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Installing FreeBSD 7.0 on a Lenovo Thinkpad Z61p

Earlier, I'd installed Debian on a spare partition on my Thinkpad Z61p, since it offered support for the Intel 3945ABG wireless adapter. Now, an experimental driver, wpi, was available in FreeBSD 7.0 for the 3945ABG, so I thought I would try it instead.

Before blowing away the Debian install, I wanted to ensure that the FreeBSD driver actually worked. To do this, I downloaded the FreeBSD 7.0 LiveFS ISO, burnt it to CD and booted the laptop from it.

Testing the wireless driver

Running the wpi driver was not totally straightforward. It is delivered as a module and hence needs to be loaded via kldload. Furthermore, the sysctl variable legal.intel_wpi.license_ack has to be set to "1". To set this, you need get into the FreeBSD boot loader, (entering 6 does this nicely) and type the following:

  set legal.intel_wpi.license_ack="1"
  boot

Once booted and the LiveFS option choosen from the sysintall menu, to launch the wpi driver and get a DHCP address I had to issues the following commands:

  ln -s /dist/boot/kernel /boot/kernel
  kldload if_wpi.ko
  ifconfig wpi0 ssid hydrus nwkey 0xdeadbeef00
  ifconfig wpi0 up
  mkdir /var/db
  dhclient wpi0

Ok, that worked. I obtained an IP address and could ping the gateway. There was a bit of packet loss, but it is experiemental after all.

Testing XOrg support

The next thing to establish was the existence of a suitable XOrg driver to support the screen resolution of the Z61p graphics display, the ATI Mobility FireGL V5200 at 1920x1200 pixels. There is an experimental XOrg driver, radeonhd available. I could verify the stability of this driver under the soon-to-be-deleted Debian install. The build of the radeonhd driver requires the installation of some XOrg development ports, in addition to the standard Debian xorg-server packages. These are:

pkg-config
xserver-xorg-dev
x11proto-core-dev
x11proto-randr-dev
x11proto-render-dev
x11proto-video-dev
x11proto-xext-dev
x11proto-fonts-dev

I located these by using apt-cache, for example:

  apt-cache search --names-only randr

I followed the build instructions in the README file, with the exception of using ../configure rather than ../autogen.sh. The new driver is installed in /usr/local/lib/xorg/modules/drivers, and you need to edit your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file to add the following line to the Files section:

  ModulePath "/usr/local/lib/xorg/modules,/usr/lib/xorg/modules"

so that the newly installed radeonhd driver can be found on X startup. Naturally, you need to change the Driver name to "radeonhd" in the Device stanza in the xorg.conf file.

On firing up X with the new driver, it appeared to be broken, as the mouse pointer flickered and characters were duplicated in the terminal screens. Then I remembered the injuction to reboot the machine after using the fglrx driver. After that, the performance and stability of the radeonhd driver seemed fine.

Installing FreeBSD 7.0

Ok, now I was happy that FreeBSD 7.0 would be able to drive the Z61p, I attempted to install it from the LiveFS CD. For reasons that are not clear, sysinstall couldn't find the CD when trying to load the base distributions. I got: Couldn't find distribution on acd0, repeated for each distribution package (twice!). Then the install process received a SIG11 and aborted. Nor could I persuade sysinstall to use an FTP site, as I couldn't establish LAN connectivity using the wired lan port (bge0), either through DHCP or manually configuring the IP address, netmask and gateway.

In the end I gave up, downloaded the Disc1 ISO and burnt to a new CD. This worked fine, so I can only assume the LiveFS CD was damaged somehow.

Despite my attempts to not install the FreeBSD boot manager on the MBR, something still went wrong when I rebooted after completing the FreeBSD installation. Rather than give me the Windows boot manager, the laptop went straight into the FreeBSD boot manager. Something like this had happened before after a FreeBSD install. In order to prevent bad boot behaviour, this time I had deliberately tried to make the Windows partition active before I exited the FreeBSD install process. Anyway, I could boot into Windows using the Supergrub CD, so I knew nothing was damaged. However, despite restoring the Windows MBR using MBRWiz.exe, the laptop still wouldn't bring up the Windows boot manager. It wasn't until I set the Windows partition as active using SuperGrub that normal service was resumed. So maybe I hadn't saved the active partition setting using FreeBSD's fdisk as I had thought...

At this stage, I was connected to the Internet via the wired LAN port (bge0), so I was able install all the packages I required using pkg_add.

Observations

wpi driver

The wpi driver didn't operate too well in my environment. After a short period of time, the number of lost packets skyrocketed, and somewhat later the connection stalled.

After a few experiments, I found this was due to my selection of Channel 1 for the wireless router. Setting the channel to 6 resulted in near flawless operation. However, an ifconfig wpi0 scan command can still cause the interface to go into space, but this is a small problem.

No sooner had I posted this, than the wireless went bad on Channel 6. Same symptoms; large packet loss. Then it got into a state where it wouldn't even associate. I tried applying the patches from -CURRENT (1.10) and while the error messages regarding bus_dmamem_alloc disappeared, it still would not associate. However, I discovered that an ifconfig wpi0 down;ifconfig wpi0 up would make it associate and then a DHCP address would be assigned. It just wouldn't work in the normal boot sequence - maybe some timing issue? I took DHCP out of the /etc/rc.conf ifconfig_wpi0 setting and created an /etc/rc.local with the following content (it seems necessary to display the wpi0 status before it will associate):

  ifconfig wpi0 ssid hydrus nwkey 0xdeadbeef00 channel 6
  ifconfig wpi0 up
  sleep 1
  ifconfig wpi0 down
  sleep 1
  ifconfig wpi0 up
  sleep 1
  ifconfig wpi0
  dhclient wpi0

The connection then seemed to be reliable, but it's too early to say for sure.

Sound

The sound device is an Intel High Definition Audio (HDA) chip. The driver for it is snd_hda.ko and is loaded via /boot/loader.conf.

GTK font

The default GTK font size was enormous. This was particularly noticable on the Emacs menu bar. No amount of tweaking the X resources (e.g. Emacs*menu*font: 6x13) would help. The only thing that worked was setting a small font in the ~/.gtkrc-2.0 file:

  gtk-font-name="sans-serif 6"

It turned out that a better solution was to set the resolution in dots per inch when starting X:

  startx -- -dpi 100

Then the .gtkrc-2.0 file was not required.

Supporting Information

The /boot/loader.conf is as follows:

  legal.intel_wpi.license_ack="1"
  if_wpi_load="YES"
  wlan_load="YES"
  wlan_amrr_load="YES"
  firmware_load="YES"
  wpifw_load="YES"
  snd_hda_load="YES"

The /etc/rc.conf file is as follows:

  hostname="amber"
  #ifconfig_bge0="DHCP"
  inetd_enable="YES"
  keymap="uk.iso"
  linux_enable="YES"
  nfs_client_enable="YES"
  sshd_enable="YES"
  # See /etc/rc.local for wpi0 setup
  #ifconfig_wpi0="ssid hydrus nwkey 0xdeadbeef00 channel 6"
  font8x8="iso-8x8"
  allscreens_flags="80x30"
  powerd_enable="YES"
  performance_cx_lowest="HIGH"  # Online CPU idle state
  performance_cpu_freq="NONE"   # Online CPU frequency
  economy_cx_lowest="LOW"       # Offline CPU idle state
  economy_cpu_freq="NONE"       # Offline CPU frequency
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