Installing Ubuntu 11.04 on a ThinkPad L520…

UPDATE #2: I have added a page onto my blog where I will post my troubleshooting notes for dealing with Ubuntu 11.04 on the ThinkPad L520.

My new ThinkPad L520 arrived yesterday, to replace my dead ThinkPad T61 . (I will write a review about it soon, but for those who want the quick specs: i7 processor, 6GB RAM, integrated graphics.)

Naturally my first step was to install Ubuntu, so I created a USB boot disk with 11.04 amd64 Desktop and booted up the laptop. I told it to use the USB stick as first boot device and let it do it’s thing… and waited… and waited…

I ended up with a blank screen with the dreaded flashing cursor in the top left corner. Not fun.

I downloaded the Alternate CD, it had the same issue. I was beginning to worry that my laptop had some new hardware which Linux doesn’t support. So I tried the i386 version, just in case there was an issue with the 64 bit edition, and it worked. So I could just use the i386 version, but my system has 6GB RAM and the System Monitor was only reporting 3GB worth. Again, not fun.

My next step was to check online for solutions, and I found a couple of ideas but none of them solved the issue. I found an interesting article about the new “Sandy Bridge” architecture of the new Intel processors, which I am guessing has something to do with it. The article mentions compiling from git, but that would involve having an installed system to start with…

I then decided to try an Oneiric daily disk, to see if it has the new drivers I need. No luck with this one, I had the same issue.

Another idea was to try and install 10.04.2 LTS and upgrade to 11.04 from that. 10.04 installed easily, although it was lacking support for the widescreen and wireless card. I then ran the upgrade process to 10.10, rebooted, and it broke. No Fair! Checking the Kernel options I found two installed Kernels, and tried the older one in the hope that it would work. It did… sort of. Although the GUI wouldn’t work, it did let me into the Terminal.

Kernels available in 10.10:BLANK SCREEN – 2.6.35-30-genericCONSOLE ONLY – 2.6.32-28-generic

I have no run out of ideas… but I will keep playing and see what I can come up with.

During this process I posted online asking for help in a number of locations: AskUbuntu, Lenovo Forums & Launchpad.

Update #1:

After some suggestions on AskUbuntu, I found that setting either of these boot options got the installer starting: acpi=off, noapic & nolapic.

I had to enable these for the installer, and then in GRUB as well so I could continue to boot. The process I followed is:

  1. Boot your computer with a Ubuntu live disk
  2. On the Desktop CD, you need to click a button (I hit the space bar) when the first purple screen comes up with the weird white logo at the bottom
  3. On the Alternate CD, it should by default go into the launcher options
  4. Within the launcher options, click F6 and select one of the options in the menu on the bottom right (I used noapic)
  5. Press the Esc key to close the menu
  6. Press Enter to Install the system
  7. Once the system is installed, reboot
  8. When the BIOS screen is showing, hold down the Shift key until the GRUB menu comes up
  9. Click the E key on your keyboard
  10. Find the boot line (should have ‘quiet splash‘ on that line)
  11. Put the option you used in that line (I used noapic)
  12. Press Ctrl-X to boot
  13. Ubuntu should boot up successfully, but we need to update GRUB to always use that option
  14. Login to Ubuntu and load up the terminal
  15. Edit the GRUB configuration file: sudo vim /etc/default/grub
  16. Edit this line, adding your chosen option: GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash”
    1. Mine looks like: GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash noapic”
  17. Run the Update GRUB command to save the change: sudo update-grub
  18. You should be good 🙂

That is the method which worked for me – I make no claims that it will work for you too. Also beware, this could break your laptop.

As a side note, I have a AskUbuntu question open asking for explanations of these options – if you can contribute, please do it there.

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