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Ultimate Libreboot Classic ThinkPad (15" T60)

T60/T61 series specific matters only
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TRS-80
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Ultimate Libreboot Classic ThinkPad (15" T60)

#1 Post by TRS-80 » Sun Jul 14, 2019 4:09 pm

Background and Justification

I have been lurking and reading on and off here for many years. I love the community and people here, I always felt a certain kindred spirit in our shared love of ThinkPads (especially the classic ones). I have also been collecting hardware and little tidbits of information here and there for all those years.

Lately I have been reading TinkerMan's T60/T61 lego affaire thread (and others) with great interest. I would like to do a similar thing, with a slightly different bent (i.e., put one or more ThinkPads together from a bunch of parts). I didn't want to hijack his thread (plus I have a few questions of my own) so this will be my thread to do that.

I have received so much good information from this community, I wanted to return the favor and add to the body of knowledge (or rather, collect some certain knowledge all in one place). There are lots of threads about Frankenpads, however I wasn't able to find a thread specifically along the lines of what I am intending to do (Libreboot machine), so for all of the above reasons, I decided that the time has finally come to create my own build thread! :)

Hardware Selection

I have been collecting ThinkPads for several years, first falling in love with their durability, keyboard, 4:3 IPS screens, etc... Now, which model of ThinkPad(s) can be considered the "last true Classic ThinkPads" could be (is?) a subject of debate I suppose, but to me the T60 fits the bill for a number of reasons (keyboard, 4:3 screen, etc.). I suppose the X60 or X200 might fit as well (and I may get more into those later) but for now I want something with as large a screen as possible (15") and so that is what I will be talking about.

Software Selection

At some point in the last few years I became much more concerned with Free Software, and finally became disgusted with Windows enough to make the leap to GNU/Linux. First by dual booting, and eventually to putting it on more and more devices, until now everything in our home is running on some flavor of GNU/Linux. Which ThinkPads have always supported, thankfully (yet another reason to love them).

Libreboot

Eventually my interest in Software Freedom turned to an investigation of the underlying Hardware and I became very interested in the Libreboot project, which some of you may know is a fully free/libre boot loader. Unfortunately, Libreboot currently only supports a very limited list of hardware. Luckily, the T60 is on that list of hardware supported in Libreboot (along with X60, X60 tablet, X200, R400, T400, T500, W500, and a few more non-ThinkPads).

At this point I feel pretty strongly that this intersection of great hardware and libre software (all the way down to the bootloader) are the only machines worth owning. I currently use a T60 (running Debian GNU/Linux with lightweight XFCE desktop) as my daily driver and I absolutely love it. I keep monitoring developments in ARM as well as POWERPC, RISC-V, and other architectures, and those areas may yield fruit one day but the whole package (hardware (keyboard, screen), software (including firmware)) still is not there IMO (and x86 is a lost cause from a freedom standpoint, going forward - see Libreboot site for why). So for the foreseeable future, I will exclusively be using Libreboot supported ThinkPads when it comes to laptops.

The final caveat, for those unfamiliar, is that not all T60 are even supported. Only those with integrated / Intel graphics. This is because a libre VGABIOS has been either created or reverse engineered (I'm not sure which). So ATI graphics are out (unless you want to use your ThinkPad as a headless server ;).

Acquiring/Acquired Hardware

I am typing this right now on a T60 with ATI graphics, 15" SXGA+ (1400x1050) screen (unknown mfr, haven't taken it apart yet), original IBM logo on palmrest, case, keyboard, etc. in pretty decent shape. I want to use the case, keyboard, monitor, etc. but obviously the ATI GPU is going to be no good for Libreboot. We will call this the 15" machine for clarity and lack of a better term.

I also have a couple other 15" machines, I am pretty sure at least one of them is at least SXGA+, they were both working at one point but now won't POST. I am hoping that it's just the system boards that are bad, and that I can salvage the screens. We will call these the the 15" parts machines.

A side note for posterity, I have been trying to acquire Intel graphics machines for quite a while now. Easiest way (when dealing with often unknowledgeable sellers on eBay, Craigslist, etc.) is to look for type numbers in the 1500s as these are all Intel graphics. The type numbers in the 2000s are all ATI graphics I'm pretty sure. And this is something that you can usually see in the picture of either the bottom of the laptop, or on the BIOS screen if that is shown. You do still have to pay attention whether they are 14" or 15" however, which leads me to my next hardware and my first questions...

So by following the above advice, I have also acquired (2) 14" Intel graphics machines. Only after getting them home did I realize they are XGA to boot (1024x768)! How awful! After becoming used to the SXGA+ I simply cannot comprehend how anyone can deal with such resolutions. It literally looks like a child's toy laptop to me... Anyway, we will call these the 14" / Intel graphics machines.

Hardware Compatibility Questions

I have written a lot here, as I wanted to gather together relevant information in one place for posterity, but even after all my reading the last few years, there are still a few things that I am not certain on. And so I have a few questions. So anything that I would appreciate a reply on I will number in order to easier keep track of. However by all means feel free to comment on any part of this entire thread, if I have misunderstood/overlooked anything!

1.a. I have read that I can take the 14" system board and put it into my 15" case? Is this correct?

1.b. Will I need to use spacers or what is involved with that (physical modifications, if any)? I guess I could search for a thread on this (haven't yet) or maybe someone that has done it already can tell me that it just works and it's no big deal?

1.c. I think I have read that the 14" system board will drive the 15" screen. This makes sense to me as there is only one Intel GPU (not multiple for different screens) however I wanted to confirm from those more knowledgeable. Is this correct?

1.d. I believe I also read that on the T60, the GPU gets the resolution from the EDID in the screen? Is this correct?

1.e. Any other hardware compatibility issues that I should be aware of?

Additional Upgrades

Once the main parts (above) are solved, then I have been thinking about various other improvements (in no particular order)...

SSD

I already am running an older 60GB SSD in the 15" machine. It makes a big difference. I recently just purchased a couple 500GB Samsung Evo SSDs to upgrade these new machines I hope to put together. I realize I will be limited to 150 MB/s on this platform, but I purchased them to get long life, hopefully reliability, and whatever speed I can, within the limitations of the bus/architecture.

Memory

I already put the maximum 3GB of (I forget now what speed) RAM in this machine when I first got it. However while I am at it, I might as well ask...

2.a. Can I put any faster RAM in here?

2.b. Can I put any more RAM in here?

2.c. My understanding is the 3GB limit is because of the combination of the chipset and CPU. I know this can be improved for instance by making a Frankenpad and using alternative BIOS (Middleton, etc.), but T61 platform is not available to me using Libreboot. But I just wanted to make sure I wasn't overlooking anything here?

Display

Backlight Upgrades

I already have the one good display on the 15" machine, and potentially 1-2 more on the 15" parts machines however all of these are pretty dark. I mean they are fine for using inside, but basically unusable outside in daylight.

I have read about xiphmont LED backlight upgrades, and this seems to me the superior way to go. I was in contact with him a while back, however recent emails have gone unanswered, so...

3. Has anyone been in contact with xiphmont recently (I spoke to at least one fellow forum member recently who said he has not been able to reach him the last couple of years, either)?

I hope the old chap is alright. :/

Luckily I am also in contact with another forum member who is willing to part with a 15" lid with a good screen all ready to go already with xiphmont's upgrades, so hopefully I will be able to work something out with him to obtain that piece of hardware.

I haven't done as much research in this important area yet as I probably should, so I will just ask a more general question:

4. Is there anything in particular I need to know about swapping out screens / lids / backlights? Especially compatibility issues I need to be aware of? As I said I'm following TinkerMan's saga (link in beginning of this post) and the troubles he has had with displays were an eye opener for me.

CPU

If I am understanding everything correctly, the best CPU I could put in this machine would be a Intel Core 2 Duo (Merom), 667 MHz FSB ("Napa" platform), specifically the T7600 (2.33 GHz) if I am reading that chart right.

5. Is this correct? Anything I am missing here?

If so that's pretty good news as these look like they are going for only about $20 something right now on eBay. I better snap a few up before my thread here creates a run on the market! :D

WiFi card

I have already ordered an Atheros AR9285 based WiFi card online, which should be here in a couple weeks I guess. This is mostly for freedom reasons (free software drivers available).

My understanding is that the T60 stock BIOS has a whitelist, so I will have to install Libreboot firmware first before swapping out this card, once it arrives.

Conclusion

I suppose that covers most of the bases. It certainly should be enough to get started, anyway. I'm sure I will be adding to this as time goes on... Any replies/information will be greatly appreciated!
All good things are Wild and Free.

What is free software and why is it so important for society?

(2019) I am still on the lookout for for T/X60's with Intel graphics (or chassis, displays, parts) to make Libreboot machines out of. Kindly PM me if you are willing to part with anything.

unixed
Freshman Member
Posts: 85
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2015 7:41 pm
Location: Oxford, UK

Re: Ultimate Libreboot Classic ThinkPad (15" T60)

#2 Post by unixed » Sun Jul 14, 2019 6:40 pm

The 14.1" and 15.0" system boards are the exact same boards. However if you simply transplanted the 14.1" planar into a 15.0" T60 then the ultrabay devices would not reach the planar sockets. Therefore an interposer card is used in a 15.0" T60 to bridge the gap, it simply plugs into the planar the same way the ultrabay devices plug in. Look through the hardware maintenance manual (HMM) linked to at the top of this page, you are going to need to do that anyway for this project.

Use 4 GB RAM, the T60 makes slightly more than 3 GB available with the stock BIOS, and that improves with libreboot. It is a chipset and BIOS limitation.

The intel graphics planar can drive an SXGA+ or UXGA screen and the EDID is used to determine the resolution. See the first paragraph for the irrelevance of the T60 size wrt the planar.

T60 limitations are quite severe (RAM, merom CPUs which run hot and noisy by engaging the fan, ...) so if libreboot is compatible with the R500 you can put that planar in a R60 to drive a flexview screen; a very difficult mod compared to the usual frankenpad, but a possible way to avoid the T60 limitations if required.

You can tell your screen model without disassembly, see this.

TRS-80
Freshman Member
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2014 3:00 pm
Location: Eastern, USA

Re: Ultimate Libreboot Classic ThinkPad (15" T60)

#3 Post by TRS-80 » Sun Jul 14, 2019 7:42 pm

Thanks for all the great info! :)

I had to double check https://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:T60, but according to that there are only 14.1 and 15.0" screens, so I am assuming when you said 15.1" that was just a typo.

And so, if the boards are the exact same, I should already have the needed interposer in the 15" machine, correct?

I may have 4GB in there already... But it's been so long I probably should look.

My T60 works for what I need (mostly editing text, terminal work) but it does struggle with some heavy modern websites. That is a really interesting possibility you mention... I'll need to really consider if I want to go in that direction, or maybe just build this project based on 15" T60 and then start working on that one next...

But let's say for exploration sake that I want to do that. I just want to confirm that I would need to use an R60 case for some reason, and not a T60 case? If so, I think I might even have a couple of those around somewhere... The T60 case is much nicer though, from what I can recall. More solid, where the R series are more plastic-y (I used to have some R45s back in the day).

When you say difficult, what are we talking about here (perhaps I should search the forum for that)?

With your pointer on how to search for edid, I was able to discover that on the 15" machine I am currently typing on, I apparently have an LP150E05-A2, searching internet led me to this post right here on ThinkPads forum which tells me my panel is:

LG-Phillips LP150E05-A2K1 (FRU 13N7078) (model needs confirmation)

Interdasting! :)
All good things are Wild and Free.

What is free software and why is it so important for society?

(2019) I am still on the lookout for for T/X60's with Intel graphics (or chassis, displays, parts) to make Libreboot machines out of. Kindly PM me if you are willing to part with anything.

TinkerMan
Sophomore Member
Posts: 200
Joined: Sun Jun 24, 2018 4:02 am
Location: Paris, France

Re: Ultimate Libreboot Classic ThinkPad (15" T60)

#4 Post by TinkerMan » Mon Jul 15, 2019 3:45 am

Yes the 14" mobo will work in the 15" case but you need to detach the ultrabay extension from the 15"mobo and attach it to the 14"mobo, very easy to do.
I am no expert in Libre boot but is the T61 also supported? If so you might want to look into 4:3 14" T61 mobo, if not stick to your initial idea.
W530, 3630QM, 32GB, K2000M
P1, XEON 2176, 32GB ECC, P2000, IPS
X230, 3320M, 16GB, HD4000, IPS
T601F X9000, 8GB, X3100, UXGA FlexView 1600x1200
T61 14" 4:3, T9500, 8GB, NVS140M
T60 14" 4:3, T7600, 3GB, GMA950
P71, 7700HQ, 16GB, P600, IPS
X201, R61i, T430s, T43p

TinkerMan
Sophomore Member
Posts: 200
Joined: Sun Jun 24, 2018 4:02 am
Location: Paris, France

Re: Ultimate Libreboot Classic ThinkPad (15" T60)

#5 Post by TinkerMan » Mon Jul 15, 2019 4:17 am

When it comes to panels always search them By FRU and not by model number, otherwise you will suffer like I did.

The R60 frankenpad is much more complex with serious frame modding involved, it's doable, but not for everyone, I for myself will not try it.

Also depending on what type of screen you want you may follow up this project with a T500 equipped with a 15.4" TFT display with 1920x1200 resolution (WUXGA
Basically this has the same heightt in pixels as the flex view of T60, that is 1200, but comes with a 16/10 aspect ratio so it's also good for media Co sumptiin, meaning is the best from both world, takes the best from the 1600/1200 and the best from 1920/1080.
However that doesn't come in IPS. If you Don tcare for IPS than there is no downside.
The benefits of the T500 beyond the panel, is that it supports natively FSB1066 with the T9600 being the max you could upgrade too.
Also the integrated Intel graphics is leaps and bouds better than what you get in a T60.
Hope this helps
W530, 3630QM, 32GB, K2000M
P1, XEON 2176, 32GB ECC, P2000, IPS
X230, 3320M, 16GB, HD4000, IPS
T601F X9000, 8GB, X3100, UXGA FlexView 1600x1200
T61 14" 4:3, T9500, 8GB, NVS140M
T60 14" 4:3, T7600, 3GB, GMA950
P71, 7700HQ, 16GB, P600, IPS
X201, R61i, T430s, T43p

TRS-80
Freshman Member
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2014 3:00 pm
Location: Eastern, USA

Re: Ultimate Libreboot Classic ThinkPad (15" T60)

#6 Post by TRS-80 » Mon Jul 15, 2019 6:23 am

TinkerMan wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 3:45 am
I am no expert in Libre boot but is the T61 also supported?
No, only the T60 and a few other models I listed.
TinkerMan wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 4:17 am
The R60 frankenpad is much more complex with serious frame modding involved, it's doable, but not for everyone, I for myself will not try it.
Sounds like I need to search the forums here looking for more info on that. I'm sure someone has posted some info, but this mod seems much less common than the run of the mill Frankie. I'm grateful for you guys bringing it to my attention. In all my time here I still had never heard of such a thing.
TinkerMan wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 4:17 am
15.4" TFT display with 1920x1200 resolution
16/10 aspect ratio
However that doesn't come in IPS
Eww. No thank you. :D
TinkerMan wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 4:17 am
The benefits of the T500 beyond the panel, is that it supports natively FSB1066 with the T9600 being the max you could upgrade too.
Also the integrated Intel graphics is leaps and bouds better than what you get in a T60.
Yeah I think maybe even SATA3 if I recall correctly? I'm definitely intrigued by this.
All good things are Wild and Free.

What is free software and why is it so important for society?

(2019) I am still on the lookout for for T/X60's with Intel graphics (or chassis, displays, parts) to make Libreboot machines out of. Kindly PM me if you are willing to part with anything.

TinkerMan
Sophomore Member
Posts: 200
Joined: Sun Jun 24, 2018 4:02 am
Location: Paris, France

Re: Ultimate Libreboot Classic ThinkPad (15" T60)

#7 Post by TinkerMan » Mon Jul 15, 2019 7:13 am

TRS-80 wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 6:23 am
TinkerMan wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 4:17 am
15.4" TFT display with 1920x1200 resolution
16/10 aspect ratio
However that doesn't come in IPS
Eww. No thank you. :D


What's the part that you don't like, No IPS? or the resolution?
W530, 3630QM, 32GB, K2000M
P1, XEON 2176, 32GB ECC, P2000, IPS
X230, 3320M, 16GB, HD4000, IPS
T601F X9000, 8GB, X3100, UXGA FlexView 1600x1200
T61 14" 4:3, T9500, 8GB, NVS140M
T60 14" 4:3, T7600, 3GB, GMA950
P71, 7700HQ, 16GB, P600, IPS
X201, R61i, T430s, T43p

TRS-80
Freshman Member
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2014 3:00 pm
Location: Eastern, USA

Re: Ultimate Libreboot Classic ThinkPad (15" T60)

#8 Post by TRS-80 » Mon Jul 29, 2019 10:39 pm

TinkerMan wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 7:13 am
What's the part that you don't like, No IPS? or the resolution?
Both!

Sorry for delayed reply, been busy with work lately.
All good things are Wild and Free.

What is free software and why is it so important for society?

(2019) I am still on the lookout for for T/X60's with Intel graphics (or chassis, displays, parts) to make Libreboot machines out of. Kindly PM me if you are willing to part with anything.

TinkerMan
Sophomore Member
Posts: 200
Joined: Sun Jun 24, 2018 4:02 am
Location: Paris, France

Re: Ultimate Libreboot Classic ThinkPad (15" T60)

#9 Post by TinkerMan » Tue Jul 30, 2019 3:26 pm

TRS-80 wrote:
Mon Jul 29, 2019 10:39 pm
TinkerMan wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 7:13 am
What's the part that you don't like, No IPS? or the resolution?
Both!

Sorry for delayed reply, been busy with work lately.
no worries about late reply
I get it that not having the IPS as being a problem, but the reaolution, not so much, after all what matters is number of vertical real estate, and that screen has the same vertical real estate as the UXGA of the T60 4:3, aka 1200 , and in addition you get a wider screen , which is lucky bonus usable when looking at videos, so as far as resolution that screen is the best of both worlds
W530, 3630QM, 32GB, K2000M
P1, XEON 2176, 32GB ECC, P2000, IPS
X230, 3320M, 16GB, HD4000, IPS
T601F X9000, 8GB, X3100, UXGA FlexView 1600x1200
T61 14" 4:3, T9500, 8GB, NVS140M
T60 14" 4:3, T7600, 3GB, GMA950
P71, 7700HQ, 16GB, P600, IPS
X201, R61i, T430s, T43p

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