Monday, April 13, 2009

Installing Linux on a Toshiba Satellite 320CDS

I've tried a wide range of Linux distributions on this old laptop, from Slackware to Ubuntu via DSL. But I finally settled with Debian. I've used Slackware since 3.X and I originally intended to use here aswell. However that was a couple of years ago and I had alot of issues with sound and the wireless. Then Ubuntu came along and sound and wireless worked without any problems at all. But Ubuntu is not really ideal to run on a 233MHz system with only 96 MB RAM. So I tried other variants of Ubuntu like: Xubuntu, Fluxbuntu and server installations of Ubuntu. However when I was looking for a good tutorial to do a minimal installation of Ubuntu I came across a good tutorial for Debian aswell.

The reason I tried Debian is because I had alot of trouble with Ubuntu dropping out to busybox while booting the installation CD. I temporarily solved that as described below but I got really tired of it aswell.

Load ide-generic on failed boot of an installation CD.
In busybox type: modprobe ide-generic
Press: CTRL-D to continue booting.

A similar problem might arise during the installation process. Ubuntu will fail to find your CD and ask to scan for it. Before scanning open up another terminal and load the module from there.

Load the ide-generic module on a running system.
Press ALT-FX to open up a free terminal. X= 1-4
Type: modprobe ide-generic
Now scan again for the CD.

On a final note, since this problem will persist until you do something about it. After your first successful boot, before you do anything else.

Load the ide-generic module on boot.
Type: sudo nano /etc/initramfs-tools/modules
Add the line: ide-generic
Save and quit.
Type: sudo update-initramfs -u

The above issues does not exist in Debian and like I said before, thats why I ulitmately went with Debian. To do a minimal install with Debian just follow the above link to the tutorial and you're set.

Other stuff worth mentioning.

Wireless: 3com Office Connect 11g PCIMCA card.
The card will be detected by the kernel while installing. But it won't start since the firmware is missing. The firmware can be aquired here.
There's a really good tutorial in the that describes how to set up a wireless card and have it working with WPA encryption from boot.
Sound: OPL3-SA2
Just run alsaconf and have it autodetect your soundcard.
Boot options: acpi=off, noapic, nolapic, vga=788
I use the above line, try to find out whats best for your setup.

One thing I should mention that might help anyone trying to find out the specs of a Toshiba laptop is that Toshiba still keeps the support site for ALL their models active.