Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon beta on P-III 700

As I tend to do every few months, yesterday I “rescued” an old Pentium III 700 Mhz computer from the local thrift store for 20 bucks. It had 512MB RAM (which I upgraded to 768MB using some extra RAM I had lying around my man-cave) and  a 15GB hard drive (which I intend to upgrade to 40GB in a few days). It has a CD-ROM drive, but I intend to add a DVD drive, also in a few days. I upgraded the stock ATI video card to an NVidia GeForce 4200 given to me by my brother-in-law a couple of years ago.  The biggest upgrade, however, I’ll tell you more about after the jump.

On this venerable machine I chose to install (as a test) the latest beta of Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon. I downloaded the ISO from Ubuntu’s web site and burned it to a CD using one of my mules, a PowerMac G4/733Mhz “Sawtooth”that I use for video conversion and other grunt work. Once burned to CD, I booted the Pentium III using Ubuntu’s Live CD feature.

Then I installed it. Took about an hour. On thing that always impresses me about Ubuntu installations is that it never has any problems detecting and installing appropriate drivers for all the different hardware devices in any of the Frankenstein systems I’ve installed it on.  Ubuntu installs just work.

After installation, it was time to reboot. Upon reboot, Gutsy told me that I needed to download and install a restricted (i.e., non-free) driver for my video card to enable “Desktop Effects.” I was excited to try this new feature in Gutsy because I don’t believe the 3-D Desktop Effects have been part of the feature set of previous Ubuntu releases. So I authorized the restricted driver installation. It was all very straightforward.

Once I did that and rebooted the machine, I was in business. I was very impressed with Gutsy’s desktop effects, especially on such old hardware. It really brings a “junk” computer to the realm of current real-world usability, as long as you don’t care about playing 3-D games. I’ve also installed a Twitter client for Gutsy, which I’ll talk about in a future post. I’m also trying to figure out how to capture my screen so that I can share a glimpse of what Gutsy’s desktop effects look like; of course you can search YouTube and find many examples.

Speaking of YouTube, there is now native Linux Flash support so that we Linux users can watch garbage on YouTube just like the rest of the world! Yay (mix of sarcasm and actual delight back there).

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