Laptop installation - Windows Wouldn't Work


In the continued saga, this week I got Windows 2000 Professional on and then after some hair pulling reformatted the drive. Why, you may ask? Drivers.

The laptop in question was build around the time that Windows 98 was coming out, before Windows 2000 Professional was released, and it was never officially supported under the latter. Despite that, after installing Windows 2000 Pro every minute piece of hardware was correctly identified, I didn't have to install any extra drivers to get it that far. There were, however, three problems remaining: the built-in video card wasn't working correctly (it defaulted to generic VGA) and the two PCMCIA/PC-Card slots refused to work - with my intentions of using a PCMCIA ethernet card, this was going to pose problems.

Long story short, it completely stumped me. Each device was giving a similar error in Device Manager that there were insufficient resources, but none of them gave detailed enough of an answer to pinpoint what was insufficient - IRQs, memory, etc. I suspect it may have been a memory issue, but it was kind of silly of them to write drivers that were hardcoded to memory above the 64mb limit for laptops that were released back when 32mb was a large amount. After several hours of searching for alternative drivers, disabling other devices to see if it was a problem of something else conflicting, it was just going utterly nowhere.

So last night I took my HD platters in my hand and wiped the drive. Then the real fun began, but that's for another time.

Fedora Core (Linux) tip: manually installing RPMs using Yum


Here's a little tip I came across today while attempting to manually install software using Yum.

One of the the really cool things in Yum is that it can not only install software for you from online repositories but it can also take care of all of the inter-file dependency hell associated with installing a 3rd party RPM file. To do this simply run the command

yum install yourarchive.rpm

and it will check all of the dependencies for you and automatically queue up the files it needs to install, just like it was getting the file from a repository in the first place. Very handy when you're beta testing software.

Another tip is related to this. When I did the above it queued up all of the extra files I needed, then complained that it couldn't recognize the electronic signature attached to the new program I was installing, specifically it said:

Public key for <filename> is not installed

A quick google later and I discovered there's a little trick you can do but are generally advised not to. You see when you're updating software using Yum it verifies that all of the software is coming from somewhere reputable, so it keeps track of the signatures for each repository it knows about. The obvious problem then is that if you're installing a once-off file there's no server to have a signature from, so it shrugs its shoulders and gives up. The temporary fix for this is to change a line in the file /etc/yum.conf that says


Simply change that to =0 and you're away with it! Do make sure to change it back afterwards, though, you want to keep this security precaution in place for normal use.

I hope these can help others who get stuck.

Software for our old laptop


After some testing a few nights ago with a few different Linux distribution so-called live CDs (CDs you can boot straight up into Linux, no install needed) I figured I'd try out Windows 2000 Professional on the laptop, and if we have problems with it I'll put on Fedora Core. This testing period also gives the Fedora folks more time to finish the new Fedora Core 5, which is due for launch in March.

I've made another decision regarding the software to be installed. With the major rewritten version 2 due very shortly, I've decided to go with Gaim for instant messaging. I tried out the current release (beta 2) at home and it works very well while still being a pretty small program. If it does end up being too much for the wee beastie I'll revert to GTalk but for the moment I'm aiming for Gaim.

As I write this I'm actually installing Windows 2000 Pro on the laptop and its going smoothly so far. Several years ago I attempted to install it for its then owner, only to have it constantly throw up on me. As it turned out the machine's hard drive was failing so it never completed the task. With a replaced drive it has been flying along so far, but it isn't finished yet so I'd best not jinx things.

More later.

Making an old laptop more usable


We've received an old Pentium 233/MMX laptop that has 64mb of RAM, a 10gb hard drive and is currently running Windows 98. I'm intending turning it into a basic Internet kiosk for our living room, which is definitely doable. The trick, however, will be to get it running a more powerful / stable operating system that can run the two basic services I want: web browsing and instant messaging.

The key problem is not going to be the software itself, as its pretty much decided for me already - for a web browser I'll probably be using Opera (Firefox is simply too big for this wee beastie) and either Google Talk, IM2 or maybe Gaim for the instant messaging. Along with that I'll probably install a minimalistic MP3/CD player and a firewall, and have a virus checker in the background incase needed.

The real problem, however, is finding a more up-to-date operating system than is currently installed, something that will fit within the 64mb memory limit that we're stuck with, and still leave room for running the software. While it may be possible to upgrade to more memory, I'm not currently sure its an investment worth our money, but I will research it anyway. So the main two options are Windows 2000 and some form of Linux (probably Fedora Core running Xfce). I'll probably start off trying Windows XP and then jump to Linux if that doesn't work up to snuff.

Before doing anything the first task will be to backup what's already on the drive incase its needed later, and I'll be using Acronis True Image to do that.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Intel sucks


I've said it before and I'll said it again, aside from having larger manufacturing facilities, Intel is pretty bad these days in comparison to AMD. Their latest high-end processor is the dual core Xeon and is so hot that it could bake a turkey, all while being slower and more expensive than AMD's best.

Longer term, while Intel struggles with retrofitting their ten year old Pentium Pro design again, AMD are working on turning the entire 32bit x86 instruction set into a virtual chip inside their 64bit core. Sorry, Intel, you suck!


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