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X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

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zoltan87
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X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#1 Post by zoltan87 » Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:59 pm

So I just managed to buy a Thinkpad X32 about a week ago. My original plan was to make it a Windows 98 gaming machine, but after arrival I was amazed how light and portable this machine is, and how amazing the keyboard feels (interestingly apart from the lid it is in almost brand new condition). I have ordered an mSata ssd and an adapter for it. Unfortunately I found out that TRIM support doesn't exist not only for Win 98, but not even for Win XP. That would leave me with Win 7 or 8. The issue here is that according to some people, there are no video drivers for the ATI gpu in this machine for newer os-s than Win XP. So even though I will upgrade the RAM to 2 gb, without proper video drivers I am not going to install newer versions of windows. But I also want TRIM support for my SSD.

After thinking about this for a while, I came up with the idea, that I will install Ubuntu Mate on it. I used that system for a while on my T60, it was pretty fun. The TRIM support would be solved in this case, but I have no idea about how good or bad the driver support is for this old Ati video card in Ubuntu. I know that for example the linux drivers for the Ati x1400 in my T60 are just some general drivers, and they are not nearly as good (according to some techie people online) as the windows counterparts from Ati. But they still kinda work. Does anyone have any idea how well the Ati gpu in the X32 would work with Linux? If I am correct the Thinkpad X31 has the same graphics chip, so the performance should be near identical of the two systems.

I would really appreciate some insights from people, who use different kinds of linux distros on these old Thinkpads, or even from other Thinkpad lines, that are similarly old. How is the driver support, the general performance/ usability for lightweight needs, some web browsing, playing old games with the help of Wine? Thanks in advance!

EDIT:
Also I am not sure whether there is a BIOS whitelist in this laptop (like in the T60)? So if I will put my SSD in, and possibly upgrade the wifi and bluetooth cards, will I get an error message upon every boot-up? I really hope no, or if the answer is yes, then is there a modded BIOS with removed whitelist?

And one last thing: the fan tends to make an irritating pulsing/ clicking noise when it's running. It's not constant, but I can hear it in every few seconds, sometimes more, but it always comes up. Is this normal behaviour? Can I change it in some way?
Laptops after the 4:3 aspect ratio era are non-existent to me.

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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#2 Post by dr_st » Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:50 am

zoltan87 wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:59 pm
Unfortunately I found out that TRIM support doesn't exist not only for Win 98, but not even for Win XP. That would leave me with Win 7 or 8.х.
Or without TRIM. That may not be as big of a deal as some think.
zoltan87 wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:59 pm
The issue here is that according to some people, there are no video drivers for the ATI gpu in this machine for newer os-s than Win XP.
You can get the XP drivers to work, sort of on Win7. I did. "Sort of" in the sense that it is mostly issue-free, although Win+P for multi-monitor setup is not working. And I cannot tell whether it's running at peak performance / power efficiency.
zoltan87 wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:59 pm
I have no idea about how good or bad the driver support is for this old Ati video card in Ubuntu. I know that for example the linux drivers for the Ati x1400 in my T60 are just some general drivers, and they are not nearly as good (according to some techie people online) as the windows counterparts from Ati. But they still kinda work. Does anyone have any idea how well the Ati gpu in the X32 would work with Linux? If I am correct the Thinkpad X31 has the same graphics chip, so the performance should be near identical of the two systems.
You are correct. I also conkjecture that the X3x ATI GPU Linux drivers are just as "generic" as the X1400 GPU Linux drivers. The question is - what do you expect from your video drivers? Do you need any particular features, or just want a system that works, turns on, reboots and enters suspend with no crashes? If the latter, you can probably get it on Linux as well as on Win7.
zoltan87 wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:59 pm
Also I am not sure whether there is a BIOS whitelist in this laptop (like in the T60)? So if I will put my SSD in, and possibly upgrade the wifi and bluetooth cards, will I get an error message upon every boot-up? I really hope no, or if the answer is yes, then is there a modded BIOS with removed whitelist?
It does not whitelist storage devices, but if you upgrade to a non-whitelisted MiniPCI card, you may get an error. The no-1802 fix works on the X32:
http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Problem_w ... twork_card
zoltan87 wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:59 pm
And one last thing: the fan tends to make an irritating pulsing/ clicking noise when it's running. It's not constant, but I can hear it in every few seconds, sometimes more, but it always comes up. Is this normal behaviour? Can I change it in some way?
Mine sort of whines (whirs up and down) every few seconds. Is this what you're experiencing? Possibly the fan is aged. You can try lubing it or replacing it.
Current: Thinkpad 25 (20K7), Yoga 14 (20FY), X220 4291-4BG, T410 2537-R46, T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#3 Post by Dekks » Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:04 am

I've run Debian 9 & Arch 32bit without issue on my X32 both on HDD and a mSATA/IDE adapter combo with the radeon gfx driver. Everything works out of the box in my experience without issue.
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#4 Post by zoltan87 » Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:37 am

dr_st wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:50 am
zoltan87 wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:59 pm
And one last thing: the fan tends to make an irritating pulsing/ clicking noise when it's running. It's not constant, but I can hear it in every few seconds, sometimes more, but it always comes up. Is this normal behaviour? Can I change it in some way?
Mine sort of whines (whirs up and down) every few seconds. Is this what you're experiencing? Possibly the fan is aged. You can try lubing it or replacing it.
Yes it sort of tries to whir up for a split second, then down again. It almost feels like it tries to fine tune the rpm value of the fan, but it can't decide about it. I don't know, it's weird. I really don't think it's because of used fan, looking at my machine's condition (pristine keyboard and perfectly clean fan exhaust) it has hardly had any use in it's life. I thought it's more like an Embedded Controller issue, that might be dependent on certain BIOS versions. I don't know, but it's frustrating. Also the absurdly high fan speeds, even on Level 1 are crazy. I don't know who was that genius at IBM who decided to do it like this (the fan is either off, or turns on at like 2800 rpm)?! It was the same story with my Thinkpad T60. Luckily there were some forum members on this site, who managed to mod the EC firmware in those machines with a much more logical and quiet rpm table.
So my T60 is dead silent now. Probably this makes my new X32's fan noise even more annoying.
Dekks wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:04 am
I've run Debian 9 & Arch 32bit without issue on my X32 both on HDD and a mSATA/IDE adapter combo with the radeon gfx driver. Everything works out of the box in my experience without issue.
That's great news indeed. Ubuntu looks like the best candidate to me for my needs. Any chance some of you guys have experience using Wine on Linux? Is it possible to make windows games playable on Linux, from the Win 98 era?
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#5 Post by Dekks » Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:50 pm

zoltan87 wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:37 am
That's great news indeed. Ubuntu looks like the best candidate to me for my needs. Any chance some of you guys have experience using Wine on Linux? Is it possible to make windows games playable on Linux, from the Win 98 era?
IMO the overhead wine introduces would be too much on top of ubuntu, might work with a lightweight set up like Openbox or LXDE. In addition win98 games need old 16bit drivers from what i remember, not sure if thats in wine. Then you have to contend with soundblaster compatibility.
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#6 Post by dr_st » Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:12 am

Dekks wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:50 pm
In addition win98 games need old 16bit drivers from what i remember, not sure if thats in wine.
Most of them don't. Sometimes the installers can be 16-bit.
Dekks wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:50 pm
Then you have to contend with soundblaster compatibility.
Again, most native Windows games run with native Windows audio drivers (which I hope Wine emulates).

There is also the possibility of using DOSBox and installing Win98 in it. That is not officially supported, and requires a custom build. May end up being more complicated than Wine. But for DOS games - DOSBox is the best.
Current: Thinkpad 25 (20K7), Yoga 14 (20FY), X220 4291-4BG, T410 2537-R46, T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#7 Post by Dekks » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:44 am

dr_st wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:12 am
There is also the possibility of using DOSBox and installing Win98 in it. That is not officially supported, and requires a custom build. May end up being more complicated than Wine. But for DOS games - DOSBox is the best.
Don't agree at all, it has a very poor reputation.
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#8 Post by dr_st » Thu Feb 15, 2018 3:05 am

Dekks wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:44 am
Don't agree at all, it has a very poor reputation.
Which statement exactly do you not agree with? You quoted several.
Current: Thinkpad 25 (20K7), Yoga 14 (20FY), X220 4291-4BG, T410 2537-R46, T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#9 Post by Dekks » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:32 pm

dr_st wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 3:05 am
Dekks wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:44 am
Don't agree at all, it has a very poor reputation.
Which statement exactly do you not agree with? You quoted several.
DOSbox is mince, nothing but trouble.
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#10 Post by dr_st » Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:04 pm

Dekks wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:32 pm
DOSbox is mince, nothing but trouble.
Well... I'd say that there's a lot of ignorance in this statement. Since you said earlier that "it has very poor reputation", I assume that you haven't used it much yourself, but formed your opinion based on hearsay?

I have lots of first-hand experience with DOSBox, and it's very far from being "nothing but trouble", and it is also very far from having a "poor reputation". But a few things need to be kept in mind:
  • DOSBox is an emulator - not a virtual machine. To get good performance you need a machine much more powerful than the one you're emulating. That's not a real problem, since any DOS software ever written was designed to run on much slower machines that we have now. Even something as old as a Pentium 4 usually provides sufficient performance.
  • DOSBox was developed to run DOS games. It does not claim compatibility with DOS business apps, and the developers make it very straightforward - they actively discourage people from running non-game applications in DOSBox (although they often try to help those who do).
  • DOSBox is for DOS only. As I mentioned, there are unofficial ways of installing Windows 3.x or 9x in it, but this is again - unsupported and far from trouble-free.
  • Personally, I have run into an occasional issue with DOSBox. The most common one (for me and the others) seems to be compatibility of various video modes with later versions of Windows (8 and 10), and certain video card drivers; however, typically there is at least one trouble-free mode that works on every machine (it may not be as high-performing, but refer to the first bullet.
  • Here I will make a disclaimer that I have only run DOSBox on Windows. The Linux build may have more issues (after all, we are discussing Linux here) that I am not aware of. I also only refer to official DOSBox builds (0.74 or SVN), not any of the custom versions that often add semi-useful extra-features while sacrificing stability/compatibility.
  • A final point - perhaps you've heard of the GoG platform which sells oldies in re-released, often enhanced, digital form, compatible with modern machines? GoG has a lot of DOS games in its collection, and guess what - all of them use DOSBox. This is as meaningful a testimony to DOSBox's actual virtues and good reputation as you can get.

Sorry for derailing this thread, but I originally brought DOSBox as an option, because when people mention playing Win98 games, they do sometimes mean DOS games (most of which can run natively in Win98, as opposed to any NT-based OS).
Current: Thinkpad 25 (20K7), Yoga 14 (20FY), X220 4291-4BG, T410 2537-R46, T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#11 Post by Dekks » Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:41 pm

dr_st wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:04 pm
  • DOSBox is an emulator - not a virtual machine. To get good performance you need a machine much more powerful than the one you're emulating. That's not a real problem, since any DOS software ever written was designed to run on much slower machines that we have now. Even something as old as a Pentium 4 usually provides sufficient performance.
Not ignorance just i get lots of requests to help get it work, it's very dependant on each machine it's installed on and 90% of the time the machine just isn't capable yet it gets trotted out on many forums willy nilly. The number of stable working installs i've come across is quite low. Want win98 or DOS games? get a win98 capable machine and install win98.
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#12 Post by dr_st » Fri Feb 16, 2018 1:57 am

Dekks wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:41 pm
Not ignorance just i get lots of requests to help get it work, it's very dependant on each machine it's installed on
Not at all. I use the same portable install that runs on all my setups, and the only thing that I found I sometimes had to tweak is the aforementioned video output settings. That's literally one line in the config file.
Dekks wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:41 pm
and 90% of the time the machine just isn't capable
Again, completely wrong, unless you are running it on something like a Pentium III or below. That's 90% of the machines you support?
Dekks wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:41 pm
The number of stable working installs i've come across is quite low.
Care to be a bit more specific? What's not working?

On the forums I see that the common things people get stuck on is mounting their directories / CD images to appear as drives inside DOSBox (that's a foreign concept to most Windows users, but surely not to Linux users), and configuring certain startup options. This usually needs to be done once, for a good experience, but rarely changed afterwards (and DOSBox even lets you change many things on the fly, without editing the config file).

The standalone DOSBox package is not a one-click thing easy to grasp for someone who has never opened any application more complex that Notepad. However, someone who is familiar with Linux, command line, configuration files, should feel right at home. Thus, I find your opinion on it rather strange, and yes, likely based on (partial) ignorance. If you get lots of request to help get it to work, and you still haven't figured out that it's pretty easy and requires merely a one-time setup, then I think you just haven't bothered to invest enough time to figure it out. Let me tell you this - it is surely less complicated than setting up a system to play DOS games in hardware.

And of course, the GoG games which bundle DOSBox already pre-configure it with all the required settings and even ship a convenient front-end to change some of those that might need tweaking.
Dekks wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:41 pm
Want win98 or DOS games? get a win98 capable machine and install win98.
For Win98, I'll agree with you. For DOS - no. Or should I say - not anymore. I think I used to have the same opinion, but changed it precisely because of my first-hand experience. I own a DOS/Win98 system. My portable DOSBox install is actually based on my entire DOS game collection from that system. I found that for playing DOS games, I get a better experience and much less tinkering with DOSBox. It has the following advantages:
  • You don't need to mess with audio drivers (the bane of DOS systems)
  • You can get great MIDI/MT32/GUS quality music by without owning the actual rare and expensive hardware.
  • Achieving CPU slowdown for speed-sensitive games is far simpler; typically you just change the number of cycles and change it back when done.
  • Far easier to manage CD games using IMGMOUNT (but can also mount actual CDs)
  • Portable and not hardware-dependent. You don't need to rely on a specific old system with compatibility.
  • Probably a few others I forgot to mention.
Owning a DOS/Win98 machine for nostalgic purposes is something I totally relate to (and, as I said, I own one myself). Other than that - it's better to use DOSBox for DOS games, and Wine (or some sort of Virtual Machine) for Win98. Also, the number of games that actually must have Win9x, and cannot be made to run on XP or newer version of Windows, is not so big, and GoG is helping make this number even smaller.
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#13 Post by Dekks » Fri Feb 16, 2018 11:24 am

dr_st wrote:
Fri Feb 16, 2018 1:57 am
The standalone DOSBox package is not a one-click thing easy to grasp for someone who has never opened any application more complex that Notepad. However, someone who is familiar with Linux, command line, configuration files, should feel right at home. Thus, I find your opinion on it rather strange, and yes, likely based on (partial) ignorance. If you get lots of request to help get it to work, and you still haven't figured out that it's pretty easy and requires merely a one-time setup, then I think you just haven't bothered to invest enough time to figure it out. Let me tell you this - it is surely less complicated than setting up a system to play DOS games in hardware.
i was advised by several people that know a lot of the internals of how dosbox works that the win98 route was better for non expert users, so far thats how it has panned out.
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#14 Post by dr_st » Sat Feb 17, 2018 3:15 am

Dekks wrote:
Fri Feb 16, 2018 11:24 am
i was advised by several people that know a lot of the internals of how dosbox works that the win98 route was better for non expert users, so far thats how it has panned out.
Provided that those non-expert users first obtain a system compatible with Windows 98, install it, configure it, and that's assuming they don't want at some point to play games in pure DOS mode.

Unfortunately, when folks voice very strong opinions that are based merely on hearsay and advice of others (which in turn may be based on advice of others, etc), you get a lot of misinformation floating around.

I am a software engineer; I could, in principle, dive into DOSBOX's internals and figure out how it works. Would that make me more qualified to judge the value it gives its users (including myself)? Absolutely not.
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#15 Post by Dekks » Sat Feb 17, 2018 6:25 pm

dr_st wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 3:15 am
Provided that those non-expert users first obtain a system compatible with Windows 98
it's the case i usually come across.
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#16 Post by zoltan87 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 6:03 am

Thanks for the replies guys. After quite some thinking, I have decided to the the following:

I have ordered a docking station for the X30-32 series, the one that attaches flush to the bottom of the laptop, has internal stereo speakers (much more powerful than the tiny single speaker in the laptop) and can accept an ultrabay 2000 drive.
So here is the plan: in the laptop I am going to put an mSATA ssd with an adapter, and going to install Ubuntu Mate on it, and use it as my primary system. Going to try out dosbox and Wine on it too, will see how well it copes with games.
And in the docking station I will install a HDD ultrabay adapter with a similar mSATA ssd in it, but I will install Windows XP on it. So whenever I will want to do some Win 98 era gaming, I will just boot from that drive, and also enjoy the much better sound quality from those speakers. An other plus, this docking station can accept an extra battery on the bottom, the same as the laptop has, effectively doubling the run time. After some undervolting, that's going to be pretty remarkable I think, as I have already read that X30 series laptops have great battery lives.

Anyone has any ideas, which version of Win XP should I install? I am gravitating towards plain XP (not the sp variants) as supposedly that one consumes the least resources. Is this true? Are there any advantages for later iterations of XP, for someone who will strictly do gaming on it? I want to go as lightweight as possible.
Laptops after the 4:3 aspect ratio era are non-existent to me.

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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#17 Post by dr_st » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:39 am

zoltan87 wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 6:03 am
An other plus, this docking station can accept an extra battery on the bottom, the same as the laptop has, effectively doubling the run time. After some undervolting, that's going to be pretty remarkable I think, as I have already read that X30 series laptops have great battery lives.
'Great' is a bit of an exaggeration, at least as far as X31-32 are concerned. X30 is a different animal with a Pentium III-M. With undervolting, it should be more than adequate. Be aware, however, that the second battery in the Ultrabase makes the machine ridiculously thick, possibly impractical to use without external keyboard/mouse.
zoltan87 wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 6:03 am
Anyone has any ideas, which version of Win XP should I install? I am gravitating towards plain XP (not the sp variants) as supposedly that one consumes the least resources. Is this true? Are there any advantages for later iterations of XP, for someone who will strictly do gaming on it? I want to go as lightweight as possible.
What do you plan to do with XP on it? Pre-SP2 XP is notoriously insecure and lacks compatibility with a lot of modern software (and hardware too). Even USB 2.0 support requires SP1, I think.
Current: Thinkpad 25 (20K7), Yoga 14 (20FY), X220 4291-4BG, T410 2537-R46, T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#18 Post by zoltan87 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 8:37 am

dr_st wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:39 am
What do you plan to do with XP on it? Pre-SP2 XP is notoriously insecure and lacks compatibility with a lot of modern software (and hardware too). Even USB 2.0 support requires SP1, I think.
Oh, USB 2.0 is quite important to me. Security should be less concern, as I won't really go online with the machine while running XP. Really the whole Win XP hdd will be only for gaming (and I mean really old games from the late 90s).
Laptops after the 4:3 aspect ratio era are non-existent to me.

dr_st
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Senior ThinkPadder
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Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#19 Post by dr_st » Tue Feb 20, 2018 8:59 am

zoltan87 wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 8:37 am
Really the whole Win XP hdd will be only for gaming (and I mean really old games from the late 90s).
Then why do you need XP?
Never mind, I understand your considerations. Still, I would install SP2 on it (no need for SP3).
Current: Thinkpad 25 (20K7), Yoga 14 (20FY), X220 4291-4BG, T410 2537-R46, T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G
Collectibles: T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X32 (IPS Screen)
Retired: X61 7673-V2V, T60 1952-F76, A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad

zoltan87
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Posts: 102
Joined: Mon Oct 24, 2016 12:16 pm
Location: Plymouth, United Kingdom

Re: X32 Linux/ Ubuntu support, any experiences?

#20 Post by zoltan87 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:41 pm

dr_st wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 8:59 am
Then why do you need XP?
Never mind, I understand your considerations. Still, I would install SP2 on it (no need for SP3).
I decided for XP SP2. Will report back when the whole thing is up and running, but I think it will be around a week as I just made the order for a few of the items for this build.
Laptops after the 4:3 aspect ratio era are non-existent to me.

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