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.