Linux On My Laptop
I recently got a used HP/Compaq nc6400 laptop, which came with XP Pro installed from the factory. Since I can't stand Windows I decided to install a Linux distro in a dual-boot. I tried a Live cd of Ubuntu 10.04 and it worked just fine, so I used GPartEd to re-size the existing partition and did the install. Most things worked auto-magically, which was one reason I used Ubuntu. I know many Linux purists don't care for Canonical's methods but they have a large user base, help is relatively easy to get, and they support a ton of hardware without having to jump through too many hoops. Plus, although I've used several distros in the past, I'm most familiar with Ubuntu and I love their repo's. I can usually find any app I need (often with several to choose from), and the install and updating have worked consistently well for me. So anyway, that was my choice, and I have not regretted it.
Since this is my first laptop (and first wireless box as well) I had some concerns about hardware support. All the major functions of the laptop worked with little or no intervention on my part. The factory Intel Pro wireless card worked right away, detecting two networks nearby that were too weak for a connection. Since they weren't mine I didn't try to connect, even though they were unsecured (I'm amazed that some people still run wide-open, but that's another story). There are some known issues with the HP card reader drivers, but I have a usb card reader that works just as easily so that wasn't an issue. I haven't messed with the fingerprint reader because I don't really need it. Even in Windows I don't use it, since I've usually logged on already by the time it loads. Audio and video cards were fully functional with no intervention on my part, as was the dvd burner.
I'm writing this mainly to document my success and to bring up a potential problem for others wanting to try Linux on an nc6400. Some of HP's security software writes to the mbr*, so every boot into XP screwed up the system. There are a few ways to remedy this - I will post the two ways to repair grub that I found, but you can also choose to boot from a separate partition or, as I did, disable the HP security tools. I rarely use XP but I did want to keep it in case it's ever needed, but I didn't feel I needed the HP tools (I also kept the HP/XP restore partition, just in case). Since this was sold as a Business laptop those features might come in handy for others.
In summary, I'm very happy with Ubuntu 10.04 on this nc6400. I was prepared to try a few distros to see which worked best, but now I believe I'll stick with what I have.
* - see this page for more information on the subject.
Repair instructions for grub2
(note - tested for Ubuntu 10.04 only)
Boot live cd, go to terminal
sudo fdisk -l (if you don't know partitions)
Mount the partition containing the Ubuntu installation.
sudo mount /dev/sdXY /mnt
Run the grub-install command as described below. This will reinstall the GRUB 2 files on the mounted partition to the proper location and to the MBR of the designated device.
sudo grub-install --root-directory=/mnt/ /dev/sdX
Solution 2 Revert to Legacy Grub
sudo apt-get purge grub-pc
sudo apt-get install grub
sudo rm /boot/grub/*
sudo grub-install --recheck /dev/sda
This assume that /dev/sda is your boot drive. Otherwise you need replace /dev/sda by one of /dev/sdb, /dev/sdc,...
You also need to add Windows to your Grub menu:
gksudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst
and add an entry for Windows at the very end of the file:
title [Your Version of Windows]
if Windows is not on the boot drive, that is if Y is not zero,you also need the map line:
title [Your Version of Windows]
map (hd0) (hdY)
map (hdY) (hd0)