Xubuntu: Pimp my Gateway Solo 3350 Notebook

Gateway Solo 3350 It’s been 5 days since my shiny pre-owned notebook arrived. Considering it’s size, specs and above all, price, this sure is a bargain find from TipidPC. I am truly blessed to have found such an item. Hopefully for me this will bring more productivity and portability nirvana. The thing weighs less than 2 kgs, very light and it’s barely noticeable in my bag.

Here are the specifications:

  • Celeron 500MHz Coppermine
  • 128MB SDRAM
  • 10GB HDD
  • 12″ LCD
  • ATI Rage Mobility Graphics Card
  • ESS Sound Card
  • 3com Ethernet LAN Card
  • External CD-ROM

Shopping around for a suitable “lightweight” linux distribution to install, the choice for me is clear: Xubuntu.

Why?
(personally based on internet reviews and my conclusion on my peers’ experience)

  • Ubuntu family of linux distros are relatively clean looking; fairly well intergrated desktop; secure out of the box;
  • Debian/Ubuntu’s huge repository – chance for me to learn more Debian as I’m coming from a Redhat background.
  • Xubuntu is officially part of Ubuntu family, Dapper 6.06 LTS is Long Term Support (updates for 6 years)

Installation Notes:

Trouble with Xubuntu LiveCD:
Xubuntu 6.10 (Edgy) LiveCD is boots fine using the external CDROM drive, loads up and detects everything, more or less. Except 128MB is really not enough to run the installation to HDD application. The system was repeatedly trashing, and there’s my cycle of reboot + run-install program. I gave up trying the LiveCD and looked for alternative way of installation.

Base Install
What I basically did was:

  1. Install Ubuntu Server Edition (6.06 LTS)
  2. sudo apt-get xubuntu-desktop gdm

Thats it! I was surprised how everything was configured by default. After the reboot, GRUB, runlevel 5, default sensible apps (as in the liveCD), everything was configured. I have sound, working Xorg config, etc. The only thing I have to check yet is the built-in ESS winmodem and pcmcia cardbus. After that I had several desktop tweaks, kernel change to generic 686, package upgrades, codecs, non-free apps installation, etc. Everything was and has been relatively easy.

Internals:
Processor:

dexter@dexter:~$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor : 0
vendor_id : GenuineIntel
cpu family : 6
model : 8
model name : Celeron (Coppermine)
stepping : 3
cpu MHz : 497.922
cache size : 128 KB
fdiv_bug : no
hlt_bug : no
f00f_bug : no
coma_bug : no
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 2
wp : yes
flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 mmx fxsr sse
bogomips : 996.87

Other Devices:

dexter@dexter:~$ lspci
0000:00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation 440BX/ZX/DX - 82443BX/ZX/DX Host bridge (rev 03)
0000:00:01.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 440BX/ZX/DX - 82443BX/ZX/DX AGP bridge (rev 03)
0000:00:07.0 Bridge: Intel Corporation 82371AB/EB/MB PIIX4 ISA (rev 02)
0000:00:07.1 IDE interface: Intel Corporation 82371AB/EB/MB PIIX4 IDE (rev 01)
0000:00:07.2 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82371AB/EB/MB PIIX4 USB (rev 01)
0000:00:07.3 Bridge: Intel Corporation 82371AB/EB/MB PIIX4 ACPI (rev 03)
0000:00:09.0 Multimedia audio controller: ESS Technology ES1988 Allegro-1 (rev 12)
0000:00:09.1 Communication controller: ESS Technology ESS Modem (rev 12)
0000:00:0a.0 CardBus bridge: Texas Instruments PCI1410 PC card Cardbus Controller (rev 01)
0000:00:0d.0 Ethernet controller: 3Com Corporation 3c905C-TX/TX-M [Tornado] (rev 78)
0000:01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: ATI Technologies Inc Rage Mobility P/M AGP 2x (rev 64)

Conclusion

What Needs Improvement:
LiveCD eats up a lot of memory, my recommendation is that this should be attempted only on machines with >=256MB. Haven’t really tried to get Suspend working (more attempts/reconfig needed on my part). Battery applet information disappears time to time.

My Positive Experience:
For low-end machines, especially low memory systems, Xubuntu earns my recommendation. An empty freshly booted Xubuntu desktop eats up barely 80MB of memory. Drivers detected, Sensible defaults, and Hibernate works out of the box. Setup is a simple base-cd install, then apt-get, apt-get, apt-get, hehe :)

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