I’ve been dicking around with Ubuntu.

I don’t know if I mentioned it or not, but one of the other things I picked up as a result of some PC side work lately is an old donated IBM Thinkpad 600E. Damn thing is ancient (Pentium II 366 Mhz), but I was able to bump the RAM in it up to 512MB and slap a 20GB HD in it so I’ve at least got a working laptop once more. So I figured I’d see if I could get Ubuntu to install on it to try out and quickly discovered why Linux has a long way to go before it’s going to replace Windows Vista or any other Microsoft OS.

Everything I read about Ubuntu claims it’s the easiest of the Linux distros to work with. So far that has not been my experience. I started off with downloading the Live CD/Install CD image that was recommended on the Ubuntu website. That was a mistake as it apparently doesn’t give you a choice on whether to launch the Live CD (which essentially runs Ubuntu from the CD-ROM) or just do an install. It turns out that starting a Live CD takes some time, no, make that a lot of time. So much so that I thought it wasn’t doing anything at all and maybe got a bad image. After talking with some coworkers one of them mentioned that it took upwards of an hour for his to startup on some hardware that wasn’t quite as old as what I was running on, but he put that down to only having had 256MB of RAM. So I tried again that night and let it sit for two and a half hours with no apparent signs of life coming from the system.

Returning to the Ubuntu website I don’t find any suggestions that would be helpful in speeding this process up any or bypassing the launch of the Live CD, but I do find a link to downloading an “alternate text-only install CD” which I proceed to grab. This drops the whole Live CD bit and gets straight to doing the install, but this still took an inordinate amount of time to complete. By my estimates it took at least an hour and a half to finish the install and it wasn’t an entirely smooth process. The laptop itself has a Linksys PCMCIA wireless card in it and Ubuntu did manage to see the card, but wasn’t able to actually get it to work for some reason. I tossed in a 3COM 10/100 card I had and that didn’t fare any better despite the fact that it’s listed as being compatible on the Ubuntu website.

But it did finally install and I found some help pages on the Ubuntu site that offered some suggestions on how to get the networking cards working. To say that the process of installing alternate drivers and enabling them was a convoluted and involved process would be an understatement. Hell, just finding where to configure the damned things was a lesson in trial and error. To top it all off it still didn’t work even after trying everything suggested on the website. Not having a working network interface pretty much negates the whole point of having the laptop for me as I wanted it specifically for accessing the Internet away from my desktop.

So I wiped the hard drive and tossed my Windows XP CD-ROM. Total install time was an hour and four minutes. Both network cards were detected and while I did have to download drivers for the Linksys wireless card, I was able to do so using the 3COM card without issue. Considering the age of the laptop XP seemed to run pretty well probably thanks to the half-gig of RAM I had in it. The difference in the two experiences was amazing. Despite being a pretty crappy OS in many ways, getting Windows up and running was a no-brainer.

While I’m certainly nowhere near as knowledgeable about Linux as I am Windows, I have been working with it for years with my webhosts so it’s not like I’m clueless. If the difference in setting up the two OSes is that profound for me then I can only imagine what it’d be like for your average I-just-want-the-damned-thing-to-work Joe User and it drives home the point of why Linux won’t be replacing Windows anytime soon no matter how much safer, faster, better it happens to be.

I’ve not completely given up on getting Ubuntu to work as I’ve had some more suggestions from coworkers that use it on how to possibly get it up and running. Might even try reinstalling it tonight, though I’m debating downloading the Kbuntu variant as I like the KDE desktop a bit better than Gnome. Depends on whether I feel like tearing out what little is left of my hair.

39 comments

  1. I don’t know. I’m using an Asus eeepc that comes with Linux preloaded, and I’ve found it much easier and more convenient to use than just about any version of Windows (I’ll admit I prefer 98 but only because I worked so hard to familiarize myself with all of it’s inner workings).

  2. I like and use Ubuntu (technically Kubuntu Dapper with some upgraded packages) and I’m glad you were giving Ubuntu a shot, but I’ve got some bones to pick with your complaints.

    1. Sure you can install XP on that old machine but would you think about trying Vista on it?  Probably not but that’s about what you did in trying to run the latest version of Ubuntu on there.  That it installs/works at all on that old hardware is something to be pleased with.

    2. While hardware support under Linux has vastly improved over the last couple of years, it still sucks compares to Windows.  If we had more people using Linux, then the hardware manufacturers would fix this issue by releasing their own drivers and/or releasing specs to let the OS hackers write their own.  Some but not all manufacturers are getting better about this.  Also, I believe on a single CD, most Linux distros actually come with more drivers than a Windows XP cd so depending on your hardware you can have better luck with hardware detection/setup under Linux.

    3. As good as the Ubuntu website is, I’d also recommend checking out the Ubuntu Forums.  There’s a lot of good info buried in them.  I’d also recommend checking out the Ubuntu Guide.

    4. You’re not actually surprised that Windows feels easier for you; are you?  You’ve been using Windows seriously/continuously for years.  You’ve gotten used to all the quirks of working with a Windows machine, switching over to Linux will require you to learn all it’s quirks as well.  That’s part of the fun/nightmare of switching over to it.

    5.Lastly, the “average I-just-want-the-damned-thing-to-work Joe User” never installs Windows from scratch.  He either buys a new computer with it already installed or he gets somebody else to do it for him (e.g. cousin’s nephew’s kid or a computer shop).  If more Linux distros can get preinstall onto hardware that the “average I-just-want-the-damned-thing-to-work Joe User” can find, then Linux might become a serious desktop competitor to Windows.  Till then it’ll just continue to dominate servers and small embedded devices.

  3. I’ve been partial to Fedora myself and I have tried to load a live CD of Ubuntu and it failed in that there was a problem with loading the Gnome desktop (could have been a bad burn).

    If you want to monkey around with LiveCDs I don’t recommend the “install to hard drive” distros. A gem of a LiveCD OS is Puppy Linux which I am really growing to love. Many desktop environments can be installed and get this: It can run Compiz. Woo hoo!

    Manzabar:
    ”…the “average I-just-want-the-damned-thing-to-work Joe User” never installs Windows from scratch.  He either buys a new computer with it already installed or he gets somebody else to do it for him”
    Tell me about it!

  4. Linux has a long way to go before it’s going to replace Windows

    i fully agree with you. i like ubuntu but i had to go to http://www.thinkwiki.org/ before i could get a successful install on my ibm t20.

    in my case i have to install from the alternate cd. then on the first boot, i have to go to a command line to manually add one line to the video configuration file (xorg.conf) before ubuntu will successfully boot to the desktop.

    according to http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Installing_Ubuntu_7.04_Feisty_Fawn_on_a_ThinkPad_600E
    you can use the live cd to install ubuntu but there are several parameters you need to add to the install command to get it to install properly. then you have to modify several files to fix other issues.

    i presume (hope) that newer or more generic (non-laptop) hardware will likely have fewer of these issues.

    good luck

  5. btw, the nic in my t20 is a pcmcia intel pro/100 (wired, not wireless). it is detected by ubuntu and configured automagically. i’ve never had to mess with it to get it working.

  6. Is there a Linux User Group located anywhere in your area? I know the LUG at UCLA holds install-fests twice a year and will generally install any distro on any machine free of charge. That’s the easy way to get Linux!

  7. I have Ubuntu installed on my Thinkpad X40 and it runs fine.  Admittedly it is newer than the one you are experimenting on.  But as Manzabar pointed out, you’re a Windows expert, so I feel your pain.  I’ve installed Windows thousands of times and Linux something like 20 times and many of those didn’t work.

    If you were a Linux expert, new to XP and you tried to install it on a machine that had driver incompatibilities, you’d probably end up frustrated and writing about how XP had a long way to go if it ever hoped to catch up to Linux.

    Webs will probably stop by here any minute now and offer to help.  His blood cells are penguin-shaped.  I’ve seen him run Linux inside Windows  big surprise

    LH: It is possible to wedge some Windows programs onto a Linux desktop using Wine, but not all.

  8. By a shocking coincidence, I have been working on a similar project for the last few weeks.  The main difference is that my laptop has even less memory and a smaller hard drive.  It has been hobbling along for a year running Windows XP, even though it really isn’t powerful enough to do it well, because the wifi adapter needed a Windows driver to function.  Only recently did I find out that it’s possible to make the same driver work under linux.

    But I found out the same thing you did—that the laptop chokes on Ubuntu.  The only thing I found that worked was—now don’t laugh—Puppy Linux.

    http://puppylinux.org/wikka/PuppyLinuxMainPage

    Evidently some effort has been taken to make this thing relatively easy to set up and use.  And it pulls the plow hard enough to get this laptop online, a feat that Windows 98 couldn’t even accomplish.

  9. His blood cells are penguin-shaped.  I’ve seen him run Linux inside Windows

    LOL Running Linux inside Windows was cool, but I don’t recommend doing it on Vista. But then again I don’t recommend doing many things on Vista…

    I have been able to get Ubuntu on an x20 and x40 Thinkpad. Both were very receptive with no issues. But both have mostly Intel hardware that is still supported by the latest Linux kernels.

    Les I feel your pain as I have gone through it many times before. For as much as it sucks, this is a great way to learn. I equate it to why kids are generally better with computers than adults. Kids have no fear with computers, they aren’t worried about breaking them, so they play around with it till it breaks and then figure out how to fix it. It’s how I learned my ITness.

    Anyways, for older systems Knoppix seems to have the best support. Knoppix also helped pioneer the LiveCD and their system seems to work much better and load much faster than Ubuntu’s. But for OS use, usability, and support Ubuntu usually takes the cake.

    I have heard and seen some impressive things from Puppy Linux, so I can also recommend it.

  10. Right you are, Webs, Knoppix can often be better for checking a computer out to see if Linux would work ok before deciding to “install” but I can’t say much about the installability from the Knoppix LiveCD or DVD myself. Ubuntu and its variants and Fedora Cora all seem to take extra long on initial boot ups potentially because of hardware detection and automated “adjustments” to scripts, or so it seems to me. Once I got Fedora Core on a laptop and rebooted the start up lags were much, much less. KDE and Gnome might be a little top heavy so you might consider installing XFCe as a lighter-weight desktop for the laptop, there are a few alternative desktops which shouldn’t be hard to select/install for most distros as complete as Ubuntu.

    Linux distros do often live at the mercy of linux driver research and development which oftens lives at the mercy of, donations of hardware, knowledge, skill or money. Not enough work can be devoted to all possible hardware when the workers don’t have a fraction of the possible combinations plus no real help from the manufacturers. Noting that a given piece of hardware has support can even be a tad misleading since it may depend heavily on either precise configuration that has not been shown to work in every combination of hardware/software or inclusion of additional components (firmware) that certain groups have elected to require the installer to specifically arrange separately for (have to adjust installation afterward to get full functionality so that the distro creators can have “clean hands” as far as any ethical dilema that they may feel – dirty pool I know).

  11. I’m gonna have to go with kysstfafm on this one.  On my older machines, rather than using Gnome or KDE, I use XFCE.  You might try giving Xubuntu (like Kubuntu, only XFCE) a shot.  I can’t vouch for it specifically though, I’m one of those Gentoo masochists.

  12. After reading your post I expected the response to be a Category 5 Shirt storm.  Instead you got the tech equivalent of a group hug.  You also got some very good advice.  Your Thinkpad doesn’t meet the Recommended specifications given on Ubuntu’s site.  No Ubuntu variant except Xubuntu will give you any joy on that machine.  You may have heard that Linux is Free:  Free as in beer and Free as in Freedom.  But Freedom, in any form, is not free.  The “trouble”, the “exasperation”, the “frustration” you’ve been experiencing with Linux is the price of admission.  For some people the price is high, others, a walk in the park.  Your years of Windows experience is actually a handicap.  You think you’ve had years of experience with computers but you haven’t.  You’ve had years of experience with an operating system that does its best to hide itself from you.  Linux is completely open.  Experienced Windows users are shocked at how little they actually know when faced with Linux.  Of course they explain it as “Linux is too complex”.

    Now this is a touchy question but in order to put things on a level playing field it needs to be asked.  Was your copy of XP “free” also?  If not then you need to add about $80 to the cost of that installation.  Also, any other software that needs to be added to make it functional and doesn’t come free.

    Other posters have suggested various distros, I’d like to add mine.  Give SAMLinux (XFce version of PCLinuxOS) a try.  If it’s too heavy drop down to Puppy Linux and then Damn Small Linux (DSL).  If I had that Laptop I’d go strait to DSL.  It requires the least in hardware resources and from what I hear, it’s a mighty fine little distro.  Giving Linux a try can be a humbling experience but many have have made it and many more will.

  13. FWIW, I didn’t have much luck w/ the official live distro either, but the ones from Cheapbytes seem to work just fine. I have 2 machines running Ubuntu on the bench now and installs went off w/o a hitch. (an old Shuttle SS40G [the one I’m typing on now] and an HP ZV5000) All hardware works w/ no hacking required- including wifi. But, as they say, YMMV.
    I’ll second RC’s recommendation regarding DSL – it’ll run on damn near any hardware
    (didn’t have much luck with the 386 though mad ) and it’s a pretty straightforward process to build a custom disc for use on multiple machines. (no HD required if you have at least 128M RAM)
    Don’t fear the penguin…

  14. Why should switching to an operating system be a humbling experience unless you’re a masochist, have special needs, or just want that warm fuzzy feeling of talking down to someone who didn’t feel like being humbled?

    I was running XP on one of my 250Mhz/512MB desktops for years until I finally upgraded last. It’s not an impossible machine to handle by any stretch, the tiny hard drive would probably have me tearing out my hair more than anything else. Slower machines just teach us to embrace out inner zen, patience and all that.

  15. After reading your post I expected the response to be a Category 5 Shirt storm. Instead you got the tech equivalent of a group hug.

    Guessing: partly because Linux users appear to have gotten the message that they should be a little nicer to Penguin newbies (a set in which I reside) and partly because Les just has so darn much charisma cool smirk

    …and has been so willing to help others himself.  Lots of good karma built up, that guy.

  16. I can’t believe I totally forgot about DSL. I highly recommend running it if all you are going to do is surf the web. If you plan on doing anything else, you may need a beefier OS.

  17. I’d looked into putting the latest Ubuntu on a PII-450 last year.  After seeing the Ubuntu reqs, I realized that it wasn’t going to work.  I’ll have to try puppy or DSL next time (I have a P3 laptop that may get the Penguin).  Thanks for that info, RC.

  18. Do all the PC programs I have work with Linux?  I know this may be a stupid question, but I need to know.

    Depends on what PC programs you’re talking about.  Some have Linux ports, some will work under under Wine (or a Wine variant), and some you’ll have to find replacement apps for (LQWiki has a nice list of equivalent apps).

    Side note: While XFCE requires less system resources to run vs KDE/Gnome, it’s also a lot less intuitive for people with a strong Windows background.  That being said I use XFCE on my home laptop and it works fine.  That laptop is running AntiX (mentioned) and everything runs fine.  Most apps are a bit slow to start up (notably Firefox) but once started they work without a problem.  Oh and the laptop is a PII-300, 64MB RAM with a Linksys wireless card.

  19. Thanks for all the suggestions, but I should point out this isn’t my first dabble with Linux. I’ve installed and play around with a number of different distros over the years including Red Hat, Mandrake, and Suse. I’m no expert to be sure, but I have gotten various versions of it up and running over the years. The thing with Ubuntu is I keep hearing how it’s one of the easier distros to work with so I was rather surprised at how much trouble it gave me.

    Manzabar writes…

    1. Sure you can install XP on that old machine but would you think about trying Vista on it?  Probably not but that’s about what you did in trying to run the latest version of Ubuntu on there.  That it installs/works at all on that old hardware is something to be pleased with.

    I’m pretty sure I could get Vista running on that laptop, though it wouldn’t be a smooth experience. The Aero interface would be disable by default so that would actually help performance a bit.

    I didn’t realize that Ubuntu was as much of a resource hog as Windows Vista though. The folks who have been promoting Ubuntu to me as of late seemed to think it should run great on older hardware even compared to Windows XP. Indeed once it was installed it seemed to run more or less OK, but I couldn’t get the networking set up to save my life. The response time of the interface seemed more than adequate though. Certainly no worse than Windows XP.

    2. While hardware support under Linux has vastly improved over the last couple of years, it still sucks compares to Windows.  If we had more people using Linux, then the hardware manufacturers would fix this issue by releasing their own drivers and/or releasing specs to let the OS hackers write their own.  Some but not all manufacturers are getting better about this.  Also, I believe on a single CD, most Linux distros actually come with more drivers than a Windows XP cd so depending on your hardware you can have better luck with hardware detection/setup under Linux.

    I agree that there’s a chicken and the egg situation here, but that’s not going to convince anyone who is used to Windows to make the switch. Both Ubuntu and Windows XP detected and installed drivers for all of the hardware in the laptop save for the network cards and XP at least found one for the wired NIC whereas Ubuntu couldn’t get either that or the wireless to work for some reason.

    Thanks for the Ubuntu links. I’m sure they’ll come in handy.

    4. You’re not actually surprised that Windows feels easier for you; are you?  You’ve been using Windows seriously/continuously for years.  You’ve gotten used to all the quirks of working with a Windows machine, switching over to Linux will require you to learn all it’s quirks as well.  That’s part of the fun/nightmare of switching over to it.

    Speaking strictly from the installation process, the Windows install is a lot more simplified than Ubuntu’s was. At one point Ubuntu asked if the hardware clock in the laptop ran in UMT mode. I haven’t a friggin’ clue if it does or not. Ubuntu asks a lot more questions during install than Windows does. You don’t have to be particularly fluent with either OS to see the difference.

    I can’t comment too much about what it’s like once it’s running because I spent most of my time trying to track down which of the various network related components I needed to fiddle with to try and get it to recognize the cards. I didn’t play around with the rest of the OS that much as a result.

    Christina asks…

    Is there a Linux User Group located anywhere in your area? I know the LUG at UCLA holds install-fests twice a year and will generally install any distro on any machine free of charge. That’s the easy way to get Linux!

    I’m sure there’s a few LUGs around here someplace, but having someone else install it would defeat the purpose of doing it myself which is to learn more about it. grin

    It’s bad enough that during SEB’s brief stint on a VPS I had Elwed do the install of Debian for me.

    Mark, thanks for suggesting PuppyLinux. The name alone makes it intriguing so I think I may try it out and if that doesn’t work then I’ll try EdK’s suggestion. grin

    Richard Chapman writes…

    You may have heard that Linux is Free:  Free as in beer and Free as in Freedom.  But Freedom, in any form, is not free.  The “trouble”, the “exasperation”, the “frustration” you’ve been experiencing with Linux is the price of admission.  For some people the price is high, others, a walk in the park.

    Your general user population won’t put up with that kind of price and that’ll keep Linux as an also-ran unless things improve.

    Folks seem to be under the impression that I’m happy with Microsoft’s dominance and the truth is I’m not. I’m an old Amiga user and I miss the days of having a powerful OS with low overhead requirements. I’d love to see something replace Windows as the primary OS, but the two most likely candidates aren’t really all that likely to accomplish this. The price of admission you ascribe to Linux will not go over well with the general population. OS X, the other possible candidate, requires overpriced hardware and the insufferable Steve Jobs. grin

    Your years of Windows experience is actually a handicap.  You think you’ve had years of experience with computers but you haven’t.  You’ve had years of experience with an operating system that does its best to hide itself from you.  Linux is completely open.  Experienced Windows users are shocked at how little they actually know when faced with Linux.  Of course they explain it as “Linux is too complex”.

    Actually I probably know more about Linux than you realize. I’ve been running websites for years on Linux based servers and this isn’t, as I’ve said, the first distro I’ve messed around with. During the course of my job I’ve worked as a Unix Systems Operator, though I wouldn’t consider myself a Unix expert either. During my time with Altair I set up PCs to triple boot into Windows XP, Windows XP64, and Red Hat or Suse Linux. I also started out on a Commodore 64, then a Commodore 128, and several Amigas before I switched to PCs in 1996. I also spent several years working as a Desktop Publishing Coordinator at a Kinko’s working on Macs. Needless to say I’m more than adept at working in different OSes and different hardware platforms. I’m sure I can figure out Ubuntu in time just as I have any of the other distros I worked on in the past.

    I’ve also spent more time than I care to think about tutoring others on how to use their PCs. My commentary was meant only as my observations on the hurdles Linux still has to overcome if it’s going to be accepted by the mainstream. There’s been a lot of talk about Microsoft’s stumbles with Vista as being an opportunity to get more people to switch to Linux, but all that’s really likely to happen is folks will just wait for Windows 7 and hope it’s better. The same way a lot of folks, myself included, skipped right over the travesty that was Windows ME.

    Now this is a touchy question but in order to put things on a level playing field it needs to be asked.  Was your copy of XP “free” also?  If not then you need to add about $80 to the cost of that installation.  Also, any other software that needs to be added to make it functional and doesn’t come free.

    A lot of people don’t mind paying for something if they think it’ll work and for a lot of the general population $80 isn’t too much to pay. There’s plenty of Open Source software out for Windows to handle just about anything else you might need. I use OpenOffice.org, FileZilla, etc. quite a bit myself.

    Anyway, I didn’t intend this to sound like a hit piece on Linux, just an observation on why it still struggles to find mainstream acceptance on the desktop. Again I’d like to see it do better and really give Windows a run for its money. The only reason I’m on Windows is that’s where the games are. If I weren’t a gamer I’d either be running Linux full time or using a Mac.

  20. My problem with Macs is that they essentially feel like a well running version of Windows that can’t play games, with a freaking awesome anti virus that makes them all cost two or three times as much as a PC. Speaking as someone who’s mainly used them for graphics and design over the years, even the anecdotal stuff I hear about them not crashing as much is mostly over-hyped too.

    I think would be best if is some government just grew brass ones and nationalized Windows and started handing it out for free, preferably a government large enough to avoid an invasion over copyrights.

  21. 1. Sure you can install XP on that old machine but would you think about trying Vista on it?  Probably not but that’s about what you did in trying to run the latest version of Ubuntu on there.  That it installs/works at all on that old hardware is something to be pleased with.

    I’m pretty sure I could get Vista running on that laptop, though it wouldn’t be a smooth experience. The Aero interface would be disable by default so that would actually help performance a bit.

    I didn’t realize that Ubuntu was as much of a resource hog as Windows Vista though.

    This much is actually true, unfortunately – as a person who has repeatedly installed Ubuntu in 500-733MHz machines, which were the prime for Windows XP in its era. Ubuntu, by default, attempts to run Compiz Fusion (a 3d window manager) which is essentially equivalent to Aero in what it attempts to do. As we know, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Without Compiz Fusion running, Ubuntu laid waste to WinXP on these desktops, and there was lots of room for improvement if one switched to a lightweight desktop environment.

    As others have mentioned, if you want breakneck speeds on any machine, especially an old machine, sacrifice features. DSL is fantastic as far as being feature-slim, but highly portable.  It’s unusual, though. You’ll have to change the way you think about interacting with your desktop. I’ve heard great things about Puppy Linux. Never tried PL; I had DSL loaded on a thumb stick until a few weeks ago.

    The two things I hate about the Ubuntu install is package download and verification processes; that, and the highly un-clean un-install. On the install side, I can skip 40 minutes of install time while it tries to grab packages from servers on old machines (especially with poor connections). I don’t want to have to dig up an XP CD to remove Ubuntu, but the smoothness of removing Ubuntu is NOT something that has been looked into by default. It’s been often recommended that Ubuntu make a copy of the active MBRs when it loads, and track changed to the MBRs so that removing Ubuntu is as simple as resetting existing records and unlinking the partition. No response on that yet.

    Total quality management will be something Linux devs have to remain focused on, even when we start getting more and more machines with Linux pre-installed and tested.

    I also have a long-standing gripe with all of the tests and procedures to be followed at the terminal. If I want to have something installed, and the directions are simple enough that just following them will do the job, then write a script that does it. Pipe the output to a diagnostic file. It’s 2008 – it’s time for Joe User to back away from the terminal. Slowly.

    My favourite anecdote from the last 2 weeks: “Forgive me for what’s probably a dumb question, but is there any way for me to use all the buttons on the Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000 without patching the kernel?” to which a guy on the Ubuntu forums replied “If you don’t know how to update your kernel, don’t run Linux”. Thankfully, that attitude is dying fast.

  22. Your years of Windows experience is actually a handicap.  You think you’ve had years of experience with computers but you haven’t.  You’ve had years of experience with an operating system that does its best to hide itself from you.  Linux is completely open.  Experienced Windows users are shocked at how little they actually know when faced with Linux.  Of course they explain it as “Linux is too complex”.

    This is the problem. I don’t want to need to know.  How many people know how a DVD works- I mean REALLY works.  I don’t want to need to know.  Imagine a DVD player that had to be modified if you wanted to watch a black and white movie. Or one not in 5.1. Can you imagine a superb DVD, except it won’t run some of the films out there, or needs a mod for others?

    Analyst/Programmers spend all their time trying to hide the computer from the user, and trying to make it intuitive.  I want to be able to plug my MP3 player into a port, and the computer know what it is, not spend 10 minutes configering it.

  23. Oh my, Les. Ubuntu isn’t the right distro to be running on a laptop *that* old. Ubuntu is meant for the relatively modern machine. You *can* install on one if you want, but you’d have to pick up an alternate-install CD for that. If you want a distro that’s right for that laptop, you’d probably want a tweaked Debian or something.

  24. I’m still confused as to why someone would say Ubuntu works great on older machines. I haven’t come across info that would lead me to think that, and Ubuntu was never really built to be a superlightweight competitor to XP. Any unbloated Linux OS is going to out perform XP on older systems for sure, but I’m not sure about Ubuntu. I think Patness was correct about Compiz Fusion trying to run, that or Linux was having trouble loading a driver for some piece of hardware.

    Les,
    Your problem with having the time question was because you were installing from the command line correct? Normally when using the GUI install process you never get such a question. I taught a Linux class using Ubuntu 6.04. My students thought the install process for that was way easier than any MS install they have ever done. Just boot up, click to install, create partitions, set mount points, answer time zone, keyboard and language questions, then hit next, and wait for it to finish. Couldn’t be easier. In fact every distro has seen vast improvements in the ease of install category. Hell even DSL has a install process that starts from a GUI interface and then asks you questions in a terminal, still very easy compared to what it used to be.

    Linux still has some strides to make, but try installing it on a newer system. Maybe at least a socket 939 AMD and I’m sure the differences would be startling. Plus you’d get to see why Compiz Fusion users just laugh at Aero.

  25. Webs said:
    Normally when using the GUI install process you never get such a question.

    that may have been true for 6.04, i don’t know i never tried that version. but i have installed ubuntu 7.04 from the live cd with the graphical installer. in addition to asking for your time zone, it asks if your clock is set to umt.

    on the other hand, the text based installer on the alternate cd (7.04 and 7.10) only asks for the correct time zone.

    Webs said:
    My students thought the install process for that was way easier than any MS install they have ever done.

    absolutely true. when things go well. it took me some time to locate the one parameter needed to get a successful install on my thinkpad t20.

    l8r

  26. but i have installed ubuntu 7.04 from the live cd with the graphical installer. in addition to asking for your time zone, it asks if your clock is set to umt.

    Hmm… I guess I never really read that question in the install screen. I always just picked the timezone and clicked next. I used 6.04 as an example because I have installed Ubuntu versions 6.04 and up and never remember seeing that question.

    absolutely true. when things go well.

    Yes, but I’m willing to bet that the install process for any system newer than a first generation P4 or socket A AMD is incredibly easy. I say this because I have never had a problem installing it on a system about that age or newer. Especially when the system has all Intel hardware as Intel has really good Linux support.

  27. Webs said:
    Especially when the system has all Intel hardware as Intel has really good Linux support.

    that is the primary problem with my t20 (piii/700mhz), it’s all intel except for the video (S3 Savage IX8) and audio (CS4624B/CS4297A). the audio works fine but the video needs to be told to use pci access instead of agp. agp works fine for win9x/2k/xp.

    so i guess really all of the ‘failed’ installs i had in the past were really successful but since the video couldn’t initialize properly, i couldn’t tell it was successful.

    that makes my problem a ‘driver/hardware implementation issue’, rather than a real problem with linux itself.

    that being said, most people (noobs) trying to install ubuntu on a t2x thinkpad would assume that it was crap and would move on to another o/s. as a break/fix tech with 15 years experience, i kept beating my head against the wall until i finally broke it down.

    i was not able to find a fix on the ubuntu forums for this problem at the time. i did eventually find the solution on http://www.thinkwiki.org/. the average end-user would just move on.

    l8r

  28. i kept beating my head against the wall until i finally broke it down.

    LOL, that’s exactly what I try to do, unfortunately my is very soft so I don’t always get very far.

    Just out of curiosity, did you end up having to put in an extra line into Xorg? Or just reconfigure Xorg all together?

  29. Webs said:
    Just out of curiosity, did you end up having to put in an extra line into Xorg? Or just reconfigure Xorg all together?

    on the first boot after install i go to the recovery console/command line and add a “option” “bustype” “pci” line to the proper section of the xorg.conf.

    the documentation for the fix i found indicates that 4-5 different lines need to be added. but i checked the documentation for the driver and found that the “option” “bustype” “pci” line causes the other needed parameters to default to the correct values.

    since i can be a little obsessive about such things, i tried to find a way to get the agp side of things working. i discovered that adding the agp aperture size parameter with a proper value would allow the system to boot properly with agp enabled. but alas, the screensavers became a slideshow compared to the pci bustype setting.

    since i don’t do any gaming on this machine i just accept the limitation and go on.

    l8r

  30. SEB, you might try Mepis. I loaded it on a PII 600 mHz, and the install was literally easier than any Windows installation I’ve ever done. It was even easier than XP. It recognized my DSL modem and USB ports without any manual intervention, and the Linux partitioning is done transparently. Mepis is similar to Knoppix but configured specifically for installation on a HDD—though it can be run from a bootable CD as well.

    You get Firefox and Konqueror, most of OpenOffice, the Gimp, and various other software. Mind you, it refused to boot on my even older 400 mHz machine, but that has an early AMD CPU and that seems problematic for not only Mepis but Ubuntu as well.

    Hope it works out for you. Getting an alternative to the Windows treadmill has done wonders for my sense of independence.

  31. I wouldn’t put Ubuntu on an old Laptop like that.

    If you want to try a version of linux for hardware that old, you should give Puppy Linux or its derivative—Fire Hydrant Linux—a shot.

    I think you’ll find it runs rather spritely and has a lot of functionality on a machine that old.

    An even faster, though more pared down Linux distro would be DamnSmallLinux. 

    But I’m guessing that since you already have your Windows back on it, your experimenting days are over.

    Meh.  Old dogs.  New tricks.  What’d ya expect?

  32. but I was able to bump the RAM in it up to 512MB

    Amazing considering this;

    Standard Configuration
    for IBM ThinkPad
    600E 2645-4AU

    Maximum RAM:      288MB
    Standard RAM:      32/64MB
    Fixed RAM:      32MB
    Speed of RAM:      66MHz
    # Banks:      2
    # Sockets:      2

    You can install 2 Gigs in this laptop if you could find such a beast but the maximum usable Ram is 288 MB.

    That means the extra 224 Megs you had installed was not used by the computer.

    Maybe you could try installing Vista on that laptop after you bump the CPU up to 3 Ghz.
    LOL!

    Just like any OS, there are minimum specs that need to be checked before installing it onto a computer.
    DSL or Puppy may have been a better option.
    There is also the problems with the Bios being pre-2000. ACPI would not be enabled unless you ‘forced’ it during the install.

    Network cards can be a hassle for Linux because the manufacturers only made Windows drivers for those Nic cards. Blame them for not providing Linux drivers.

    And I’m sure that XP on that 366 Mhz CPU was painfully slow. I’ve seen XP’s performance on a 450 Mhz system and it wouldn’t be something I’d want to use.

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