Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lenovo T61 and the "Oh Shit!" moment

I've used Lenovo ThinkPad notebooks for quite some time and am a member of the team that does hardware evals and image design for a large company that uses Lenovo (currently the T61 and X61 models). My brother-in-law recently bought a T61 15.4 inch model and wanted me to "de-crap" it and set it up for him. Believe it or not, this took about 4 hours of uninstalling the foistware like "90 days" of Norton Internet insecurity, Windows Live toolbar, Office 2007 "trial" version, and several of the "ThinkVantage" tools. Some of the ThinkVantage tools are great - but loading ALL of them really is overkill.

There was a bunch of other stuff to remove as well, and then updating the various "security challenged" and badly designed software like Sun Java (who ever heard of LEAVING versions with known security holes on the system and accessible to code that specifies it when installing a new version. In fact - these jokers from the JRE team don't understand the team "patch" and only do "new versions") and Flash - which seems to have an exploit of the month, and Adobe Acrobat (which puts out security patches and you get to choose between a version that loads files fine, but has security issues and a version that has no known holes but crashes on large files), etc. Also in there was the hour to install Windows Vista SP1 (if you haven't done this - you should: Vista isn't usable without SP1, but once you have the Service Pack it is not too bad).

Finished all that, then realized I had not flashed the BIOS yet. This machine had an older version. So I went to the Lenovo site and grabbed version 2.14 with an April 2nd date. At least I tried to grab it. The site claimed it was there, but just gave an error when you tried to download it. This persisted over night. Today I decided to just grab it from work over VPN as we had started using it the other day. Burned the ISO and booted from CD. Went through all the prompts (yes the computer is on AC power, yes the battery is charged, etc.) It finally said something like "remove the CD and press enter to complete". I did that, and...

It showed a "Lock symbol" on the screen where it would normally have done the POST. This machine didn't have a boot password, didn't have a supervisor or BIOS password, and definitely did not have a hard drive password. What the hell? It didn't like just enter, didn't like just a space, and Lenovo wasn't a good guess either. Where did this password prompt come from? I went to Google and found a few minutes too late that other users are having this same problem. Great! Maybe that's why there was an error downloading the thing: perhaps Lenovo pulled it. It would have been better if they had a "do not use" as then I wouldn't have grabbed it from work. So, after some hair pulling I finally found this on the Lenovo site. I checked the graphic - and sure enough it was the "Power On" one from the very bottom of that Lenovo link.
So, I had to remove the battery and remove the palm rest and the keboard. Lift up some tape, and unclip the system battery leads and remove the system battery (what happened to those "watch battery style" ones with no leads!!!). Put the keyboad and rest back on and power it up like that. This cleared it as the site said it would. Then put it all back together again. Nothing like doing some surgery on a notebook computer on a Saturday morning for NO REASON. Nice QA job on that BIOS release Lenovo. You owe me an hour back.