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Marghanita da Cruz

Choice of Linux

In October 2003, I realised the time had come to upgrade my 1997, NEC Versa Laptop - it ran MS Windows 95 fine but did not burn CDs, had no USB ports! On top of this the clock battery had perished - which meant the time and date had to be set each time the system was powered up. More critical than the shortcomings of the hardware, the early version of Netscape did not support the encryption necessary to access an increasing number of websites.

It was suggested that I try out the Knoppix Live CD version 3.2 was attached attached to the October 2003 issue of PC World. The CD enabled you to try out Linux by running the operating system off a CD without changing anything on your computer. I tried this - but there was insufficent memory to run KDE and so, the time had come to buy a new laptop.

I had heard personal tales about viral infections while trying to register the pre-loaded operating system on new laptops, over the Internet, so I decided to go with Linux instead. After making the decision to switch to Linux, I investigated second hand laptops but eventually decided the hardware becomes obsolete very quickly and ended up purchasing a new Targa Notebook.

Targa Traveller Notebook

The Targa Traveller Notebook was pre-loaded with an operating system. The hardware included CDReader/DVD/CDBurner, 3 USB ports, SiS962 ( audio, modem and PCI fast ethernet), and ethernet, an IEEE1394 Firewire port, 512MB of RAM, 30GB of disk, 14.1 inch XGA TFT LCD Screen. The Knoppix Live CD worked a treat, and I was hooked on Linux!

Which Linux?

However, installing Linux on the laptop was another issue. It also required a whole new vocabulary and concepts such as Open Source and GPL. The Debian install had problems so, I decided to pursue Knoppix as it obviously ran on the laptop.While Knoppix Live ran well on the laptop, it was not designed to be installed. So, I investigated other "Distributions" with names such as SuSe, Mandrake, Fedora, Redhat, Debian and Knoppix. I tried installing Fedora and Debian from the 3.0 Woody Install Disk - however neither worked. The Debian installation reported a problem loading the Xserver and recognising the screen. The comand line scrolled off the screen making it very difficult to use the menu options in the install! Fixable for operation but not install! The Fedora licence seemed daunting but the software installed OK - though it did not recognise a PCMCIA modem it did not mention the USB ports. Ethernet worked.

The Knoppix Live CD discovered the PCMCIA modem and USB ports in startup so I decided to try and install it. So, I used the Knoppix Live "cfdisk" to partition the hard disk. This meant I had to reinstall Windows which was easy to do from the distribution disks however, I had to re-register the license so, I eventually removed it from the system all together. The system was configured to dual boot Debian 3.0 (mainly as a fallback) or Knoppix.

Installing dual boot Debian 3.0 / Knoppix

  1. Boot system from knoppix CD
  2. Open a root window
  3. Execute cfdisk under knoppix to partition disk: 20,000MB hda1(linux part) 7000MB hda2 (linux part) 3000MB hda3 (linux sw)
    Note - the system adjusts these sizes slightly. Specifying small partitions seems to cause problems
  4. Reboot of Debian install disk and install Debian on partition hda2 it recognised - recommend installation of "Laptop" under TASKSEL and emacs under Dselect in Debian /usr/sbin/base_config
  5. Setting up correct vga mode - edit lilo.conf and replace vga=normal with vga=791
  6. Remember to run lilo
  7. Followed Knoppix install to disk instructions - as predicted fstab was tricky.
    Note also that the instructions pertain to Knoppix. ie they should be followed while running Knoppix from the CD. they rely on the Knoppix version of cp to restore the archive from the cd to the hard disk
  8. Modify /etc/Lilo.conf - This is tricky as you want to run two versions of linux.
  9. made copies of both the debian and knoppix image on both roots
  10. run lilo
  11. may need to edit /etc/fstab - though Knoppix is pretty good at setting this up at each bootup.

Getting the modem to work

According to the Notebook's Users Manual, either the SmartLink 56K Voice Modem or Uniwill V.90 Modem drivers will work. Installing Linux On The Advent 5490 provides useful information about the modem and the video driver - but I had already found the vital video information from knoppix. The page mentioned but also reproduced the README file and provided a link for the download - this link was/is broken as the version had been superseded. I downloaded slmdm-2.7.14.tar.gz

Anyway, at under support there is an option to download the linux driver package. Download the package and then if required, refer to above for unpacking instructions. Note if you are new to Linux... gzip uncompresses the file (-d) and (-c) makes a copy rather than replacing the existing .gz file .tar then retrives the archived files to a sub-directory called the same name as the package ie slmdm-2.7.14

>cd slmdm-2.7.14
>make install-amr

I found kppp worked on device /dev/modem. However, when you reboot the symbolic link is lost. So I added the following line to /etc/profile
ln -sf /dev/ttySLO /dev/modem

I have now switched to Ethernet for my Internet access and this just worked!

Other Software

Epson C40UX

This printer worked OK, however I did have to revert to Windows for the ink management utilities - though provided in Knoppix they did not work on my configuration. I have subsequently worked around these utilities by carefully reading the printer instructions and using the buttons on the printer.

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TuxMobil - Linux on Laptops, Notebooks, PDAs and Mobile Phones © Ramin Communications 2007. Last modified 17 September 2008.

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