Is there a (preferably Debian-based) live CD distro with Gnome (a la
Gnoppix and Ubuntu) available for IBM Thinkpads with an external monitor
any time in the near future? Preferably natively, automatically, and
without specifying framebuffer parameters?

From all I can gather part, of the problem with Thinkpads -- and many
laptops in general -- is the ATI card (Mobility M3 in my case). I read
somewhere that ATI is releasing some of its proprietary drivers, and
that Mandrake (the full version, not the "Mandrake Move" live CD) is now
including them. But Mandrake isn't Debian.

I was using Slackware back in '94, then had to switch to Windows for job
and time reasons. It was easy back then, because you had big honking
boxes with [s]VGA, and that was it. But this is the laptop era. I've
been wanting to get back into the waters and test a live CD before doing
a full install in another partition on my 3-year-old Thinkpad A22p.

Under Windows, the Thinkpad boots into full 1600x1200 standalone (LCD
only), or if it's docked, 1280x1024 on the external monitor. It just
works, all automatically. The Debian distros I've tried (Knoppix,
Gnoppix, Ubuntu) fall far short. They only really support (sort of) the
LCD. Docked, with the external monitor (Sony 19" E400) is another
story. Knoppix is the best (at least it was several months ago) -- I
only had to specify "fb1280x1024". With the most recent Ubuntu and
Gnoppix distros (tried both last night), I have to specify
"xmodule=fbdev screen=1280x1024 fb1280x1024", and even then it only
comes up in 1024x768! (And you can't change the resolution or the
refresh rate once booted!)

And specifying this framebuffer stuff -- unless I'm really missing
something -- suggests to me that versatile monitor support (either LCD
or external monitor, depending on whether you're docked or not) with
current Xwindows just isn't quite ready for prime time.

Heck, if there's a great Debian KDE-based distro that "just works", and
I could later install Gnome without too much hair-pulling, I'll try

Or should I just forget about Debian and wait for the next Suse and/or
Mandrake to release free live CDs to try them out?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,

"OE Quotefix"
to fix Outlook Express' broken quoting.