Wednesday, May 18, 2005

First Post

Here's what I'm working with:

Some documents from work require MS-Office, so I decided to make this box a dual boot. I am not used to dual booting since my experience with linux has primarily been for use as a headless generic whitebox running woody which quietly and tirelessly serves up webpages, files, mp3s and ssh sessions.

But I decided that I want a laptop and realized that a laptop is probably where dual booting makes the most sense since it is a machine that you are alwaysgoing to be turning on and off.

Preparing the hard drive.

Used a sarge-disc1 CD to parition the hard drive.

I decided to install Windows first, since in the past, I've heard about how installing Windows can erase your linux bootloader from the master bootrecord. Also - the debian partitioner doesn't seem to handle NTFS. I initially ran into this problem when the whole disc was devoted with Win2000, and I thought the debian installer would let me resize it - but it didn't appear to. So I just scrapped everything and started over.

On the 'linux side' - I simply made 4 partitions:

  1. A swap partition
  2. A boot partiion '/boot'
  3. A root partition '/'
  4. And a logical partition and the end with a fat32 filesystem. (I've read that thinkpads need this to enable hibernation)

Installing Debian Sarge


The install was done using the sarge CD - disc1. Looking back - I effectively ended up doing a netinstall. The CD only got me so far as installing the base system. After that - the system reboots and I could have started installing apps from the CD, but I chose install from http mirrors instead since my 3COM 562 PCMCIA LAN card was working.


Inserted the disc and booted up the laptop. The first few screens are no-brainers. Country, language, keyboard, DHCP setup (which 'just worked' with my 3COM ethernet card)... Then - you get to the partition table preparation.

Recall that I had already prepared my partition table to section off a portion for windows. All I needed to do was to respecify the mount points and whether or not they were to be re-formatted. To be on the safe side - I marked them for reformatting.

Once all the settings were made, I clicked to go on to the next step. I was surprised to see upon clicking 'continue', the installer proceeded to install the base system.

After it finished doing it's business, I was prompted to install grub, then finally reboot the system. After rebooting the system - I proceeded to install the rest of the needed apps.

As I mentioned earlier, I could have fed it the sarge CD I had, but since I only had one disc - I specified 'http' instead. Went ahead and specified the mirrors and proceeded on with the dialogue.

The next thing is what to install. Since I basically want a thin-client laptop, i just went with :
apt-get install kdebase x-window-system xmms mozilla-firefox ssh vim

This proceeded to install everything I figured I would need. Ofcourse, I've installed a dozen other things since then.

Wireless Configuration

After getting this far, I gatherd up the courage to plug in my wirless card. Interestingly enough, after plugging it in - i found that it 'simply worked'. Part of what made it so easy is that there are a few non-WEP protected wireless networks around me and it was able to successfully get an IP address of one of them.

I went ahead and installed wireless-tools to get control of the card. So:
apt-get install wireless-tools

I've got a WEP-enable wireless lan and it was a pain to get connected. After much trial and error, I found the following command to work:
iwconfig eth0 ESSID "my_netowrk" mode Managed key 1234123412 [1]

At this point, I was pretty happy, though there were a few things wrong. Mainly:

  1. sound wasn't working
  2. gpm (the trackpoint) wasn't working in console (no X) mode
  3. the system was a little slow
I went ahead and installed kernel-image-2.6.8-2-686 via dselect and rebooted. Grub popped up and I saw that the new 2.6 kernel was the default selection. After holding my breath watching all the bootup messages come up, I was happy to see that it successfully booted and what's more - all items in the list above were resolved!

Thinkpad customization.

After some googling, I became convinced that I need to install the thinkpad-base and thinkpad-source packages, along with tpctl to get full utilization of this thing with linux.

Went ahead and 'apt-get intall'ed the thinkpad-source and thinkpad-base packages and followed the directions (README.gz) in /usr/share/doc/thinkpad-base to get them installed.

Once that was done, I 'apt-get install'ed tpctl, but upon running it, I got an error message. Looking in the /usr/share/doc's, I did find that there was a documented problem with the 570 models and that the program would have to be recomplied. Instead of 'apt-get source tpctl', which I probably should have done, I just went to the tpctl sourceforge site and downloaded it from there.

When configuring, I ran into some hiccups with missing libraries. There were a couple I was missing. The one I can rememebr that I was missing was some curses devel package.

Anyway... once I recomplied the tpctl source and installed it, I found that it worked no problem. After googling around some more, I decided to try out 'configure-thinkpad'. (It required libgnomeui, BTW). This app is not available in Sarge so I did have to compile and install from source. I think it's a good program as it acts as a gui for tpctl.

Oh... one last thing. I installed battery-stats and xbatt. These are two very nice little apps. I particularly like battery-stats since it'll give you a history of your battery charge in chart format either using gnuplot, if your in X, or in text, if your just in console mode. Another nice program is
wavemon which gives stats on your wireless connection.


It took some digging, but I got it working - a wireless linux laptop for under $400 (mine was closer to $350, shipping included). I must say that the digging was the fun part. Now to get to use it! In a bit, I'll try and get some screenshots, time permitting. That was fun! Now to get back to work!


Blogger Dave said...

Thinking about a wireless Linux network? Here's a page with lots of goodies, including step-by-step instructions that work under Mandrake and SUSE:

Linux Wireless Network

Doesn't contain information about laptops, but you still might find it useful.


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