Home > Technology > Fedora 14 on Lenovo Thinkpad X100e with Athlon Neo MV-40

Fedora 14 on Lenovo Thinkpad X100e with Athlon Neo MV-40

I have long held disdain for laptops. I didn’t need one for most of my life, I use paper for things that undergraduates at my university seem to require laptops for. I also have often thought of laptops as conspicuous consumption, a “thneed” that people express insanely irrational desire for. My wife and I once toured a local preschool and came to a room where some children were using a computer. Our tour guide said in a sad voice “Yes, they’re all desktops now, but we should be getting laptops really soon!” Why? Why is a laptop automatically better computer than the one they already had?

About a year-and-a-half ago, however, I bought a small, used IBM Thinkpad from a member of TriLUG for $20. This machine ran mostly well for a long time, and I found it convenient in a lot of situations, the biggest being ability to move quickly from one part of the house to another, supervising my children.

That machine, of course, had a limited lifespan. I was working on somthing when Emacs told me my /home partition was read-only. Further analysis revealed the hard drive was failing. I replaced this machine with a free ($0) machine from a friend, and although I appreciated the gift, that machine was worth about what I paid for it, so I thought of buying a new computer (for the first time in a while).

Choosing the X100e

The biggest choice to make was whether to go down the netbook road. Netbooks have come a long way since I bought my first one for my wife, one of the first EeePCs that had a number of design flaws that were corrected right after we bought it. Most “netbooks” now have 10 inch screens, and bigger keyboards. However, all the netbooks I could find in stores looked really flimsy compared to one that wasn’t called a netbook, but was still really compact: the X100e.

The X100e comes in two flavors, the single core MV-40 ($400) and a dual-core (“Elite”) version for only $100 more. For a while I was thinking that I would need the dual-core version and it was worth the price. Then I saw a video review where the reviewer plays 1080p video on the single core version and it runs beautifully. This was something that I didn’t plan on doing, so I thought I’d save myself the hundred bucks. I had a minor hesitation when I read a review that said “Don’t buy these netbooks, buy a real laptop.” I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I totally disagree with that guy: this “netbook processor” I bought runs incredibly fast.

Installation

I ordered direct from Lenovo. Here’s what came out of the box:

Contents of x100e  box

And here are the hilarious instructions for how to turn on the machine:

Funny instructions about installing an operating system

I had previously created a boot USB stick with Unetbootin. This is so much easier than it was even two years ago: I must say it was amazing. I totally didn’t expect it to work (I love free software but I’m realistic about these things, and I don’t mind a little trouble to get what I want).

Bootable PNY USB stick with Fedora 14

I plugged in the USB stick, hit the power button and then carefully watched for the right F-key to press so I could boot from USB. I didn’t find it in time, and saw the dreaded “Starting POS…” on the screen. I hit the power button HARD! and started over again. This time I pressed F12 out of instinct, and the machine presented me with a menu: it already recognized that the USB stick was bootable. I chose that option and saw this:

Unetbootin boot menu

That was my first “WOW!” As I said, I didn’t really expect it to work. I hit ENTER again and:

Fedora bootup screen

The question of writing the partition table to disk: shall we?

Write changes to disk? You bet yer ass! Installation took less than 10 minutes. The next order of business was to cover up that disgusting little sticker:

Vile graffiti on my new computer

A much better sticker for my new computer

That’s better! And look: the X100e is so thin that it fits inside a neoprene envelope!

It's so thin it fits in its case!

Final Touches

Before buying this machine I knew that it had a wireless NIC that is not supported by recent versions of Linux. Based on another blog post I downloaded the RealTek drivers but could get the build process to go much further. This was befuddling: make returned with an error that said “/lib/modules/$(uname -r)/build” didn’t exist, when in fact it did. Installing the kernel-headers package didn’t help. Finally nirik on #fedora set me straight: I installed kernel-devel and the build proceeded through ‘make’ and ‘make install.’

Free Software Advocacy When Buying a New Machine

I recently read a perspective that buying a “Windows 7 computer” and replacing its OS with GNU/Linux actually hurts our cause. I disagree with the author of that statement for two reasons. One is that wiping out Windows 7 on this machine means that I’m getting out there with a machine that people think of as needing Windows to run, and showing them, at the coffee shop, at the playground, at the library, in the classroom, that GNU/Linux supports every piece of hardware on this brand new machine, even though most manufacturers don’t make it a selling point. Think of how important that is when there are still people saying that when you switch to Linux[sic] you should know that hardware support is virtually nonexistent. That’s bullsh*t, but people won’t know it’s bullsh*t if we all used machines cobbled together from spare parts.

The other reason is that when the difference is between a $400 machine that I can touch and a $1400 machine that I can’t, I’m going to choose the former. Hating the hardware and loving the software on it will not make a good pitch to people who ask about the software: “Yeah I bought this from a free software-oriented OEM without being able to see it, so it runs okay, but I hate the keyboard.” I think it’s far more important to get out there with GNU/Linux and show people how well it works, even if it’s against the manufacturer’s desires (and even if those desires are the result of coercion and harassment from Microsoft). I also just have to put a ceiling on how much I’m willing to spend; one of the only reasons I decided to buy a laptop is how inexpensive they’ve become.

This may be rationalization, but I don’t believe I’m paying Microsoft very much buying this computer: I believe Microsoft makes more money from that added-on crapware (i.e. Office) that people get when they order their machines than they make from Windows. Windows is how they hook people, how they make the world believe that they are necessary. They turn a profit from selling Office to people for $400 dollars with a new machine, chosen by people who basically say “Well, we need this [Office] stuff to do anything with the computer, and we’re already paying $600, so…” I think it’s just fine to buy a computer with just Windows, and never buy another piece of Microsoft crapware. I have no need to do that when I’m running a better operating system, even if I had to install it myself (did I mention how easy that was?).

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  1. January 18, 2011 at 14:23 | #1

    I recently was told that my X100e is “low-powered” by someone on an email list. After a little more examination, I found out that what he really meant was that it was slow running Windows. Of course it’s slow! Windows is slow. Sometimes I feel like the only GNU/Linux user who runs only GNU/Linux. Trust me, the X100e is more than adequate: it’s a great machine, and I love it.

  2. January 24, 2011 at 00:26 | #2

    Headphone jack doesn’t work: solved!

    Another update: not all hardware problems can be caught right away. Tonight I’m having trouble sleeping, and thought I’d listen to some music that I only have in digital form. I boot up the X100e, plug in my headphones and “Fanfare for the Common Man” comes blasting out of the laptop’s main speakers, with no sound in the headphones. I am totally going to wake up the kids.

    I found the solution for Ubuntu fairly easily, but of course, the same configuration files aren’t in Fedora, so here’s the solution for the broken headphone jack in Fedora 14:

    1. Edit /etc/modprobe.d/dist-alsa.conf
    2. Add ‘options snd-hda-intel model=”olpc-xo-1_5″‘ after the last line
    3. Reboot

    Some solutions I found said this problem was fixed in newer kernels, but my experience doesn’t support that.

    Just a note: I have no idea why this works, but I don’t anticipate it causing problems later, unless it interferes with the microphone (webcam). If anybody can explain why it fixes the problem, please comment.

    • February 2, 2011 at 15:45 | #3

      Update

      Unfortunately after working for a few days, the headphone jack stopped working again. I don’t know why it worked in the first place, but I was able to get it working again with the follow /etc/modprobe.d/dist-alsa.conf:

      # ALSA Sound Support
      #
      # We want to ensure that snd-seq is always loaded for those who want to use
      # the sequencer interface, but we can't do this automatically through udev
      # at the moment...so we have this rule (just for the moment).
      #
      # Remove the following line if you don't want the sequencer.
      
      install snd-pcm /sbin/modprobe --ignore-install snd-pcm && /sbin/modprobe snd-seq
      options snd-hda-intel model="lenovo-101e"
      options snd-hda-intel position_fix=1 enable=yes
      

      As suggested on this Ubuntu page.

      • May 9, 2011 at 15:33 | #4

        I now have Fedora 15 on this same machine, and instead of “lenovo-101e” I used “lenovo-x100e” and that fixed it. I did not have this problem with Crunchbang.

  3. Jose Antonio
    May 6, 2011 at 13:16 | #5

    Greetings, I also have a x100e and I wonder, how is your wireless nic behavior? thats because mine goes off often and there is not a switch to turn it on, so does fedora has a way to turn it on?

    thanks and greetings from Queretaro, Mexico.

    • May 9, 2011 at 08:05 | #6

      You should be able to turn the wireless connection back on by clicking on the Network Manager icon (a little icon in the status bar) in Gnome. Hovering the mouse should tell you the current status; clicking with mouse-1 should give you options of which network to connect to. That’s how you switch it on.

  4. Devric
    March 21, 2013 at 19:33 | #7

    Hey, are you still using fedora with x100e? i just bought myself a x100e and installed fedora 18 on it, and it seems like an huge issue with the heat. It can almost use to fry eggs

    Do you experience the same, how you deal with it.

    • March 22, 2013 at 10:35 | #8

      Hi, Thanks for reading. I am no longer using Fedora on this machine. I’ve been using Arch for about 1.5 years now, with no major problems, except for the time I accidentally deleted the udev hook from the kernel ;) The machine does get hot after a while, but only on the bottom near the vents. I have not noticed excess heat from the keyboard. I am phasing out Fedora on all my machines in favor of Arch, so I’m not too familiar with any developments that might cause that problem.

  1. January 16, 2011 at 16:51 | #1
  2. January 16, 2011 at 16:55 | #2
  3. February 2, 2011 at 10:07 | #3
  4. March 12, 2011 at 18:55 | #4

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