Don Marti

Sun 19 Jan 2014 05:28:53 PM PST

Fedora Linux on ThinkPad T440s

First of all, go read Havoc Pennington's report on putting Fedora 20 on a ThinkPad T440s. Good stuff, and a big reason I bought this machine in the first place.

The main problems with the T440s from my point of a view as a long-time Linux/ThinkPad user are...

Yes, this is the kind of little stuff that Linux laptop users are down to complaining about, now. When I was starting out we had to recompile the kernel just to get PCMCIA working. (What's PCMCIA? Get off my lawn.)

The Fedora 20 install was easy, as usual. Since I now have several Fedora, RHEL, and CentOS machines kicking around at work, I wrote an RPM spec to depend on or conflict with all the stuff I like to have or not have, so that I don't have to do as many "I thought that was already on here, oh well, yum install" moments.

Clickpad "trouble"

On previous ThinkPads, I only had to use the "synclient" command once to turn off the TouchPad. Now, with no hardware mouse buttons, there's some more tweaking required. Fortunately, people had already hashed it out in the comments on that Havoc's Blog piece (you did read it, right?) so all I had to do was stick the right commands into a script. Since I will never remember how to make a .desktop file, the script will take care of that, too.

So now I have a Synaptics TouchPad that's set up for just three mouse buttons and for two-finger scroll. One-finger motion or accidental palm contact does nothing. Anyone who has claimed that blogging is dead is clearly Wrong.

Human factors

Nice screen. The speakers have always been a weak point for ThinkPads compared to other laptop brands IMHO, but the T440s is a refreshing change. Not hi-fi, but not pathetic either. Still needs headphones for extended listening.

The keyboard is similar to the one on the T430, with island-style keys. At first glance you might think, oh, crap, another laptop vendor hired an Apple fanboy as a product manager. But somehow Lenovo managed to make this keyboard much more usable than the Apple version. Not sure why, possibly because the keys each have a slight depression instead of being pure minimalist RoundRects. Anyway, good keyboard, and the IBM TrackPoint is unchanged.

Everything just works

Yawn. Have not tried the Ethernet or VGA ports, but no surprises so far. (update 7 Apr 2014: Ethernet and VGA work fine.) Let's put it this way: you're not going to learn anything about reverse engineering, driver development, or hardware vendor politics here. It's open box, click buttons, watch cat video time.

Time for another round of license poker?

The mid-range ThinkPads have been stealth Linux boxes for a long time, so it's not a surprise that this one is, too. Built from well-supported Intel components, and there's little if any drama getting the pre-loaded MS-Windows off, and Linux on.

Speaking of pre-loaded MS-Windows, well, that's a tough business these days. PCs are getting cheaper. But they're not making much money for their makers. Welcome to the value trap, writes The Guardian.'s Charles Arthur. Time for another round of preloaded Linux laptops, to get a better license deal from Microsoft? Any time Lenovo needs to do that, this hardware is ready for it.