Ubuntu Linux on the Thinkpad X1

I recently decided to pick up a Thinkpad X1. The X1 is a great blend of high performance in a compact form factor. Sub-4lbs, 2.7ghz core I7, 8GB of ram, USB3, 13in screen, HDMI, miniDisplayPort, and user replaceable storage are unmatched specs.

Naturally, I immediately wiped the included Windows7 OS to install Ubuntu Linux 11.04. The install was actually painless, but I had one big problem. If I plugged a miniDisplayPort cable in, the GUI locked up completely.

Getting Displayport to work

The fix for getting a functional miniDisplayPort is simply to upgrade to the linux 3.0 RC kernel. This guide provides a quick HOWTO and links to the kernel repository. Once you reboot with the 3.0 kernel, simply plug in a miniDisplayPort cable and use the monitors app in Ubuntu. In many cases the screen will automatically adjust without configuration.

VMware Workstation

The downside with the 3.0 kernel is it breaks VMware workstation, which I use for my job on a daily basis. This fix will solve the issue with VMware not being able to install modules on a 3.x kernel.

General Observations with the X1

Overall, I’m very happy with the X1. The form factor is great, and the power is amazing considering the size. The keyboard is probably the best laptop keyboard I’ve ever used, and I’ve had numerous Macbook Pros and previous Thinkpads. There are a few areas where I see room for improvement.

The battery life is pretty bad. Now this might be an issue related to Linux config, but I’m getting 2 hours of battery life. The glossy screen is highly annoying. Its almost unreadable on a sunny day. Finally, the X1 is loud. It might be related to Linux config and the I7 processor, but its way louder than any of my previous laptops.

Overall, I’m very happy with the X1.