tc1100 tablet on xubuntu plus steroids Part I: installation

I recently have been gifted with a HP tc1100 broken tablet (thanks).
I turned out that it was only an hard disk issue, so I had time to fiddle a little with it. The tc1100 is a great machine for its time (2003) and comes full of nifty things to play with. I installed Xubuntu on it and it runs fine. Let’s see how it did.

It may be strange in these ipad time to see the tc1100, as it’s bulkier and less ergonomic, but it’s an interesting piece of hardware. It comes packed with WIFI, Bluetooth, a Wacom tablet with stylus, an optional tablet with pointer, modem, 2 USB ports and impressive lcd. Sound albeit a little light is surely better than my toshiba nb200 (2009). Video is an NVIDIA light gpu.Unfortunately it’s a little light on CPU (Pentium M)and RAM (512mb single slot, AFAIK. Should be another slot somewhere but I have no plans to open it up), and tends to heat up unconfortably when used a lot. It has a detactable keyboard that can be folded at a bit of depth price.
Being so light on CPU and RAM, it doesn’t perform very well with standard ubuntu and netbook remix editions. It becomes sluggish and unresponsive with Netbook remix, and a little better with 2B. Moreover, in my tc1100 the RAM bank doesn’t come out very easily as it’s blocked by the wifi board socket. Moreover it uses DDR sodimm and I have none around.
Having a fast boot time and being relatively cheap, it’s a great machine to have around. It also suspend nicely, so you can have it around every time.
I will describe what I did to have it running again. As always, you’re not encouraged to reproduce these steps on your hardware as many are dangerous for your system and male potency. I would suggest to avoid doing anything if you don’t feel very confident.

Preparation: what I did need.

  • 1x  1gb usb key
  • 1x usb pata interface
  • another pc (‘the host’)capable of running linux 386 with two USB port capable of booting from usb drive.
  • a pc with any recent Ubuntu on it (I need ‘make a startup disk’ from the administration menu. I could be the same computer as before)
  • 1x small phillips screwdriver
  • 1x ISO xubuntu 386 edition (any other should go, but GNOME and KDE will be slow. 512mb is a bit light for them)
  • (optional) 1x USB Cdrom
  • the tc1100 detactable keyboard or an usb keyboard

Booting to install XUBUNTU

My TC1100 doesn’t boot my usb drives. It spends some time considering to boot them and then resort to the hard disk. Using them is a bit out of question. I have no usb cdrom around so I cannot tell if it boots them. If I had I would have tried, as I would have spared me a lot of hassle. Tweaking the Bios didn’t help, but I would try harder.
Mine didn’t work, so I had to do. Please note that the outlined procedure is dangerous for the data on the host pc.

Make a startup usb boot disk using the xubuntu image on with ‘make a startup usb disk’ from the ubuntu administration menu.
Take out the TC1100 hard disk and put it on the USB pata adaper.
Backup data on the host pc. It would be wise to take out the host hard disk to avoid loss of data. But it’s optional.
Boot the host data pc from the usb drive. Before going on, I connect the usb hard disk to a spare usb port. I install as usual, but choose manual partition. Under no occasion choose to install automatically as it will install on the first hard disk (sda) that it’s surely the host hard disk.
Using alt+F2 I can launch another console, and run a dmesg to make sure I know the exact device the system assigned to the usb drive (that contains the tc1100 hard disk). Let’s say it’s ‘/dev/sdb’.
I choose to partition manually and do this over /dev/sdb. If there is some swap space on the host it wil be declared as swap space. I choose to not use it.

Same thing for the grub installation. I say to install it on /dev/sdb. On the first boot I will find also the host pc partition entries, if bootable. A quick ‘sudo update-grub’ when on the tc1100 will fix this. I finish the installation and power off the system. Going wrong with the disk labels at this time would surely result with an unbootable host, or with some data lost.

I prefer not booting from the usb hard disk with the host. During the installation I keep customization at minimum (no point customizing for the host pc). Saying that, let’s move the hard disk again over the tc1100, connect the usb keyboard and boot from it. It runs. I can login using the keyboard, when inside the system I will autorun an OSK (on screen keyboard) to come up at login time, so that the keyboard is not strictly necessary to login).  After being connected to internet and a general update, I issue a ‘sudo update-grub’ to get rid of the host grub partition entries.

On a previous installation I noticed that installing xfce4 on netbook remix and booting to xfce4 isn’t enough. The system will boot a lot of GNOME stuff anyhow, and will be slow. Xubuntu is really slim and well suited for the TC1100.

I now have a running Ubuntu Lucid Lynx, next post I will customize it.


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2 thoughts on “tc1100 tablet on xubuntu plus steroids Part I: installation

  1. thanks for a detailed post. i have the same tc1100. in this ipad days, is it possible to make this act like one. is it possible to install the Android os or any other OS that can make this tc1100 behave like an Ipad or near to it. pl do some thing, guys r showing off thier ipads n i still like my tc1100. ta

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