I've had a Dell Latitude laptop since about 2000 without managing to destroy it. A month ago the Windows 2000 system on it did something stupid to its file system and Windows was completely lost.
No point in reinstalling Windows 2000, so I installed an Ubuntu 9.0 Linux on the laptop. Everything seems normal (installed, rebooted, I can log in, run GnuChess, poke about).
... but ... when I attempt to launch Firefox from the top bar menu icon, I get a bunch of disk activity, the whirling cursor icon goes round a bit and then
(WAS: everything stops: icon, mouse. Literally nothing happens for 5 minutes. Ubuntu is dead, as far as I can tell.
EDIT : on further investigation, spinning icon, mouse operated by touchpad freeze. [I don't know if external mouse has a problem] There's apparantly a little disk activity occuring about every 5 seconds, and the processor must be chewing up cycles, as the CPU fan comes on an stays on. I wait 5-10 minutes, behavior doesn't change)
A reboot, and I can repeat this reliably. So on the face of it, everything works but Firefox/other application. That seems really strange.
The only odd thing about this system when Firefox is booting is that while it has an Ethernet port (that worked fine under Windows), it isn't actually plugged into an Ethernet. As this is the first Firefox boot since the Ubuntu install, maybe Firefox mishandles Internet access? Why would that crash Ubuntu?
(I need to go try the obvious experiment of plugging it in).
EDIT: I tried to run the Disk manager tool, not that I cared what it was, just a menu-available application. It started up like Firefox, I get a little tag in the lower left saying Disk P*** something had started, and then the same behavior as Firefox. At this point, I don't think its the Ethernet. Is it possible that the Ubuntu disk driver can't handle the disk controller in this older laptop? The install seemed to go fine.
EDIT#2: More experimenation. It appears to be the screen drivers. If I switch Display Preferences to 640x480 using the GUI, everything seems fine (including Firefox startup) if you don't mind boulder-sized pixels. Alas, trying to switch away from that size using the to any other size seems to hang the machine hard (no disk I/O). Does UBUNTU have a display device selection control that I need to configure somehow?
EDIT#3: 6/10/2010: Installed UBuntu 10.x. Now seems to manage the screen OK. Guess just bad drivers for older Dell laptops in Ubuntu 9.x.