The Laptop Renovation Project: Decisions, Conclusions and Lessons Learned

As some of you may know, a few weeks ago I posted about my efforts to revive aging laptop hardware. While there is still a bit of work to be done, the bulk of the project is complete, and the rest is simply detail work and optimization for our particular work environment.
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Xmodmap and “XKB: Couldn’t compile keymap”

A while ago when I upgraded my distribution, several keys went wonky on me and ceased functioning according to my wishes. It was a minor inconvenience to have things like the Caps Lock key become enabled again. So I pecked around at fixing it here and there, but never really put in much thought or effort until today.

I remap my keys with the /etc/X11/xinit/.Xmodmap (aka ~/.Xmodmap) file. The problem was my .Xmodmap was borking when X started, so no remappings were taking place. (If one part of .Xmodmap fails, they all fail.) In my /var/log/Xorg.0.log I found this:

(EE) Error compiling keymap (server-0)
(EE) XKB: Couldn't compile keymap
(WW) Couldn't load XKB keymap, falling back to pre-XKB keymap

And in the output from X – apparently from the keymap compiler (xkbcomp) – were repeated warnings/errors like this:

Warning:   Duplicate shape name ""
                 Using last definition
Error:        Section defined without a name
                 Definition ignored
Warning:   Multiple doodads named ""
                 Using first definition

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Laptop Renovation Part II – The Community Feeds Back

Upon reading responses to my previous post, I decided to put some of the community’s suggestions to the test and examine some of the other options out there. Of the suggestions given, I primarily focused my attention on Debian (Lenny), Damn Small Linux and the wattOS beta.  All the distros had relative advantages and disadvantages, and this provided me with an opportunity to look at some distros I otherwise might not have.

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The Laptop Renovation Project

At my office, we have a pair of old laptops purchased back in 2003 or 2004, which are terribly slow, woefully underpowered and horribly outdated, but which we still use periodically.  In other words, they made a perfect target for an OS makeover.

Anyone who has run Windows XP on a P4 with 256MB of RAM should be able to appreciate just how sluggish these machines are.  So with my boss’s blessing, I gathered the two machines and tried to breathe some new life into them.

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