Thursday, November 5, 2009

The ThinkPad Lives!

Just for fun and because I've heard Linux can work on older machines, I tried installing Linux Mint 7 on my ancient ThinkPad 1400 from 1999. It has a noisy fan, but it does run, although I need to use AC for power. Mint didn't work. After chugging away for a long time, it finally told me the kernel needs "cmov" and my CPU doesn't have it. I don't really know what it is. All I know is it's needed and the ThinkPad doesn't have it.

I looked that up online and found I'd have to look for a small distro that works on older machines. After some research, I tried SimplyMEPIS 8, but that needed the cmov thing too. After more research, I downloaded Puppy version 4.3.1, the latest one. This looked more promising. It didn't take nearly as long to go through the black screen and it allowed me to make some choices for language, country, time zone, etc. Eventually it got to a graphical desktop, which looked quite nice except for one thing. The mouse pointer wouldn't move.

I dug out a trackball and plugged it in, then tried again. Same results. I was using a PS/2 adaptor on the trackball, so I took that off and connected to a serial port. Unfortunately, that didn't work either. Back to the intertoobs, where I saw a post on a Linux forum where someone had chosen "test" for video. There was a "change mouse" option and I chose a serial mouse. This time, on the very primitive screen that came up, the mouse pointer moved, so I went on. Got to the desktop once again, and the mouse pointer wouldn't move.

More research. This time I read about someone saying things changed between versions 4.2 and 4.3 regarding mouse choices. So I downloaded version 4.2, burned it, and stuck it in the CD drive on the ThinkPad. This time I went through everything and when I got to the graphical desktop, the mouse pointer moved. Success at last.

I ended up burning three CDs from downloaded ISO files and Mint's CD burning software, Brasero, made it so easy. The download window allowed me to chose to save the file in the burner software, and then I was informed that because the file was an ISO file, it could be burned right to disk without a lot of fiddling around. It was so simple. I was initially skeptical because I've made wrong choices with ISO image files in Windows and ended up just burning the file to disk instead of creating a bootable CD, but that didn't happen this time. They burned and they booted.

Usually I don't need a laptop, having two desktops that run fine, but now and then I might be able to use it. It would be handy to look at pictures I take at Faerieworlds next summer. All I'd need is someplace to plug in the ThinkPad and I'd not only see the pictures much larger than they show on the camera viewscreen, but I could share the viewing with friends there. I'll have to take a few pictures of something and see how feasible that idea is.

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