Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Taking Ubuntu back to the past

I spend most of my day to install Ubuntu on my old Toshiba Satellite 4030 CDT with 128 Mb RAM. Normally speaking Ubuntu requires 192 Mb RAM, but there is the so-called ‘alternative’ version. That one is a back to geek heaven trip. No flashy installer, but back to the good old and powerful Debian installer.
Why did it take all day? My own mistakes, not Ubuntu’s. At the end of the first install I had actually forgotten my own password. I simply couldn’t get in. Then I turned lazy and decided that a simple reinstall on top of the old one should be okay (despite Ubuntu’s warning). And that install failed at about 97%. The third attempt resulted in the solid brown Ubuntu desktop.
The laptop is old. With a Pentium ll processor running at 233 Mhz and 128 Mb we are talking ancient. And yet, it runs great with Windows 2003, couldn’t handle XP and ran Suse 9 sluggishly. How does Ubuntu measure up?
One thing can not escape notice: it won’t use the entire screen. Ubuntu maxes at 800×600 at 60 Hz. No 1024×768, but that makes sense in terms of performance. The menu is fast in this way.
Firing up is always slow, but it didn’t do bad on Old Faithful. Once it was up and running, opening one of the other Openoffice parts was a matter of seconds. The screen resolution doesn’t work well with the three panel default setup of Impress, but this can be tweaked.
The on-board sound card is recognised, but doesn’t work out of the box. The screen is bright and easily readable.
Ubuntu comes with an attractive and well-organised desktop based on Gnome. There is a default set of applications with which you can get working. Openoffice for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and databases. Evolution to do your calendaring and contact management. The whole world is accessible through Ekiga (VoIP), Firefox and GAIM, a multiprotocol chat cliënt. With GIMP you enter the realm of photo-editing. Totem and Rythmbox can satisfy you multimedia needs. Choosing Nautilus as desktop explorer was a great decision. It is a pleasure for the eyes, especially when it showed the contents of the newly plugged in external USB drive.
Installing new software is so easy. I have a soft spot for yast with Suse 7.2 being my first Linux distribution. And yet, the default tool with Ubuntu and the possibility to use Synaptic is a refreshingly simple alternative. You can choose to add the Ubuntu Universe packages and commercial packages with the caveat that these packages are not supported by Canonical.
I decided to add the so-called Gnome office packages while not connected to the internet. Well, that didn’t work. The tool wants to download the packages from the internet. In Synaptic I could solve the problem by deselecting the online options and press reload. Only to realise that what you see is what you get with the CD install, apart from the server packages.
So, at the end of the day I have a lean and mean Linux distribution running on the laptop desktop.


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