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Muh Rig

By Bargo

7/26/2021

In my goals for achieving more technological independence and minimalism, I've have opted for a significant downgrade from my previous gaming beast: now I use a Librebooted Thinkpad T400 almost exclusively. Its specifications are as follows:

Truth be told, I thought the switch would have been a lot harder than it actually was. I played very few video games on my fancy machine, and the ones I did play had very low system requirements; in fact, I can still run them on this 13 year old laptop!

A Note About Libreboot

I Librebooted this machine myself, and I can tell you right now that it is a huge pain! I work on computers for a living, and this T400 has proven to be one of the most difficult laptops to take completely apart; it is not for the faint of heart. The actual flashing process is straightforward, but I ought to mention the latest version of Libreboot.

I initially flashed the old stable version from 2016, and just a few days later, a new release appeared. Version 20210522 of Libreboot is a testing release, and while it has certainly fixed some things, it has broken a few others. On the previous stable release, my T400 dock didn't work at all, but on the new release it works beautifully. However, my system cannot reboot properly for an unclear reason. Also, sometimes it freezes upon loading the kernel. When everything is working properly, I cannot complain, but little irritations like it not booting and rebooting correctly really make me look forward to the next release (but I don't look forward to opening this laptop again!).

My advice? If you are going to Libreboot a system now, maybe stick with the old stable version until more fixes have been made. I love the freedom of Libreboot, but I cannot recommend the latest version yet.

How Is Everything Set Up?

With the dock being fully functional, I have connected an old 5:4 monitor that uses 1280x1024 screen resolution as well as my amazing Unicomp keyboard, and a slightly cringe RGB mouse from Rosewill (I don't know of any quality mice that aren't made for l33t gaymers besides trackballs which I do not want. If you know of some decent mice, let me know.)

Why a 5:4 Monitor?

This is where my light gaming solution comes in. I only really play classic DOOM, Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead, and Minetest (a neat Minecraft clone) these days, but I need a very low resolution. 1080p is totally out of the question with this laptop, but this monitor allows me to use good old 640x480 which allows my games to perform admirably. Plus, I'm kind of used to DOOM in such a low resolution anyway since I played it like that as a child back in the 90s and early 00s.

Also, it should go without saying that I only play games that are free software. If you feel as strongly about free software as I do, here are a few favorites. No guarantees they'll run great on a T400 though.

I don't spend much time playing video games anymore, but its nice to know I can play one of those with no guilt about using proprietary garbage at least.

Recommend a T400?

I would recommend the T400 to anyone with a little GNU/Linux knowledge that has a light workload. Using minimalist software like dwm isn't absolutely required, but it definitely makes the machine not feel 13 years old. I have compiled the linux-libre kernel on this system using both cores, and it took probably 6 or 8 hours so you probably should stick to binary distributions like Arch or Debian and their derivatives.

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