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Hello everyone. I'm not a computer expert, but I recently bought an old computer for less than 10 and I wanted to install a Linux distro on it but I ...
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  1. #1
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    I can't, for the life of me, install Linux.


    Hello everyone. I'm not a computer expert, but I recently bought an old computer for less than 10 and I wanted to install a Linux distro on it but I accomplished nothing but failures so far.

    The computer has a Pentium III processor and 384MB of RAM, with a 10GB hard disk. It has (had!) Windows XP Home on it.

    I have some live CDs with different distros, so I tried to enter the BIOS menu to make it boot from CD - turns out there's no such thing as a BIOS menu, only a CMOS menu. From there I set the CD-ROM as primary master instead of the hard disk, but all the different CDs I tried to boot from gave me the same error: ATAPI incompatible. I managed to burn two CDs using Nero from the Windows XP installed on the same machine, so I guess the optical drive is working, right?

    The machine has two USB ports, but only one is working. I highly doubt it's able to boot from USB flash drive, but I still tried to stick it in and disable both the primary and secondary master/slaves to force it to try to boot from something else, to no end.

    I did the same with a floppy disk and I successfully booted eBoot (a minimal Linux distro) from a single floppy disk, so at least that works, but it's so small it's useless to me casual user... I need a "true" OS

    I cleaned the CMOS and removed and inserted the battery back, hoping to unlock the BIOS or something, I tried it all.

    I downloaded Smart Boot Manager and successfully executed it but I didn't find an option to boot from CD.

    I downloaded Wubi and launched it, but it kept giving me weird errors mid-installation and aborted.

    I downloaded a Lubuntu ISO, extracted the kernel and initrd and put them in C: and reconfigured the boot.ini to give me the option to load grldr during boot, downloaded grub4dos, managed to get into grub menu and manually loaded kernel and initrd. Seemed to work fine, but I got stuck at a busybox/initramfs prompt.

    I downloaded UNetbootin and launched it, but the first installation of Lubuntu failed after a while because I was trying to dual boot it with Windows and I didn't have enough space on the hard disk. I restarted it going #yolomode and giving Lubuntu the full disk, basically formatting the hard disk and deleting Windows for good. Seemed to work fine, kept downloading for a long while, I followed the installation wizard step by step and finally I read "Installation complete, reboot now?". I rebooted... now Lubuntu is obviously the only OS left in my machine, so it booted that, only to arrive to a black screen with blurred unreadable text that seems to be a shell (but it isn't: I tried a few commands and it acted weird). I took a photo of the screen just in case.
    screen.jpg
    I rebooted multiple times but this always happens.

    Now I don't even have Windows anymore, and I don't know what to do. I'm left with a computer that won't seem to boot from CD and has basically no OS. I googled a lot and it seems there's a way to install from multiple floppies, but unfortunately I only have two and one of them is damaged and can't be used (and to say I was glad I found a working one after 10+ years, good thing I never throw anything). Even then, for some reason I don't think it'd work and it seems to be by far the most technical/scary way to install the OS.

    Can you guys please help me? I'm clueless as to what to do. I know it's just a cheap and old computer, but it still drives me mad!

    When I turn it on, I see the Packard Bell logo and just two options: Esc to go to POST and F2 to open CMOS menu. I tried blindly F1, F12, Ctrl+Alt+S and any other combination I found on the web. Nothing.

    Any help, hint, suggestion, or even a plain "You're an idiot, you should have done this and that" is warmly welcome because as of now I think I have no more tools left to try.

    Unfortunately I don't know the model of my motherboard and I didn't manage to find it. I browsed the Packard Bell site to find it out but it looks like there was a serial number printed on a sticker on the side of the chassis that now isn't there. As I said I'm no expert and I can't tell what model it is just by looking at it.

    Thanks in advance and please forgive my ignorance and occasional English slips, this isn't my native language.

  2. #2
    Linux User zenwalker's Avatar
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    You can take my recommendations or leave it -- see my sig -- but I'd start with cleaning that 10Gb hard drive.
    System Rescue CD or another Live CD enables you to wipe it with zeros, making it a clean slate.
    Since I started using GNU/Linux on PIIIs, I know what you mean and may need.
    I'd recommend the new Zenwalk 7.4 at most and you'd probably be better off by a little with Absolute.

    Wipe it with zeroes first, however.

    Welcome!
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    antiX | SolydX | Puppy Slacko

  3. #3
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    Ehy, thanks for the super fast reply.

    I have no problems with completely wiping it, however, I do have some concerns:
    1) I don't have another machine with a floppy drive, nor do I have an external floppy drive, so I can't make a floppy with the "eraser".
    2) I could make a CD with the "eraser", but will the machine accept it? As in, if it can't boot from CD, will it be able to at least execute the wiper?
    3) Say I succeed in filling the disk with zeros. Now what do I do in order to install either of the distros you mentioned? They both seem to install from a Live CD, and my computer doesn't agree with that.

  4. #4
    Linux Guru rokytnji's Avatar
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    The computer has a Pentium III processor and 384MB of RAM, with a 10GB hard disk.
    Sounds almost like my IBM A22M.

    I downloaded UNetbootin and launched it, but the first installation of Lubuntu failed after a while because I was trying to dual boot it with Windows and I didn't have enough space on the hard disk.
    Makes me wonder if your Lubuntu download and install and syslinux bootloader was pointed to the internal 10gig drive and now syslinux is the bootloader.
    You won't be able by my uneducated guess to install Lubuntu using the graphical installer without first making a swap partition first and making sure it is turned on.
    A 800MB swap partition should suffice I would think for any Linux graphical install.

    I know Zenwalker has a valid point with Zenwalk and Absolute linux recommends but I know Absolute does not run live. At least back when I tried it.
    You want to dual boot I take it with XP I am also guessing.

    So I'll compromise. I run Lighthouse 5 Puppy 32 bit Mariner on a broken screen IBM A22M with a 2 gig IDE 2.5 inch ancient hard drive. 500 hz cpu. 384MB of ram.
    It runs respectable. I did it ages ago when Lighthouse 32 bit was supported by Tazoc. Now he has moved on to building for 64bit.

    Here is the one I installed via cdrom boot. Lighthouse Pup 5 Downloads

    Lighthouse is based on Slackware and is quite nice to run. Firefox browser updates through the browser. Flash will be a challenge on your old gear because newer
    flash 11.2 requires sse2 support which your cpu won't have.

    Debian User Forums ? View topic - [HOW-TO] install older/alternative Flash plugin (no SSE2)

    I get around it 1 of 2 ways. Either run Flash 10.3. Archived Flash Player versions
    http://gallery.me.com/blbjr#100010
    or

    Install Greasemonkey addon and use Linterna Magica to play youtube videos. Use youtube-dl or cclive via command line to download the video.
    or use Puppy Linux GTK-youtubeviewer to watch youtube videos out side of my browser.

    As far as smart boot manager goes. I played with it long ago.

    I play with PLOP sometimes also when I have to.antiX-forum - View topic - Add Boot via USB to Ancient Kit After antiX is Installed

    What I do know is. Installing and running Linux on older legacy gear and have it run everything via cli like links2 and Dillo and etc.............
    will sharpen up your cli foo quicker than running linux on modern gear. At least in my experience. YMMV.

    My pmcia wireless choices
    Belkin f5d7010 ver. 6 (version matters on linux compatible wireless chip. the ver 6 works right out of the box with all current linux kernels available.)
    Code:
    Ralink RT2561/RT61 802.11g PCI driver rt61pci v: 2.3.0 bus-ID: 06:00.0
    Dlink WNA-1330 (It has a Atheros wireless chip)
    Code:
     Atheros Communications Inc. AR2413 802.11bg NIC (rev 01)
    Netgear MA521
    Code:
     Realtek RTL8180L 802.11b MAC driver: rtl8180
    You are just getting started. Don't get wound up or frustrated. Things will get easier and you will glow with satisfaction with a job well done as things start to work out
    for you. I do this Linux thing like walking. I don't really have to think about it so much any more. I just do it. I am not a tech dude. Just a biker who runs linux.

    Leaving you with (because choice is good)

    http://www.linuxforums.org/forum/ins...all-guide.html
    Linux Registered User # 475019
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  5. #5
    Linux User zenwalker's Avatar
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    First off, roky knows what he is talking about and gives valuable tips like but not limited to, "You are just getting started. Don't get wound up or frustrated. Things will get easier and you will glow with satisfaction with a job well done as things start to work out for you." the powers that be here don't call him a Guru for nothing. There are many knowledgeable people here, so you're in the right place.

    I'm just an ex-gandy dancer with bad wrists and a bad left elbow from swinging a spike maul and other striking instruments like pulaskis and picks. I'm also good at finding alternative solutions that are oftentimes called "unorthodox." But they work for me or I would not recommend them.

    systemrescuecd-x86 is what is needed to prepare hard disks. Do not try to prepare a hard drive with any Windows utility. I have not had any luck and it can be a dead-end you don' t need to go down. See this tutorial on SystemrescueCD

    Can you beg, borrow or steal an external CD/DVD-RW burner? If not, and not able to boot from a USB stick, take the hard drive physically out of the PC and use another one that has what you need, is my recommendation. Or go here to see about purchasing the CDs pre-burnt. Stick with 32-bit. You may want to up RAM capacity to 512MB and make more GNU/Linux distros available to you.

    You will see the distros I mentioned there, at the site linked above. You will also see DBAN. It can be simply used to wipe the hard drive with zeroes. (Some will say you don't need to do this, but they have not had the experiences that I have had with the dirty ntfs file system and how it can mess up an install.)

    Please keep us posted and remember -- have fun!
    "What you think about me is none of my business"
    _______________________________________________
    antiX | SolydX | Puppy Slacko

  6. #6
    Linux User IsaacKuo's Avatar
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    My suggestion is to take the hard drive and install it in a different computer. Any computer with a PATA IDE interface should be sufficient. Then, do the install on that computer--32 bit x86 version, not 64 bit amd64 version. My personal preference is Debian.

    For simplicity, disconnect all of the other hard drives when doing this. Connect only the 10GB hard drive and a CDROM drive (for the install disc).

    Then, take the hard drive and put it back in the old computer. It should boot up. Linux is not like Windows. It won't care if you move the OS drive from one computer to another. Windows does a check to see if the hardware it's running on has changed--as an attempt at an anti-piracy measure. Linux does not.
    Isaac Kuo, ICQ 29055726 or Yahoo mechdan

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    Ehy guys, thank you all! I advanced a tiny bit in my quest, though not directly following any of you but rather mixing your advice with that of the allmighty Google.

    The blurred screen IS indeed the Lubuntu login prompt. To be able to correctly read that text I needed to enter the grub menu and edit a file adding "nomodeset" after "quiet splash". It booted fine to Lubuntu (terminal mode, no GUI) BUT whenever I reboot I have the same exact problem.

    I manually edited /boot/grub/grub.cfg adding "nomodeset" where needed, and now a weird thing happens. If I turn the computer on, it loads Lubuntu but it's all blurred. If I enter the grub menu during boot and simply press enter to load Lubuntu (the first option!) it loads Lubuntu just fine and readable. I checked and doublechecked /etc/default/grub and Lubuntu IS the default OS that gets automatically loaded everytime.

    Why on Earth do you think this happens?

    tl;dr If I turn on the computer, Lubuntu is loaded but the text is all messed up and can't be read. If I enter grub menu and load Lubuntu from there (which should be exactly the same thing), it loads fine. How is that?

  8. #8
    Linux Engineer TNFrank's Avatar
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    You're going to have to run something that'll be easy on the RAM and processor since you're specs are pretty limited. I got Point Linux 2.2 to run on an old Dell with a P3, 866MHz processor with 512MB of RAM and it's not too bad as long as I don't try to do anything fancy like Compiz on it.
    I'd find a good Debian or Ubuntu based Distro with either a MATE or xfce Desktop so it'll only eat up around 150MB of your RAM. If you have a CD drive that's working you can make a "Live" CD of one of the smaller Distros that'll fit onto a CD then use either gparted or GNOME Disk Utility to format the hard drive to ext4. That'll get it ready to take the new Linux Op System. Then do a clean install and you should be good to go from that point on. It may take some tweaking and may take a couple different Distros before you find one that'll work with your limited system specs but I'm sure there's one that'll work. You just need to keep trying and not give up. You may even try to bump up your RAM(512MB seems to be about the bottom limit for decent performance) and even get a DVD-RW drive that'll work in your system to replace the CD-ROM drive you currently have. I put my old iMac DVD-RW "Super Drive" into my daughter's computer in place of her old CD-ROM drive so I could use a bigger Distro that would only fit onto a DVD. I also replaced her old 10GB and failing HDD with the old 60GB IDE HDD from my dead iMac so she'd have more HDD room. You can normally get RAM and an HDD for cheap off of EBay or Amazon and just a little bit of upgrading to your computer will help out quite a bit. Also, if you're using an older CRT monitor you may need to adjust it to take care of the blurred screen. They can get out of focus sometimes.
    Good luck and keep us posted.

  9. #9
    Linux Guru rokytnji's Avatar
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    tl;dr If I turn on the computer, Lubuntu is loaded but the text is all messed up and can't be read. If I enter grub menu and load Lubuntu from there (which should be exactly the same thing), it loads fine. How is that?
    No telling but maybe TNFrank is right

    You're going to have to run something that'll be easy on the RAM and processor since you're specs are pretty limited
    The last link I left in my last post gives alternate Linux installs. Slitaz and AntiX are made for your specs. Point Linux may be also. TNFrank is the expert on that.
    Linux Registered User # 475019
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  10. #10
    Linux Engineer TNFrank's Avatar
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    Point Linux 2.2 may run on his system but if there's any way to do it I'd bump up the RAM to at least 512MB. That seems to be THE spot where Op Systems start to work decently. Not saying they won't work with less but at 512MB you get some wiggle room to run your desktop and open a browser window or two without bogging down the system too badly. Also, if you can pick up a good, used 19" flat panel monitor from Goodwill or similar(normally sell for around $20 bucks) that'd go a long way in making things look better since those old CRT's aren't all that great IMHO.

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