occ openbsd permacomputing


closeup of X250 with an OpenBSD 2.8 sticker covering up a crack in the bezel


Newer is not better

Wisps circle around a battlefield, where many men and machine lay slain. Small creatures with long snouts, dressed in leather robes and diving goggles, sift through a thick muck of mixed red and blue body fluids, looking for functional organs.

It's fine, but...

If you've grown accustomed to the heavy old, moving to the elegant can be rather painful, especially if you value features which are now considered obsolete, because corporate software dictates what hardware should look like. Whenever a new machine passes through my hands, I like to note down its compatibility with OpenBSD, and offer my highly biased review from the point of view of a machine asketic. Before you continue, know that I think this machine is fine, works well with OpenBSD (once the issues are resolved), but it won't feel like an upgrade to someone who's existed with some of the last Lenovo IBM-esque models.

The first noticable thing is the lack of LED's on the screen. Things like 'wireless signal' 'caps lock' 'hdd activity' etc. Not a big deal, if you're using a desktop environment with some type of a system bar with beautiful icons for whatever [reason]. I don't and not knowing what the wi-fi is doing is annoying. Admittedly, that's really the only LED I'm missing. One redeeming thing is that the 'moon' LED moved to the 'i' in the thinkpad logo. So you can still at least tell if the computer is suspended or dead. But since it pulsates, if your timing is wrong, you have to stare at the light for a while, wondering if it's going to light up or not. This can be a fun party activity.

As opposed to older models, like the X201, it is not quick nor efficient to swap hard drives. One has to remove the entire bottom cover of the machine and then unscrew the caddy in which the HDD sits. The dock for these newer models no longer has the option to put in another HDD. The machine does have an SD card slot. While I have not tested it here, previous models could boot from it, so it might be viable to use it as a secondary drive for something ominous.

The CPU in this model can be throttled down to 500Mhz, which is fairly efficient even with the beat up battery it came with. The following can do about 3.5 hours of usage:

hw.sensors.acpibat1.watthour0=27.13 Wh (last full capacity)
hw.sensors.acpibat1.watthour4=47.52 Wh (design capacity)

The piano

The keyboard has been so far the most idiotic thing in this machine. I don't know if this is true for all X250's, or just the Czech market, but you can tell very quickly it was not designed for the terminal dwellers.

x250 keyboard

I don't know why instead of the menu key, or even the flag key, there is print screen between AltGr and Ctrl instead. But that is not the most bizarre feature. The insert key is hidden on the end key, requiring Fn to be pressed. This turns pasting into a terminal with Shift+Insert to a gymnastic trick. The most insulting is the fact that the delete key is the size of two keys, so insert could easily be there. There's no scroll lock, because apparently modern computer manufactures don't know what it's for. Standards be damned.

There is no thinklight on the top of the screen or backlight behind the keyboard.

OpenBSD 7.5

The fish installs fine and can boot through UEFI. The particular model I have came with a Realtek wi-fi card, which is not supported. I swapped it for an Intel one (7265) from a dead Dell. It works fine.

sound issues

Sound does not work out of the box. Playing a video or an audio file results in a very choppy output. The solution is to add the following flag to sndiod (the default is play,rec):

 # rcctl set sndiod flags "-m play"

The next sound issue was heavy static when headphones are connected. This was solved by:

# mixerctl inputs.mix2_source=dac-0:1

the end

If you don't mind the elegant bezel and want a fairly powerful machine, this model will run BSD. If you have one, great! Make use of it. If you find one very cheap, great, get it. And remember, it's not the machine's fault that you don't like it.