Skip to main content

Linux on a new Thinkpad T510

I got a new Thinkpad T510 at work to replace my aging MacBook Pro. I asked for a Thinkpad instead of another MacBook because I wanted hardware with better hardware support, in particular the trackpad. I got into the habit of bringing a USB mouse everywhere I went because the trackpad on the MacBook was so unreliable on linux.

So when my new T510 arrived, I was pretty excited. And, except for one tiny problem (of the PEBKAC kind), transferring all my files from the old machine to the new one went flawlessly.

Here's how I set up the new machine:

  • Download image from Follow the instructions to make a bootable USB drive.
  • <li>Boot up computer off USB drive.  Resize the existing NTFS partition to be really small.  Add 2 new partitions in the new-free space: one for the boot partition for linux, and one to be encrypted and be formatted with lvm.</li>
    <li>Format boot partition as ext3.  Setup encrypted partition with 'cryptsetup luksFormat /dev/sda6; cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sda6 crypt_sda6'.  Setup LVM with 'pvcreate /dev/mapper/crypt_sda6'.  Setup two volumes, one for swap, and one for the root partition.</li>
    <li>Connect network cable between old laptop and new one.  Configure local network.</li>
    <li>Copy files from old /boot to new /boot.</li>
    <li>Copy files from old / to new /.  Here's where I messed up.  My command was: 'rsync -aPxX /target/'.</li>
    <li>Install grub.</li>

At this point the machine came up ok, but wasn't prompting to decrypt my root drive, and so I had to do some manual steps to get the root drive to mount initially. Fixing up /etc/crypttab and the initramfs solved this.

However even after this I was having some problems. I couldn't connect to wireless networks with Network Manager. I couldn't run gnome-power-manager. Files in /var/lib/mysql were owned by ntp! Then I realized that my initial rsync had copied over files preserving the user/group names, not the uid/gid values. And since I wasn't booting off a Debian image, the id/name mappings were quite different. Re-running rsync with '--numeric-ids' got all the ownerships fixed up. After the next reboot things were working flawlessly.

Now after a few weeks of using it, I'm enjoying it a lot more than my MacBook Pro. It boots up faster. It connects to wireless networks faster. It suspends/unsuspends faster. It's got real, live, page-up/page-down keys! The trackpad actually works!