gluglug thinkpad x60 w/ coreboot mini review

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ahj
ahj

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So I bought this liberated notebook about a month ago, and haven't been using anything else since. The man behind the configuration is Mr. Francis Rowe, and he has been nothing but extremely helpful. He notified me once the x60 was on its way, and told me some helpful tips regarding coreboot configuration. It's all set up, so you really don't need to do a thing; however, I noticed that the computer produced a high pitch whine. After an email to Mr. Rowe, he promptly replied with a modified GRUB config that solved the problem.

If you buy the configuration with the extras, you get a docking base, mouse and serial cable. I would recommend this config as you need the serial cable to perform any coreboot modifications or upgrades. The default operating system is Trisquel, although you can request Gnewsense or Parabola GNU/Linux too.

The other important point that makes this particular x60 distinct from other coreboot'd x60's is the fact that Mr. Rowe as actually removed the non-free firmwares from coreboot, effictively turning it into libreboot. This has a few consequences - firstly, the screen brightness is effectively locked at 100% and the physical volume buttons and function keys don't work. The good news is that a coreboot hacker called GNUtoo is working on a free firmware replacement that will resolve these minor, if slightly irritating issues.

All in all however, these small issues pale in comparison to what you are actually getting when you buy one of these x60's - a completely free (well, free as a lemote) notebook that respects your privacy, freedom and community. There is no trace of trecherous computing, digital handcuffs or hardwired backdoors. In an age where illigitimate and dangerous groups of humans like the NSA are working hard to strip the rights and freedoms of individuals in the twenty-first century, a computer than does the computing the way *you* wish is essential.

I've uploaded some images of my setup - the GNU and GNU/Linux inside stickers came from some FSF purchases I made a few months before.

http://imgur.com/bcuzqMC

ahj
ahj

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use this link for the images instead

http://imgur.com/a/yz0Xb

*edit* a link to the shop would be useful too :p

http://shop.gluglug.org.uk/product/ibm-lenovo-thinkpad-x60-coreboot/

nbd
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Hi ahj,

With this laptop were you able to change your login details (username and password. Mr Rowe sent me this link explaining how to do it but I've been unsuccessful. He also stated that there is no root account in Trisquel (by default at least). This confused me. Is that really the case?

http://www.ubuntututorials.com/change-username-ubuntu-12-04/

If it is true how does one execute step 2 in the link?

Thanks in advance.

lembas
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It certainly should be possible independent of the hardware, not that I've ever done it. There is a root account but you can't login as root, the password is disabled. That link talks about lightdm which ubuntu uses but Trisquel uses gdm3, so the step 2 won't work.

I believe there is no need to assign a password to root account and to login as root. Just open a term and sudo su to become root, then do the usermod things (steps 4 and 5). You might want to read the usermod manual page and perhaps make a backup first. I could be wrong though.

nbd
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Step 2 in that link starts with the command:

sudo passwd root

I executed this command before posting to this forum and was prompted to enter a "new 'UNIX' password" (can't quite remember the full statement. I entered my password understanding it was required to obtain temporary sudo privileges. By doing this did I inadvertently set a password for the root user/account? This is not wise, right?

Thanks in advance.

lembas
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>By doing this did I inadvertently set a password for the root user/account? This is not wise, right?
Yes and yes. :)

To undo the damage, run

sudo passwd -l root
nbd
nbd
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Thanks so much lembas. I ran this option:

sudo passwd -dl root

I'll exercise more caution in the future and consult the forums before executing such commands.

To change my username I had to create another user as I couldn't change it for the user account that I was logged in under.

MagicFab
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On 2013-12-02 04:54, ahj [at] member [dot] fsf [dot] org wrote:
> So I bought this liberated notebook about a month ago, and haven't been using anything else since.
The man behind the configuration is Mr. Francis Rowe, and he has been
nothing but extremely helpful.
[...]

Thanks for sharing that! Forum edits don't make to the mailing list -
the online store is here:
http://shop.gluglug.org.uk/product/ibm-lenovo-thinkpad-x60-coreboot/

I also posted this to Reddit (upvote!):
http://www.reddit.com/r/coreboot/comments/1s7vnr/ibm_lenovo_thinkpad_x60_ultrabase_x6_w_coreboot/

I've suggested to add Bitcoin as a payment method ;)

Cheers,

Fabian

- --
Fabián Rodríguez
http://fsf.magicfab.ca

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MagicFab
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On 2013-12-02 04:54, ahj [at] member [dot] fsf [dot] org wrote:
> So I bought this liberated notebook about a month ago, and haven't been using anything else since. T
[..]

It would also be useful to post your review in the "Reviews" tab at:
http://shop.gluglug.org.uk/product/ibm-lenovo-thinkpad-x60-w-coreboot-wo-extras/

- - F.

- --
Fabián Rodríguez
http://fsf.magicfab.ca

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quantumgravity
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Joined: 04/22/2013

Omg we can buy a 100% free notebook!
I mean ok, it's not a new model, but why isn't there more enthusiasm about this?
I remember that I asked Chris once whether he can sell corebooted thinkpads.
He explained to me why it is impossible to do so, and I didn't really understand the reasons.
Now I see that it _is_ possible.

jxself
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"Now I see that it _is_ possible."

Indeed it is, and I'd like to see desktop computers next but they present other challenges that need addressing.

GNUser
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If I could trade my current laptop (that is actually pretty free software friendly, not much to complain...) by one of those, I would. But spending money on another computer is really not the main need I have right now.
I am still happy to see these, and hope more will come. Maybe some other laptops that work with coreboot could be made available?

ahj
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It's nice to see that this laptop has received the 'Respects your freedom' certification from the FSF.

Also, I received an update from Mr Rowe the other day, it seems that a new revision of the coreboot stack is ready:

Hi xxxxxx,

Benefits of this new release:
- Coreboot payload: GRUB2
- GRUB2 payload: SeaBIOS (available in boot menu)
- GRUB2 payload: MemTest86+ (available in boot menu)

- Non-free microcode updates removed from coreboot
- Native graphics support (replaces the nonfree VBIOS / VGA option ROM)
- thinkpad_acpi support (needed for the backlight and other things)

- Source code 100% free and deblobbed.
- Parabola and gNewSense are now usable.

3rd release.
2013 December 14th

Compiled version () (pre-compiled coreboot.rom, flashrom/bucts source code. Documentation.):
- useful if you just want to flash the new version:
- http://gluglug.org.uk/X60/release/2/X60_binary.tar.gz

Source code () (coreboot, bucts, flashrom, grub2, memtest86+. Config files. Documentation.):
- useful if you want to study and hack the source code:
- http://gluglug.org.uk/X60/release/2/X60_source.tar.gz

Changes:
- Added SeaBIOS payload to GRUB2 (for booting USB drives)
- new grub.cfg

Updating your firmware always has a risk of bricking the machine.
Instructions are included, but be careful.

If you are not sure about how to update or would like help during the procedure, I'm more than happy to provide it.

Hope this helps

Regards,
Francis Rowe.

bmw2qs
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Joined: 12/20/2013

The update is impressive. Will the new orders come with this new configuration?

fchmmr
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4th release.
2014 February 21st

Compiled version () (pre-compiled coreboot.rom, flashrom/bucts source code. Documentation.):
- useful if you just want to flash the new version:
- http://gluglug.org.uk/X60/release/3/X60_binary.tar.gz

Source code () (coreboot, bucts, flashrom, grub2, memtest86+. Config files. Documentation.):
- useful if you want to study and hack the source code:
- http://gluglug.org.uk/X60/release/3/X60_source.tar.gz

Changes:
- Removed SeaBIOS (redundant)
- New GRUB version (2.02~beta2)
--> Fixes some USB issues
--> Includes ISOLINUX/SYSLINUX parser
- New grub.cfg
--> Removed useless options:
* options for booting sda 2/3/4
* seabios boot option
- Added new menu entries:
--> Parse ISOLINUX config (USB)
--> Parse ISOLINUX config (CD)
--> Added "cat" module for use on GRUB command line.
* "set pager=1" is set in grub.cfg, for less-like functionality

The "Parse" options read ./isolinux/isolinux.cfg on a CD or USB,
and automatically converts it to a grub config and switches to the boot menu of that distro.
This makes booting ISO's *much* easier than before.

elodie
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Done that. Wonderful! Less options look better.

No issue at reflashing. But I had to install libftdi1.

Edited the USB option to
(usb0,gpt1)/syslinux/syslinux.cfg

I get
error: file '/boot/grub/i386-coreboot/true.mod'
twice

Choosing the last option (the "cat" module) generates also errors about sfs.mod and affs.mod.

fchmmr
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Ignore them. Those errors are totally benign.
The distro grub.cfg is trying to load modules that don't exist in the payload.

I have a few ideas for how to deal with this, I'll be experimenting on those ideas later.

fchmmr
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(for now, just press enter to get past those errors)

elodie
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Is there a place where these updates are posted?

fchmmr
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http://gluglug.org.uk/X60/release/X/X60_source.tar.gz

X is always a number. This is how updates are labelled.

Then there is http://libreboot.org/ but that's for another day.

elodie
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Yes, but how do I guess the number? Shouldn't there be a welcome page that points out to the latest package? With a changelog maybe.

fchmmr
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http://libreboot.org/ now contains info.

The "another day" is closer.

elodie
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Hurray!

Thank you. It looks great!

elgrande71
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What are the right steps to follow for flashing the new version ?
Thank you

fchmmr
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inside the archive there is a file "flash_instruction".

elgrande71
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After installing libftdi1 on my system, I had to copy coreboot.rom in the flashrom directory .

Finally with the following command line,

sudo ./flashrom -p internal -w coreboot.rom -c "MX25L1605D/MX25L1608D"

, my firmware had been flashed flawlessly .

Thank you
Continue to do a good job

trisq

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Latest Linux Action Show does a short segment on the gluglug.

https://youtu.be/08HKcH2GguE?t=26m5s

Overall positive, but they don't seem to "get" the subtle details and tend to focus on specs and refurb, but hey, it's a mention of a freedom option going out to a Linux audience.

Eemeli
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I bought one too from Francis Rowe and wrote a review. I'm going to quote it here since it's relevant and may have useful information:

I ordered an x60 with 3GB ram and 120GB SSD from the Gluglug before Christmas. The Fedex shipment arrived to Finland a couple of days later. Here are my first impressions and final review:

1) After charging the laptop and booting, I am greeted by GRUB2 with a levitating meditating gnu background
2) The Gluglug had installed coreboot without its binary blobs and replaced the wireless card with a free software compatible one, meaning that the machine ran on completely open source software respecting the user's privacy and inteligence. Considering this, it is a huge positive surprise how well everything works on this machine! Function keys, Wi-Fi, indicator leds, the pointing stick, suspend and the battery all work as expected right from the start. The only thing not working is changing the screen brightness, which stays fixed at 100%.
3) The laptop comes with Trisquel 6 Toutatis preinstalled, but for anyone wanting to set up their installation themselves it is not a huge effort: copy the "X60_source.tar.gz" file to a safe place (it contains all the source code for the coreboot version in the machine), grab the newest Trisquel (or any distribution you like) iso from the internet, flash it to an USB thumbdrive and boot from it in GRUB. There you go. A note of warning for the novices: I had problems when flashing the iso using the "Startup Disk Creator" tool in Trisquel. The Gluglug helped me gladly and actually there is a readme with all the details on installing another distribution inside the X60_source.tar.gz archive.
4) This laptop got the Free Software Foundation's "Respects your freedom" certificate recently: http://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/endorsement/respects-your-freedom
5) If you are reading this review, it means you must have at least a small interest in free software. If you are like me and have never used GNU/Linux before, give it a shot! It's wonderful to see how the GNU world has evolved tools and software for most tasks. However, if you have a very specific need, ask around before commiting to GNU/Linux. These are the things I've struggled a bit with:
- watching youtube or other flash videos online: for this you should disable gnash, the GNU flash player in the browser, as it rarely works. Then follow instructions either here (http://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/endorsement/respects-your-freedom) or here (https://trisquel.info/en/wiki/play-videos-without-using-flash). For now I am using the Linterna Mágica approach from the second link. It works almost always, but on some videos you have to wait a while for the Greasemonkey script to load.
- watching encrypted DVDs: some commercially sold DVDs are encrypted, and to watch them using mplayer you have to install libdvdcss (which can't be included in the distribution because of some US laws). Read here: https://trisquel.info/en/wiki/enable-dvd-playback.
- Many of the software in the Trisquel depositories is outdated, but almost all open source software have a readme indicating how to compile it. Compiling may sound daunting if you come from the Windows world, but it really just boils down to following simple instructions line-by-line.

My final verdict: this laptop is a must for anyone interested in GNU/Linux and free software. As far as I know, it is the only x86 based computer in the world running completely on free software (including boot code and drivers). For other people, it is a very small and hassle-free investement for a linux laptop without glitches.

quantumgravity
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Thank you very much for your review!
I'll consider buying one when I got more money.

Eemeli
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Seems I got some links mixed up. For watching Youtube, these should be the two links:
http://www.gluglug.org.uk/tutorials/accessing-youtube/
https://trisquel.info/en/wiki/play-videos-without-using-flash

About my battery: it lasts 3 hours with wifi on and charges up in two.

eon
eon
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1) has the brightness issue been resolved?

2) what is the battery life like during idle, normal, and heavy use?

jxself
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1) has the brightness issue been resolved?

No and, AFAIK, no one is working on it.

2) what is the battery life like during idle, normal, and heavy use?

I usually get about 2 hours from the 8-cell battery. I used to get more but the backlight at 100% all the time has reduced that.

GustavoCM

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"sudo setpci -s 00:02.0 f4.b=XX", with XX being an hexadecimal quantity, usually allows one to change the brightness by directly manipulating the hardware. I use that...

elodie
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And the Hex quantity should be between which two values? 0 to 64, 0 to FF, 1 to 10?

Magic Banana

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I believe each X, in GustavoCM's message, is an hexadecimal number (i.e., from 0 to f). Two such numbers effectively allow to encode 16x16=256 values (from 0 o 255 in decimal numbering).

elodie
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It's impressive what you can do only with the help of Google. Just imagine what progress you could make if they would institutionalize you. With qualified help you can even renounce diapers and be a big banana!

Best of luck!

nbd
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Hi GustavoCM,

This doesn't appear to work for me. I tried first with XX = 7F, then XX = FF, then XX = 1F. No noticeable change in screen brightness. Thanks.

GustavoCM

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Hi nbd,

try to find the correct device domain for your graphics controller with the "lspci" command. You should search for "VGA compatible controller"... here it is this way:

$ lspci | grep -i vga
00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: [controller name]

Then, take the numerical code in the beginning of the line and throw it in the command: "sudo setpci -s CODE f4.b=XX". It is also possible that you should change the "f4" parameter, that points to some place at the PCI memory or sth. like that (the 'b' only tells the computer how to read the 'XX' value), but probably the only people who could tell you which value you should use there are the manufacturers of the controller.

elodie
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Joined: 01/31/2014

Right. For Gluglug X60 it is 00:02.0

It still does not work.

nbd
nbd
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elodie is correct about the code (00:02.0) and that it still does not work ... @GustavoCM you mention that we may also have to change the f4 parameter. I've been searching online and I don't really understand what this parameter does in the command.

fchmmr
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The brightness is fixed at 100%. This is a limation in the "native graphics" code, but I suspect it will added in the future.

("native graphics" or "native gfx init" or "native vga init" is a term used in coreboot)
(it is a free VBIOS / VGA ROM replacement)

A VBIOS inits the GPU and controls things like backlight, before the OS boots. It used to be that the only option for this was to extract the nonfree VBIOS from the original firmware and put that in coreboot and have SeaBIOS run it. Now there is a free replacement, which is what you have but the replacement does have a few limitations currently.

nbd
nbd
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Ok, thanks for the clarification.

elodie
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Yes, the thread is infested with people that have no idea and no such hardware. But that's a problem with any public forum.

elodie
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Attention before trying, GustavoCM has no idea.

elodie
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1. No
2. Normal use with Wifi on, other extensions like parport, pcmcia, firewire, ethernet, and so on unloaded and blacklisted from kernel. Almost 2 hours at best. And it heats badly. Both the CPU and the hard drive.

Mzee
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Joined: 07/10/2013

This is just great!
Is this laptop only available with a 12.1" display?

bitbit
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If you check here http://www.coreboot.org/Board:lenovo/x60/Installation
the coreboot is compatible even with the T60 and the screen in that laptop is 14 or more.

trisq

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Wondering if coreboot removes the digital restrictions on PCIe cards?

I have an Atheros wifi card that doesn't work with the standard BIOS, even though it is a Lenovo card. Maybe it will work with coreboot? I have an X60s without coreboot at the moment.

jxself
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"I have an Atheros wifi card that doesn't work with the standard BIOS"

Coreboot doesn't have that anti-feature.

nbd
nbd
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With regard to the brightness issue ...

... is it the BIOS (coreboot in this case) that controls the brightness?

Thanks.

muhammed
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Gnome2 had an applet to control screen brightness. It worked even if the function keys didn't, if I remember right. Maybe Mate will have something similar?

There was a terminal command that controls screen brightness too ... I wish I could remember it.