Lenovo X60s and Kubuntu

After nearly a year of self employment I’ve finally felt confident enough in this lark to spend some of the money on a new laptop rather than keep hiding it away for a rainy day (I’ve been surviving on a 6 year old IBM R30 that I got for £50 for the last year). After much agonising and the usual analysis paralysis I finally settled on the Lenovo X60s. I don’t need a desktop replacement like I used to and I’m travelling more and more regularly, so an ultraportable makes lots of sense. On top of that I’ve always loved the Thinkpad series laptops and the reviews of the Dual Core, 1.3Kg, 8 hour battery life X60s made it a pretty straightforward choice (despite my hankering for a MacBook simply for the looks).

I spend most of my time developing nowadays and so Linux on the desktop is an absolute must for long journeys and dead hours spent waiting for meetings, trains, taxis, drunk friends and so on. Before I bought the X60s I checked that people were having no trouble installing Kubuntu on it and so was pretty confident that it wouldn’t be too hard…

Famous last words, of course. I need to do a PXEBoot as I didn’t buy the docking station. After a lot of (unsuccessful) mucking around trying to get my Debian workhorse server to act successfully as a tftp server I gave in and I followed the excellent guide for using Tftpd32.exe on a windows box as a combined tftp and dhcp server and found getting the Ubuntu installer up and running a lot easier than I was expecting. That guide is a little out of date now – the instructions are the same, but you should probably try either Dapper (Netboot Image) or Edgy (Netboot Image).

Unfortunately because you can’t (at least not without a huge amount of fiddling and reliance on scripted installations which I didn’t want to try on my new laptop) point a netboot at a local apt-proxy installation the netboot will take a long time – this can be particularly frustrating if it fails a long way in… (more of which later)…

My first go was to try Edgy (“why not?” I thought). That was a little hopeful as the installer bailed out with the message initramfs-tools is already the latest version. Given the time each installation was taking before it failed I thought that I should probably give that one up and go to Dapper, where lots of people were reporting success.

Again I got the installer up and running very easily. Unfortunately after downloading all the packages (about an hour and a quarter in to the process) it kept crashing on me, with the screen blacking out and showing only 2 cursors in the middle of the screen. I could only find 3 references to this happening (here, here and here (at the bottom)) but none of them offered a solution.

Because of the time it was taking each new attempt was pretty demoralising when it finally did fail.

After 2 evenings of banging my head against it I picked up the fact that rashad had identified that it was the xorg package preparing/configuring itself that was causing the issue. So, rather than performing a default install I tried the server installation instead (by typing ‘server’ at the installer prompt), thereby sidestepping any X configuration issues during the installation and ensuring that I got a working OS before trying to go on to getting the desktop up and running. This proved to be the right choice; the base Ubuntu server installation was a breeze and I happily had both Ubuntu and Windows in a working GRUB menu.

Next step was sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop…. The package is about 1GB, so I was back to waiting to see if this approach was actually going to work. As it got to the same stage as the default installer kept failing I was on tenterhooks. Suddenly the screen went black and two cursors appeared in the middle of the screen. Just as I was about to start swearing and throwing something through the window the screen returned and the process kept running. After doing the engineer’s dance for a few moments I went back to watching it run through. About 10 minutes later startx and I had Kubuntu up and running on my laptop.

The next steps are to install the linux-686-smp kernel sort out processor scaling and so on (as I’ve read about here, and then look into EasyUbuntu or Automatix (or both)… That’s enough for now though…