Tech Memorandums

Resurrecting an old x61s

My old x61s was bought in 2005 and wrote all the code for a venture into peer-to-peer lending. It saw a lot of use but being one of the old-school TPs, it has some life left in it.


Parts replaced:

All of the above was ordered on and the combined expense was ~$100. I usually went for the cheapest part when there was a choice. I took the laptop to tukcom to replace parts.

Installing Ubuntu

I tried booting off a USB drive created by (in order):

  1. unetbootin
  2. dd
  3. bootiso
  4. loop-mount the ISO, partition USB drive by hand, cp, syslinux

The laptop would not boot. Poked around the BIOS settings to no avail. USB boot is enabled, shows up in the boot list, it just doesn’t boot. Recalling that I could not get Debian on this the first time around in 2005, I buckled down and setup TFTP.


Installing tftpd-hpa on Debian serves the files from /srv/tftp. Untar the Ubuntu netboot.tar.gz here. Change ownership of this directory recursively to tftp.

Get the appropriate netboot.tar.gz from I got my version (cosmic cuttlefish) from here.

The Ubuntu wiki speaks about configuring grub but I could get by with just the tarball for this case.

The laptop still doesn’t boot. Bumping the verbosity to 10 in /etc/default/tftpd-hpa showed that there were no attempts to get any files while the laptop was booting but it appeared to find the gateway IP just fine. Ah yes, DHCP and BOOTP are usually on the same host, but not in this case.

You can also use tcpdump on the server to see if there any requests:

tcpdump -i eth0 port 69

Asus Merlin and TFTP

I have a router which is the DHCP server for my LAN. The TFTP server is on the little cubox. dnsmasq on the router needs to be told about the BOOTP server. This can be accomplished by creating a file /jffs/configs/dnsmasq.conf.add with the following contents:


The IP corresponds to the cubox. Restart dnsmasq with

service restart_dnsmasq

Reboot the laptop and see the Ubuntu install screen. Half way through the install the battery dies. Perhaps I should not have been such a cheapskate. Take the laptop up to charge. Decide that this laptop shall be called /noether/.

After a few hours, complete the installation. Now we just need the trackpoint caps (clit mouse) for a usable system.


Apparently there is a black list on using SATA II on this model. The disk seems pretty snappy and I have not updated the BIOS.