ThinkPad X61s

I couldn’t justify spending £1400+ on a built to order MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM, I settled on what has turned out to be a mint condition X61s with 8 cell battery & still under warranty for £172.98.
I’m really pleased with it so far but it’s still no MacBook Air (I went into the Apple store to double check) 🙂
Though they’re both “ultraportable laptops” they both scratch a totally different itch for me, the macbook is a sleek, tightly integrated with Mac OS, the ThinkPad is an extendible machine which is far more accommodating to various operating systems.
The reason I was looking to move to an ultraportable was so I have something I can with me at all times (obviously) which was to replace my back breaking 17″ MacBook Pro with the ability to run multiple operating systems with ease.
I was able to successfully multi-boot MacOS, FreeBSD & OpenBSD on my MacBook Pro using the gtpsync tool from rEFIT but support for the hardware wasn’t great e.g as It had an nVidia graphics card there was no resume support on OpenBSD, power management didn’t really work under FreeBSD either If I remember right & having a single mouse button meant it was a pain to use X, having to use workarounds with the eject button on the keyboard to emulate right clicks.
The 11″ MacBook Air seemed like the perfect machine for me, but the whole sealed unit really grinds my gears, it’s not that I wanted to take a screw driver to it but I’d like to have the option to extend the system at a later date instead of having to decide on the system configuration which would be set in stone, requiring a new system if I wanted to expand, the ram being the most important thing, buy it with 4GB of ram or be stuck with 2GB. Though 2GB is fine for OS X alone, it really doesn’t cut it when you’re multi tasking with iChat, Terminal.app, iTunes, Thunderbird, Safari, Omniweb or Opera. These are the apps which are usually always open on my system & my 2007 Mac Mini really struggled with this work load with 2GB or RAM, grinding to a halt regularly as the system swapped furiously, moving to 3GB gave the machine a new lease of life & stopped this behaviour, I would hate to be in the same position with a new system so the BTO Air was the only option for me.
I would also be stuck with another nVidia based system if I went for the Macbook Air which means I would still have problems with sleep & X acceleration so the second hand Thinkpad X61s with the intel chipset was the way to go.
The machine is currently multi-booting OpenBSD-CURRENT, FreeBSD-CURRENT & OpenIndiana 148a development build quiet happily.
The system works a treat under OpenBSD, sleep support is still not there in FreeBSD 9.0-CURRENT but I suspect that may just be a bug in acpi_ibm(4). I was hoping to be running Schillix on this system but was unable to get the system to boot after install, I suspect a change in device paths between booting from the optical drive in the ultrabase & hard disk is the cause but didn’t look into it in-depth settling for OpenIndiana after trying Solaris 11 express (which freaked out after the rwn driver was installed) while I work through the DTrace book , though I’ve compiled in dtrace support for FreeBSD & it’s there out of the box on MacOS X most of the examples in the book don’t work as covered in the book on these platforms.

Hardware wise I ditched the supplied intel wireless card & installed a AzureWave AW-NE766 Ralink chipset wireless card. The ThinkPads check minipci-e & wireless usb devices against a device id whitelist in the bios & if not listed the system presents a “1802: Unauthorized network card is plugged in – Power off and remove the miniPCI card” error & refuses to boot. Reflashing the bios with a modified bios image by someone called Zender turns this off & allows the system to boot without any problems.

All in all a great system which is cheaper than a netbook, far superior in build & spec but inferior to a MacBook Air in some ways 🙂

OpenBSD 4.8 dmesg
FreeBSD 9.0-CURRENT dmesg

2 Replies to “ThinkPad X61s”

  1. I live in an X61. Have done for years. It suffers from the $work standrad XP build, but has been reliable, though recently it’s taken to dropping into standby when the CPU runs too hard (I suspect a temp sensor, probably a fan blocked by cruft, but haven’t had the downtime to pop the case and check). Tom Oceanhippie swears by his X61 too, and he treats laptops like he treats cars and trucks (drives them into the outback and makes them run on dirty 12V supplies 🙂

  2. “Tom Oceanhippie swears by his X61 too, and he treats laptops like he treats cars and trucks (drives them into the outback and makes them run on dirty 12V supplies” hahahahaha

    RE freeze issue I found http://forum.thinkpads.com really handy. Loads of stuff from part # to mod info

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