Installing Debian on Lenovo T440s

macthink(14 April 2014)

Today I finally got my new laptop - a lenovo T440s with i7 processor, 12G ram and a 500G SSD. Let's see how Debian installs.

Preparation: updating the BIOS

One of the things that makes installing Linux on the T440s somewhat of an adventure is the UEFI bug that may render the entire sytstem permanently unbootable, neccessitating a replacement of the mainboard.

Although the BIOS version given in the setup seemed ok (>=2.12, I believe, but it is really hard to find any reliable information), the release date of the BIOS seemed very non-ok (should be after mid-february 2014, was december 2013). So, to be on the safe side, I updated the BIOS with a downloadable, bootable CD. All went well, and with the newest version installed I should now be pretty safe.

Installing Debian

Installing Debian stable (7, Wheezy) started easy enough, but unfortunately the ethernet card was not recognized. Since installing from a netinstall CD without an active network connection is no use, I downloaded the netinstall image for Debian 8 (Jessie) which installed flawlessly and rapidly and booted me into xfce Desktop. That was pretty uncool, but easily amended by installing the gnome desktop environment.

What works and what doesn't

Almost everything I require (that excludes the fingerprint scanner!) seems to work out of the box. Just the wifi adapter needed a non-free package (irmware-iwlwifi) to now do whatever it's supposed to do.

The basic function keys (volume, brightness, keyboard backlight work, some more esoterically labelled keys have no (discernible) function. Sound works out of the box.

Annoyances and pleasant surprises


The touchpad does work out of the box, and with presets which appear pretty sane. However, the internet is full of criticism of the touchpad, and probably rightly so: positioning the mouse with the touchpad works just fine, scrolling with two fingers is a pleasure, and the touchpad's size is better than on the older thinkpads. You can click either with a "soft pad" or by depressing the entire pad.

Compared to my previous laptop, a Macbook Pro from late 2009, the touchpad's feel (plastic instead of the Mac's glass) is not quite as ...well: calm, or reassuring. More importantly, while the Mac's touchpad is hinged near the top, making it far more difficult to hard-press the upper half than the lower half, the Lenovo's touchpad seems to be constructed like a very large key on the keyboard - no matter where you press, the resistance is always the same. In theory, this should make the Lenovo's touchpad more usable, but in practice, you often and drastically move the mouse when pressing the touchpad. For the time being I will just confine myself to the soft pad.

I have not yet got used to the trackpoint (or whatsitsname?), but it seems rather promising. Although a right click (two fingers on the touchpad) does not go well with it.


I have the idea that wifi is somewhat less robust than on my Macbook - but that may just be due to a bad day my accesspoint is having.

However, there is one very serious problem: suspending the computer will kill all network connections (wifi and ethernet) with no way of reactivating them on wake-up. The only way to get connected again is to reboot.

[Update]: aptitude install systemd-sys solved the hibernation-suspend issue for me.

power, fans

I have not yet heard the fans, and the gnome battery indicator claims ca. 4 hours of work from one battery charge. That is with the smaller (3-cell) battery and no optimization for powersaving applied yet. Pretty cool!


Reconfiguring the touchpad according to helped (although I needed to newly create /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/52-synaptics-t440s.conf. The touchpad now has a separate upper region of ca. 1cm which only tracks clicks, but no mouse movement. so it is a bit as if I had physical mousebuttons: nothing moves when I hit the left, right, or middle region (i.e. left, right, middle mouse button) in this area. The rest of the touchpad still works as before, including the involuntary mouse movement when clicking.

While gnome can easily scale its fonts to adapt to the high dpi screen (use gnome-tweak-utility), this does not affect the fonts in iceweasel. From somewhere on the internet I got the tip to change "layout.css.devPixelsPerPx" in "about:config". 1.3 works fine for me.

Not so good: A recent update to kernel 3-14-1 resulted in obscene boottimes of several minutes. The reason seems to be the wifi/bluetooth environment, but this is not quite clear.

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