Monday, 17 May 2010

Ubuntu 10.04 and hp/compaq nx5000

The nx5000 is a very old machine these days and was distinguished as having been specifically constructed to run SuSE 9.2 for a linux conference. The "made for Windows" sticker it later sold under was the usual marketing (= lying).

I purchased four ex-rentals a while ago for use with my gnu/linux orientation course. They have been running Ubuntu ever since.

The standard desktop CD would not boot on this machine, a problem related to newer graphics routines clashing with the old intel card. I installed using the alternate CD without a hitch ... or so I thought...

On first boot I got the black screen that has plagued this release. It affects intel and nvidia cards, particularly older ones, and results from kernel mode setting.

The work-around for this is usually to edit /etc/default/grub to add i915.nomodeset=1 to the kernel options. But I reasoned that the issue had been around long enough to be fixed by an update - so I booted to recovery mode (hold down the shift key while booting to get the option) and chose the failsafe graphics to get a desktop. From there I was told that there were updates available - checking and sure enough, one of them was a kernel upgrade. Install, reboot, all good.

Now everything works.

If you are stuck with the live/desktop CD and you need the special kernel options to boot it, the secret is to press the space bar when you see the little man-in-circle icon on the screen.

This is something of a warning though - eventually this machine will refuse to run Ubuntu and I'll have to find another distro. With luck the hardware will fail first though.

The last install I did was an upgrade so everything ended up looking and behaving pretty much the same. This, being an install, showed me the new defaults - which are based around the default mac look for decorations, and the brown/coffee theme has been replaced by purple.

I dunno. I still miss the lightning boot from 9.04 - that was an awesome feature.


  1. Anonymous3/6/10 20:23

    Help I'm not a linux man more windows and I'm trying to install Ubuntu 10.4 on a compaq nx5000.While installing the screen goes blank HELP

  2. Thanks, your post helped a lot.

    "i915.modeset=0" is what I used in the additional options on the live cd to get it running.

    Now I'm part way through re-partitioning (I got a nx5000 for free a couple of days ago, found some extra ram for it, and now I'll have a neat web-browser and document reader).

  3. What kernel did you find the fix in? as after upgrading I am still having this issue. I may just end up having that edit in my grub forever (and re-entering it with every kernel upgrade).