Gluglug (now Minifree) Thinkpad X60

Software Freedom from the Metal Up

Operating Systems Used

I've owned two Thinkpad X60 laptops. One came from Minifree. The other, Fairhope PC bought for me. These are special computers because Minifree, then called the GlugLug, ported a fully free firmware called Libreboot to them. Minifree later flashed my second X60 to Libreboot for me.

The Thinkpad X60 with Libreboot is a turn around in the sad story of declining freedom in hardware. On December 18th, 2013, the Gluglug X60 became the first whole computer certified by the Free Software Foundation to Respect Your Freedom. Libreboot and Debian gave me real control over my hardware, right as Edward Snowden was showing everyone how malicious computing companies had become. As of 2016, Richard Stallman is using an X60 with Libreboot and Trisquel. More powerful Thinkpads would be liberated but this one covers the bases and serves as beachhead while ARM, MIPS, or PowerPC can pick up where x86 has failed. I was able to use mine at work and continued to use them after I moved to more the powerful X200. The X60 is a quality piece of hardware that works well with GNU/Linux.

It is difficult to tell if Lenovo will be smart enough to dump Intel or if Intel will forget about Tivoized computers before they are wiped out. Companies that give people their software freedom will succeed. The rest will fail. The principle has been demonstrated best in the steeply declining revenues of companies like Microsoft that betrayed their customers.

My Gluglug X60 was beat up in shipping and did not last long, but it was a good start and the community is vibrant. I used it the way I had been using the X61s and made progress with Trinity16. When it was gone, I bought a new X60 to flash. The Gluglug renamed itself the Ministry of Freedom and moved to make itself an official GNU project. More powerful models have been liberated as has a server. As of this update, a PowerPC workstation is on the way.

In March of 2016, I traveled to Libreplanet because Leah Rowe said she would be there. She was and so was Patrick McDermott. The two of them did an install fest and flashed about a dozen Thinkpads. Leah diagnosed my problem as bad RAM, then flashed both of my X60s with new images from the drive she had sent me in December of 2013. I still have and use both X60 laptops and in the summer of 2017 one of them with an older copy of Wheezy gave me much needed stability so that I could pass ABR part 2.

The Gluglug X60

I started my Trinity16 project, a Trinity Desktop Environment with E16, on this laptop and it quickly proved itself practical at work. Video performance was not as good as the X61s, but it was good enough for the basics. I got to see how TDE used less CPU than KDE 4 and was reminded of how practical and functional the KDE 3.5 PIM was. I got working Palm sync back, reliable email, and contacts that worked with it all. I got all that back with real software freedom and without giving up any of the better KDE 4 and other modern software. This is why I moved to free software in the first place.

Libreboot and TDE brought back the excitement I felt in my first years of using gnu/linux. With just a little work on my part and a helpful community, my computers did what I wanted them to. The free software world was not really marching like so many lemmings into the traps set by hardware makers and software owners. The old saying about free software making trash into a new system has remained true. So has the other half of that saying, that non free software turning new systems into trash.

As it Arrived With Debian and E16
At Work with Trinity16 Loving TDE PIM
Hardware Failure

When the Gluglug X60 died, I moved the drive back to my X61s and hung my head. It was working so well in February that I had taken it for granted. I promised myself I'd liberate an X60, and carefully put aside the Gluglug drive with the software intact. I thought that I could put the drive in any computer, update it and then use it to covert another X60.

My Second X60

It took me more than a year to get another X60 and have it ready. The arrival of a good local computer store, Fairhope PC, helped enormously, but I had to deal with ABR certification. When that was over, I procrastinated. BIOS flashing is scary and hard. It's tempting to use my old Gluglug drive but to guard against possible tampering of my original X60 when it shipped, I'm going to have to reproduce what the Gluglug sent me.

Another X60, Running Debian's Stretch Alpha Flashed with Libreboot and at the office

... and then a miracle, Leah Rowe fixed them both for me. From the working Gluglug system, it was just a few keystrokes. That's much easier than I thought it would be. I should have the command line history on my drive, so I should be able to reproduce what she did and teach other people. The libreboot.org site has wonderful documentation which is also very helpful.

With the more important things taken care of, I can get back to the little things that make me happy. Improvements to Trinity16 are always nice. So personal library projects, like the photo album, the scrapbook, my video grand unification project, reading and organizing my electronic books. With ABR looming, the electronic books are where most of the action is.

Learning how to change E16 menus. A nice round up, as I move onto the Taurinus X200

Retirement

I'm keeping the X60's as working backups for my X200 and am thinking about making one of them into the new gateway that I've long planned but never built. I continue using them to explore Trisquel and Debian Stretch.

Looking at Wayland in Stretch Making E16 work in Stretch

Early in 2017, I finally made E16 work on Trisquel on an X60. I used an X61s with a Wheezy install, originally prepared and used for Newfan, to compile E16 version 1.0.17. I then installed the Debian binaries onto a Trisquel Newfan. I'm using that install to browse and read at night while I figure out how to get better browsers onto my Gnewsense X200. This success would encourage me to migrate the X200 to Trisquel 7, where I was able to compile new versions of E16.

E16 on Trisquel 7

Fun with Stretch came to an end around the same time as I was trying to run without Systemd. After an upgrade, the system quit booting on the X60. The install does boot on an X61s and I might make it work on an X60 again, but the problem persisted through Stretch going stable.

Out of Retirement

Frustrated by an unexplained lack of stability in my X200, I jumped back to an X60 and an older version of Wheezy left over from a hard drive upgrade. This combination should work as well as it did back in 2013 and it is already giving me some clues about what happened to the X200.

Perhaps the first lesson is to remove the optical drive from the docking station. Udev loses it's mind and polls /dev/sr0 so heavily that the 3.2 kernel goes into a dirty write lock that consumes 100% of a CPU core.

This worked. I got about 70 days of uptime and stability when I needed it most. The X60 handled my work, study, and limited diversions. TDE's sesion management was also helpful, but simply not having to boot every day was the real winner.

Back to an older version of Wheezy. This paid off.

With that out of the way, I've put my wonderful X60 asside again as I moved on to Stretch on the X200. I'm keeping the older Wheezy drive ready as a fallback for work but newer projects for this laptop will probably be done with GNewSense.

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