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Trying2Try 07-26-2010 10:17 PM

Can't Get any distro to work on laptop or desktop...
I have an old old laptop and wanted to try Linux on it. I know next to nothing about Linux and slightly more than nothing about Unix. I made a pen drive with Ubuntu on it but the laptop won't boot from a USB device. So I downloaded several distros. I tried to boot a Ubuntu CD but it won't go past the splash screen. I tried DSL and it won't boot that either. So it's still running Windows 98SE at this point. Slowly. So I tried several of the distro's under QEMU on my desktop and they seem to work... so the distro's are OK I think. Then I tried burning Knoppix on a DVD and booting the PC. I get the splash screen and it get to the point of saying something like "running dbus" and just hangs forever. I waited 40 minutes and still nothing. Tried booting the PC instead with a distro called "PCLinux Phoenix XFCE" that I burned onto CD. Once again splash screen and then nothing. Finally got a message saying it can't configure video and do I want to do it by hand. Really? Like I can do that. So I booted Win XP again and somehow THAT manages to run both monitors. I'm totally frustrated. Maybe trying Linux on my hardware is just a bad idea? Can anyone tell me what I'm doing wrong here? Thanks.

foodown 07-26-2010 10:31 PM

Well . . . we'll tackle the desktop first, I guess.

Do you know the specs of the machine?

1) What kind of processor, and what clockspeed?
2) How much RAM?
3) What size hard drive?
4) What kind of video card?

I can better make recommendations as to next steps if I know these things.

Kenny_Strawn 07-26-2010 10:32 PM

You may want to consider opening the case and using an SATA cable to create a bootable hard drive (or in another case, using IEEE 1394 or an Ethernet drive). You can use any of these cable formats as alternatives to USB.

Try creating a Live NAS and see if that helps. You can then use the Live NAS to install Linux via Ethernet to all the computers on your network.

Trying2Try 07-27-2010 10:23 PM

Thank you for the replies.

The laptop is a Toshiba Satellite Pro 460 CDX which means it has a 166 MHz Pentium in it and 32MB of RAM. The hard drive is a whopping 2 GB, same as the SD card in my camera. I don't have a clue what kind of video it has in it. As for making a "Live NAS" while I surmised from context that this is something that would relate to my network, to me NAS means "Network Attached Storage" -- in other words a standalone drive, so I guess to make it "Live" I would put a distro on it. I realize everyone who uses Linux may know that but I don't know it because I am trying to try Linux... and not succeeding. As for opening the case and taking the drive out, that's not going to happen, I have no interest in disassembling and rebuilding the thing nor do I have the time or expertise to do so. Although I suspect people who love to tinker with the OS may also love to tinker with the hardware. Not a bad thing, but not MY thing.

I am starting to see that there is a philosophical gap. I buy a car to drive it. Some people buy an old S-10, then put a new transmission in it, and drop in a Corvette engine, then add a nitrous system, and they go on the road in this thing and when people think it's a piece of junk, they take off like a jet and laugh. Those are the people who are running Linux.... I would like to just get a distro that works on this antique, install it, and forget it. Assuming it would make it any faster. If it would NOT make it faster, I guess I don't even want to do that.

I did finally find a distro that would boot on the Toshiba, but the USB and PCMCIA devices and the sound don't work, so basically it makes it into a paperweight. Since it can't connect to the network, it's not even possible to load anything on to it unless I burn it onto a CD.

At this point I am only continuing to download distro's and burn CD's out of sheer stubbornness.

yancek 07-27-2010 10:48 PM

With a 166mhz processor, most standard distros are going to run very slowly and 32MB of RAM, not much will run with that. You might go to distrowatch web site and check out the smaller distros. My favorite small distro (30MB) is slitaz. I installed it on a 10 year old computer with wireless and everything worked.

If you look at other distros, I would suggest you check the minimum hardware requirements on the site before downloading to save yourself time and frustration. Most of the newer full distributions require 256-384MB or more of RAM to run well.

foodown 07-28-2010 12:43 AM


Originally Posted by Trying2Try (Post 4047467)
At this point I am only continuing to download distro's and burn CD's out of sheer stubbornness.

The only thing that I know of that, in it's most current version, will run on your desktop is FreeBSD. I is a bit more of a chore to set up than most Linux distributions, but it would definitely run way, way faster than Windows 98 is. Plus, once it was up and running, you could forget about it.

The minimum system requirements for FreeBSD/i386 is a 486 with 24MB of RAM.

You could have run Slackware, but it requires 64MB of RAM.

You could install an older version of a Linux distribution . . . I believe that you could run Slackware 12 on that machine.

Wim Sturkenboom 07-28-2010 02:00 AM

Please don't confuse the laptop and the desktop. If I'm not mistaken, the laptop is the one with a 166MHz processor and 32MB RAM.


So what is the desktop?

Further it's not quite clear to me if you try the distros that you burn on CD on the desktop as well (boot from CD)?

i92guboj 07-28-2010 02:16 AM

SDL (yes, I know you've tried it already) is the distro I'd choose for a classic pentium machine. Maybe puppy linux could work, not sure. Anything above that will probably fail to run or run too slowly to be of any use.

It's fairly common to have problems to boot a GUI environment the first time. If you don't know what video card it ships you could boot from any linux cd in command line mode, and post here the output for this command:


lspci | grep -i vga
This should put us on the right track.

About USB, well, a lot of BIOSes from that era do not support booting from that at all.

Wim Sturkenboom 07-28-2010 04:42 AM

For others who need the specs, I found a 460CDX datasheet (pdf)

snowpine 07-28-2010 08:16 AM

Your frustration stems from your ancient, underpowered hardware. There is zero chance you will have a pleasant introduction to Linux on a Pentium with 32mb of ram.

I would highly recommend upgrading your hardware, then giving Linux a second chance. Here are the minimum hardware requirements for Ubuntu, the most popular beginner's distro:


Ubuntu Desktop Edition

* 1 GHz x86 processor
* 1 Gb of system memory (RAM)
* 15 GB of hard-drive space (although this can be split onto 2 drives, a 5Gb / and a 10Gb /home fairly easily)
* Graphics card and monitor capable of 1024 by 768
* Either a Cd/Dvd-drive or a Usb socket (or both)
* Internet access is helpful
You don't have to spend a lot of money; if you search Craigslist (or your local equivalent) you can usually find second-hand Pentium 4's with 1gb RAM for under US$100. That would make a fine machine for learning the basics. Pentium 1 with 32mb RAM? Belongs in a museum. ;)

Trying2Try 07-28-2010 06:40 PM

OK well now I feel more informed. Apparently the laptop is just too underpowered and a lost cause. As for the Desktop, the main problem turns out to be that it's a dual monitor system, and all the distro's try to display on the primary which is on an AGP card, but they detect (but fail to display on) the secondary, which is a totally different brand in a PCI slot. They seem to think the primary should use the drivers that would be appropriate for the secondary. I think the only way to make that work is to open the box and pull the secondary video card. At this point I'm giving up for now but I sincerely appreciate all the information. I feel I've learned a lot in a short time. Thank you to all who replied.

yancek 07-28-2010 08:02 PM

Have you tried Slitaz on the laptop? It's a 30MB OS and if anything works, slitaz should.

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