Putting Linux on a Compaq nc4010

The HP/Compaq nc4010 is a business-class laptop with no CDROM, no DVD, and no floppy – but with network, modem, USB ports, SD slot, and PCMCIA slot. The system has a 1.7GHz Pentium M – snappier than a Pentium II for sure. It will also boot from the network with PXE or from the USB ports.

Booting this platform is the most difficult part. I didn’t try using PXE, because although I was once set up for PXE on my home network, I don’t have the distributions (Kubuntu and Fedora) set up for installing from PXE and it seemed like a bigger headache than try to make it boot through USB. USB booting is not (apparently) enabled by default; it requires setting USB to use Legacy in the BIOS settings – and in my case, it also required playing with the setting for Quickboot: I had turned it off, but upon re-enabling it the system booted from a USB key.

I tried using Fedora 9, but the Live USB version come up in a lower resolution and crashed upon exiting. I tried also Kubuntu Hardy (8.04.1) and it worked beautifully.

Loading Kubuntu was a breeze – and recognized all of the capabilities of the laptop (amazing!). USB works, network works (albeit with proprietary drivers), PCMCIA works – it just works. Even hibernate works (although suspend may not).

I’ve never quite liked Ubuntu, and I mostly chalked that up to its standard themes (brown and orange) and its use of Gnome and so on – never fully experiencing Ubuntu and always wanting to get a better feel for it. I’ve tried running Kubuntu (which uses KDE) before, but never as an “active” desktop.

Kubuntu made a believer out of me. Everything works in the laptop. Even MP3s, Adobe Flash, Java – it all installed cleanly (upon demand) and works out of the box. Installation was extremely simple. The available packages are quite extensive, and include Debian’s packages.

I attribute some of this ease of support (specifically, MP3 support, Flash, Java, proprietary drivers) to the fact that the company behind Ubuntu (Canonical) is not an American company, but a South African company – which has different laws. So they can make it easy to get proprietary “parts” that they could not sell or support otherwise.

I’m switching from my FreeBSD laptop to this one for the most part: this system is smaller, lighter, faster, and has more memory. It was good to build a FreeBSD desktop though – and took more doing than I thought. I wonder what PC-BSD would be like….. Hmm….

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3 Responses to Putting Linux on a Compaq nc4010

  1. mike says:

    How did you get your nc4010 to boot from the USB? I cannot find the legacy setting in my BIOS

    • ddouthitt says:

      On my nc4010, I did this:

      1. Go into the setup tool by pressing F10.
      2. Select the [Advanced] menu.
      3. Seelct the [Device Options] selection.
      4. Look for the entry [USB legacy support] and make sure the entry is enabled.
      5. Save with F10.
      6. Move to the [File] menu.
      7. Select the item [Save changes and exit].
      8. Press F10 to accept changes.

  2. I started my own marketing consulting business in March. I did a lot of research on my needs and decided on the 6830s because of the wide screen. I’m very disappointed with the notebook to date. I have a 2.0 Ghz Processor and 3 meg of RAM with Vista downgraded to XP. The system often locks up on me, some internet sites just don’t load. When trying to view a website recently, it would never load. I turned on my 2 year old HP desktop and in a snap the website came up. Something seems just not right with this system though I cannot pinpoint what causes the problem. I just tried to forward a finally a message came up “The server appears to be slow to respond, and may be unavailable. Press the button to cancel your request.” When I hit “cancel” it just locks up. Now, will have to reboot. I’ve had to go as far as to unplug the battery to reboot…..not good for a system less than a month old

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