The Next Challenge, that Brute, Dell's Little Optiplex SX260

We have been fortunate enough to receive a cache of Optiplex SX260
computers, fine machines, remnants from the year 2002, running Windows
XP. They are rather cute little machines with a big heart. Now, I
could use them as they are, reinstalling Windows XP, needing to
purchase virus protection, finding/purchasing effective educational
software, paying for various licenses, updating drivers, and
downloading/installing software. But I am not going to do this. These
are my goals if I can accomplish them.

1. Wipe the drives clean and install Ubuntu 8.04.1
2. Install software available through the Ubuntu Repositories that
will help in production and teaching.
- Open Office: Open Source version of Microsoft Office that will open,
modify, and save in the Microsoft office format.
- Specific Edubuntu education software such as KTouch (typing),
TuxTyping, KCalc (Math), Gimp (Photoshop Nemesis, a good graphics
program too), Inkscape (drawing), and Idle (a simple python
programming editor) to go along with my PDF programming for children
book. This is just mentioning a few.
3. Put them in teacher's classrooms.
4. Train teachers to use Open Source software.

 

THE PROBLEM
Of course life is never that easy. This little beast is resistant to
change, like many of us, and refuses my attempts to change its
identity, thwarting my efforts to install, sweet Linux Mint LXDE,
Linux Mint XFCE, Ubuntu 8.04, Xubuntu 8.04, Alternate and Live
Versions of each. The little Dell crashes, freezes, won't start, or
works for ten minutes, then begins to flash pretty colors of white,
red, green and purple with an alternating black screen screaming error
messages at me! I refuse to give in. I have been here before. I think,
remember that old grey Apple 3G tower? He screamed too. Now he is an
Ubuntu machine that only sings the beginning melody of the Apple
legacy.

 

THE SOLUTION
But, there is hope because the Knoppix Live CD runs beautifully,
however it is really only a live CD and is impractical for my use.  I
scoured the Web in search of a solution and found another kernel of
hope. DELL actually makes its own version of Ubuntu 8.04, that
includes proprietary drivers for a basic OEM Iso. installation.
Really, there is a small Linux community sponsored by Dell that has
been working to provide Linux solutions. Yippie! I need to be calm
because as I am writing this my little beast has just finished
updating hundreds of files. Awhile ago I downloaded the Dell Ubuntu
LIve Disk image and burned it onto a DVD and installed it. Round one
worked. I have chosen to stay with the original version of the Linux
kernel for fear of the latest kernel slowing down the little beast,
providing unnecessary add-on improvements. I will end now and restart
my New Linux Challenge.

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Replies to This Discussion

The little SX260 threw one last small curve. There was no sound. I
looked everywhere again and found a hint of a solution. Someone
mentioned that when the kernel was updated his sound disappeared. When
I installed all my updates, I thought for sure I unchecked the latest
kernel version which would have caused my system to leap from
2xxxxxxx19 to 2xxxxxx28. Sorry, I can't remember the kernel number. I
checked the boot record and the new kernel was there. Ug! So I tried
booting from the 2xxxxxx19 kernel and voila my sound was back.
Normally, if you start at the beginning when the new OS versions begin
you will normally have a step by step progression of updated kernels.
Sometimes things go wrong as the Operating System integrates an
updated kernel. By the way when I speak of the kernel, I am referring
to the LINUX KERNEL the seed which all Linux flavors are based upon.
Now I had to find a way to make my system boot up to an earlier
version. I found out that there is this software program called
"StartupManager". I went to the Synaptic Package manager in my drop
down software list under Administration and found this piece of
software and installed it in about a minute. Then I configured startup
to boot with 2xxxxxx19.
How come you haven't tried Ubuntu 10.04.1 or Ubuntu 10.10?

I did try 10.4. It did not work. These computers only worked with the Ubuntu images available on the Linux Dell site. I tried Ubuntu 8.04, 9.04, 9.10, 10.04, Linux Mint 9 LXDE, 9XFCE, and different Knoppix versions which actually worked. The problem was that some of the installments were successful, but would crash for some reason or would fail to load.

That is really weird...

But you are not the only one with troubles:

http://getsatisfaction.com/jolicloud/topics/help_app_windows_and_me...

It seems this Dell in particular is quite tricky, at least with Ubuntu.

Have you tried openSuse? Or Fedora?

All the distros you have tried so far that don't work are based on Ubuntu, so it's no surprise that they all don't work.

But it's kind of annoying to be stuck with outdated software for that reason. So other, very different kernels, might help.

 

Besides that, I would try any of the acpi related kernel parameters, to see what happens.

 

Hello Urko,

I had a bit of free time today and decided to tackle the challenge of installing 10.04 again. To my surprise I was successful to a point. After 6 minutes of going online. my screen turned black and then began flashing on and off repeatedly. Now I remembered why it didn't work before. Well, I was not about to give up. So, I got to thinking, I was using 10.04 and wondered if there was a 10.04.1 available. Perhaps there might be some fixes. There is a 10.04.01 with many bug fixes and updates.

 

This is what happened. I downloaded and burned the iso. image and installed it on the sx260. I rebooted and to my disgust and let down, it did not boot up and I was met with that flashing screen. Ug! Again, I was not about to give up. I started up in recovery mode and let the software do its thing. Then, I went to "fix broken packages" and the system began to do a massive update and replaced many files. And you know what? I think everything is working just fine. In fact, I am using the little beast right now. It has been running for over 45 minutes with no issues. So far 10.04.1 boots up quicker, shuts down quicker, and is more responsive than 8.04.

I am going to continue running more applications and see if there are any glitches. I'll keep everyone posted.

 

Lessons Learned:

1. Install and run updates.

2. If system fails to boot, go into grub menu, "alt-shift" at startup, run recovery, run fix broken packages. At that point, Ubuntu will search for updates and packages for your system.

 

Ubuntu people out there, am I thinking correctly here?

Good to know you got it to work!

I usually use Clonezilla Live CD once I have a computer that works. That should save you all the hassle of installing it all over again for the rest of the donated SX260s.

 

The updates that you get are for all packages installed on your computer, not specific for your computer. I have many times "cloned" Ubuntu computers that had very different hardware.

In fact, I have Ubuntu 10.10 installed on an external USB 500Gb hard drive, and I am able to boot with it on almost any machine that I find. It autodetects all the new hardware, and just boots. No error messages, no "you've changed your hardware! let's reboot a million times!", no nothing. It just works.

 

In any case, congratulations!

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