This blog is my attempt to share information with faculty, introducing new apps, websites, or other snippets of information that may be of use to faculty. I am also using it to keep track of projects I'm working on that might be good to reference in the future.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Linux on old laptop

I recently had an opportunity to install Linux on an old HP Compaq nc6400 laptops.  There were several laptops, but it was going to be a project.

The hard drive was wiped, but it was only 3-4 years told, had 2GB RAM, an 80GB HD, a wireless card and the battery held its charge for over 2 hours.

When I first got the laptops, my plan was to load Windows XP and dual boot linux.  When I tried to load Windows XP I got the error message that it could not find a hard drive to install XP on.  (I later figured out how to get around this, but by that time I'd loaded Linux and liked it so never bothered to load XP.)

I had decided to just load Linux.....but which version of Linux?

I reviewed and downloaded several version of Linux.  My first thought was to take a look at Chromium (for a Chrome type laptop), as well as several versions of Linux.  I was able to install Chromium but could not get the wireless to work, which defeated the purpose of the laptop's capabilities. I think I later figured out this  issue with the wireless not working (but that will come later).    It was interesting that most linux versions could find the hard drive device to install to, where Windows XP could not.

I finally decided on Fuduntu 2013, based on some of the reviews I saw about how well it worked on laptops.  When I first installed it, it worked great the first time out.  It loaded easily, the wireless worked flawlessly and updating the software online was a breeze.  It also ran fast and worked steadily.

The second laptop I worked on was a different story.  Fuduntu Linux loaded easily enough, but it game an error message that the hard drive had errors and the wireless would not work at all, even when i pressed the wireless hardware button.  I wondered why everything worked so easily on one laptop, but on the exact same model it didn't work.

So I did more research and trouble shooting and here are my solutions to some of the issues I ran into.

This came down to an issue with the BIOS setup and how it recognized the hard drive.  I first had to go into the BIOS (F10 on this computer while it is powering up).

I went into System Configuration and choose Device Configurations.

Once in there I modified the selection "SATA Native Mode".

Once this was disabled, then Windows XP installler saw the Hard drive again. I could now load Windows XP if I so choose, especially as each laptop had a Windows XP Professional Product Key on the bottom of each laptop.

If you so choose you would install XP Pro and still be licensed properly.  It might not run as fast as a Linux distribution, but it will work and you will be legal.


When I installed Fuduntu 2013, the wireless device would not work.  When I pressed the hardware button to turn the wireless on, the light did not come on, and wireless was not working on the computer.

To fix this I had to do a software configuration in Linux - it was not a driver issue or a hardware problem, but rather a setup issue in Linux networking.

I went to System, Administration and Network to implement my solution.

In the network configuration, you can see there was no device.  In the hardware tab it did show the wireless device was seen by Linux.

I clicked on New to create a device.

I chose Wireless Connection on the following screen, then clicked on Forward to continue.

I then choose the wireless device.

I then left the defaults and clicked on Forward.

I next left the defaults for wireless settings...

And it gave me a device created message.

The device was added to the system, but it was marked as "Inactive".

Clicking on edit brings this screen up....

Choosing "Activate device when computer starts" and "Allow all users to enable and disable the device".

You then reboot the laptop and you are able to control (turn off and on) the device.  When i rebooted, it found my network and asked for the password, but you may have to right click on the network icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen and choose the network to connect to - which is what I had to do on the next laptop, as it found mine as well as four neighboring wireless networks.


While I will load most with just Fuduntu 2013, I will take one laptop and load XP, Fuduntu, Chrome and maybe Mint to see how they all compare speed and time wise.....

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