I needed a laptop for a presentation I was going to give overseas. I didn't want to bring an expensive laptop, for fear that it might be stolen, lost, or damaged during my trip. I could not get the Thinkpad 765D to work well with Linux, but I think that may have been a problem with that particular laptop (it has had problems before.) We have several unused Thinkpad 770's at work, so I decided to use one of them. I installed Red Hat Linux 7.2.

Since I will only use this laptop to display slides, I was not too worried about lacking in power. The laptop had this configuration:


The disk was completely erased, and we went with a very simple workstation partition scheme:

Basic Install

I had a boxed set of Red Hat Linux 7.2, which I installed on the system. Some notes for the install:

I could not boot this laptop from the DVD drive. I don't know if this is something you can change in this BIOS (update: you can) but in any case I did not try. I created a pcmcia.img boot floppy, connected the external floppy drive, and rebooted. The Red Hat installer identified everything else correctly.

This model of Thinkpad uses an mwave device as the digital signal processor, and the winmodem uses the mwave device. I was able to download and compile the mwave driver from IBM's web site to get the winmodem to work on ttyS1. More on this later.

The sound card was not detected by the installer. More on setting this up later.

The video card was correctly probed by the installer.

I have a 3Com PCMCIA network card on this laptop, and at boot-time the subsystem recognizes the card and loads the appropriate modules.

I do not have any IR devices, so I have no idea if IR support is working in Red Hat Linux 7.2 on the Thinkpad 770.

USB works fine. In fact, I have been able to download images via the USB interface from my Canon Powershot G1 digital camera, using GPhoto2 and the libusb library.

APM seems to work fine. I am able to do an apm --suspend to put the computer to sleep (close the laptop cover, then open it again to wake it up). And I can do apm --standby to put the laptop in "standby" mode (press any key to wake it up.) When I do an init 0 in Linux, it will turn off the machine, so that is working okay.


It's easy to get the winmodem to work under Linux on this Thinkpad. IBM has put a lot of effort behind Linux, and one of the perks is that they seem to be supporting Linux on all their products, even older systems like the Thinkpad 770. Visit the IBM ACP Modem page to see their work in progress.

Paul Rubenis helped me get the mwave driver working under Linux. Here is what he sent me:

Ok, here are the steps I did:

1) downloaded the mwave source from IBM's web site. Then:

    tar zxf mwavem-1.0.2-tar.gz
    cd mwave-1.0.2
    ./configure --with-linuxsrcdir=/usr/src/linux-2.4

a) I did not have the kernel header's or source installed on my laptop so I did that.

    rpm -ivh kernel-source-2.4.7-10.i386.rpm
    rpm -ivh kernel-headers-2.4.7-10.i386.rpm
    make ## (lots of warnings, but it continued on)
    make install

b) edit /usr/local/etc/mwave.conf to set your country code to 1 (US). It should be that way be default.

2) This is the part that took awhile, your mileage may vary as I already had a pcmcia card that was being recognized as a modem.... I did not get the mwave/src/mwavem script to work, but didn't not really try much... I used insmod to get the module inserted.

    insmod mwave mwave_3780i_irq=10 mwave_3870i_io=0x130
    mwave_uart_irq=4 mwave_uart_io=0x2f8

The above provides the resources used by /dev/ttyS1 to be used by the DSP and the UART instead. (I had to use uart_irq=4 because the pcmcia card seems to already be using uart_irq=3 for /dev/ttyS3)

3) Once the module is inserted, you should of course be able to see it via lsmod ... Now you have to activiate the DSP.

    /usr/local/bin/mwavem                ## This activates the DSP
    /bin/setserial /dev/ttyS1 autoconfig ## Configures the serial device

Ready for use..

Update: You can also use the mwaved script that IBM provides in their distribution. Just make sure to edit the script to provide the correct IRQ and IO settings, so that things are set up appropriately.


After installation, I found that my DVD drive would not work. It was fine to install the operating system, but go figure that I could not mount any data CD's after my system was rebooted. Looking at the kernel source code (see cdrom.c) I see that the DVD ioctluses the audio ioctl. So I needed to configure the sound device to support the DVD.

Run sndconfig. Red Hat's sound configuration tool does not recognize the chipset used by the 770. You need to select it manually: Crystal 4232. Settings are: io=0x530 irq=5 dma=1 dma2=0 mpuio=0x330 mpuirq=5. Support is already there.

This Thinkpad has a manual volume control, so I didn't have the volume problems that my wife and I had with her Thinkpad A21e.

The only irritating thing that I've found is that the sound driver is not properly configured at boot-time from modules.conf. There is a way to fix this in modules.conf using the pre-load directive, but I just wrote a short init script that does an rmmod then a modprobe and that seems to work fine.

X Windows

The Red Hat Xconfigurator installer did recognize the video card and display properly. I was able to run at 1024x768 just fine.


I needed to display slides for my demonstration, so I installed Sun's StarOffice 5.2 on this laptop. It works great!

StarOffice is basically a workalike to Microsoft Office97. Version 5.2 provides a most excellent word processor that is compatible with Word97, a spreadsheet program, presentation software, and other office basics (such as email and a drawing program.)

One thing I recommend for anyone who intends to use StarOffice: do a "network" install. When you install the software, use ./setup /net to run the installer. This will put all the files you need in a central location. After that, your users will need to run setup on their own to install base sets of files (such as a dictionary, preferences, etc.) to their home directory.

This only adds about 1.5MB per user's home directory, so it is not much. And if you are managing multiple users (which I do not intend to do with this laptop, but you never know if someone else will use it after I do) there really is no better way to go!

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