Monthly Archives: April 2011

Rachmaninoff today

Enjoying this piece to wake up…

Dancing with Linux

So my sis has thPis old HP Pavilion Ze4300 laptop which is dated and was gathering dust. Even with Vista/XP that was a slow machine. On impulse, I decided to try out linux!

The last time I’d experimented with Linux was nearly 8 years ago. Before that I’d used linux for a compiler design class (nearly 10 years ago!) and I recall that installing linux then was tricky! I figured that a decade past the experience may be simpler… but it wasn’t so. Smile

I say it with a smile because, I see that for the masses, simply installing Linux can be a challenge. Comparatively speaking, with Windows it’s just saying yes to various options and answering simpler questions. I tried PuppyLinux 3.2 – I figured with the HD/RAM config I had, I’d start with something basic. After a day and half of trying, I got it right. My major issue was to get the old laptop booting from the USB –which it does, but I kept on getting this stupid PXE-E61 error, which made me fear for the HD. After researching it for a while and digesting the various articles, I figured what the PXE-E61 error meant was that the loader was tying to boot from the LAN – the cable was indeed not connected and so it complained. Entirely acceptable because I was really trying to boot from the USB!

PuppyLinux installed like a dream. Next issue was that my laptop had no wireless device. Reading through the steps I figured it out and got a PCMCIA card from another machine and got that working. Not simple, but not too complex either. Reading and a bit of persistence solved the issue.

Next I wanted to install firefox and the like. That was an abject failure. On Windows you point and click and hey presto, the app’s up and running. No issues with libraries, etc or locations. It happens automatically. With Puppy, I had to get a package (a dated one, with version 3.??) – I wanted firefox 4! So yeah, I ran into trouble. After much fiddling and reading, I realized that puppylinux wasn’t for me. I’d have to fiddle all the time to get the thing working for every app. So, I decided to try another tack. Lets go for a bigger distro. UBUNTU, LUBUNTU or XBUNTU? All 3 were extremely slow to load and my patience ran out before I could get them installed.

So after much fiddling I decided on Zenwalk. Downloaded the iso, using unetbootin got it installed onto my usb and I figured the install would go smoothly. Nyah… after a confident shell that suggested “Auto Install” and seemed to take care of things, it gave me options like /dev/sda1 and /dev/sdb1 – wtf?! No HD? or USB? so yeah, this would be a stumbling block for an uninitiated installer (person). I looked at partition sizes and decided sda1 was the hd and the sdb1 was my usb.

Things looked brighter. But then it said, where is the install CD? It was booting from the USB, why did it not realize that?! And so I fiddled with the options and none of them worked. Eventually I got thrown to the command prompt. I figured that since I’d tried it all, I may as well seek help (after about 2 hours of fiddling). And help was available in the form of this meager document.

What this document said was:

  1. as soon as the usb loaded, get out of the shell and into the command prompt!
  2. Create a directory “mkdir /installer”
  3. type the command “mount /dev/sdb1 /installer”
  4. and get back into the setup by typing “setup”

So, I’ll explain this for the uninitiated. In step you mkdir /installer – what you do is create a folder called “installer”. You could name it anything else.

In step 3, we’re going for a linux quirk. Linux recognizes devices like hard drives, usb sticks, and others, but it does not make them available for your use immediately, just coz you plugged it in. You need to make it available. To do so, you need to “mount” the device to a location of your choice (step 2!).

Once done, we resume setup again.

Once into setup, when it bitches about not finding the location, just say “Install from a preloaded directory” – erm (don’t let them load /dev/sdb1, previously) and type in “installer” and things should move nicely from there. Smile

I’m through it all and now Zenwalk asked me to create my user, and I just logged in :)! Finally, I’m up and running on a more than “basic” system. Linux experiments are on the way…