Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
BSD Operating Systems

BSD Still Won't Run on IBM ThinkPads? 54

Posted by Cliff
from the fixing-the-problem dept.
omega_cubed asks: "'You've successfully installed FreeBSD, now your computer is going to hang at boot up!' -- That was what I just recently suffered. I've been running Mandrake on my ThinkPad X20 for almost a year. But the lack of high speed internet connection over the summer prevented me from keeping up with the various patches/updates. Many services--sendmail, apache, etc.--were shutdown one by one because of security vulnerabilities. Recently I decided that instead of trying to catch all those patches I missed in the last few months, I might just as well do a clean install of FreeBSD. I've done what I think was all the preparations necessary: I backed-up all my files, checked all the hardwares for possible conflicts (on FreeBSD.org) and supports, downloaded the ISO image. And I decided the computer should be able to take it. Unfortunately, I didn't come across the old slashdot article reporting a possible conflict between IBM ThinkPad's BIOS and FreeBSD's filesystem. So last night, after much struggling, I installed FreeBSD. It finished, rebooted, and the computer now just hangs at bootup (here's a more detailed report on what happened). It doesn't even go into BIOS. Does anyone have experience dealing with this? Is there anyway I can update the BIOS? The diskettes provided IBM were not able to boot the computer, and I am at a loss here. Thanks."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

BSD Still Won't Run on IBM ThinkPads?

Comments Filter:
  • by decep (137319) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @05:56PM (#4398749)
    Not being able to get into the BIOS or updating the BIOS has nothing to do with the OS installed. If you still think it does, then take the hard drive out and try to flash the BIOS.
    • > Not being able to get into the BIOS or updating the BIOS has nothing to do with the OS installed.

      That used to be the case, but many modern BIOSs now have more integration with the OS than previously.

      In this example, the IBM Thinkpad BIOS is confusing the BSD disk partition with a special partition used for waking from hibernation.
    • by joshuac (53492) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @06:23PM (#4398861) Journal
      ---snip
      Not being able to get into the BIOS or updating the BIOS has nothing to do with the OS installed.
      ---snip

      Actually, in this case it does. The BIOS in many modern laptops (and in some desktops) has a built in suspend-to-disk routine. When being powered up, they check the harddrive for the image they saved last time they shutdown. The FreeBSD partition happens to look like a suspend image to the ThinkPad BIOS.
    • Not being able to get into the BIOS or updating the BIOS has nothing to do with the OS installed. If you still think it does, then take the hard drive out and try to flash the BIOS.
      Tell that to Compaq. (Hint: BIOS stored in ~4MB partition on HDD. Inaccessable without the HDD. HDD upgrade or new partition table = having to locate/download three floppy disk images from Compaq and re-create the 'BIOS' partition).

      What you may be thinking of is the CMOS - which is in and of itself a separate piece of hardware.

      • No, not really... (Score:3, Informative)

        by rakslice (90330)
        Eek... You seem to be a bit confused. What's on the HD on those Compaqs is just the BIOS setup program, a piece of software used to tweak BIOS settings and other low-level system settings. Note that that program is also often called the CMOS setup program (because it saves its settings in the CMOS), or just the BIOS (by those who aren't really paying attention).

        The BIOS itself is still in ROM. If the BIOS was only on disk, you'd have a Catch-22; the BIOS would be needed to load itself from disk. (Well, I guess the system could have a second BIOS in ROM to load the first one from disk, but then, what would be the point of the BIOS on disk if there was already one in ROM?)

        Anyway, while you can't "get into the BIOS [setup]" on those Compaqs without the hard drive connected, you can update the BIOS by booting from a flash-update disk. The BIOS setup program, although probably matched to the particular version of the BIOS on the ROM, doesn't need to be there just to flash the ROM.

        Now, the problem with these particular IBM BIOSes is that, as soon as they're powered on, they see what they interpret to be a suspend-to-disk partition on the HD and try to load it to RAM and run it, without giving the user the opportunity to ignore the partition, or to run the bios setup program, etc. With the system in that state, not only can the user not boot off a floppy to repartition, but they can't even boot off a floppy to flash a new BIOS that doesn't try to resume like that onto the system.

        Now, yes, you need a working BIOS if you want to boot off a floppy disk to flash-update your BIOS. And if for some reason the copy of the BIOS on the ROM won't work with disks anymore, the only solution is to yank the BIOS ROM chip off the motherboard and either fix it with a programmer and put it back on, or replace it with another chip.

        But when you think about it, as the 2nd parent post suggests, if IBM releases a new BIOS for the malfunctioning systems that doesn't try to do the resuming, it's still possible to install it by unplugging the HD, booting off a flash-update floppy through the old BIOS (which will work fine as long as the hard drive with incompatible partitioning isn't attached) and doing the update, and then plugging in the hard drive again.

        Any fairly new PC-land techies out there reading this still confused? I imagine that this particular hole exists in a lot of these peoples' backgrounds nowadays. So, it's time for:

        Pre-boot PC Software Guts for Newbies

        Terminology time.
        (Assume I'm talking about x86 "IBM-compatible" PCs, unless I say otherwise.)

        BIOS stands for Basic Input-Output System, which is a fancy name for a bunch of standardized routines that can be called to do things with the hardware (everything from hard drive access to keyboard input and more), and includes the Power-On Self Test (POST), the first thing that runs when you turn on your system (the thing that, if all the tests are passed, tries to load an operating system, and if not, brings you oh-so-useful error messages like the infamous "No keyboard attached. Press [F1] to continue.") Usually the BIOS routines have minimal functionality and sacrifice performance for compatibility. Also, these routines aren't really designed with modern operating system features (like memory management and multitasking) in mind. Because of this, once the POST passes control to the operating system, virtually all post-DOS ones only use the BIOS routines for as long as it takes to load more advanced drivers from the hard disk, and then they start using those drivers to run the hardware instead. The PC BIOS spec is very crufty; it contains a lot of routines that don't make any sense for even later DOS-era systems. (e.g. Bonus points for anyone who can explain how to get their post-2001 BIOS to display a "No ROM Basic, System Halted" message, and quadruple bonus points for someone who can produce a post-2001 BIOS that has a working ROM Basic of some sort hacked on. =) ). The BIOS is typically stored on a ROM (read-only memory) chip, although in recent times it's usually a flash-updateable ROM chip, so maybe the term "ROM" is a bit misleading.

        CMOS stands for Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (if I remember correctly), which is a type of memory technology used in computers; but on PCs, CMOS has also misleadingly come to refer to a particular small hunk of battery-backed CMOS used to store some system settings. This kind of system data area is much more sensibly referred to as PRAM (Parameter RAM) on Macs and NVRAM (Non-Volatile RAM) on more proprietary unix workstations.
        • Eek... You seem to be a bit confused.
          I am confused, but not about the standard x86 POST sequence, thank you very much. When this particular partition does not exist on an old(er) Compaq, the system does not function.
          The BIOS itself is still in ROM. If the BIOS was only on disk, you'd have a Catch-22; the BIOS would be needed to load itself from disk.
          Near as I can tell, they DO perform a catch-22 like operation, which is why it can take as many as five attempts to install the 'BIOS' setup partition (you did notice that I quoted it in my original post, didn't you?). I despise working on these Compaqs, because I'd never be able to charge customers the actual amount of labour required to get them up and running again. Finding the disks can be a nightmare unto itself, and getting them to apply is another headache altogether. Talking to Compaq support is like asking your dog for assistance (although in some cases I think our dog would be of more help).
          (Well, I guess the system could have a second BIOS in ROM to load the first one from disk, but then, what would be the point of the BIOS on disk if there was already one in ROM?)
          The whole point of my post was that a) it is possible to require a hard drive to enter your system's setup, and b) that Compaq systems did not make any sense (except, I suppose, to a Compaq engineer).

          Thankfully they've changed the way it works to an actual CMOS chip, with no apparent interaction with the HDD itself.

          I've got an old(er) Presario in my workroom at home, and I'd be glad to ship it to you if you're willing to foot the S&H (a little strapped for spare cash right now). It's got no HDD or RAM, so it only weighs in at about 50lbs. ;)

          CMOS stands for Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (if I remember correctly), which is a type of memory technology used in computers;
          Actually, it's a semi-conductor (chip) planted on the motherboard, which stores the system settings, date, and time. There are several ways to test this theory;
          • Pull the CMOS reset jumper (thereby disconnecting the battery circuit)
          • Pull the CMOS battery
          • Pull the CMOS chip itself (thereby disconnecting it from the battery)

          All methods will, with varying degrees of success, clear the CMOS settings. Providing you don't bend any pins in the process, your computer should continue to function as normal after you've re-assembled and re-configured it.

          For the record, NVRAM is a different technology altogether. NVRAM does not require power to sustain its settings ("Non-Volatile RAM") and is very expensive per MB. It resembles a stick of RAM, rather than a semiconductor chip. Cisco routers make use of NVRAM, and I've held it in my hands many times over (often while trying to justify through a school board that it would behoove them to spend the money to upgrade the lab routers so that the students could use the new IOS, which they had already paid for but could not use. For the record, one copy of the IOS cost more than the NVRAM would cost for all the lab's routers)

          • I realized that many Compaqs don't have a BIOS setup program in ROM (since Compaq has been using disk-based BIOS setup programs here and there as far back as the 286 Deskpros). I've seen Compaq systems that have an HD setup partition, and come preinstalled with an MBR boot loader that in some cases will ignore the active parition and run stuff on the setup partition (and, let me tell you, it's fairly disturbing to see that setup program running after you've just deleted the partition it's in, but it's understandable, because the disk address of the setup partition is saved in the MBR, so it doesn't even need to look at the partition table entry), but replacing the crazy MBR bootloader with the standard one always made that problem go away pretty quickly.

            I didn't think, however, that Compaq would make systems that would refuse to load the MBR bootloader from disk if there was no setup partition... That seems a just a little too crazy, even for them.
            • I didn't think, however, that Compaq would make systems that would refuse to load the MBR bootloader from disk if there was no setup partition... That seems a just a little too crazy, even for them.
              This is why I kick Compaqs. ;)
          • >>(Well, I guess the system could have a second BIOS in ROM to load the first one from disk, but then, what would be the point of the BIOS on disk if there was already one in ROM?)

            >The whole point of my post was that a) it is possible to require a hard drive to enter your system's setup, and b) that Compaq systems did not make any sense (except, I suppose, to a Compaq engineer).

            Up there I was talking about the BIOS, not the BIOS setup. Of course, I mean no disrespect to your very splendid and worthwhile offtopic rant, if that's in fact what it is. =)

            >Thankfully they've changed the way it works to an actual CMOS chip, with no apparent interaction with the HDD itself.

            Uh... If there was ever no "CMOS" of any kind, there would be no pre-boot saved settings, and thus no need for a program to configure them at all (on the HD or otherwise). Not to mention that the system wouldn't be able to maintain the system block when powered down. Perhaps you mean that the setup program was moved to ROM?

            >>CMOS stands for Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (if I remember correctly), which is a type of memory technology used in computers;

            >Actually, it's a semi-conductor (chip) planted on the motherboard, which stores the system settings, date, and time.

            Well, yes, as I said in the next sentence, that's what people often just call "the CMOS" in the PC world. But it could be unnecessarily confusing for some people if I don't explain the bad naming (since this strikes me as the kind of crowd that's bought its fair share of 40xx ICs, even if only at Radio Shack). Though to really nitpick, perhaps I should have said "digital logic technology".

            • >Not to mention that the system wouldn't be able to maintain the system block when powered down.

              Erm... I meant to say:

              Not to mention that the system wouldn't be able to maintain the system time when powered down.

              Not enough coffee yet. Sorry. =)
            • Thankfully they've changed the way it works to an actual CMOS chip,
              I'm working on my second coffee myself - of course I meant to say BIOS.

              Non techies complain about acronym overload, sad to say I suffer the same fate. ;)

              As to my rant, it wasn't (technically) off-topic, it was regarding the strange behaviours of large corporations when it comes to their system BIOSes. IBM has all sorts of weird ideas, and that's what makes FreeBSD on the ThinkPads such a treat to use.

              The IBM desktops (PC300**, NetVista, etc.) use a BIOS that's essentially a glorified information source. If it doesn't find your HDD, CDROM, or other installed equipment - you're SOL (this straight from an IBM field tech, BTW). You can change the boot order and a couple of passwords, and of course the date/time, but as to the stuff that really counts, you have to trust in Big Blue.

              I haven't totally followed the issue, but I understand that changing the partition identity to that of an OpenBSD partition will allow the present ThinkPad BIOS to boot to "OpenBSD" which is, in fact, FreeBSD. So as long as it's possible to fool the big boys, problem solved. {smile}

              Well, yes, as I said in the next sentence, that's what people often just call "the CMOS"
              I had one person try to explain to me that you use the CMOS to save settings to the BIOS. No matter how much logic, reason, or explanation I gave him, he adamantly refused to budge on that point. See, he took a year of physics/science courses at a prestigious local institution before attending another college for a networking course. See, he has a home LAN in his house, so he's one of those exspurts.

              Worse still were the even more 'green' types standing in the room who, for some reason, trusted him more than they trusted me, so now they all believe that a "BIOS" is some magical piece of hardware where information is stored, and that a "CMOS" is a menu system where you set the date.

              Of note is the fact that most of these people refer constantly to "NIC Cards"

            • Evil evil... and I thought I got bad stuff:

              Acer Aspire 1300XC notebook, new.

              "CMOS setup" is called SCU and has three(!)
              options: date, time of day and boot order.

              Oh yeah, during boot-up, hit escape to change
              the boot order *sigh*, f12 to boot from network
              or f2 to enter SCU.
          • >>NVRAM is a different technology altogether

            NVRAM isn't a technology, it's a descriptive name. On some workstations, the NVRAM uses EEPROMs, on some it's just battery-backed DRAM.
  • by XBL (305578) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @05:56PM (#4398750)
    The answer is here [unixguide.net].

    You might want to remove the hard drive, and see what happens when you boot it without a hard drive in. Maybe this will give you some sort of clue on what is wrong with it.

    If your absolutely have to, buy a 2.5" hard drive adapter for your desktop machine. You can then format the laptop hard drive from that.
  • Remove Hard Disk (Score:3, Informative)

    by forsetti (158019) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @05:58PM (#4398759)
    If the Hard disk partition is really the cause, try removing the HD before booting floppies. With the drive removed, there is no partition labeled 165, hence no hibernate.
    If the floppies still don't work, you have more to worry about than the HD.....
    If they do work, flash the BIOS, and be happy on your way...
    good luck!
    • by omega_cubed (219519)
      Actually, I did find that among the BSD newsgroups, but I am afraid to say that it didn't work. Even with the HDD removed, the system stalls before loading the BIOS. I am thinking maybe IBM included a no-harddrive = suspend default? {=

      Which after thinking about it, doesn't sound like much nonsense, especially on the TP X series, which doesn't have a default floppy...

      W
      --
      werd smiler [=
  • Hm? (Score:3, Informative)

    by glenstar (569572) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @06:11PM (#4398810)
    I have had no problems installing FreeBSD (4.4 or 4.5) on a Thinkpad R30. The installation worked like a charm and even grokked all of my hardware.

    If I remember correctly, I think I blew away the restore partition before the installation, but I didn't screw around with the BIOS at all.

    Am very curious as to what might be causing your problem.

    • by joshuac (53492)
      ---snip
      Am very curious as to what might be causing your problem.
      ---snip

      You probably did not use "dangerously dedicated" for your partitioning scheme; the guy who submitted the story probably did.
  • And explain your situation, see what they suggest.

    Quite simply that is not an acceptable state for a piece of hardware you paid a good chunk of cash to be in, without any hardware problems (eg it was that way when it left the factory), with no recorse offered. I would go so far as to say you could sue them the cost of a comparable laptop if worst came to worst.
    • The problem is, he didn't read any documentation about installing OS's to thinkpads...

      Thinkpads stick extended system information on a certain area of the hard disk. This guy either wiped it out, or installed another partitition that looks exactly like the system partition.

      Back in the old days, IBM would tell you to go away if you complained about this problem. Hopefully they have become more enlightened.
      • You are very correct. But instead of calling a Mid-level manager at IBM (hehehe good luck). He might want to drop by his local IBM authorized dealer and kind of ask if they have any bios update disks for that lap. I would bet that they would and they might just make a copy for him.

        There is still the matter of wiping the disk - but he should be able to do that before the writing the bios info back to the disk...

        Oh - and just ignore my sig for this post ;)

        Duke

    • IBM has very clear policies on what OS's are supported on what computers.

      I guess that their reply would be, sorry we don't support BSD. Go away.
      • You missed it though, his computer is apparently unable to be booted from a floppy to fix this situation. Thats a prety serious grevance to me, but then again I understand whats going on better than a judge would.
        • You missed the point too, the laptop ended up in this condition by him installing an unsupported OS on the drive. IBM has no obligation to fix this. He can fix it himself by putting the drive in another box and removing the freebsd partition, so the bios doesn't see it and think it's a suspend-to-disk image and lock up trying to access it.
    • Quite simply that is not an acceptable state for a piece of hardware you paid a good chunk of cash to be in, without any hardware problems (eg it was that way when it left the factory), with no recorse offered
      LOL.. This is the same corporation that told a company they could either pay $480 per laptop to recover a lost startup password, or throw away the units.

      For the record, last time I checked a dozen ThinkPads remain in a pile with an uncertain future.

  • by questionlp (58365) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @07:11PM (#4399059) Homepage
    I have an IBM ThinkPad T21 and was able to get Windows 2000 and FreeBSD on the hard drive (either combined or separately). The only thing that I needed to do was to download an updated firmware that fixed the issue with the Thinkpad BIOS and the BSD partition type numbers.

    The only two things that I can't get to work under FreeBSD (starting from 4.5-RELEASE through 4.7-RC) is the Intel/Lucent Mini-PCI card (10/100 Eth + modem) and the integrated audio. I don't have any CardBus cards that I need to use with the laptop, so no worries for me there.

    A couple of things to try is to update the firmware to the latest version, check to see if there are any hard drive firmware updates, and try to disable anything that you don't really need in the BIOS. Did that with mine and it works great. No if only I can chuck Win2K off of the hard drive permanently (I need to use the Shiva VPN client and other Windows-only tools for work... grr).
  • I've been running FreeBSD on my x20 for a little over 5 months now -- Type 2662.

    I made a converter between laptop and standard desktop IDE cables, so that I could format the drive if it failed to boot properly -- but it did.

    Install the most recent BIOS & controller upgrades and go to it.
    • hraum...

      Just a quick question, since you are the only one here I think that actually managed to get in running on the same model as my machine.

      Can you tell me which version BIOS you are running currently? Since rumour has it some of the later BIOS upgrades in the T and X series in effect put the bug back in.

      Thx. W
  • by zietlow (199661) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @08:21PM (#4399379)
    I've ran fbsd on a couple thinkpads 390 serives, A21m (which is similar to the laptop in this article) I had no problems with either of them. I even had the DVD player up and running perfectly running ogle. Other people in my dept had equal success in getting everything running.

    Might want to check your APM settings in the BIOS. with how to suspsend your lappy.
  • Did you try installing NetBSD? It'll run on your toaster (just kidding - well not yet anyway).
  • Why would lack of DSL/Cable keep you from getting updates?
    I have a 56k modem and I get all my updates just fine.
  • Let's put your booting troubles aside for a minute. I need you to answer a question for me:

    But the lack of high speed internet connection over the summer prevented me from keeping up with the various patches/updates. Many services--sendmail, apache, etc.--were shutdown one by one because of security vulnerabilities. Recently I decided that instead of trying to catch all those patches I missed in the last few months, I might just as well do a clean install of FreeBSD.

    So, let me get this straight: You have a perfectly good operating system that you're pretty familiar with, but it has a few security holes that you didn't (at one time) have the bandwidth to fix them, even though a bunch of one-off fixes, when downloaded one by one over time, wouldn't really have taken much effort or time to keep up with at all.

    So, instead of upgrading your Mandrake install, which worked perfectly fine, or patching your install to eliminate security holes now that you have bandwidth, you'd rather destroy all that customization and work you probably put into your installation to run an operating system that you quite clearly have not researched enough, which will probably also get deleted once you lose track of security updates for it.

    My question is this: are you retarded?

    - A.P.
    • Hey, what is wrong with trying something new... I suppose all those windows users should stick with their OS, just because there is a few problems. Perhaps this is not the correct place to ask this question, but don't blame him for trying something new.
  • Thanks to all who contributed useful comments. I am currently in the process of looking for a spare harddrive since the computer still won't boot with the HDD pulled out, which means that I might need to find some time to go home, dig up my desktop, and get a different partition scheme on the harddrive. Right now I am hoping that borrowing the HDD from some windows user would allow me to boot somehow and update the bios.

    There's still one question:
    I searched google groups and couldn't find the answer, because I heard that newer versions of BIOS might not be better in this case: i.e. IBM might have reintroduced the BIOS bug. If anyone has an X20 working, can they tell me which version BIOS to get? (I can always try them all... {= ).

    Regarding to some questions posted:
    If you'd followed the links, you would have realized that my primary goal WAS to install Debian. And FreeBSD is just a sidetrack since I will need to flush my system anyway. There's some really bad RPM incongruencies on my computer when it was running mandrake, and many things won't run properly.
    And then there's the question as to why would I need a high speed internet to update my computer. There's nothing preventing me from getting connected: except for an ISP. I don't plan to get service from an ISP and pay 30 dollars for the two months I will be at home to use dialup. My parents run American Online, there's no way I can tap into that resource. Furthermore, there's the problem with those Winmodems. In short, without a lan connection, I have no connection at all.

    W
    --
    werd smiler should've tried OpenBSD
  • My 765L did fine.. though I've not bothered to get sound working yet.

    Yes its old, but it does the job so why buy a new one.

    Now if i could just put in a larger HD with out the machine freaking out.

TRANSACTION CANCELLED - FARECARD RETURNED

Working...