I've been spending the last part of my vacation time sorting out various family IT projects. My dad's old laptop, a Sharp Actius MM20. The MM20 (and its predecessor, the MM10) was a couple of years ahead of the curve on what has since become the netbook trend-. It's thinner than a MacBook Air, has very humble hardware, and is meant to be a portable supplement to a more powerful "base" computer.
The Actius had one other thing in common with many of today's netbooks: it ran Linux pretty well-- well enough to be sold by Emperor Linux as their most portable system (the Meteor).
I had installed Ubuntu 6.10 "Edgy Eft" on it, and Dad had been using it as a Linux machine for a while now, dual-booting with Windows XP. He has a new XP laptop (amusingly, its' an ASUS eeePC 1000, running Windows XP). Since now he has a whole new box running Windows, he asked me to wipe his old PC to run Ubuntu exclusively.
I decided to take the opportunity to install a more up-to-date version of Ubuntu. An install of Ubuntu 8.10 "Intrepid Ibex" failed--well, the textmode installer ran, but then on first boot, the machine just went black and did nothing--I couldn't even bring up a text console.
I burned through a bunch of CDs before it occurred to me to try to boot into a recovery mode session and see what was up. Turns out that the Ubuntu installer wasn't configuring Xorg properly.
Fortunately, it seems that novalugger David Cafaro has already solved this problem. I edited /etc/X11/xorg.conf along his lines. The relevant stanzas go like this:
Option “AGPMode” “4″
Option “XAANoOffscreenPixmaps” “true”
Option “RenderAccel” “true”
Viewport 0 0
Fix that, reboot, and X should start.
I ended up installing Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS "Hardy Heron" instead--figuring that Dad should probably get a stabler Long-term support release rather than having to update every six months like I do.