Ubuntu 8.10 on the HP 2133 Mini-Note

Posted by Betsy on March 1, 2009 in OpenSource |
HP 2133 Mini-Note PC (front view compare with ...
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The tale of my HP 2133 Mini-Note is long and frustrating. I love it because it is small and light – it’s a netbook, and weighs less than 3 pounds, including the battery and AC adapter. I hate it because it is constantly breaking. I bought it in May of 2008, and during the 9 months since then, it has needed to have its main board (HP-speak for motherboard?) replaced twice.

However, I’m not writing this post to complain about the quality of my HP hardware. My point is to explain how to install Ubuntu 8.10 on the HP 2133 Mini-Note.

The first and second main boards of my Mini-Note allowed you to make a very simple addition to the boot options line when you boot the normal Ubuntu image CD. Oh, those were the days!

The machine that I got back from HP last week was different. When I tried the usual fix, it spat out a psychedelic array of colors and symbols, like a thing possessed. Clearly, the graphics driver wasn’t working.

Luckily, I found a blog post that laid out the basics of what I needed to do: get the alternate Ubuntu installer image, install it, boot into recovery mode, drop to a root shell, and compile and install the latest OpenChrome snapshot. Okay, sure, sounds simple enough…

So, for anyone who finds that adding


to the boot options line does NOT allow you to successfully install Ubuntu on your Mini-Note, here are the steps that I followed to get it to work. You’ll need an external optical drive if you want to play along. I’m also assuming that you have a working operating system already installed on the Mini-Note.

  1. Download a bit torrent client. I was using Vista, and I grabbed BitTorrent (easy enough to remember!). It’s free and open source!
  2. Click this link to the ubuntu-8.10-alternate-i386.iso.torrent. It should open in your bit torrent client and start downloading.
  3. After the download has finished, burn the image to a CD. (It’s not just a data CD – it must be an ISO image.)
  4. Before you reboot, record your IP address and the list of related numbers. In Vista, you can find them by following steps 1-3 in this article. You’ll need them if you don’t know how to configure your network, like I didn’t.
  5. Put the CD in your external optical drive and boot up the Mini-Note. Hit F9 to enter the boot options menu and choose the optical drive. Ubuntu should load a text-based installer. Answer the questions as they come. The only question I had trouble with was the one about networking. I ended up skipping that step, which was probably a mistake. If you know how to correctly handle it, please leave me a comment below!
  6. Ubuntu will take its sweet time partitioning your drive and installing. Be patient.
  7. When it’s finished, the machine will reboot. Choose “recovery mode” from the options. You’ll get to enjoy watching some scrolling text for a while.
  8. When the scrolling text ends, you will have a list of recovery options. Nothing will help, but feel free to try them. The option that you really want is “drop to a root shell.” Choose it.
  9. Now, you’re at a root prompt. You have no GUI to protect you from the raw OS. Enjoy it. You’re a hacker now. If you need some commands, the Ubuntu Cheat Sheet may be useful.
  10. The first order of business is to get the networking going. Don’t even think about wireless – just bit the bullet and plug that Mini-Note into the router. I used the information in Ubuntu Networking Configuration Using Command Line. But this information will not help you if you cannot figure out where in the file structure you are supposed to be when you enter the commands. So, enter
    cd ..

    if you see a directory named


    in the list, you are in the right place. If you don’t, repeat the two above commands. You should see it now.

  11. Type the following command:
    vi /etc/network/interfaces
  12. Oh noes! Now you are in a new, even more hostile environment than the command line. This is vi, and it is the text editor from hell. Use these commands to fight back. You will need the IP address and those other numbers you copied from Vista. Plug them into the file where they make sense, following this pattern:
    # The primary network interface
    auto eth0
    iface eth0 inet static
  13. Save the file, then enter the following on the command line to restart networking:
    /etc/init.d/networking restart
  14. In theory, you are now networking. At this point, I tested it out by entering
    apt-get update

    and watching the pretty lines scrolling by, telling me that everything was working properly. What a rush! When it’s done, you can enter

    apt-get upgrade

    to install updates. I don’t think that these steps are necessary to the process at hand, but you’re going to need to stall updates later, anyway. So why not get started?

  15. Now, you need to get that pesky OpenChrome driver. But don’t be fooled into thinking that you can simply download it. Oh, no. We’ll be following the instructions available here. First, you need a bunch of tools. Get them by entering the following commands:
    apt-get install build-essential subversion autoconf automake1.9 libtool
    apt-get build-dep xserver-xorg-video-openchrome
  16. Next, get the OpenChrome files that you’ll use to compile the driver:
    svn checkout http://svn.openchrome.org/svn/trunk openchrome
  17. Change to the openchrome directory that you just created:
    cd openchrome
  18. Enter this command:
    ./autogen.sh --prefix=/usr

    What is it doing as those lines scroll by? Oh, what a mystery!

  19. Compile and install OpenChrome with the following commands:
    make install
  20. Now, you’ve got this awesome graphics driver that is going to work! But Ubuntu doesn’t know it yet. To tell Ubuntu about OpenChrome, you’re going to have to brave the hell of vi again. Take a deep breath, and enter
    cd ..

    until you are back in the directory that contains


    Now, enter

    vi /etc/X11/xorg.conf
  21. This file has sections, and in the section labeled “Device”, you need to add the following line:
    Driver             "openchrome"

    Save and quit vi. And smile because you won’t need vi again!

  22. You’re done! Reboot the Mini-Note and start Ubuntu normally. Listen…do you hear drums? That’s the sound of sweet, sweet success.
  23. You might now have weird networking problems. I did. My solution was to clean out

    Now that you have the GUI working, you can use gedit instead of vi. (Joy!) Open a terminal window and type this command:

    sudo gedit /etc/network/interfaces
  24. Edit the file to look like this:
    # This file describes the network interfaces available on your system
    # and how to activate them. For more information, see interfaces(5).
    # The loopback network interface
  25. You probably need to restart. Listen for those drums again! And let me know if it worked for you.

Update [3/3/09]: The file /etc/network/interfaces should look like this in the end:

# This file describes the network interfaces available on your system
# and how to activate them. For more information, see interfaces(5).

# The loopback network interface

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

Update [3/7/09]: Forget everything I wrote about fixing the networking. I’m still not sure what’s up with it. I ended up installing wicd to replace Network Manager. I think that it’s working better, but time will tell.

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  • boobarst says:

    It’s likely that your problem was simply that the 3rd machine came with the latest BIOS version which causes exactly these symptoms during the install. Your previous machines probably had the older BIOS.

    Before resorting to the above try re-flashing the BIOS with the earlier version (available on the HP downloads site).

    • Betsy says:

      That’s an interesting idea. But what would the BIOS have to do with the graphics? Ubuntu installs just fine using the alternate (text installer) image. It also seems to boot without a problem – except the graphics!
      In the event of another hardware malfunction, I have a feeling that HP would insist that the BIOS be restored to the factory condition before they would help you. They made me wipe out Ubuntu before they would admit that my previous issues were due to hardware, not software.

  • boobarst says:

    > But what would the BIOS have to do with the graphics?

    Well my guess would be that the Video BIOS (i.e. the software that translates the VESA calls into the specific hardware controls for the specific video chipset) is co-located in the same Flash memory as the main system BIOS. Thus by updating the BIOS you are also updating the Video BIOS. Perhaps HP have (by mistake or not) introduced some change into the later Video BIOS that makes it incompatible with the Ubuntu install disk.

    Have a look at (or google for "2133 ubuntu f.04"):-




  • Kyle says:

    You say you've had some issues with your 2133. I've had mine too, so I'm just wondering if they've continued.

    I've got a 2133 that had a bum wireless card. I had to send it back to hp 3 times to get them to replace it (the first two times they just imaged the drive). The third time, they replaced the motherboard. Upon getting it back the 3rd time, it was fine for one week, then I got all white video. Everything else worked fine, just no video. I had to send it back again, and they replaced the motherboard, again. I'm on motherboard number 3! What happens now? It works great, but now it gets zero wireless signal. Worse than it was the first time I sent it in.


    • Sorry to hear about your problems – they sound much more extreme than mine. I only had trouble getting Ubuntu to work properly – within Window Vista, the wireless and everything else worked as advertised. (That is, slowly, but without issue.) I hope that you can get HP to fix the problem. If not, I suggest writing to the Better Business Bureau. I've always had good luck getting action from companies after getting the BBB involved. But make sure you give HP a chance to fix the problem (again) before contacting the BBB.

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