“New” Lenovo Thinkpad T61 with PC-BSD 8.2

I installed PC-BSD 8.2 on my “new” T61 ThinkPad last week and love it!

FreeBSD is a respected Unix OS for servers. While FreeBSD can be installed on a laptop, including a graphical desktop and applications, it takes time and can require advanced knowledge – especially for the wireless interface. At dalescott.net, we develop server-side enterprise applications, typically for deployment on FreeBSD and other Unix-like servers. I need a reliable laptop development environment, having it run FreeBSD is an advantage – but not if it takes time away from development.

PC-BSD is a FreeBSD distribution that targets end users. Installing, configuring and maintaining is simplified by a new installer, a graphical Software Manager, simplified PBI software packaging format, and the Apps Cafe for software distribution.

I had tried PC-BSD before on my T23 ThinkPad, but found performance understandably lacking. Deciding to upgrade, I found a T61 ThinkPad within my budget, with Intel i965GM graphics and Intel PRO/Wireless 4965BGN B/G wireless interface (both reportedly supported by FreeBSD/PC-BSD).

I first tried installing PC-BSD 9.0Beta1.5. The installer didn’t recognize the T61’s hard drive, but after changing the BIOS SATA controller mode to “AHCI” mode (from “Compatibility”), installation completed without issue. The graphics and wireless interfaces were recognized and configured, but after several minutes of use the display would freeze and the T61 spontaneously reboot. It appeared to be consistent, so I installed PC-BSD 8.2 (the current production release of PC-BSD). The install went smoothly, and there were no display problems afterwards.

The only significant issue I’ve had is that the T61 doesn’t recover from suspend, suspend-to-RAM and suspend-to-disk. However, I can live having to do a full shutdown and haven’t investigated further. Once PC-BSD 9.0 has been released though, I’ll try it to see if both the display and the suspend problems have been fixed.