Installing Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy) on Antiquated Hardware

by Jeremy Jones

I recently promised my son, Justus, that I would set up a laptop for his exclusive use. I have an old Compaq Presario 1200 whose sole purpose is to prevent dust from gathering on a particular shelf in my bedroom. This Presario has about 192MB of RAM, a 10GB hard drive, and an 800Mhz Celeron processor. Sounds like a perfect candidate for Linux to me. I burned the Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy) desktop CD and booted the laptop with it. It was surprisingly responsive. I ran into a little glitch when attempting to install from the desktop CD. As I blogged the other day, this method of installation stopped at 64%.

So I burned the alternate CD and tried again. At this point, let me stress the importance of checking the md5sums on both the ISO image you download and the CD itself. I burned at least one CD from an ISO which checked OK, but the CD itself turned out bad. That may have been my 64% problem mentioned above. After burning, checking, and booting into the alternate CD, the old Presario became "the little engine that could" and chugged (slowly) through until it completed successfully.

When I rebooted the Presario for the first time into Edgy, gdm came right up with a nice graphical logon. I typed in Justus' username and password. The first thing that I noticed was that sound worked; the Ubuntu drums greeted us as we logged in. The Gnome desktop came up in what appeared to be the proper resolution, so that was one less thing I would have to worry about.

This particular laptop doesn't have a built in network card, and it especially does not have a built-in wireless card. When I was using that exact same laptop over a year ago, I purchased a Linksys WUSB-11 wireless USB adapter. At that time (I think I ran it under Hoary and Warty), I had to compile kernel modules to get networking going. Not so with Edgy. I plugged in that same adapter, rebooted and was able to configure it. Funny thing, though; networkmanager won't see it. It's recognized as wlan0 rather than eth[somenumber]. So networking is another thing I don't really have to worry about.

So far, with the exception of install media and the desktop installer, this has been a surprisingly easy experience. (Much easier, in fact, than upgrading my own laptop from Dapper to Edgy.) I doubt we'll be able to play TuxRacer or anything with 3D requirements. I further doubt we'll be able to play any video. But at least Compiz and Childsplay work. And that's really why I set it up in the first place. If we can get TuxRacer working, so much the better


Tom M.
2006-11-02 09:56:26
I believe the ubuntu "alternate" cd image contains a util that checks the integrity of the CD. Might help for future installs in case you burned a nice looking coaster. :)
2006-11-02 16:32:40
Why not Xubuntu?
(I use it on a Celeron 366Mhz box with 256MB RAM.)
2006-11-02 23:35:14
I use Xubuntu Dapper and some KDE apps on a similar "antiquated" desktop PC (600 MHz Celeron, 256 MB RAM) and the overall performance is much more than acceptable. So how do I call that 233 MHz P1 of mine, used for backups if a 6yrs old PC is called "antiquated"?