After reading report after report of people using Ubuntu Linux on various flavors of desktop and laptop computers, I've finally decided to give it a try.

Last weekend a Thinkpad T43p (80GB disk, 2GB RAM, 1600x1200, etc) arrived on my doorstep and patiently waited for me to finish studying for my FAA written test (passed it this morning, thank you very much).

thinkpad t41

Now, it worth noting a few things.

  • I'm not new to Linux on laptops. This is the 4th upon which I've attempted to run Linux. Over the last six years, I've probably spent 1.5 to 2 of them with Linux on a laptop as my primary computer.
  • I'm not new to Thinkpads. The T43p that I now own (thanks to eBay) was preceded by the following, in reverse chronological order: T23, T21, 600E, and a 380D.
  • In recent years I've become quite impatient with software. If it doesn't actually make my life better, I ditch it much faster.
  • I had high expectations of Ubuntu, thanks to all the hype.

Given all that, I'm shocked and amazed. It works. It just works.


I booted from the Ubuntu 6.06 "live" CD and ran the installer. I then rebooted the notebook and found that it detected my wireless interface just fine. The screen was properly detected at 1600x1200, the sound worked, and the TrackPad worked fine.

Then came the real test. I decided to exercise the power management features. Suspend to disk (hibernate) and suspend to RAM (suspend) worked. In both cases, it worked as well as in Windows (better in some ways) and nearly as good as a Powerbook.

I cannot overstate how important this is: Ubuntu is the first real "desktop" Linux I've ever seen. There's a lot of polish to it, most of the "right" things have been hidden from non-Linux geeks, and it just works.

I've read so many other stories like this but had to see it for myself.

If you've been waiting years and years for desktop Linux (or laptop Linux) to finally arrive, give Ubuntu a shot. Seriously.

It's good to have a Linux laptop again. It's even better not to have to fight it. It's the freedom and power of a Debian-based Linux without all the hassle. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at August 07, 2006 09:03 PM

Reader Comments
# Wally said:

I just replaced my mom's Wintendo OS with Ubuntu. It just worked. Too. =)

on August 7, 2006 11:56 PM
# Matt Cutts said:

It's nice, isn't it? I first started to get hooked when I tried Ubuntu on an ancient Thinkpad 600 and everything, even the wireless, just worked.

It also handles USB really well. Also check out EasyUbuntu to add all the convenient codecs/fonts and such.

on August 8, 2006 12:36 AM
# Ben Milleare said:

Yeah it's great isn't it?

Ubuntu is one of those things that manage to actually surpass all the hype they get (which is a _lot_).

I've been using Ubuntu as my Linux distro for a while now, and have also taken to carrying around the live cd in my car for those 'family and friend tech support' moments.

on August 8, 2006 01:38 AM
# Ben Metcalfe said:

Yeah, just another Ubuntu fan here.

I've got it running on my old Dell laptop and it detected everything perfectly. I found the restricted repository list on apt to be a little frustating but when I turned on the 'complete repository' I was much more happier (I think I had to turn in on in the synaptic manager if I recall correctly).

I've got a new Thinkpad X60s which I'm v pleased with. I'm really tempted to put ubuntu on it too but the thing that's holding me back is the really old version of Skype (which I use a lot).

I'm also a wee bit concerned about what Ubuntu's future business model is going to be (Shuttleworth has said his money is an 'investment' and not a 'gift' - well he's got to pay for his space trips somehow!).

Rumour has it that some repositories could be for-pay which I notice a number of other distros are starting to do.

Ubuntu is never going to be a major server distro so the common Linux business models of offering enterprise level server support is probably not going to happen.

on August 8, 2006 04:34 AM
# Gerald Buckley said:

Jeremy, congrats on the success (both with Ubuntu and your written test)!

Question... Since I'm pretty much limited to Free BSD on my PowerBook how do the two differ (Ubuntu and FreeBSD I mean)? Might make a good article for those of us seeing blogging friends take up a new OS and don't quite grok it yet.

Thanks, Gerald in Tulsa

on August 8, 2006 05:23 AM
# Nick Wilson said:

Pah! Jeremy you big girl, you should put Gentoo on it like a real *nix geek :-)

T43p is the best machine (desk OR lap) i've ever owned -- and wth Gentoo on it, optimized for the thinkpad, it rocks..

on August 8, 2006 05:30 AM
# said:

I've been using Ubuntu for the past 3 weeks (ever since a power surge killed my doze machine)

Everything is awesome... I wasn't able to mount an ftp site as a hard drive without recompiling the kernel though (something a novice linux user should never have to do)... so that's the only drawback I've seen so far.

I love the application manager though, just tell it what you want to install and boom there it is. Been a while since I used linux, but I'm so glad I'm done having to compile make and configure every program I want to install.

I'll probably continue using it even after my new pc comes in the mail.

on August 8, 2006 05:53 AM
# Ryan said:

weird, it didn't post my name... owell.

PS, Jeremy I noticed you're using Kontera ads now.. hows that going? I tried them out on one page of my site, and a couple days later I have 40 clicks = $0.70 in revenue. At that rate, I'll have my first check right around the time I retire.

on August 8, 2006 06:13 AM
# Erik Weibust said:

Well, I'm running Ubuntu on my laptop, hp zd8000 and unfortunately everything did NOT just work. I'm still fighting with things. I'm not saying I'm not happy. I'm just saying that it doesn't "just work" on all machines.

on August 8, 2006 06:21 AM
# Guillaumeb said:

Several time I tried to move to Linux. I had tried few distros like Fedora Core, Suse or Mandrake but as I'm not a Linux-geek, I wasn't able tsolve the problems I experienced (mainly compatibility problems)
Installing Ubunut was a breeze and I was amazed to see that my Toshiba Sattelite notebook was fully functional after Dapper Drake.

I wonder if the mother distro, Debian, is also fully functional once installed.

on August 8, 2006 06:32 AM
# Michael Trausch said:

I’m envious of the laptop. :-) Those are nice machines.

Anyway, though—Ubuntu on the laptop really did well for me, too. I have a Toshiba Satellite A55-S1064, and when I put Ubuntu on it, it picked up everything from the WiFi to the 3D-accellerated graphics. It is pretty awesome. Getting AIGLX and Compiz on it was fairly easy, too, so I have a kick ass workstation to show off to others, and, at the same time, a functional workstation to work with for school.

The weird thing—at least to me—is that Ubuntu works better on my laptop as opposed to the desktop machines I have put it on. I have had to make little changes to the system to make it work with some desktops—most notably, the video. For example, SiS hardware is a bit fussy to get working, but not anywhere near as hard as some other distributions of Linux. Using “dpkg-reconfigure” (and knowing what options to use) cleared it right up, for the most part.

Also, you might want to look into a utility called “EasyUbuntu” which will install support for various things on your laptop that are good—MP3 support, DVD support, some fonts, and more. Also, there may be some power optimizations that you will want to do, though the default configuration for the most part works well for me.

on August 8, 2006 06:59 AM
# Richard Kuo said:

I'm pretty impressed with Ubuntu compared to the other distros out there...but if the hype is that it's "ready" for normal use...that's just not true. I've had Ubuntu barf on a couple of hardware getting it to work is still as much luck as it is anything else. Plus I have to constantly hit the command line and hit Google to figure out what to do next...and that's just not acceptable for a casual desktop environment. I'm impressed that Ubuntu has actually been able to make some strides where other Linux distros have feared to tread...but the bar is still much, much higher.

I've been in the process of setting up a bunch of virtualized servers at home using VMWare Server, though. There's no way I'm buying individual copies of Windows for each virtual machine. Ubuntu is just the right flavor of lightweight Linux I need.

on August 8, 2006 08:26 AM
# Krish said:

I have been using Ubuntu on my Laptop and Desktop from the "Hoary" days. It always worked out of the box. I never had to struggle to get anything working. The only time I spent some time figuring out stuff is when I installed Xgl and Compiz to have "Vista-ish" effects. Even this didn't take much time. For the first time in almost a decade, I have had out of box Desktop/Laptop Linux. I need a word better than "Impressed" to convey my feelings about Ubuntu.

on August 8, 2006 10:40 AM
# AV said:


Is this a dual boot scenario? Or did you just wipe out Windoze from the laptop?


on August 8, 2006 11:50 AM
# Keith Ivey said:

More details about suspending/hibernating? Is it possible to have it work like an iBook, automatically sleeping when closed and waking when opened?

on August 8, 2006 12:06 PM
# Marc said:

Yep, Ubuntu has been working great for me as well, as a general desktop machine and as a print server (my wife prints from her XP laptop using IPP).

The one problem I have now is that I just moved and in the new room, the computer is located across the room from the router and DSL modem. Eventually, I might run some Ethernet, but I was hoping in the short-term to get a USB wireless adapter (it's a small form factor PC, thus I'm eschewing PCI cards). I haven't found a USB wireless adapter that can be easily set up with Linux without hacking around with different drivers, ndiswrapper, etc. Anybody want to recommend a USB wireless adapter with good Linux support?

on August 8, 2006 01:05 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Keith: yes. You can configure it (using the simple GUI) to make it Mac-like. I should post a screenshot of that.

on August 8, 2006 01:32 PM
# Scott said:

Marc: I have a Linksys WUSB11 ver.2.6 Wireless USB Network Adapter that worked without a hitch in Ubuntu.

My experience is that Ubuntu is the most polished Linux distro yet. The only issue I had with it was getting it to recognise my Bluetooth mouse. Especially after I do a swap with my KVM switch.

on August 8, 2006 04:50 PM
# Marc said:

I have no experience with EasyUbuntu but I did use Automatix to get MP3 codecs, SwiftFox (Firefox compiled with Pentium optimizations), Acrobat, and a bunch of other goodies. Not sure how Automatix compares to EasyUbuntu.

I also purchased the TurboPrint print drivers. I managed to get my Canon i950 working before I purchased TurboPrint but it was a huge pain in the butt and I had no way to monitor the ink levels. TurboPrint was easy to set up and monitoring the ink levels on the Linux machine is very nice.

Recompiling the kernel to mount an FTP site in the filesystem? It seems that you could use FUSE. I've definitely used FUSE with sshfs to mount a volume over SSH - I'd be very surprised if FUSE didn't have a module for plain ol' FTP, though I'd take SSH anyday. There's even a FUSE module for mounting your GMail as a filesystem.

One of these days I'll try out Xgl and Compiz, though it might suck on my machine because I have a SFF PC with built-in graphics. I'd also like to try Beagle (desktop search) and some of the slab menu stuff that gives Ubuntu a "slab" menu like in the new Novell SLED/SuSE.

Scott, thanks for the reco on the WUSB11 - I'll give it a shot. Did you use ndiswrapper or was it supported "out of the box" in Ubuntu?

on August 8, 2006 05:36 PM
# Matt said:

I've been installing ubuntu (kubuntu, actually, but that's not even a fork) on all my desktop boxes for a while now, and have only had two serious issues with any of them. The first was transparently a hardware problem, and the second was when I tried to upgrade, without remembering that my /boot partition wasn't mounted at the time. Futzed with the resulting useless and all-but-unbootable system for over 2 hours before noticing that the grub config file didn't match the menu grub was showing me...and then I wanted to die of embarassment.

Good to hear that it works well with suspend-to-disk on a ThinkPad. Laptops are much less useful to me without that, which is why I've never had Linux on a laptop for very long. My next laptop will probably follow your example, thanks to this post.

on August 9, 2006 12:42 AM
# pwb said:

Freespire/Linspire should rally around Ubuntu. That's where the mo' is.

on August 9, 2006 11:05 PM
# Scott said:

Marc: Sorry, I hadn't checked back for a couple of days :)

If you still need to know, it worked straight out of the box. I'm a Linux n00b, so I wouldn't have a clue as to setting up an ndis wrapper.

on August 10, 2006 03:58 PM
# Mark said:

Jeremy wrote: "You can configure it (using the simple GUI) to make it Mac-like."

Coming from a Mac background, I explored that option on my new shiny Ubuntu box, and quickly rejected it. I installed FlyAKiteOSX on my Windows laptop once too, and years ago I used some shareware app on my Mac that gave me a Windows-like start menu. Consistently, I always uninstall such hacks within days, if not hours. I wish people would spend less time trying to make one operating system look like another; it just ends up feeling like a cheap knockoff.

Since that initial foray, I've spent time learning how to use my OS's strengths to their fullest. I'm running GNOME, so I researched panel apps and played with all the options for customizing my panels. I tweaked the global keyboard shortcuts to my liking. I installed some Nautilus scripts and learned how to write my own. I installed a terminal app that is always running and uses a single keystroke to take over the screen. I am totally in love with the Ubuntu System Panel. I've tried other things like Gimmie and GNOME Deskbar. And so forth. For me, this is time better spent than chasing after themes and hacks and (stolen) icons to make my Linux box look like a Mac. Just my $0.02.

on August 11, 2006 01:24 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Thanks, Mark.

I was actually referring to the power management behavior. But now I need to play with all the panels. :-)

on August 11, 2006 01:36 PM
# LFT said:

I'm also running Ubuntu 6.06 on a ThinkPad T43. Everything works great (except ATI drivers, but I haven't put any effort into it). For a while I was running the laptop with two hard drive -- Windows on one, and Ubuntu in the Ultrabay -- but I removed the Windows drive a couple of months ago and only have Ubuntu on it now. Works great.

on August 13, 2006 01:01 AM
# Nik said:

First, a friend told me that my web designer wrote an article in Linux Format. Next I bought the mag and three others from the nearest B&N. Next I read them!! Next I played with 6.06. Next I installed it on my t43p (after IBM Recovery CD screwed things up when I was trying to restore the factory settings - XP Pro).
Then, wow! Everything is working, just like Jeremy described in his post. I AM NOT going back to XP on this notebook. From now on I am a linux fan.
The only concern so far - wireless connection is kinda sluggish compared to what it was under Windows... The browser windows take some time to open.
The installation procedure seemed illogical regarding language packs. First, all of them were downloaded, then after English was selected, all were removed and English loaded again. Otherwise, I have no complaints so far.

on August 14, 2006 09:18 PM
# Max The IT pro said:

Great informative post Jeremy!
I had ordered my Ubuntu 3 CD set about 6 weeks ago and eagerly await them here in Nairobi so that I can burn em and pass em out EVERYWHERE to the masses.

Stay tuned!

Max (IT Consultant: Ottawa, Toronto, Nairobi, Barbados)

on August 21, 2006 03:48 AM
# justjosh said:

Longtime M$ user, finally got the guts to switch to kubuntu. It wasn't painless, but the biggest advanatage ubuntu/kubuntu/xubuntu has going for it is the incredible support the noobs get. Forums, IRC, etc., THAT is what makes me enjoy the new OS. Any time I tried switching to linux (Fedora, Debian) previously, nobody wanted to help the new guy. If ubuntu keeps up the "for people" part, it might just kick M$'s butt. I've even gotten my folks, wife and brother to switch over in the last month.

And why exactly do I have to upgrade xorg by hand to use translucency and shadows? That one still bugs me.

on August 23, 2006 11:09 AM
# thorndike said:

I am having great luck loading Ubuntu on my brand new T43P. Great machine, but am having big trouble getting 3d acceleration working on it. Anyone have any thoughts?

The card is an ATI 128MB ATI Mobility FireGL V3200.

Everything else works great.


on August 31, 2006 02:32 PM
# John Morrison said:

I have been dual-booting on my Stinkpad T43 for about 6 mos. This experiment has been worthy and successful. The wireless works, the touch pad works... it all works.

Plus, Ubuntu boots faster and runs better than the steatopygean lugubrious 'doze that clogs your RAM with endless unnecessary services. I haven't used the 'doze partition for two months.

I like being able to grab all the great free compilers and develoopment environments. It's fab.

on September 3, 2006 12:38 PM
# said:

I have a beautiful ThinkPad T43p and I wish to remove ALL from Hard disk and install JUST linux!
Can you send me some suggestions?
I have a useless recovery partition on my hard disk (german Windows XP... I'm italian!)... can I delete the hidden partition without problem?
Please help me... I don't want destroy my T43p :-(

on September 5, 2006 03:53 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Sure, that'll work.

on September 5, 2006 08:25 AM
# Pino Giaquinto said:

I have seen on the web that I can disable hidden partition from BIOS and delete it using fdisk... ok!
But I have seen also that if I write on MBR, the Access IBM key still didn’t work.
I want JUST linux on my T43p, NO dual boot.. If I write lilo on boot sector... how can I boot my system?
Can you send me some suggestion?
Can I install linux if I not delete hidden partition and not write lilo on MBR?
This is my email: pino_DOT_giaquinto_AT_alice_DOT_it
Thank you very much

on September 7, 2006 12:45 AM
# Roelof said:

Mat mentioned he got his IBM Thinkpad working with ubuntu. I have it run ubuntu 5.0. (old), but I seem I cannot get more than 800*600. Well as this is just a test on an old labtop I didn't care much, last time. Now I tried xubuntu, but when selecting 1024*768 for the screen (the actual size), it never finished booting to the gui. It stops right after x is started, and in teh logschreen the last messages is about Startingb Hardware abstraction layer had, en then /etc.dbus-1/event.d/20hal exited with return code 2, and then nothing hapens.

Do I try to install in 800*600 mode, it boots up into the gui, but I can't install because I get stuck in the keyboard and time selection screens, as I cannot seen the butons below, and with trial and error I got nowhere (pressing to select and to activate butons I cannot see).


on September 25, 2006 01:32 AM
# Nikhil said:

I have a T43p also (with a FireGL V3200), but I can't seem to get XGL working. Have you tried, and if so, have you had any luck?


on December 18, 2006 06:41 PM
# Mike said:

Read your post, looked at my T43, looked at WinXP, turned to Ubuntu and I haven't been back. I'm using 7.04 Feisty and things are a little wobbly, but man, I'm loving it.

I've got WinXP running in QEMU and I'm working on KQEMU now so it'll run as fast^H^H^H^Honly as slow as before.

Thanks for the great write up,

on March 26, 2007 02:15 PM
# paul beard said:

Well, I'm not a linux fan but had a need to try out a distro and Ubuntu seems to be getting all the love right now.

I wish I had the same experience as the host here, but craptacular is the best word I can find for my Ubuntu experience: it didn't even boot my ThinkPad (an old A20m). The server version I tried by mistake did, but the desktop version just never worked.

Any other recommendations? The conundrum for me was finding an opensource OS with good hardware support, and Ubuntu seemed like it leading the pack. Looks like FreeBSD is the way to go for me. I've run linux on this hardware before (5 years ago) as well as NetBSD and FreeBSD. So it's not like it's not possible or that I'm a clueless noob. I'm glad it works for some, just wish I was among them.

on November 28, 2007 07:35 PM
# chris hass said:

I'm using a T43 since last year - first installing Ubuntu 7.04 in parallel with the XP professional that came with the laptop. Then got rid of XP all together.

Ubuntu works fine, with one exception: with the out-of-the box installation (now using 8.04) my usb ports are not properly supported. The implementation of a workaround found in a support forum does the job (replacement of a usb kernel module by another one, don't nail me on the details ...).


on May 20, 2008 07:15 AM
# nice laptop said:

now info thank you

on October 22, 2008 01:06 PM
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