I've run Linux at home since 1993 (until ~1998, I still had a Windows partition for games.) However, my wife had been using Windows to write her thesis and check email, but by 2000 she was fed up with Microsoft and problems with Windows, and she decided to give Linux a try. We bought her a Thinkpad A21e (new, at the time) and installed Linux. She's been a Linux devotee ever since!
This Thinkpad A21e has the following configuration:
- Celeron 600MHz CPU
- 128MB memory
- 10GB hard disk
- 24x CD-ROM drive
- 800x600 color screen
This laptop has had quite a history in our house, but it works well and we love it. First, I had installed Red Hat 7.x and upgraded to Red Hat 8 on this laptop, but later upgraded to Red Hat 9. Again, I wanted to stay current, so I upgraded to Fedora Core 1.
I prefer to start over when upgrading a new version of Linux. You don't have to do this - it's just something I do with my systems. The disk was completely erased, and we went with a very simple workstation partition scheme:
- 8MB /boot
- 128MB swap
- 500MB /backup
- ~9.4GB /(root)
That's a very similar partition setup to what we have used before. However, I've added a VFAT 500MB /backup filesystem, so I can write backups. This should make future upgrades easier, since I can keep a copy of important files in /backup on the local disk. It's VFAT because the installer has an option to delete all Linux filesystems and repartition the drive. Since it's VFAT, the /backup filesystem shouldn't be touched (of course, I'll still make backups to an external device, but /backup will be faster for restores.)
I had a CDROM set of Fedora Core 1, which we happily installed on the system. The installer identified everything correctly on this Thinkpad. More on hardware, below:
The video card was correctly probed by the installer, and X Windows started up just fine. The built-in mouse has three buttons (the red ones are left/right, the blue one is middle).
The built-in wired network adapter was correctly identified, and worked correctly. But since we are wireless in our home, I didn't use the wired network adapter. For the laptop, I bought an ORiNOCO Gold pcmcia card. Setting up the ORiNOCO under Fedora is easy - just go into the Network Device Control, and define a new wireless card. Make sure to go back into the wireless card settings after you've defined it, and turn on the feature that allows general users to start/stop the device. Have the ORiNOCO activate at boot-time (in case the card is in the pcmcia slot when the laptop boots up.)
At this point, you'll see the eth1 (wireless card) come up and connect to your wireless network.
APM seems to work fine. The laptop goes to "sleep" when you close the cover, and wakes up again when you open it (you may have to tap a key or press the power button to wake it up, depending on how it went to sleep.) The battery-life indicator under the GNOME seems to be pretty accurate, although do note the battery drains quickly when using wireless.
The Thinkpad comes with a built-in Winmodem. I hadn't planned to bother with the Winmodem under Linux, since I have a wireless card. I have not tested the modem, or tried to get it working under Fedora.
The installer's sound configuration tool correctly recognizes the Intel 810 audio chipset used by the A21e. We did not need to download the ALSA sound drivers. Support is already in the kernel, using the i810_audio kernel module. No problems! The grey volume buttons on the laptop work for music and CD volume.
Overall, I have been very happy with my experience in getting Fedora Core 1 to run on this IBM Thinkpad A21e. This was a very smooth experience, especially compared to the problems we originally had on this laptop with Red Hat Linux 7.x. The install and hardware detection are now very good! Even my wife could probably re-install her laptop on her own. I would recommend Fedora Core 1 on your Thinkpad A21e. The Thinkpad A21e is an older/slower laptop, yet still has plenty of power for the average user.