Finn Lindgren, Thinkpad A21p

On this page I will collect my experiences with installing and running Debian GNU/Linux on an IBM Thinkpad A21p laptop computer.


Basic installation

Windows & GNU/Linux

I needed to dual-boot with Win98, so I partitioned the disk with roughly 50% for Windows, ~512MB swap, and the rest, ~12 GB, for GNU/Linux.

First, I reinstalled Win98 from the supplied "rescue" CD. This was tedious work, since every IBM-specific driver had to be installed by hand, from the second CD, with >=1 reboot per item...

The rescue CD tries to grab the first partition, so having a boot-partition at the start of the disk for GNU/Linux was ruled out. Fortunately, the boot-loader lilo seems happy the situation anyway.

Note: I had more trouble reinstalling Windows than I had installing GNU/Linux, despite the fact that I had been running Windows for ~10 years, and GNU/Linux for 2 weeks... Once everything was reinstalled, however, the machine worked just fine. I think this says more about the Windows "operating system" than the computer.

Installing Debian GNU/Linux

I chose the Debian GNU/Linux distribution.

Since, at first, I couldn't get the network running, I installed from diskettes. I needed the Rescue and Root diskettes, and downloaded the drivers and base kit to the win-partition.


At first, the EtherJet card did not seem to work at all. However, doing a tcpdump on the machine on the other end of the cable, revealed that the card was indeed sending packets, but was apparently not recognising incoming data. After much searching on the net, I found the suggestion to do "ifconfig eth0 promisc", and this solved the problem.

To get this working automatically, I tinkered a bit with the config files. Being new to GNU/Linux, I'm sure that there are prettier ways, but these modifications at least worked for me...

In /etc/network/interfaces:

  iface eth0 inet dhcp
    pre-up /sbin/ifconfig -i eth0 promisc
    up /sbin/ifconfig -i eth0 promisc

To get the pump-dhcp client working, in /etc/pcmcia/network.opts:

In /etc/pcmcia/network:
  if is_true $PUMP ; then
    /sbin/ifconfig -i $DEVICE promisc
    sleep 1
    /sbin/pump -i $DEVICE > /dev/null
    sleep 1
    /sbin/ifconfig -i $DEVICE promisc
  elif ...


Following advice on the net, and after confirming that XFree 3.3.6 at least needed config fiddling to work, I installed XFree 4.0.2 using the deb:s from

Had to set

  HorizSync 30-100
  VertRefresh 50-100
in /etc/X11/XF86Config-4.


I have not yet tried to use the built-in modem.


I have not yet tried to use the soundcard in GNU/Linux.