Thinkpad X240 and Debian Linux

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So, Lenovo have finally made another laptop that has specs I can live with: The new Thinkpad X240.
The Lenovo web-shop is a steaming pile of crap, and trying to customize/configure the laptop will take many attempts, with various differences between the different locales. However, in the end I ended up with the laptop configured the way I wanted it:

Specifications:

  • Full HD, non-touch, non-glare 12.5″ screen (1920×1080)
  • Intel Dual-Core i5-4300U
  • 500G Harddisk (swapped with a SAMSUNG 840 SSD, 250GB immediately after arrival)
  • 8GB DDR3 Ram
  • Intel 802.11ac dual-band wifi and Bluetooth
  • Intel Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB 3.0 (2 ports, 1 left, 1 right)
  • Smartcard reader
  • SD-Card reader
  • 3-Cell (internal, 23Whr) + 6-Cell-High-Capacity backside battery (72Whr, total ~95Whr)
  • Backlit US-international keyboard
  • Clickpad and clit-mouse
  • VGA and Mini-DisplayPort
  • Docking port (though I didn’t buy a dock)
  • WWAN antenna’s (WWAN modem optional)

I also bought a set of adapter cables to convert from the old-style 7.9MM round thinkpad adapter to the new flat/square connector on the X240 (and X1-Carbon). These can be found on aliexpress or ebay so I could re-use my 4+ existing Thinkpad Adapters.

Software:

By default, the Thinkpad X240 comes with Windows 8… which is not very user-friendly, and definitely not compatible with my usage. I removed the internal HDD drive, swapped it out with a Samsung 250GB SSD and installed Debian Jessie on this drive. (BTW: Windows 8 was very sluggish on the HDD drive, even with 8GB of ram)

I prefer running the Mate/Gnome-2 desktop, so I added the mate-desktop repositories and installed mate-desktop-environment.

Hardware Configuration

Lenovo has made it very easy to disable unneeded hardware in the EFI/BIOS. The following devices can be turned off (to add battery-life and privacy 😛 )

  • 720p Webcam
  • Microphones
  • WWAN
  • WLAN
  • LAN
  • USB

Config tweaking

  • Tweak440s: https://github.com/MacGyverNL/tweak440s
  • Synaptics configuration: /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/50-synaptics.conf
    • Option “SoftButtonAreas” “60% 0 0 5% 40% 60% 0 5%”
  • Disable the soundcard, so the internal speakers are the ‘fallback’ option, then logout/login to make the media buttons work on the new default device.

Likes

  • Very quick resume from suspend, open the lid and immediately see the ‘unlock screensaver’ popup
  • Full-HD display
  • Very low battery-drain when idle and almost none in suspend
  • Hot swappable battery
  • Lightweight

Dislikes

  • No fysical buttons with the trackpoint/touchpad
  • No leds for wifi/disk activity
  • No way to set ‘fn-lock’ automatically
  • Not as ‘non-glare’ as they used to be, but still acceptable
  • End/Insert button is shared, to use ‘end’ you need Fn-End, while I never use insert.
    • FIXED: Edit /usr/share/X11/xkb/keycodes/evdev, and swap the codes for END and INS, then run: setxkbmap
    • <INS> = 115;
    • <END> = 118;
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2 thoughts on “Thinkpad X240 and Debian Linux”

  1. Debian jessie.

    I occasionally get suspend/resume failure. I set it to trigger pm-suspend when the lid is closed, and after opening the lid, the screen stays black, the power button keeps slow blinking and the fan spins in full speed.

    Do you experience that? I tried really hard but couldn’t really find a reliable way to reproduce it so totally unable to determine what’s causing this.

  2. I’m an X240 Debian user, happy… until this morning, when the backlight stopped working (the screen is almost completely dark, everything else – including an external screen – seems to work fine). I suspect a hardware issue, but in dmesg, I see “Unsupported brightness interface, please contact ibm-acpi-devel@lists.sourceforge.net“, so I’m suspicious (although two lines later I do read “This ThinkPad has standard ACPI backlight brightness control, supported by the ACPI video driver”). That said, I don’t know if this message was already present before the problem started.. Could you tell me if you also read this in your dmesg?

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