Last Winter I posted
 about installing Ubuntu 10.10 64bit on a HP Probook 4720s with 6GB RAM which was only a moderate success, as it required a manual driver update for the WLAN, the touchpad right-click would not work reliably and the external microphone produced only static noise. Now that the new Ubuntu 11.04 is out with a completely overhauled user interface I’m naturally tempted to give it a try. The short story: it’s a big improvement but you need to tweak your way through various scripts and settings to get there.
Installing the Live CD on a USB stick
 the 64bit Desktop live ISO and installed it on a USB stick. I had to format the stick with FAT and use Unetbootin (sudo apt get install unetbootin
), as the “Startup disk creator” would complain about permissions with the default Ext4 filesystem.
Booting the Live CD from USB
An hour later I am looking at and, as I write, working with the Ubuntu 11.04 running from the USB stick. The WLAN works out of the box, the right click is still broken and for a lack of a suitable microphone I couldn’t fully test whether the external microphone jack works. I say fully, because I managed to record some sound by connecting a pair of headphones to the microphone port as headphones employ the same electromechanical principles as microphones. I’ll repeat that experiment with proper microphones later.
Installing Ubuntu for real
Just like the last time, I’m installing Ubuntu on a flash card so that, hopefully, the internal harddisk can spin down during pauses and save some battery. During an unrelated experiment aimed at reducing startup times with a previous version, I noticed that Ubuntu incorrectly assumes the flash card to be a rotational device and thus not taking advantage of the fast seek times. This was particularly painful during the last Ubuntu installation, as writing to the flash card was very slow resulting in a two hours installation procedure. My flash card is at /dev/sdc1, so I told Ubuntu that it is a non-rotational device:
sudo echo 0 > /sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:1d.0/usb2/2-1/2-1.4/2-1.4:1.0/host7/target7:0:0/7:0:0:0/block/sdc/queue/rotational
Since the laptop has abundant RAM, a partition scheme without swap space was chosen with an Ext4 boot partition. Though I’d like to use Ext2 which reportedly speeds up flash devices, the resulting installation refused to boot – so for now it has to be an Ext4.
Booting the installed Ubuntu
The first runs were disappointing – the boot process froze several times. Even when the OS booted into the login screen there were problems with the WLAN as it either would not find networks or would not connect to them. Shutting down the OS freezes the laptop also. The cause seems to be some modules loaded for the WLAN which are not necessary and get in each other’s way. To work around this, you need to blacklist that modules:
sudo vi /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf
and add these lines:
Save and reboot (if you can 🙂 and you should be fine.
Restoring user home directory
Moving the /home directory to a safe partition is described in detail here .
Fixing the touchpad
I installed the “synaptiks” package and configures two- and three- finger taps to trigger right-clicks. On a funny side note: in order to perform a right click, you have to try not move the pointer. I’ll be looking into this further and try to come up with a better solution.