Slackware installation fails on Advent 7081 CELM350 laptop

Q Since I first heard of it, I've been very keen on open source in principle, but I felt that it required too much technical wizardry for me to benefit from. Computers are expensive and I didn't want to take a wrong turn and end up ruining one. As I have access to a PC emulator on a Mac G4, I thought I had nothing to lose if I did a bodged job, so I went for it, installed Slackware, and it worked like a dream. I got a bit lost when the machine asked me for 'darkstar login' so I went to one of the forums and found the members welcoming and very helpful. So far so good.

Emboldened by this I then took the big step of trying to install it on my wife's Advent notebook PC (model 7081 CELM350) as a dual boot, in the hope of weaning us both off Windows altogether. Panic ensued as the install failed to take. I think it has something to with some drivers or files that the model PC needs and were not included in the default installation. I don't know how to get around this. To cap it all, when I go to boot up now, I get an OS missing' message. The impact of this on my marriage is not positive. Are you familiar with this type of situation? What can I do to get the Slackware up and running? I'm so impressed with the little I have seen of the open source distros and community that I'm really reluctant to abandon the project.

A It is unusual for a failed installation to leave the computer unusable. The bootloader is normally set up at the end of the installation, and until this happens rebooting will take you straight back into Windows. The most likely explanation is that something failed the during bootloader setup. To fix bootloader so you at least have Windows back, boot from your Windows CD and select the rescue option. Type fixmbr at the prompt and all should be well. This is for Windows XP, for 98 the command is fdisk /mbr. Installing Linux on laptops is notoriously tricky because of the amount of custom hardware they use.

Emulators, on the other hand, tend to emulate bog-standard hardware. The safest option is to use a distro that has a Live CD. You can run the distro from the CD before installing anything, which gives you a chance to check that your hardware is supported. Suitable distros include PCLinuxOS (www.pclinuxos.com), SimplyMepis (www.mepis.org), Kubuntu (www.kubuntu.org) and, of course, Knoppix (www.knoppix.com). All of these Live CDs allow you to run the full distro from CD/DVD before committing to an installation. You could then revisit Slackware, knowing what hardware you have and what drivers you need.

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