Linux on the Lenovo ThinkPad W510

A post on configuring and using an old Lenovo ThinkPad W510.

Published on May 01, 2014

I bought a crappy PC laptop as a backup since my MacBook’s been failing. I’ve gone full Linux on it since I spend most of the day in a terminal and browser, so except for Photoshop I’m comfortable. I’ll probably buy a new MacBook when they release 2014 Pro Retina ones. Until then, I’ll document my experience here.

First off, I’m running Linux Mint 16 Petra with the Cinnamon Desktop Environment. I’ve got to say, it’s really pretty in comparison to Windows 7 that the laptop came with and Windows 8.1 that my Shuttle PC is now running.

Fixes I’ve had to make

Brightness Controls

The brightness keys cause Linux to crash. Also, software controls like panel widgets don’t work. Despite it saying not to on, the EnableBrightnessControl registry flag was the right way to enable brightness controls. Switching to a virtual console, changing the brightness, and switching back worked… except that Cinnamon DE crashed upon returning to it.

Here’s what your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file should look like:

Section "Device"
  Identifier "Device0"
  Driver "nvidia"
  VendorName "NVIDIA Corporation"
  BoardName "Quadro FX 880M"
  Option "RegistryDwords" "EnableBrightnessControl=1"

Keyboard Mapping

I don’t use Caps Lock. I always remap it to Control. To do this in Linux Mint 16, you need to go to the Regional & Language settings, Keyboard Layouts, and Options in there. Don’t change “Caps Lock key behavior” — change “Ctrl key position” and add “Caps Lock as Ctrl” there. This is so your Caps Lock key doesn’t have two KeySyms associated with it (if you’re familiar with .XModmap settings). Additionally you can add pressing both Shift keys at once to toggle Caps Lock in the “Miscellaneous compatibility options.”

The mdm display manager doesn’t run .XModmap and it’ll take a lot more effort than it’s worth to modify the XClient/.Xsession setup that Mint provides, so I went with the gui setting in this case.

Suspend Mode

I use the proprietary nVidia graphics driver for full 3d support. There system freezes when resuming from suspend. To fix that, add this line to the file /etc/pm/config.d/unload_modules (you may have to create it):