Subject: Re: _IS_ your laptop running NetBSD?
To: Ulrich Habel <>
From: Steven M. Bellovin <>
List: port-i386
Date: 11/19/2007 02:47:04
On Fri, 2 Nov 2007 08:05:04 +0100 (CET)
Ulrich Habel <> wrote:

> Hej fellow NetBSD users,
> I attented the Systems in Munich and ran a NetBSD booth there. The
> most asked question the Systems was:
> Is my laptop able to run NetBSD?
> Huh, that's a difficult question!
> I would like to work on a NetBSD Laptop model page like the one in
> FreeBSD. (Yeah, I know - the Linuxish people, too). So you could help
> me out with a few answers:
> - Does your laptop is able to run NetBSD (3.1/4.x)
> - What's the model, type, hardware configuration
> - What's working for you? (X11 accel, wireless, modem)
> - dmesg/Kernel config file/X11 config file
> Send your feedback to and I will sum it up and put it
> on the NetBSD webpage for documentation. I will put a link in the
> community wiki, too - in order to keep this proccess ongoing.
> I know reed has already made a page, however it's slightly outdated
> and I think starting a new one will make sense.
It's a good question.  In fact, it's a good question for any
non-Windows operating systems for generic x86/amd64 laptops.  Right
now, I'm *very* unhappy.

I just got a new Thinkpad t61.  I have yet to find a usable OS to run
on it.  (I'm sure most people on this list will agree with me that
neither Vista nor XP are "usable", though at least they have drivers
for the hardware.)

I tried out the power management branch of NetBSD-current.  I applaud
the efforts of Jared and company, but there were still major gaps as
of the last kernel I tried (this is as of about two weeks ago; I
should build another LiveCD and try some of this again).  Leaving out
the *serious* bug in ahcisata support -- briefly, don't use it; use
compatibility mode instead, if you value your disk -- suspend/resume
has problems.  You *must* switch to a text-mode console before
suspending if you're in X, though that can be automated via powerd. You
lose the USB ports after a resume. There's a strange interaction
between the touchpad and the audio driver.  If you have a CD mounted
during suspend, you'll have to unmount/remount to use it on resume.  It
doesn't resume when you open the lid; you have to hit Fn. There's no
way to hot-swap devices in the Ultrabay, though this is a generic
NetBSD problem.  Dual-core CPUs aren't supported, though that support
is probably close. There are sometimes interrupt storms that appear to
be associated with one of the USB controllers.

Ubuntu Linux 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) is in many ways far worse.  Suspend/
resume is *very* flakey, enough to make the distribution unusable on
T61s in my opinion.  The work-arounds for this don't seem to do the
trick.  A bleeding-edge kernel might help; I'll have to try it.
Hibernate/resume -- an option not available on NetBSD -- seems to reset
some of the problematic areas.  I have an Intel graphics chip, which is
good, but the nVidia option is far worse, according to assorted web
sites. The Linux kernel also experiences these interrupt storms;
however, it detects the problem and disables the port; the result is
that the two USB ports on the right side don't work, but the one on the
left side does.  The wireless interface -- I have an Intel 3945abg,
supported on NetBSD via wpi -- sometimes *vanishes*.  It wasn't there
the last time I resumed; it has since reappeared, but the network
manager doesn't seem to know about it yet...  The Gentoo wikis suggest
that it has similar problems, which is of course not surprising.

FreeBSD is next on my list to try, but it doesn't support the 3945
wireless card at all.  There's a very new driver in -CURRENT.  Using a
FreeBSIE LiveCD, I was not able to suspend/resume.  I haven't tried a
disk installation yet.

Right now, I'm kinda wishing I'd bought a Mac instead.

		--Steve Bellovin,