Friday, May 16, 2008

Emacspeak On Thinkpad X-61 Running Gutsy (Ubuntu 7.0)

I recently upgraded to a Thinkpad X-61 running Gutsy --- here are some brief notes on the move. In summary, all is well, and I like Gutsy running on the X-61.

Here are things to be aware of both from a hardware and software perspective. All of this is with X and GNOME turned off; note that some of the tips e.g. turning off the display as described here, will cause havoc with X.

  • The X-61 display can be turned off using vbetool
    vbetool dpms off

    for turning off the display, and
    vbetool dpms on

    for turning it back on again.
  • If you suspend to memory etc., make sure to add the appropriate vbetool command to the relevant script in /etc/acpi/resume.d.
  • Gutsy is running ALSA 1.0.15, and to date, I've not had any trouble with the ViaVoice Outloud TTS engine in this environment. Make sure to play with amixer --specifically run command
    amixer controls

    to understand all the various switches and controls exposed by the audio hardware on the X61. Here are some of the things that were noticeably different that are worth mentioning:
    1. The PC speaker can now be manipulated via ALSA.
    2. The X-61 has two input sources. If you plug in an external mike, make sure to set both input sources to the microphone --- as opposed to leaving one or both of them to be either internal mic or mix. Specifically, plugging in an external mike does not disable the internal microphone.
    3. For some bizarre reason, it's possible to turn off the headphone output--- but you cannot control its gain.
  • Kernels later than 2.6.21 do much better with respect to power management, and this really shows on the X-61. With the LCD off, my X61 claims it'll run for 7.5 hours; if you turn off the wireless and USB1.1 as well, it claims it can go for over 8.5 hours.
  • Emacs versions: I'm running out of CVS AKA Emacs 23--- but the emacs-snapshot or emacs22 Ubuntu packages appear to mostly work as well. One irritation with some of the prepackaged bundles of Emacs under Ubuntu is that they dont install the Emacs Lisp sources, and this will bite if you try compiling packages like Emacs/W3.

All in all, the upgrade to Gutsy was mostly painless --- other than having to figure out the usual nits about the new hardware. The /proc/acpi/ibm support is further along but not yet complete--- as an example /proc/acpi/ibm/video does not yet control the state of the LCD --- and you cannot query the state of the display reliably through that interface.