Ubuntu 8.10 on the Old ThinkPad R40

09 November 2008

The wireless interface on the old ThinkPad R40 running Debian Unstable flaked out and stopped associating with the wireless access point at home. I thought the hardware was failing, like the USB failed months ago, but I wanted a second opinion -- was it really broken, or am I just incompetent?

I booted an Ubuntu 8.10 live CD, and found that it got the wireless running right away! Encouraged, I backed up the useful home directories, wiped the existing partitions, and ran the install.

Upon installing, and booting for the first time, I logged in to have it pick up the wireless again right away from the little NetworkManager applet, and then offer me software updates. During the update, it told me that my old 25M /boot partition was too small, so I moved those files onto the / partition and abandoned the old 25M partition. After a few reboots and twiddling around the grub config, I got it booting from the new partition again.

That pretty much had the computer up and running on the network again! I've since poked at it a little bit to find that Ubuntu has the whizzy compiz effects working out of the box. Surprisingly, I also see all the little ACPI interfaces working down to being able to control screen brightness. Finally, I tested the suspend and hibernate, and even that's working! The machine even woke up from suspend and hibernate! ;) I'll have to see if the machine continues to run or reverts back to crashing 10 minutes after resume, like it used to do. I'm sort of hopeful at this point.

It's amazing to see all these things work out of the box, since I had to configure and script this stuff all up by hand on the previous install from 4 years ago or so. Just when I started to think about not having time to run Linux on the desktop, Ubuntu proves to be slick and usable. Now I want a new Linux notebook.

Update (2008-11-9): Claire let me know that the machine still locks up occasionally after a resume, so I disabled that. I was hoping to see that fixed with the Ubuntu install.

Mobility Considerations

14 January 2008

I'm looking to replace my ThinkPad R40, so listening to Mobile Tech Roundup 120 gave me a moment to consider going with a super phone or something otherwise ultra-mobile instead of a notebook.

I've long liked the idea of the Nokia N95, and the MoTR people made the HTC Advantage sound pretty slick. I'd also consider anything SonyEricsson smart phone. All these phones still cost more than half of what I expect to spend on a full notebook.

The MoTR guys were talking about how they could get by on these devices to cover CES and do other work, but I realized that they really just needed media, browsing, writing, and networking. My main tasks outside of browsing are:

  1. Photo editing
  2. Coding (in Eclipse)
  3. Video editing

I unfortunately just can't do these things on a mobile platform as far as I've seen. I've been liking sitting at the dual-core desktop for photo editing, so I really look forward to a dual-core ThinkPad R61 to replace the R40.

Asus' Eee PC is intriguing, and I think I'd look into it as a network computer, but it doesn't look like it would cut it for image editing. The resolution would make Eclipse hard to use as well. I've stuggled too long on low-res displays.

New Hardware on the Way

14 August 2007

My ThinkPad has twice now started spewing hard drive errors. This is the 40G drive that IBM sent me nearly 3 years ago to replace the original drive. The third drive in this notebook will be an 80G drive from Toshiba.

While I was ordering the emergency replacement drive at NewEgg, I decided to pick up the other things I'd been wanting. This includes an IDE-to-USB adapter cable to make troubleshooting and drive migration easier when I get the new drive. I also picked up a SimpleTech 500GB NAS to replace the old Pentium 200 backup machine. That should be much quieter and power-efficient, not to mention a huge amount of storage. With the addition of an external USB drive or two, I can expand this thing well beyond a terabyte.

Finally, I stumbled upon a 20.1" widescreen LCD from Sceptre as a super-discounted open-box special, so I picked that up to replace the old CRT in the office. That should also help keep the office cooler.

Assigning Multimedia Keys for RhythmBox

30 May 2007

I've long used the little page-back and page-forward buttons on my ThinkPad as multimedia keys instead of paging. The latest version of Gnome Control Center (2.18.1) on my Debian box stopped doing it properly, so I lost easy control of RhythmBox.

Thanks to some browsing, and the discussion on this bug report, I figured out that it was just a matter of mapping the keycodes to the right keysyms, so now I have this in my ~/.Xmodmap in hopes that it continues to work for me:

keycode 234 = XF86AudioPlay
keycode 236 = XF86AudioNext

Update (30 May 2007): This eventually broke again, and my best option to see it work was to drop the .Xmodmap settings and go back to letting the Gnome keyboard shortcuts do it, which seems to work again. Whatever. It's weird changes like this that make Claire not like my computers.

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