Ever gotten a piece of hardware as a discount or a gift for a favor or even in lieu of cash? Your excitement is off the chart, until you explore what you got. How many times the big thrill became an albatross, the proverbial white elephant or my favorite, the door-stop? Believe it or not, lots of Linux users have experienced this, because Linux is supposed to run great on old stuff. The caveat is hardware with proprietary drivers (made for Microsoft OS).
In the further adventures of "This old PC", my Gateway 4026 laptop has reached another milestone. I've read about dozens of 4026 owners ready to convert their laptops into Frisbees after trying to install Linux on them. Here's what I did. First the total XP, then dual-boot via normal installation. This yielded a laptop with working XP and a silent off-line Ubuntu. Then I installed XP with Ubuntu installed via WUBI the Ubuntu windows installer. I had XP and Ubuntu joined at the hip. I discovered sound by installing the Alsa libraries (the Alsa Linux Sound Architecture), then interrogated the PC by Ubuntu's System Testing module. The sound jumped into life.
Next, since I discovered I could get sound, it was worth nuking the whole hard drive and installing Ubuntu by it self, goodby XP. This went great and I got sound and a wired Ethernet. Wireless, will I have wireless? There was a driver for the Broadcom wireless card, so I went with that. After I matched my card and access point configs, wireless happened and I pulled the Ethernet cable.
Here's what didn't happen. I popped in the Ubuntu 10.4 live-CD, it did not boot-up. So upgrading to the latest did not happen and since 9.10 is not broke and works unexpectedly well, I am not going to fool with it. By all accounts my Gateway 4026 is not supposed to run Linux and get sound and wireless. All I need now is a new battery pak and a new keyboard assembly, the resurrection will be complete. And I just tore off the "Made for Win98/XP" stickers and pasted on a "Linux Inside" sticker in its place, totally redefining the laptop in the mind of this user.
If you can get lower power consumption and reasonable performance, along with portability, then laptops, even larger ones are the thing to get. And there is something magical about Linux springing to life on a laptop. I am so used to ATX boxes stuck in one room. Break out the Glade new car scent air-freshener folks, we are new again.