Skip to content
Nov 5 / kkrizka

ThinkPad X61 Tablet and Ubuntu Karmic Koala


A few days ago Canoical released a new version of Ubuntu, nicknamed Karmic Koala. So I decided to write an update on how well it supports the ThinkPad X61 Tablet. Quite a lot of problems were fixed since Hardy Heron, but quite a lot of them still remain. I should also recommend checking out the ThinkWiki page for the X61 that has more information. (UPDATE: Ekain Milton posted a link to the Ubuntu X61 Table Community Documentation. It lists more useful tips and tricks.)

But first, a quick summary about the hardware configuration of my ThinkPad X61. I have the model with the SWGA screen that does not have the touch screen capabilities, so instead I have to use the special pen (included). I also have 2GB of memory and a Core 2 Duo processor running at a maximum of 1.6GHz (although in reality I run it at 800MHz to conserve batter life).

The wireless connection works out of the box. It uses the iwlagn kernel module.

Touchscreen (Pen Only)
Works out of the box. I cannot comment of finger touch support, since my laptop does not have the hardware for that.

As for software to use with the touchscreen, I recommend xournal for note-taking and cellwriter (my tips and tricks) for handwriting recognition. Both are available in the official Ubuntu repository.

Extra Keyboard/Screen Buttons
All of the extra keyboard buttons work out of the box. This includes the volume buttons, ThinkVantage button (this is fixed), rotate button on the screen, the toolbox button on the screen and the arrow buttons on the screen.

By work, I mean the buttons report a valid keystroke to X.Org. For most of them, you still have to map them to something useful.

Middle Button Scrolling
To use the middle button, along with the TrackPoint, as a scroll wheel, you have to create the following file.
sudo gedit /etc/hal/fdi/policy/mouse-wheel.fdi

And put in the following text:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<match key="info.product" string="TPPS/2 IBM TrackPoint">
<merge key="input.x11_options.EmulateWheel" type="string">true</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.EmulateWheelButton" type="string">2</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.XAxisMapping" type="string">6 7</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.YAxisMapping" type="string">4 5</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.ZAxsisMapping" type="string">4 5</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.Emulate3Buttons" type="string">true</merge>

After you reboot you computer, you should be able to hold down the middle button and use the TrackPoint as a scroll-wheel.

Both suspend and hibernate work out of the box.

Hard Drive Accelerometer
The ThinkPad X61 Tablet comes with a cool piece of hardware that tells you the rotation of your laptop, which can be used to either protect the hard disk from damage during movement or rotate the screen automatically when using it in tablet mode. And the Linux kernel supports it via the hdaps module! The bad news is that the hdaps module shipped with Ubuntu has been broken for the last couple of years. It had received some attention from the Ubuntu developers in the past; about a year ago went from “not loading at all” to “loading, but reporting the same position over and over again” (bug 281977). In the meantime, you can get it working by recompiling the hdaps module.

Hard disk protection also works via the hdapsd daemon.
sudo aptitude install hdapsd

Fingerprint Scanner
The fingerprint scanner works after you install the fprint packages from the Ubuntu repositories and make some modifications to PAM configuration. But there is still a lot of room for improvement. For example, user identification is not supported. You still have to select your username when logging in via GDM.


Leave a comment
  1. Ekain Milton / Nov 13 2009

    You should check out easystroke if you’ve never used it. It’s useful for using gestures and you can easily map all sorts of nifty actions/keystrokes.

    Also I read here that the toolbox button can cause lock/crash? Also on the other “does not work” section, does that just mean you have to reconfigure them to work (again)?

    If all I have to do is reconfigure, that’s exciting and means I may go ahead and update to Karmic 😀 (or maybe I’ll just wait 3 weeks until classes are done)

    • Karol Krizka / Nov 15 2009

      Easystrokes looks like an interesting application, but I’m not really interested in using gesture recognition. It is a bit awkward with a pen.

      But thiank you for the link to the Ubuntu documentation page! Lots of useful information there. I will update my blog post with some of them..

      And yeah, by some of the “does not work”, they sometimes mean you have to configure to get something working (ei: Map the ThinkVantage button to something).

  2. Dan St.Andre / Jan 28 2010

    My internal HDD is not the original Lenovo as-built drive. (1) Will other drives work with the accelerometer software? (2) How does one (a) discover, or (b) know if their drive is supported?

    ~~~ 8d;-D

  3. Dan St.Andre / Jan 28 2010

    You mention “easystroke” and briefly discuss gesture software and such. There ought to be a list of tablet-pc features, the hardware and software that delivers those features, a review of how well those features are delivered, and so on.
    Mr. Krizka, your expertise tells me that this is a perfect place for all of that to accumulate. The X61 Tablet may not be the newest or sexiest player in the tablet-pc arena, but it seems to be very complete on the hardware side. Perhaps a nudge (or bludgeon) from some corner will “encourage” someone to improve things.

    Willing and interested helper,
    ~~~ 8d;-Dan

  4. Dan St.Andre / Jan 28 2010

    Mr. Krizka,
    May I suggest [aka, request] that you create a page with links to all of the relevant “tablet” and “Thinkpad” packages and downloads?
    I have a personal interest in creating a meta-package or similar for Ubuntu that will identify the several “tablet” components that are known “good stuff”.
    As a full-time X61 tablet user … I own two … I’m interested in helping sort out Karmic vs. X61-tablet but I could use an advisor.

    ~~~ 8d;-Dan

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. ThinkPad X61 Tablet and Ubuntu Lucid Lynx | Karol Krizka
Leave a comment