuntu On Thinkpad W520: Your Experiences

    I also found the i7z utility for reporting CPU speed, apparently including Turbo Boost speed:

    http://code.google.com/p/i7z/

    (You'll need to install libncurses5-dev from the repository before making this).

    This tool seems to work great. Here is sample output:

    Code:
    Cpu speed from cpuinfo 2192.00Mhz                                                                                                                                                                       
    cpuinfo might be wrong if cpufreq is enabled. To guess correctly try estimating via tsc                                                                                                                 
    Linux's inbuilt cpu_khz code emulated now                                                                                                                                                               
    True Frequency (without accounting Turbo) 2192 MHz                                                                                                                                                      
      CPU Multiplier 22x || Bus clock frequency (BCLK) 99.64 MHz                                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                                                                                            
    Socket [0] - [physical cores=4, logical cores=8, max online cores ever=4]                                                                                                                               
      TURBO ENABLED on 4 Cores, Hyper Threading ON                                                                                                                                                          
      True Frequency 2291.64 MHz (99.64 x [23])                                                                                                                                                             
      Max TURBO Multiplier (if Enabled) with 1/2/3/4 Cores is  33x/32x/30x/30x                                                                                                                              
      Current Frequency 2192.35 MHz (Max of below)                                                                                                                                                          
            Core [core-id]  :Actual Freq (Mult.)      C0%   Halt(C1)%  C3 %   C6 %  Temp                                                                                                                    
            Core 1 [0]:       2192.07 (22.00x)      8.44    84.4    6.13       1    309                                                                                                                     
            Core 2 [2]:       2192.35 (22.00x)         1    98.7       1       0    308                                                                                                                     
            Core 3 [4]:       2191.95 (22.00x)      1.39      96    1.58       1    306                                                                                                                     
            Core 4 [6]:       2192.00 (22.00x)       100       0       0       0    311                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                                                                                            
    C0 = Processor running without halting                                                                                                                                                                  
    C1 = Processor running with halts (States >C0 are power saver)                                                                                                                                          
    C3 = Cores running with PLL turned off and core cache turned off                                                                                                                                        
    C6 = Everything in C3 + core state saved to last level cache                                                                                                                                            
      Above values in table are in percentage over the last 1 sec                                                                                                                                           
    [core-id] refers to core-id number in /proc/cpuinfo                                                                                                                                                     
    'Garbage Values' message printed when garbage values are read                                                                                                                                           
      Ctrl+C to exit
    It shows that the max CPU speed is 33x of 100 MHz, which should be 3.3 GHz. However, I still never see the speed crack 2.2 GHz under load.

    One other interesting quirk: I had disabled hyper-threading in the BIOS because I was seeing some undesirable behavior when running multiple compute jobs simultaneously (sometimes the jobs would get 50% of a CPU instead of 100%, even with 4 or fewer jobs running). With hyper-threading disabled all cores were always running 2.2 GHz and never throttling down with no load. With hyper-threading enabled, each core tends to run in the 800-1600 MHz range when not under load, and then with one compute job running all cores crank up to 2.2 GHz, even the ones not under load. Weird.

    Still, I never see any more than 2.2 GHz on any one core.

    Seems like maybe proper Sandy Bridge support is lacking in the 2.6.38-8 kernel?

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