I want to install Linux on a Toshiba Portege 3490CT but don’t know how

My work holds an auction once a year to get rid of old furniture, equipment, etc. Last year’s auction wasn’t very exciting since there was a big space swap to reorganize all the office space at the time so tons of junk ended up in the auction. This year’s auction has less to offer in the furniture category but there were quite a number of Toshiba laptops, particularly the Portege 3490CT. It’s a silent auction submitted through email so there was no way to know about other people’s bids. I have been interested in getting a small laptop or a UMPC for quite a while so the Portege 3490CT became quite attractive to me. I submitted a bid of $90 and crossed my fingers. Bidding ended on Friday 1pm but I was out of town that day so I found out I won the laptop on the following Monday. There were about 6 other identical machines in the auction and I bid for the one that looked to be in the best condition. I wonder how much the other machines was paid for and whether there was any competition for mine. The person in charge of the auction was too busy on pick up day so I didn’t get to ask too many questions. I’ve seen it on sale through Craigslist for about $200 and those offers came with Windows XP/2000. Mine has only Windows 98 and nothing else. I guess $90 was alright.

The specs I was given on paper said it has 128MB of RAM. Surprisingly, it actually has 256MB. It came with the AC adapter, a LAN Port Replicator and a padded nylon case. Aside from the PC card slots, USB, SVGA, and built-in modem on the laptop itself, other kinds of connections must go through the LAN Port Replicator. I had to download drivers online to get it to read my USB flash drive and to use a Microsoft Wheel Mouse.

What I really want to do with this machine is to make it completely Open Source on the software side of things. To be honest, I am a Mac believer. I’ve never owned an Intel-PC so this laptop would be my first. But for work, I have to use Windows. At home, I have a Mac and my significant other has a Wintel machine and a Sun Ray which means we have Mac OS X, Windows XP, and Solaris running under one roof. I have zero experience with Linux while he had installed and used Red Hat Linux in the past. Do we have enough brains to install Linux on the Toshiba?

I searched online about this machine running Linux. I’ve found various people saying they have installed Ubuntu or Xubuntu on theirs but not much info about the installation process. I read some forum postings that mentioned various methods such as taking out the hard drive or network install. Neither methods are possible for me. I want to do this through a USB flash drive because I have a Memorex TravelDrive 2GB stick. I guess the big questions are how to make the USB stick to become bootable and how to make the laptop to boot from the USB stick. I found some instructions online about both topics but I am not sure if they are applicable to my laptop. I hope posting this challenge on a blog would attract more suggestions than the typical forum environment.

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22 thoughts on “I want to install Linux on a Toshiba Portege 3490CT but don’t know how

  1. This is interesting. I’ve not found this info before. Do you mean I go through all of the procedure on the laptop in Windows 98? I am wondering if everything works in such low end Windows. Thanks.

  2. You won’t be working in windows98 on the 3490ct at all, all you have to do is to set up another machine running windows with the tftpd server as explained in the instructions. Once you’ve done that, alter the BIOS boot order in the 3490ct (press esc on power up and then F1 to get into BIOS) to boot from the network. The 3490ct has PXE in BIOS so you don’t need the PXE boot floppy. The laptop will boot from the other machine and if you’ve set it up properly, the ubuntu installation will come up.

    I’ve done this on the same laptop (and a 3480ct) several times, it is very easy.

  3. That makes sense. I sure can use more baby-steps tips as a newbie. My other question is which version of Ubuntu you had success with. The page you suggested has instructions for Breezy and Hoary. The Breezy instructions mentioned some bugs so that’s kind of worry me.

    As for the part about “Extract the contents of netboot.tar.gz”, does that mean I download files through the links listed under “Individual files”? If so, the Breezy and Hoary Netboot Image links are not working. The ones for Dapper works.

  4. Thanks!! It’s so detailed and the somewhat ongoing Q&A should be helpful to me, too.

    I have a dumb question. As far as I can understand the instructions, it looks to me once I have the modem and the Windows box configured correctly, I should connect the laptop to the modem through Ethernet. And when the PXE boot starts going, the laptop will locate the Windows box through static IP. Is that right?

  5. Static IP’s may not be necessary, despite what the guide says. On my network, I left my router’s DHCP server running and there was no conflict between the tftpd server and the DHCP server in the router – it all just worked. Others have reported the same result. What is your network setup at home? When you say “modem”, you’re not referring to a dial up modem ? Downloading the linux installation will be very slow if so.

  6. I have DSL (1.5 Mbps download, I think) using an Actiontec modem. The modem seems to be a very basic kind so I might disable DHCP as suggested.

    Where is the Feisty Image located? The guide gave a link to Edgy. Thanks.

  7. Good. That’s actually a reasonably sophisticated modem / router.

    I don’t think you’ll need to set up static IP’s. I would just start the tftpd server range at 192.168.0.100 and there should be no conflicts.

    Both machines will plug into a port on the router.

    I think it will just work automagically.

  8. Good to know you have faith in my potential set up. How long do you think this will take to complete? I’ve read some people said the CD approach can take a long time. Haven’t heard much about the speed of the PXE Boot / TFTP Server method. I guess it also depends on my DSL.

  9. It does mostly depend on your DSL, although it’s reasonably fast. Do you have any download limits? The installation will probably download something like 400-500 Mb. The PXE boot takes seconds only, installing ubuntu will take a bit over an hour this way on that machine, perhaps 90 minutes. Feisty runs very well on my 3490ct with 256Mb.

  10. I just gave it a try. The laptop couldn’t connect when I didn’t disable DHCP at first. I disabled DHCP and the laptop appeared to be able to connect showing Client IP, mask, etc but then it showed

    PXE-T04: Illegal TFTP operation

    and 2 more lines of error messages, then went back to loading Windows.

    In the Tftpd32 Log viewer, it shows the following:

    Rcvd DHCP Discover Msg for IP 0.0.0.0, Mac 00:00:39:0A:83:26
    DHCP: proposed address 192.168.0.5
    Rcvd DHCP Discover Msg for IP 0.0.0.0, Mac 00:00:39:0A:83:26
    DHCP: proposed address 192.168.0.5
    Rcvd DHCP Discover Msg for IP 0.0.0.0, Mac 00:00:39:0A:83:26
    DHCP: proposed address 192.168.0.5
    Rcvd DHCP Rqst Msg for IP 0.0.0.0, Mac 00:00:39:0A:83:26
    Previously allocated address 192.168.0.5 acked
    Connection received from 192.168.0.5 on port 2070
    Read request for file [pxelinux.0]. Mode octet
    OACK: [tsize=13156,]
    Using local port 2410
    Peer returns ERROR [TFTP Aborted] -> aborting transfer
    Connection received from 192.168.0.5 on port 2071
    Read request for file [pxelinux.0]. Mode octet
    OACK: [blksize=1456,]
    Using local port 2411
    Connection received from 192.168.0.5 on port 2072
    Unexpected request 4 from peer
    Returning EBADOP to Peer
    TIMEOUT waiting for Ack block #1
    Rcvd DHCP Rqst Msg for IP 0.0.0.0, Mac 00:00:39:0A:83:26
    Previously allocated address 192.168.0.5 acked

    (note that I replaced some arrow brackets with [ and ] above.)

    Did I miss something? Thanks.

  11. Hmmm. What are the contents of the directory containing tftpd32.exe, and what are the contents of the subdirectories within that one?. I think maybe pxelinux.0 isn’t being found.

    Also, if you set your router DHCP range to start at 192.168.0.10 (above the range that tftpd is allocating), I think maybe you can leave DHCP enabled in the router.

  12. The contents in my folder C:\tftpd32\ are:

    boot-screens (folder)
    pxelinux.cfg (folder)
    pxelinux.cfg.serial-9600 (folder)
    ubuntu-installer (folder – contains everything extracted from netboot.tar.gz)
    initrd (WinZip file – should I extract this?)
    linux (file)
    pxelinux.0 (file)
    tftpd32 (help file)
    tftpd32 (application)
    tftpd32 (configuration setting)

    What do you mean by setting the DHCP range starting at 192.168.0.10? Do you mean I change the beginning IP address for the DHCP server to that number? And my current DNS is static. Should I change it to Dynamic?

    I just tried again after extracting initrd and placed the larger file in the tftpd32 folder and in the subfolder i386 within ubuntu-installer. No luck.

  13. Here’s another step by step guide:

    “On the windows box, make a folder called “cb”

    Place Tftpd32.exe with its support files in “cb”

    Extract the contents of netboot.tar.gz and place them in a folder called “netboot”

    Note: Winrar may give you some errors that it couldnt create some symbolic links, just ignore it.

    Put the netboot folder inside of the “cb” folder

    Go To ../cb/netboot/ubuntu-installer/i386/ or ../cb/netboot/ubuntu-installer/amd64/ then copy “pxelinux.cfg”, “linux”, and “pxelinux.0”. Now paste them in ../cb/netboot/

    Run Tftpd32.exe and click the DHCP tab
    in the default router box, put the address of your internet gateway (usually 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 for residential routers)
    in the ip pool starting address box put your gateway’s address + 1 to the last number (Example: 192.168.0.2)
    Size of pool = i said about 10
    if your network is something like 192.168.0.1 then your network mask should be 255.255.255.0
    Set the Bootfile field to the location of the pxelinux.0 file (example “\netboot\pxelinux.0)
    Set the WINS/DNS server address to the address of your main router (192.168.0.1)
    Leave the domain name blank, unless you need to change it.
    Hit the “Save” button and then click “settings”

    On the settings menu Check the following and leave the others how they are.

    PXE Compatability
    translate unix file names
    allow / as virtual root


    That is what I actually did. Make sure that in the bootfile setting in tftpd32 you are typing /..path../pxelinux.0 (zero) not .O (capital Oh).

    If your ISP requires static DNS, leave it set that way in the router, otherwise dynamic should be OK. I do suggest that you try setting the beginning DHCP range for the router to some number above the range you are setting in tftpd32, say 192.168.0.5 with a pool size of 3 in tftpd32 and then start the DHCP allocation range in the router at say 192.168.0.10. Leave the router base address at 192.168.0.1 . This is page 44 and 45 of your manual.

    I’d leave the firewall setting at basic while doing the linux install.

    Try that and let me know what happens.

  14. Aside from reorganizing the files, the input you suggested to use in Tftpd32.exe is quite different from the instructions posted in the Ubuntu forum. Kind of make more sense to me though.

    I have too much going on the next couple days. I will give the laptop another try later this week or this weekend at the latest. Thanks.

  15. Looks like I’ve successfully installed Ubuntu onto the laptop but on startup, it doesn’t go to the desktop. A bunch of commands ran through during startup and stopped at “Running local boot scripts (/etc/rc.local)”, then nothing. I press Enter and it asked for my login. The login ran through but now I am stuck at the command line. I read something about typing startx to start the desktop but that didn’t take me anywhere. What do I do now?

  16. Congratulations for getting that far, at least.

    I think the most likely thing is that something got corrupted during the download / install process. Other possibilities include a faulty hard disk sector or a RAM fault (these would not necessarily show up with casual use under a different operating system, such as Win 98).

    You could test the RAM by running memtest86 from ubuntu’s boot menu. There are hard disk testing utilities.

    I think my first suggestion is the likely one, however. If your download limit will stand it, I think I would just try installing again (another option would be to try Dapper instead of Feisty, but both Feisty and Dapper work perfectly on my identical machines). If the same thing happens, then I would go looking further.

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