Goals

My goal is to use a variety of different UNIX and Linux systems on this Compaq Armada E500 laptop. I plan to use each system as a primary desktop for a while, then save a copy of the disk to another system (a Mac Mini PowerPC G4). Systems that are likely to be installed include Ubuntu, Kubuntu, CentOS, Solaris, OpenSolaris, Fedora Core, OpenBSD, and FreeBSD. Perhaps that is why I gave the laptop the host name chameleon.

Preparation

This is a nice machine, and came with Windows 2000. I installed all of the proper applications for use under Windows (Firefox, Thunderbird, Eraser, drivers) – and then saved the entire disk off to another location. To do this, I did:

nc 192.168.1.1 28088 < /dev/hda

and on 192.168.1.1 I did:

nc -p 28088 -l | gzip -c – > hda.gz
While this transmits the hard drive data in the clear and uncompressed across the network, the machine (a Pentium III) is a lot slower than the destination (a PowerPC G4) – or at least I would assume so. So I let the destination do the compression. This network is also used by no one but me and is not normally Internet connected (dial-up!).

Installation of Kubuntu

I thought installation would be simple – but not to be. Turns out the CDROM is ghastly slow, and the Kubuntu live distribution runs quite slowly. This made the other problems seem much worse. In fact, Gnoppix (the GNOME version of Knoppix) suffers from the same. Knoppix is the only CD based system so far to appear to not be slow. Knoppix is also the only one to offer multiple window managers – so you can skip KDE and use Icewm instead – both were very nice on this laptop.

However, my goal with this laptop (at least initially) is to install a variety of Linux and UNIX distributions on it in sequence, using each one for a time and saving the results off to the Mac Mini G4. Perhaps that is why I gave it the host name chameleon. I hope to install fairly recent distributions in order to try them out and see how they work on here and to use them daily (at least for a time). After a while I will settle in one, and keep the others for some other time (or some other system).

The first attempt at installation of Kubuntu 7.04 did go well for a little while, but then seemed to freeze at 94% during a hardware scan. I’d used no special kernel parameters, and let it go for several hours – which it needed. I watched it go from 90% to 91% on up to 94% before it froze (or appeared to).

The second attempt at installation went worse. I used additional kernel parameters (at the beginning of the line): dma noacpi noapic – and attempted to install. At first, I used the auto partition setup. This didn’t work. Then I used manual partitioning. First I used the auto partition setup (swap plus root) and used the xfs filesystem. The installer stated that GRUB often crashes when /boot is xfs, and returned me to the partitioning screen – with no hint on how to use LILO instead as recommended.

So I changed the setup so /boot was ext3 and used xfs for root – then jfs – then ext3. The result was always the same – creating the filesystem on the partition failed (no reason given). I later found that /dev/hda3 and /dev/hda4 (device files) were missing. I recreated them with no apparent effect on the install program.

So again I rebooted – and waited.

I keep thinking, too – that the hard drive light on this machine must be indicating disk access (as compared to hard disk access alone). It seems to keep pace with the CDROM – but who knows for sure.

And the graphics in Kubuntu are stunning – I always did like the look of KDE and the Kubuntu followed suit with the same fabulous artwork. Thanks fellas!

Now if only it would be faster booting (though the hardware must have something to do with that). An error pops up on boot – “The process for the file protocol died unexpectedly.” This has happened each time, though I’ve forgotten about that until now. This is not a promising sign – either for the installation or for the reliability of Kubuntu itself.

I rechecked the requirements for Kubuntu (and Ubuntu) to be on the safe side – turns out both require 256M of RAM (!). It would appear that Linux has been steadily becoming bloated just like other operating systems out there. My system “only” has 128M of RAM – that’s all, just “only” 128M.

If Windows 2000 can run, why not Ubuntu? Sigh. It was then that I decided that I would not be installing Kubuntu 7 (or Ubuntu 7) on this laptop.

Next attempt: Solaris 8.

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