[ltp] Help needed with choosing the right ThinkPad

Sam Kuper sampablokuper at posteo.net
Tue Jul 28 16:58:20 CEST 2020

On Tue, Jul 28, 2020 at 09:31:31AM -0400, Mark Dymek wrote:
> any thinkpad will run any form of linux perfectly.

Alas, I think that is an overstatement.

Last time I checked (quite some time ago, admittedly, so I'm happy to be
corrected), most Thinkpads required non-free drivers, e.g. for their
wireless network cards.

That precludes running a fully-free GNU/Linux distro if you want the
relevant functionality, unless you replace the offending hardware.  E.g.
swap out the problematic wireless network card for one that supports
libre firmware (you can buy such cards from ThinkPenguin, among others).

But performing such a swap is not straightforward, because most (all?)
models of Thinkpad ship from Lenovo with a BIOS/(U)EFI that whitelists
only the specific expansion cards that Lenovo expects to install at the
factory.  Libre-supported WiFi cards are usually not on those
whitelists.  This means that if you install such a card into your
Thinkpad in place of the original card, the BIOS/(U)EFI will refuse to
boot your operating system.

The workaround for that is to replace the proprietary BIOS/(U)EFI with a
libre one such as Coreboot (or one of its downstream distributions,
e.g. Libreboot), but Coreboot is not fully functional on every model of
Thinkpad.  See the hardware compatibility lists (HCLs) here:

- https://coreboot.org/status/board-status.html

- https://libreboot.org/docs/hardware/

Replacing the BIOS/(U)EFI may require you to open the Thinkpad case and
use a SOIC clip or similar, plus some suitable interfacing hardware such
as a Raspberry Pi or a BusPirate.

OP, if you want to skip that DIY step and buy a laptop with Coreboot
already installed (including ThinkPad models that have had Coreboot
installed by the vendor), then see

Good luck,


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