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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) UP8 on Thinkpad X131e

I recently acquired a Thinkpad X131e.  It's the 3372-3FU, which is the AMD -- meaning AMD CPU, ATI Radeon HD 7340, and Broadcom wifi.   I'm used to Intel-based systems and Nvidia Optimus systems (with Intel as fallback).

Having previously used a system with broadcom wifi chipset, I knew I would need to load some non-free, closed-source wifi drivers on this new system.

Getting Started

I replaced a Thinkpad X61t (tablet) system for this system.  The Thinkpad X61t had my standard LMDE install with Update Pack 8.  It had a Intel CPU (core 2 duo), Intel Centrino wireless and  OCZ Vertex 3 60-SSD.

I thought I would at least be able to transplant the SSD and boot into my install (perhaps with no wifi and fallback to default drivers for video).

My first challenge was with the SSD.

Low Profile Drive

I had completely neglected that the industry created a new and shorter kind of 2.5" hard drive standard.  The drives are 7mm tall versus the standard 9.5mm.  My 2 year-old OCZ Vertex 3 drive would not fit in this Thinkpad X131e, that apparently uses the "low profile" 7mm standard drives.

I realized by looking at the SSD case, that most of the cases was likely just "filler".  What stopped me from finding out was a "warranty void" sticker.  Having still 1 year warranty on the drive, I decided to go for it, and void my warranty -- if the drive dies, I'll be eager to replace it by a larger drive anyways.  Opening up the drive, I realized my intuition was correct -- the SSD consisted of a slim board (no bigger than 5mm in depth).  I kept the bottom of the case for protection from the board ever meeting contact with the metal bottom of the laptop, and placed a plastic insulator sheet adapted from an old 2.5" HD caddy on the top side of the drive (to avoid the top portion making contact with the laptop case door).  Warranty issue aside, the SSD issue was resolved.

Wifi causes Linux to hang at startup

I quickly realized that upon bootup that I couldn't make it past the init.d startup scripts without the laptop completely hanging.  I did a trial-and-error, disabling the startup services (by starting up in recovery mode, dropping me to a root prompt before the services start up).  In the /etc/init.d directory, you can simply remove the execute permission on startup services that you suspect are causing the issue, and then trial-and-error until you find the offending service.  I realized quickly that it was the networking service causing issues, and shortly after that, the wifi in particular.  To allow me to at least boot up the system with ethernet, I needed to completely disable wifi.  It was not sufficient to log onto the BIOS and disable the Wireless LAN antenna.  I found I needed to go to IO Port Access and disable Wireless LAN.  Upon doing this, I was able to boot up with a network connection (over ethernet).

Installing broadcom wifi drivers

Fairly simple to do.  With a proper working internet connect over ethernet, I was able to run:

sudo apt-get install broadcom-sta-dkms

This downloaded and installed the kernel modules for the broadcom wifi.

Broadcom STA is a binary-only device driver to support the following IEEE
802.11a/b/g/n wireless network cards: BCM4311-, BCM4312-, BCM4313-,
BCM4321-, BCM4322-, BCM43224-, BCM43225-, BCM43227-, and BCM43228-based

After re-enabling Wireless LAN in IO Port Access, I was able to boot up with a wifi connection.

Xserver fails

With xorg not understanding AMD/ATI graphics with a regular install (get the error No Screens Found on startup of xorg/xserver), I realized I needed to install some working graphic drivers.  

Avoiding the debate over installing the latest open-source drivers or the closed-source proprietary drivers, I decided to opt for the proprietary which happen to be fairly up-to-date.

I made my first mistake by trying to install the ATI Catalyst 14.10 and 14.20 beta drivers from the Linux section on the ATI website.  The installer installs the drivers successfully, but the installer isn't actually doing anything.  Trying to run the buildpkg manual method with the software fails, and you end up going in an endless loop of troubleshooting.  I wasted a day after realizing I simply won't be able to use the installer method as its designed to only install to a 32-bit system, whereas I'm using a 64-bit install.

I decided to use the Debian repository instead.  I already had the non-free directive in my apt source.list file.  I simply followed the instructions found on the Debian Wiki for ATI (  

Making sure I already had the linux-headers for my kernel installed (uname -a showed 3.11-5.dmz.1-liquorix-amd64, so I ensured I had the linux-headers installed by running sudo apt-get install linux-headers-3.11-5.dmz.1-liquorix-amd64).  Next I installed the ATI drivers by running:

sudo apt-get install fglrx-driver

After the kernel driver installs, you need to have the installer configure xorg to understand how to work with ATI.  You would run:

sudo aticonfig --initial

Apparently, if the kernel module fails to build/install/load, the aticonfig changes to xorg are sufficient enough to get X windows to load with a fallback graphic driver.  It will be a display with a slow refresh rate with other performance factors, but it will load.  I realized that the version included with Update Pack 8 doesn't compile the module properly for the Linux Kernel 3.13 that I had installed.  Apparently ATI announced it does not yet support Linux Kernel > 3.11.  I did find references to patches people have created to get the kernel modules to build on 3.14, etc, but to deal with that on another day, I decided to just use Linux Kernel 3.11.  I was able to successfully build and load the ATI Catalyst 13 Beta drivers in the Linux Mint Debian Edition Update Pack 8 repository.  Backlight adjusting via function key was working properly with the proper module loaded -- on the fallback, the backlight function keys don't work, a sign you are falling back. 

Now, if you boot up the system, you should have wifi and proper working X windows.

With the proper driver loaded, 3D acceleration is supported (and the ATI control panel will work). The command fglrxinfo will return a GL version number.  When fallback driver is active, you won't receive a GL number with fglrxinfo.  Further, with the proper drive loaded, if you perform a lsmod, there will be a fglrx driver loaded.

Additional Notes

After some reading, I decided to add the directive "nomodeset" to my grub.cfg.

Compiz wouldn't load correctly (window manager crashed, windows displayed without a window manager, etc).  I expected compiz to work with a near-latest ATI proprietary driver installed and loaded (with 3D kernel module compiled and loaded).  I did read that the latest open-source ATI driver SHOULD have compiz support also working when the Mesa GL lib is also loaded.  Naturally you cannot have both open and closed source drivers installed on the system at the same time.  Once I have things stable, I will troubleshoot further.


I use pm-suspend and pm-hibernate setup with laptop tools on all my systems.  Both fail to suspend or hibernate the system.  I can suspend and resume successfully by running as root:

echo "mem" >  /sys/power/state

The same trick for hibernation, 

echo "disk" >  /sys/power/state

results in a system that cannot thaw from hibernation properly.  Running the hibernate command does work though.

Therefore, I use the following two commands

to suspend:
echo "mem" >  /sys/power/state

to hibernate:

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