This article is probably one of the first I am going to write in several years on hardware. I have been totally on the sidelines for a while in this area, but it was time for me to try something with an old piece of hardware I had sitting around.
I have been hearing about Linux builds being put on this old PC and that old PC from my compadres and the potential of making an old slow, even brokedown PC run like a charm. And being an ex-IT professional, I really wanted to make this happen. I had tried once before with Centos, but failed, and finally this past weekend, I made it happen. I put Umbuntu 9.01 onto my old Dell Pentium III Windows 2001 for Professionals PC. Now, thanks to a dozen great websites out there, I accomplished getting this done…
What was this old PC?
This old PC was something I used to work on, until low and behold the main hard-drive crashed. So there was no working harddrive. The first time around I had gone out and purchased a new 500 gig HD and put it into the PC, and that is when I tried the CENTOS CD somebody had handed me, but I found out at that point that I needed a DVD drive.
What did I do?
My friends who gave me a Umbuntu DVD did not know my PC was so old, it was long before DVD drives. So, I had to go out and buy one at OfficeMax. With a DVD player, I got a write, rewrite, I would be able to load the Umbunto directly. If you already have a working PC, you can easily download the entire Umbunto 9.01 directly to your hard-drive. In my case I did not have a working PC.
The installation of the DVD drive required taking the DELL apart, and I had to take out one of the existing CD drives. There were 2 CD drives in the PC a read only and a read, writable Drive. I unscrewed the read only CD drive and removed it. I carefully remembered what the previous settings were for the CD drive, so I could set the DVD drive right where the last CD drive went. Then I tightened things up, removed some cobwebs and prayed.
The First Attempt at Umbuntu
I booted up the PC (after I found an old keyboard with the old PS2 plug) with the Umbuntu in the DVD drive and added a USB mouse (did not know if this would work). First thing is the startup screen. I initially choose the integrity of the hardware option, but that really did not do much. I then choose to install and that ended up not being the right place (you would think that it would be). I followed some instructions somewhere out there on the Internet which said to run the temporary version… I just chose all the default options. One in particular I noticed that seemed to be fine and that was the default partition everything as one drive… This would come back to haunt me. So I finished it up and rebooted.
The big error 18
Low and behold I got Error 18… Well this was not good. So I researched Error 18 on google and found a website that said that this Umbuntu error occurs when your bios is old and the hard-drive is too big for the /boot partition… I had put a 500 gigabyte drive, half a terabyte in there and I guess that is no good with the current Bios… What to do? I went back online and found a forum about this particular problem, at least it seemed to be a similar issue with the boot, and then I ran the entire install process again except this time I set things up like this (and trust me it was still confusing):
Partition 1 sda /boot 100 megs
Partition 2 sda /usr 8 gigs
Partition 3 sda swap 8 gigs
Partition 4 sda /var 580,000 gigs (or the rest of it).
This was just a guess. Also on file type I just choose the the first one on the dropdown, who knows what that means. Anyway, I continued and the thing actually worked. So the issue here is the /boot partition needs to be small enough for the bios to work with. I believe at the time, something like 10-25 gigs max could go here, and I just found that 100 meg number on that forum.
When I plugged an ethernet cable into my N router and ran Firefox, this thing was blazing. That’s on an old Pentium III with 512 megs of ram. This is great, and the thing came with openoffice.org (word, excel, ppt) and most anything I could use downloads automatically through synaptics loader.
Still researching a bit, but I am officially a local Linux user now…