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Install Report: Ubuntu Hardy Heron on Sharp Actius MM20
self, camphone, eye
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:

Section “Device”

Identifier “Videocard0″
Driver “radeon”
Option “AGPMode” “4″
Option “XAANoOffscreenPixmaps” “true”
Option “RenderAccel” “true”


Section “Screen”

Identifier “Screen0″
Device “Videocard0″
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection “Display”

Viewport 0 0
Depth 24



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.

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Thanks for posting about this, I am about to perform the same service for a friend's 256mb ram mm20. I was wondering if you had any thoughts about performance of ubuntu on this - do you think any other distributions might be faster on this laptop, having only 256mb?

'regular' Ubuntu at 256MB is acceptable, provided you don't do anything ridiculously resource-intensive.

That said, I'd recommend Xubuntu for this setup; XFCE is a much lighter-weight desktop environment, when compared to GNOME or KDE.

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