Two more old laptops (IBM ThinkPad R40, Windows XP, 640MB RAM) were rescued today, thanks to Ubuntu 9.04. Instead of being discarded, they will serve us for at least another year or two as OPACs, express (15-minute) Internet computers to let the summer people check their email and then get back to the beach, or just general purpose public computers.
Why not Ubuntu 10.04, you may ask. These old machines can read CDs, but not DVDs, and Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 image appears to be too large to fit onto a CD, although the install instructions have not yet been updated to reflect that. Or maybe I just got a bad download. I'll try again next week.
Why not Ubuntu 9.10? The installation went all right, but the machine wouldn't reboot. It showed a GRUB Error and, while there were several solutions suggested on the Ubuntu forums, I don't yet know enough about the innards of Ubuntu to attempt them. So I punted to 9.04, which also displayed a GRUB error, but one that I could deal with. The simplest solution suggested on the forums was to make sure that the GRUB loader installs in the MBR (Master Boot Record). I didn't remember that being an option in the list of installation questions, but I started the install again and this time chose the advanced options when the question about disk partitioning came around. Sure enough, there were three options for where to put GRUB: hd0, sda, and sda1. A forum post told me that sda is equivalent to MBR, so that's what I selected, and this time the new installation rebooted just fine. All that was left to do was to get the Adobe Flash player, and I was in business. Rinse and repeat with the other laptop.
I would have liked to have installed Google Chrome for Linux, because it comes all packaged with a Flash player, but it doesn't seem to be compatible with 9.04 Desktop. Maybe Ubuntu 10.10 will install cleanly on these old machines, and be compatible with Chrome; we'll see.
Here's the clip I used to test whether Flash was correctly installed. This week I read that Louisiana passed a law that allows people to carry concealed handguns in places of worship, and this was the first thing I thought of.