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Thread: Ubuntu/Kubuntu (8.10) on Lenovo W500

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Colorado Springs
    Kubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal

    Ubuntu/Kubuntu (8.10) on Lenovo W500

    I just wanted to share some info about running Ubuntu on a Lenovo ThinkPad W500. I could not find a lot of specific info about Linux on this machine as it is relatively new, so I thought this might be useful to other prospective buyers or new owners who want to use it with Linux and specifically Ubuntu. The machine I am using is a model 4062 with the Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 at 2.8 GHz, 4 gigabytes of RAM and a 200 gigabyte 7200 RPM Hitachi SATA hard drive. This machine has the 9-cell battery (highest capacity offered). I use this machine primarily for professional engineering (IC design) work.

    I first installed Kubuntu 8.04, but discovered that the Intel 5100 AGN wi-fi chip is not supported by the kernel shipped with 8.04 (2.6.24, I think). I can't remember now for sure, but I think that this wi-fi chip isn't supported until 2.6.26. So I upgraded to an 8.10 beta... and subsequently the released 8.10, and the Intel 5100 AGN wi-fi seems well supported in 8.10.

    I have only installed the 32-bit version and haven't had time yet to try the 64-bit build. Note that with the 32-bit kernel only 3 gig of the physical memory appears to be available.

    [EDIT: see further down in this thread for info on 64-bit Ubuntu on this machine; short answer is it works fine.]


    My W500 has the 1920x1200 display. One knock on this display is that it is not terribly bright compared with most other modern laptop LCD displays. But the high resolution is very nice for detailed graphical applications (logic waveform viewers are my primary concern), and it is very sharp and clear - especially in a dimly lit room, which is how I generally choose to work.

    The W500 has "switchable" graphics with both an integrated Intel chipset graphics as well as a discrete ATI Radeon HD 3650 (I have seen it listed in specs as a FireGL V5700, but it reports in lspci as a Mobility Radeon HD 3650). I have not seen any references to Linux support for switchable graphics, so I have not experimented with it. In the absence of OS support for switchable graphics, you must select the graphics chip to be used in the power-on BIOS configuration menus.

    The integrated Intel graphics has the advantage of being somewhat lower power than using the ATI graphics, but provides limited 2D acceleration and no 3D acceleration. The ATI graphics is required for reasonable compiz desktop effects, but burns more power as a tradeoff. However, I did find that the proprietary fglrx driver consumes substantially less power than the open-source radeon driver. In addition, I have not been able to get suspend and hibernate working with the Intel graphics, but it seems to work fine with either ATI driver.

    Here is a table that shows the tradeoffs between the Intel and ATI graphics chips in the Lenovo W500 based on my experience:

    driver  DRI   2D   3D  power  suspend  hibernate  open source
    ------  ---  ---  ---  -----  -------  ---------  -----------
    intel   yes  yes   no 16-19W     no        no         yes
    radeon   no  yes   no 33-44W    yes       yes         yes
    fglrx   yes  yes  yes 21-27W    yes       yes          no

    Note that I have not been able to get suspend and hibernate to resume properly when the KDE4 desktop effects (compiz) are enabled. Since you can manually disable the desktop effects and then successfully suspend and resume, a workaround can probably be devised that disables the desktop effects in the acpi suspend scripts using dbus and re-enables them on resume.

    I also have not been able to get the KDE display power control features to turn off the backlight after sitting idle for a period of time, although the backlight does turn off when the lid is closed. I haven't found a way in the manual ACPI controls either, so no workarounds at present.

    [EDIT: backlight turns off automatically with screensaver power control after adding Option "DPMS" "True" to the Monitor section in /etc/X11/xorg.conf]

    Battery life with the Intel graphics is apx. 4.5 to 5 hours. With the ATI chip using the proprietary fglrx driver (The Ubuntu 8.l0 version 8.55.2 fglrx in the intrepid repository) the battery life is about 3.5 to 4 hours. It's more like 2.5 hours with the radeon driver.

    The fglrx runs glxgears around 2200 FPS with the default window size, 800 FPS in fullscreen mode. fgl_glxgears averages around 1150 FPS with the default window size (is there a fullscreen mode? Couldn't find it...)

    The W500 has two external graphics connectors: A VGA (D-SUB) connector and a DisplayPort connector. As far as I can tell, the DisplayPort connector provides a digital graphics output and can be adapted for use with a DVI monitor connection. Note that only the ATI graphics can drive both the VGA and the DisplayPort/DVI outputs; the Intel graphics only drives the VGA connector (as observed by xrandr).

    Other Devices and their support status with Ubuntu/Kubuntu 8.10:

    Wi-fi - Intel 5100 AGN works in Ubuntu 8.10, not in 8.04 or older. I've seen at least one reference to Atheros shipped in the W500, and that required some massaging with ndiswrapper - yuck.

    Ethernet - works fine at 1 GBE

    sound - works. ALSA provides separate volume controls for "Front" and "PCM", although they both seem to affect the speakers and the headphone jack, but the Front Mute only mutes the speakers. Typical ALSA quirks. The speakers also mute automatically when a headphone jack in inserted.

    dvd r/w burner - haven't tried burning yet, works for playing DVDs

    1394 - works using dvgrab and kino

    integrated webcam - works with kopete. [EDIT] Although it works with kopete, apparently the UVC video driver is broken in the 2.6.27 kernel for the 17ef:4807 webcam, and other UVC applications like cheese and luvcview do NOT work at this point. Refer to this link: for more details. I was unsuccessful in my brief attempt to compile and install the newest drivers, so I guess I'm waiting for an update in the repository.

    SD/MMC card reader - works

    displayport - haven't tried, although DVI brought out by the Advanced Dock works fine with the ATI graphics option, both radeon and fglrx drivers.

    modem - haven't tried

    bluetooth - successfully paired with my cellphone and Logitech mouse

    fingerprint reader - not working, but I haven't spent much time on it

    expresscard slot - haven't tried

    Hard drive - The drive shipped in my machine is a 200 gigabyte Hitachi 1.5 Gbps SATA drive with hardware encryption. The model reported by hdparm is "HITACHI HTS722020K9SA00" with "FwRev=DC4LC75A". The drive received very high reviews and generally benchmarks as fast or faster than competitors' 3 Gbps drives. There do not appear to be any options in the BIOS configuration pages for enabling the hardware encryption, and I have not seen any information about Linux support for the encyrption features of this drive... but I haven't researched it very thoroughly. hdparm provides some ATA security commands, but they preface them with words like "VERY DANGEROUS", and it's not clear if these commands are intended for this particular drive.

    [EDIT: After some research, I have read that a BIOS config option to set the disk encryption passphrase can be enabled using a DOS/Windows utility. You apparently need a DOS boot disk and then run the utility provided by Lenovo. Disk encryption is always enabled and can't be disabled; the BIOS option enabled by the Lenovo utility only allows setting a password on the disk]

    Special keys

    Volume - The volume keys work with ALSA out-of-the-box. However, the mute key has some quirky behavior in that there is no on-screen indication that it has taken effect, and pushing it again while muted does not unmute; only pushing the up or down volume key unmutes.

    ThinkVantage - Does nothing in Ubuntu (and we care why?)

    Backlight function keys - work

    LED keyboard light - works

    Media player controls (on the arrow keys) - The pause key pauses Amarok, however pushing it again restarts the track from the beginning. The skip forward and skip backward keys do advance the track forward or backward. The stop key has no effect.

    Other function keys (lock, battery, sleep, etc.) - seem to have no effect.

    Docking Stations

    It seems that Lenovo has two primary docking stations for use with the W500: the Mini Dock and the Advanced Dock. I have an Advanced Dock at work that I use with the W500. The primary difference between the Mini Dock and the Advanced Dock seems to be that the Advanced Dock includes an internal 16x PCI Express slot, with the implication that you can add a graphics card to the dock. This would, in theory, allow you to use a PCIe graphics card with a dual (or more) DVI output to drive multiple monitors with a digital signal. Otherwise, both docks have a VGA and a DVI connector, and dual monitor operation involves one monitor receiving an analog signal (VGA) and the other monitor receiving a digital signal (DVI). When viewing a dual-monitor setup with mixed analog/digital signals, the differences are quite noticeable in that the VGA signal produces a noticeably blurry result in comparison. But it's usable.

    The PCIe slot in the Advanced Dock seems to be some kind of sick joke on the part of Lenovo. It does not seem to work with just any off-the-shelf PCIe graphics card. There are references on Lenovo's website to a Radeon X1300 card designated for use with the Advanced Dock, but this card seems to have been discontinued by Lenovo so one suspects that there were problems with it. I tried it with a Lenovo branded NVidia NVS 290 card and had mixed results with two different W500 laptops - one running Kubuntu 8.10 and the other running Windows Vista. We started with a single monitor connected to DVI output #1 from the NVidia card in the dock. About half of the time (maybe 6 or 8 total boot attempts) we observed the Windows splash screen displayed by the graphics card in the dock, however we were never able to successfully install the NVidia drivers (the Windows control panel reported that the card was using the generic VGA driver). Whenever the external card graphics booted properly, the dock would kick its fan up into high gear, too. In any case, after these unsuccessful attempts, we connected the second DVI output to the other monitor but never saw the dock card display to either monitor again before we gave up (2 or 3 more boot attempts). The other laptop running Ubuntu 8.10 never even showed the boot messages on the dock graphics card, and an lspci dump after booting did not report the card as present. I don't believe this is a Ubuntu problem, though, because the Vista machine even showed the POST messages on the external card's output - long before the OS starts loading, but this never happened on the Ubuntu laptop. Basically, just plain flaky at best, and the word in other forums is that few if any are able to make the Advanced Dock work with an external PCIe graphics card using older T-series machines either. Kind of false advertising on the part of Lenovo, and besides, why even offer an additional dock option with a PCIe slot if you can't make it work.

    Other Impressions

    - Build quality is very solid. The display hinges are standard Lenovo solid, tight metal hinges. Lenovo advertises one-handed opening with the single latch release on the right side of the unit, but this isn't really possible because the display hinges are too tight for the relatively light weight of the unit, so two hands are required to pry the clamshell apart, at least on my machine.

    - The matte finish plastic on the top of the unit tends to pick up finger prints frequently and is difficult to clean.

    - The keyboard has a very nice feel (apparently a staple of Lenovo machines), although the page up/down keys in the upper right corner are too small, and I often accidentally hit the caps lock for some reason even though it is in the standard position to the left of the A key.

    - I could also do without the standard IBM/Lenovo red eraser-head TrackPoint pointing device located between the G, H and B keys. But that's personal preference.

    - The additional three mouse buttons located above the touch pad provides a native middle mouse button, which is nice for Linux copy/paste. It would have been nice to have a middle mouse button in the lower set of mouse buttons as well, but there are only two.

    - The headphone jack is located along with the microphone jack in the front, which is a bad place when using the machine on your lap. It should be on the side. But the jack seems to be good quality, sturdy and tight.

    - The machine is extremely quiet and cool. The fan tends to run between 0 and 3000 RPM during normal use, and seems to peak under 4000 RPM with heavy load. CPU temperature stays between 40 and 55 degrees C during normal use, and up to around 80 degrees C under heavy load. The fan is extremely quiet even at the higher reported RPMs.

    - For several compute intensive engineering applications (verilog logic simulations and logic synthesis) the machine runs core-for-core about 80% of the speed of a 3.0 GHz Xeon server CPU - very fast indeed.

    If you have a W500, please share any experiences you have or any suggestions for tweaking. Thanks!
    Last edited by gatman3; January 6th, 2009 at 04:06 AM. Reason: Added some new information

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Re: Ubuntu/Kubuntu (8.10) on Lenovo W500

    Thanks for the in-depth review. I also have a W500, and I'm running Ubuntu 8.10. It installed out of the box flawlessly, just as gatman3 suggested. Incidentally it's the only distro that I tried that could boot up into X, It could be the Discreet Graphics setting in the BIOS, which I hadn't changed from 'enable both' to 'Only Discreet' until after Ubuntu was installed.

    On that note, It might be important to realize that in order to properly run the fglrx drivers, and desktop effects without any hitch, I had to set the BIOS setting to Discreet graphics instead of Dual, or AutoDetect. (Vista has the capability to switch between integrated and discreet graphics on the fly, nice for power conservation, but I prefer to always use the discreet graphics...and also linux.)

    I am having dificulty with hibernate and suspend, but I haven't tried disabling compiz first, I'll try it. (thanks for the suggestion.)
    Edit: Disabling compiz allows suspend and hibernate to work great, but when I re-enables the desktop effects (set the effects in apperance to extra) it reset my compiz settings. Is there a way to disable/enable compiz outside of the apearence menu that won't reset the changes I made in compiz-settings-manager?

    I am running the 64-bit version and it hasn't given me any problems at all. Wine runs great too.

    I love the trackpoint mouse and have actually disabled the trackpad in the Bios. Personal preference I guess. Gatman3, you can disable the trackpoint in the BIOS so that it won't do anything when you bump it. Unfortunaly I think this disables the upper mouse buttons (including the middle button.) incidentally, does anyone know how I can change the mapping of the middle mouse button to scroll instead of paste? Is this a Xorg thing, 'enable three button mouse emulation' perhaps?

    I am considering re-compling the Kernel in the next couple of weeks, I guess we'll see how that goes.
    Last edited by AeroSigma; November 24th, 2008 at 08:08 PM. Reason: disabling compiz allows suspend/hibernate to work.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2008

    Re: Ubuntu/Kubuntu (8.10) on Lenovo W500

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Especially the suspend and hibernate stuff, which I missed and didn't search a solution for yet. I'll try what you suggest.

    I could not find a lot of specific info about Linux on this machine
    Indeed there's not much to find. would have been a good place to start, and to use for your report, rather than a forum. There is also the ubuntu wiki:
    from where you could create a page.

    BTW, I did that on the French version of the Ubuntu wiki:

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Colorado Springs
    Kubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal

    Re: Ubuntu/Kubuntu (8.10) on Lenovo W500

    Thanks for the replies.

    AeroSigma - I'm not experiencing the same issue with disabling/re-enabling the desktop effects initializing the settings. I'm using KDE4; are you experiencing that with GNOME?

    Benoit2008 - Thanks for the suggestions. When I get some time I'll look into making a W500 page in one of the wikis as you suggest, unless you get to it first.

    Some more info discovered since my initial post:

    On suspend/hibernate: Still no good solution for suspend/hibernate interop with desktop effects enabled. Note also that I discovered that (1) movie players using the Xv driver (mplayer, cinelerra, etc.) do not work properly when desktop effects are enabled. The result is extreme flickering during playback. And (2) after a suspend/resume cycle, attempting to play back video with Xv causes the system to lock up hard. Ctrl-Alt-F1 doesn't even work. So, on this machine (W500 with Radeon HD 3650), suspend/hibernate AND fglrx AND (desktop effects OR Xv video) = no joy. It seems you can have suspend/hibernate AND fglrx or you can have fglrx AND desktop effects... or you can have fglrx AND Xv video... but you can't have it all at the same time.

    Also, I installed the 64-bit version of 8.10 as an alternate boot. Works fine. I had to use the nspluginwrapper to get the Adobe Acrobat Reader plugin working in Firefox, but otherwise everything else pretty much worked the same as the 32-bit install. One other oddity - kvpnc with Cisco works fine with 32-bit Ubuntu, doesn't work with 64-bit (won't save the group password for some reason). I also had trouble with Kompozer from the 32-bit repository, but works fine on 64-bit.

    [EDIT: Adobe's new Flash 10 alpha for 64-bit linux works great, so the nspluginwrapper is no longer needed. Unless... you are a Rhapsody subscriber. It worked for a few months with Rhapsody, and then Rhapsody changed something and the 64-bit Flash plugin stopped working right near the end of December 2008. Back to nspluginwrapper if you want Rhapsody on a 64-bit system...]

    Here are some W500 (2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM) Ubuntu 8.10 32-bit vs. 64-bit benchmarks using nbench, for whatever it's worth:

    TEST                : 32-bit Iter/Sec  : 64-bit Iter/Sec  :
    NUMERIC SORT        :          1215.6  :          1379.7  :
    STRING SORT         :          177.44  :          305.92  :
    BITFIELD            :      5.3516e+08  :      5.6426e+08  :
    FP EMULATION        :           179.8  :           300.8  :
    FOURIER             :           35103  :           31060  :
    ASSIGNMENT          :          40.567  :          41.494  :
    IDEA                :            7936  :          8352.7  :
    HUFFMAN             :            2620  :          2806.5  :
    NEURAL NET          :          52.276  :           61.95  :
    LU DECOMPOSITION    :          1954.1  :          1957.3  :
    INTEGER INDEX       :          82.785  :         100.845  :
    FLOATING-POINT INDEX:          69.750  :          70.901  :
    (The indices are supposedly relative to a Pentium 90).

    glxgears and fgl_glxgears reported nearly identical results between 32-bit vs. 64-bit.

    I can't tell any noticeable difference in performance between the two, although it certainly feels better psychologically to get an extra 800 megabytes or so of usable RAM (top reports the available memory with the 32-bit kernel at 3106444k, and with the 64-bit at 3984312k). However, it also seems that many applications use significantly more memory when running on the 64-bit OS compared with 32-bit (immediately after boot, 64-bit Xorg used 532M versus 445M on 32-bit, gkrellm used a whopping 322M vs. 65M, and overall the identical installations showed a total of 800M used on the 64-bit version versus 630M used on the 32-bit version). A topic for a different thread, I suppose.
    Last edited by gatman3; January 6th, 2009 at 04:14 AM. Reason: Updated for the new alpha Flash 10 for 64-bit linux

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Re: Ubuntu/Kubuntu (8.10) on Lenovo W500

    i still have the hibernation issue although im using ATI not intel

    any other advises?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    Re: Ubuntu/Kubuntu (8.10) on Lenovo W500

    I noticed 2 issues and I would like to know if other owner have these issues as well.

    If I try to reboot from Kubuntu 8.10 the reboot will stop at the scan device menu(where u can hit esc/F1 to enter Bios). This issue doesn't show with winXP...

    -Random freeze after using suspend to disk.
    It took my a little while to noticed that one. But each time i use suspend disk , I will experienced a system freeze .Usually it will happen if i launch a movie, or a big apps.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Colorado Springs
    Kubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal

    Re: Ubuntu/Kubuntu (8.10) on Lenovo W500


    I haven't noticed the first issue. But I can confirm the second issue, at least a variation of it. I use the fglrx video driver, and I experience hard lock-ups following suspend or hibernate if I launch an application that uses direct rendering video after resuming. One typical example is trying to play a video using mplayer with the xv driver after resuming. Another example is using the KDE desktop effects (compiz), which also uses DRI. The only workaround I have found is to avoid applications that use DRI after resuming. That's a pretty lame workaround though. But I have found that using mplayer with the x11 driver (i.e. "mplayer -vo x11 <filename>") avoids the problem. Of course, video playback is usually too slow with the x11 driver, so this workaround isn't great, and it only solves the problem in a limited way for video players, not for other DRI applications. I have experimented with settings in /etc/default/acpi-support but haven't found anything to solve this. It hasn't been a high enough priority to dig much deeper; I just chalk it up to the crappy suspend/hibernate support in linux.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007

    Re: Ubuntu/Kubuntu (8.10) on Lenovo W500

    Hey AeroSigma,

    Did you ever find anything more about the middle trackpoint button? I would love to be able to use that to scroll as well.

    Thanks to all of you for the great video advice! I haven't tried hibernate or suspend, but compiz works nicley with the Intel driver. I'm about to find out what kind of time I get out of my battery now. With the radeon driver, I got similar results - about 3 hours.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2008

    Re: Ubuntu/Kubuntu (8.10) on Lenovo W500

    I'm having trouble with compiz desktop effects and the fglrx driver. When I try to turn on effects, the display renders only a portion of the screen and the rest of it (20% of the right side of the screen) turns black. I have to switch it down to 1440x900 to work.

    Also the highest resolution I'm getting even without desktop effects is only 1680x1050. Do I need to edit xorg.conf?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Re: Ubuntu/Kubuntu (8.10) on Lenovo W500

    I have Ubuntu 8.10 installed on 3 computers basicly set up the same way. World of warcraft and flash player are used on all three. Two of the computers are working exceptionally, but the third has a locking problem. The computer locks up usually within 30 minutes of playing WoW or within a couple hours of my son playing on The only real difference in the problem computer is it is using an LED monitor.

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