Hell Oh Entropy!

Life, Code and everything in between

Linux on a Compaq Presario A900

The Compaq A900 is a good looking laptop with a (Update)15.4" 17" screen. It belongs to my sister and surprisingly, after using Linux on my home system, she asked for Linux on her laptop as well. I was happy to oblige -- one more convert :)

Here are the specifications:

  • Processor: Intel Dual core
  • Memory: 1Gig
  • Disk space: 160 Gig
  • AGP: Intel chipset onboard (didn't care to specifically look for the adapter make, you'll find out why ;) )
  • Wireless Atheros (untested, but I'm sure it's been detected)
  • Webcam

I wanted to initiate the beautiful baby with Debian but rummaging through my collection I realized that I had given away all of my CDs and DVDs. Well, all except one: a Slackware 10 I got with LFY.

Reluctantly, I popped in the Slackware CD (I wanted to set up a more user friendly system so that I won't have to run to her frequently for updates and issues) and started up. I started cfdisk for partitioning and it showed me the partition table for /dev/hda -- the DVD ROM drive. I went for it again with cfdisk /dev/sda and it refused to detected my HDD.

I restarted and then at the boot menu, took a look at all the kernels available. I then realized that the default is a 2.4.33 kernel, instead of a 2.6 kernel. I started all over again with the huge26.s and finally managed to partition my disk.

Everything else went well and I finished installing the entire system within 20 minutes. I restarted into the new system and saw that there was a boot time warning that '/lib/modules/2.6.17-386' was not found. I ignored it. Then I realized that even though my LAN card had been configured during installation, it refused to come up. Also, the system would start up on the console and not on X -- I would have to install KDM separately. And finally, X would start, meaning that my video card was supported. But the touchpad was not working. I then went back to the warning I had seen at boot and looked into the /lib/modules directory. All I found was modules for 2.4.33-386. So you see, it looks like Slackware installed a 2.6 kernel and 2.4 modules.

I had to install a new kernel (it was trivial though, just installpkg <packagename>) and then everything was working. Of course, this was just a temporary arrangement. I needed one of the user-friendly OSes (*Ubuntu/Mandriva) for her.

Today, I got a Mandrake 2008 Spring DVD with the LFY magazine. And I installed it. And I fell in love with it.

All I had to do was these things:

  1. Insert DVD
  2. Select Language
  3. Tell Mandriva to handle disk partitioning by itself
  4. Tell Mandriva if you want KDE or Gnome
  5. Watch the two "Desktop on USB" and "Other products by Mandriva" slide over and over again
  6. Enter root password and a new username and password
  7. Configure your network
  8. Select your timezone
  9. Remove DVD, reboot and login!

That's it!

Again, as you can see, I didn't have to bother to find out what display adapter came in the notebook. And I didn't even have to enter the console even once to configure anything. Now here's a distro and Laptop to recommend to friends.

BTW, no offence to Slackware either. It's great if you want a light and completely customized system. However, it's not that great for newbies.

Update: And then there was compiz. What did I have to do to set it up? Well, just start Mandriva Control Centre and click on "Enable 3D Desktop" and select compiz. Logout and log back in. And there you have it; sweet sweet eye-candy!!

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