Updated the Toshiba Portege 3490CT to Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

I bought my second Toshiba Portege 3490CT from the auction at work earlier this year. I followed the same steps as my first 3490CT to install Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn. Although Version 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon had been out for a while at that time, I’ve heard many users said Gutsy made their computers super slow. The laptop worked just fine in Feisty.

Recently, I read a little bit about Hardy and I recalled a comment I received on this blog about how to solve the slowness issue in Gutsy. I decided to take the plunge to upgrade. The upgrade is finally complete but there were some scary moments.

To go from Feisty to Hardy, I must go through the Gutsy upgrade first which seemed to go through smoothly in about 4 hours. The one scare I got was the battery. I have no doubt that the battery in my laptop is overused. I didn’t bother to replace it because I read that unless a new battery is fresh out of the factory, its capacity would have noticeable deterioration after one year and there is no way to tell how long a new battery has sit in storage until someone orders one. Therefore, my remedy is to keep the laptop plugged in all the time and it isn’t an issue to me for the few occasions I use the laptop on the few trips I take each year.

On the night I did the Gutsy upgrade, I plugged it in as usual. I had to connect it to the power strip under my husband’s desk because the one under my desk is hard to reach. With three power strips under his desk, I don’t know which one is which. I happened to plug into the one he turns off every night. When the Gutsy upgrade was getting ready to restart the laptop, the machine started beeping and the battery light was not green to indicate it’s plugged in. I thought there was something wrong with the battery or the power adapter. The startup took forever which proved that Gutsy really slows things down and the battery was beeping even more. I didn’t wait for the desktop to load completely and I just turned it off. It was getting late so I just went to bed. The next day, I learned that the laptop stopped getting its juice halfway through the upgrade and it was depending on the battery alone the rest of the way. At least it lasted till the upgrade was complete so I was lucky.

At this point, I had one slow-functioning laptop. I had to do something. Picking up the tip on the comment about turning off ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface), I found that I needed to disable acpi in the menu.lst file. But I am quite clueless in terminal. The contents of the file unloaded in front of me and I had no idea where to insert the code, pci=noacpi acpi=off. Then my hubby came to the rescue. The solution was exactly how it was described in a post I found. Look for the line of code very close to the end of the file that starts with the word “kernel” and add the code, pci=noacpi acpi=off at the end of that line. There were 4 kernel lines near the end of my menu.lst file. I guess there are a few kernels in my laptop. We added the code to the non-recovery mode kernel lines. Then my hubby typed in a command to write the file and we were done. I restarted the laptop and the startup went by in light speed. It was awesome. The laptop felt more zippy than when it had Feisty.

I proceeded to the Hardy upgrade. Everything started out fine until about 3 hours in. The install was stuck at “Generating locales”. I was not sure if this part was supposed to take a long time or what. I waited more than half an hour and I found a thread on Ubuntu Forums describing the same problem. I tried to follow the steps described in Post #5 of that thread. I turned off the laptop, booted into 2.6.22.15 recovery mode, went to the root shell, typed in dpkg –configure -a, and the process stopped at “Generating locales”. Turned off, booted into recovery mode, root shell, typed in sudo dpkg –configure -a, and the process stopped again. At this point, it was already midnight. I turned everything off and went to bed.

The next day, I read further down the thread and found that I should boot into Failsafe GNOME. I did that, went into terminal, typed in the dpkg command and it was stuck again. The ultimate solution is in Post #35 which describes how to kill a certain process. In Terminal, I typed in sudo dpkg –configure -a and again the process stopped at “Generating locales”. With my husband’s help, I opened another terminal window, typed in ps -fe | grep locale, identified the bad locale-gen process, typed in sudo kill -9 #### (#### represents the process number that I killed), typed in sudo dpkg –configure -a and the rest of the upgrade started moving again.

I thought I was home free until the laptop screensaver or the power management powered down the screen. Normally, I just move the mouse a little and the screen would come back up as normal. This time, the desktop refreshed super slow. I couldn’t see the terminal screen that showed the progress of the upgrade. The hard disk light was flashing a lot and there was a lot of noise unlike the dead silence when I was stuck in “Generating locales”. I let it be for close to two hours with an occasional move of the mouse. When the terminal window finally revealed completely, I saw the “Generating locales” line again and it looked like it was stuck. It was confusing this time because the hard disk light continued flashing and also the noise. I waited a few more minutes and decided to turn off the laptop. I booted back into Failsafe GNOME, opened Terminal, typed in sudo dpkg –configure -a and the rest of the upgrade restarted. No more hiccup this time around. The upgrade finally went all the way to the end.

The laptop restarted at an acceptable speed. Not slow like Gutsy but not zippy like the acpi disabled Gutsy, probably similar to Feisty. The desktop came up with the right end appearing off the screen. I adjusted the screen resolution and everything looked fine.

Resolving the dpkg issue was quite scary to me. I am glad to have found the tips in Ubuntu Forums about what to do. There were a few things in my laptop that had made life a bit easier, too. I previously installed Startup Manager in Feisty which I used to set the GRUB to appear for 3 seconds at startup. During my first attempts at tackling dpkg, going into recovery mode was simply selecting it in the GRUB in that 3-second appearance. Although it turned out not to be the way to go, I now know how easy it is to boot into the kernel I want. The other thing that was helpful was the login window theme I set in Feisty which was the Blue Swirl GDM theme. The theme displays the options to select which session to login in near the center of the screen under the username/password space. It is more obvious to me where I can select the Failsafe GNOME session. The default Human theme locates the options at the bottom. I guess I would eventually figure that out if the laptop was set at that theme. Having the options located in the center cut out a few minutes of searching and reading online discussion.

Well, that’s the story of my Hardy upgrade. It was quite an experience indeed. My hubby got really worried about breaking the laptop as he turned off the power strip midway through my Gutsy upgrade. He redeemed himself by helping me to troubleshoot the dpkg problem. Thanks, dude!

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2 thoughts on “Updated the Toshiba Portege 3490CT to Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

  1. Posting this from a 3440CT 128Mb 500MHz with Xubuntu 8.10 …
    Certainly could do with another 50-100% more RAM.

    This model’s BIOS supports an external Toshiba CDROM drive connected through a PCMCIA card. Had to use ‘irqpoll’ option to boot the alternate install CD in this drive. Then all plain sailing.

    I fitted an Edimax WLAN Cardbus card with the RT2561 chip. It’s natively supported by Ubuntu.

    There are still problems with suspend/hibernate, but I’m working on those.

  2. @/df: I had problems with suspend/hibernate in Feisty. Neither options worked for me. After upgrading to Hardy, suspend seems to work. Hibernate looks a bit sketchy as my laptop goes through a complete startup but then lands at the “unlock” screen. Good luck with your troubleshoot.

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