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A while back I started converting an older laptop, Dell M1730, and had the best intentions to setup a media center with Ubuntu.  I stumbled into problems right away with the graphics card, but was able to overcome then. At least I thought.  I setup a VNC server, plex, and started into setting up a VPN account.  But no matter how little memory and processor throughput that I used the computer simply could not play a video without skipping.  After a lot of work I discovered that there where issues with the graphics card causing hardware interrupts.  After way too much time, I’ve finally tossed in the towel.

So rather than continue to eat up more time I’ve wiped the computer and loaded Windows 7.   With a fresh install I started updating all the drivers and wham, my pc started going so slow, unusable slow.  Again the culprit was the graphics card, specifically the Aegis physics processor.  Even after an uninstall the computer couldn’t recover.  Fortunately, I was able to revert back to all the defaults.  I also found out that one of my external USB hard drives had failed and was causing windows to lock up.  After some work on that I found out the drive really did fail and fortunately the drive was still under warranty and Seagate replaced it in 4 days.

Now I have a very simple pc setup as a media server with two 3TB external hard drives.  I used Plex to share my videos.  I have UltraVNC Server setup to remote into the laptop when I need to do something as I keep closed up and tucked under the entertainment center.  I use GoodSync to backup from our computers and cell phones to an external drive and mirror the content to the other external drive.  Finally, I have setup SoftEther for a VPN server so that I can get into our home network remotely.  I would have to say this setup was much much easier than Ubuntu and it is working.


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I’ve set out and installed a full working version of Ubuntu 12.10 on my Dell XPS M1730.

To kick things off my keyboard died on the laptop which makes it impossible to do anything during boot up.  After a lot of work trying to get it working again, I gave up and bought a cheap USB keyboard.

I started out by having my computer setup with a RAID 0 with one master partition running Windows 7 64-bit.  After many failed attempts at getting the hard drive partitions setup for Ubuntu I undid the RAID which wiped out windows 7.  I’ll have to re-install Windows 7 hopefully in a dual boot at a later time.

Once the partitions were wiped out I used a USB boot version of Gparted to setup the partitions  as noted in link, but I made boot partition bigger after reading a few other articles (besides the size is so small it doesn’t really matter)

Boot Ext4 512MB
Swap Swap 4GB (4096MB)
Home Ext4 remainder of hard drive minus 80GB for later use in Windows 7



During my install of Ubuntu the screen would just flash colors.  A quick search found that this is really common with Nvidia graphics cards.  I combined a few options suggested on the internet by setting some custom install options.  Press any key when the keyboard logo appears at the bottom of the screen to get to the install menu, go down to install and press F6 then add the following after the ‘–‘with a space befoe the text”nouveau.blacklist=1 vga=771″

I get an error that the blacklist and 1 are invalid options, but when I try an install with just vga=771 I get the flashing colors.  So I’m not sure what the noeveau argument is doing, but it does enough to get the display to work properly.  I didn’t try installing with just the nouveau parameter and without the vga parameter.

With that I could continue with the install.  In the install I choose to manually select the partitions to use.  By double clicking each partition I was able to designate the /boot, swap, /home specifically.

After the install I restarted the computer and had the flashing colors all over again. I followed this article to get things working.  Right after the bios boot, but not before, hold down the shift key.  At the grub menu select Advanced Options then the recovery mode option

I selected the network option and then yes as directed.  Some text scrolled for a while and then is seemed like things just stopped but without taking me to the GUI screen to choose root.  I pressed up and some garbage text was displayed.  I think I followed this by Enter and then a Ctrl-ESC.  This caused more text to be displayed and then rather than going back to the GUI it went into Ubuntu without the flashing colors.  From there I opened up an Xterm window and proceeded to do the commands from the link (pasted below for my information)

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nvidia-current nvidia-settings

With that I was now have a Ubuntu setup on my Dell XPS M1730.

This computer will be my media player and I don’t plan to physically use it much especially now that the keyboard is broken.  Things that I’d like to get setup are VNC, SSH, VPN, Samba, XMBC, and iTunes (I really like the genius playlist editor).  I’ll be posting a later blog about this. (Update: 12/29/2012:  Here is the post about the media server)


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