My mom had made the decision to finally start the move away from Windows towards using Linux. I helped her buy a Thinkpad R40 and install Linux on it, which left her old Thinkpad 385ED laptop. She planned to re-install Windows95 on it, and give it away to a friend. Before putting Windows back on it, though, I installed Red Hat Linux 9, just to see how it would run.

The laptop has this configuration:


This was pretty easy, with one hiccup: I couldn't boot from CD-ROM. I'm not sure if you can on the 385ED, but it does have a floppy drive, too. So I guess I could have created an install boot floppy, and installed that way. Instead, I copied the contents of the dosutils directory from the install CD-ROM to the C: drive, rebooted into MS-DOS mode, then ran the autostart to boot the installer directly. After that, this laptop installed just like any other ... except it was a lot slower.

The problem I had was space. It was a pretty tight install, so I wasn't able to install everything from the standard "Laptop/Desktop" install. Instead, I had to select the "Custom" install, and de-select the Graphics and Text-Based Internet package sets. This allowed me to do the install, with about 200MB of free space left on the /(root) partition.


Under Red Hat Linux 9, sound doesn't work. Unfortunately, I don't have the name of the audio card in this laptop. I didn't try loading generic SoundBlaster support for it, but that might have worked.

X Windows

The Red Hat installer did recognize the video card correctly. However, you can't run 24bit color at 1024x768 ... you can only use 16bit color at that size. So to get any kind of decent display, I had to run at 800x600.


This laptop does not have an internal modem, but I was able to dial out using a PCMCIA hardware-type modem. I didn't do too much experimenting with this, since it was only a scratch machine.


I would not recommend buying one of these laptops to run any recent Linux distribution. There just isn't enough memory (48MB) or enough CPU (166MHz) to support an environment like the GNOME. If you want to make this more usable, and you aren't able to purchase a different laptop (maybe this is all you have, or maybe someone gave this to you) then you should try running a lightweight window manager. twm is included by default. fvwm might give you a better user experience. It can be made to look a bit like Windows95, and that's what this laptop came with, anyway.

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