Well, after considerable struggle, it has been a successful weekend. I've been trying since the first day that I got my HP 2133 Mini-Note to get Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) installed on it, without success. The Ubuntu WIki indicates that you should be able to install 8.10 on the Mini-Note by forcing it to use the vesa graphic driver, but nothing I tried, and I mean absolutely nothing, would work. I don't know if I was doing something basic wrong, or if my newer 2133 is somehow different from the ones that were used for those write-ups. But after trying absolutely everything I could possibly imagine to get the LiveCD to boot, I finally gave up a week or so ago.
This weekend I had some time to spare, and once I get something like that in my mind I keep turning over and over, trying to figure out another approach... and it bothers me that openSuSE, Mandriva, MEPIS and VectorLinux all install just fine, but I can't get Ubuntu installed. So I decided to bite the bullet and use the text based alternate installer, then use what I know about Linux on the Mini-Note to get the graphics working. It turned out to be somewhat easier than I expected.
The text installer is very routine, and works very smoothly. Once it was done, the Mini-Note still wouldn't boot normally, but I could at least make a recovery mode boot, drop to a root shell, and make whatever changes I wanted to try. A few cycles of that convinced me that absolutely none of the graphic drivers was going to work, even though I knew that the fbdev driver worked on openSuSE, the vesa driver works on MEPIS and Vector, and the stable openchrome driver works on Mandriva (none of them is quite right, but they all are at least usable, generally at 1024x768 resolution). So, my last shot was to compile the latest openchrome svn snapshot, and try that... and it works perfectly! You could have knocked me over with a feather when it came up, because the way it was failing with all of the other drivers had convinced me that there was something more fundamental going wrong. I am even able to use it with the extremely minimal xorg.conf that Ubuntu generally uses, and it finds and configures everything, brings the screen up and 1280x768, and works wonderfully,
Once that was done, the rest of the installation and configuration was routine, and Ubuntu 8.10 is now running just fine on the HP 2133. I even got one extra benefit - openSuSE 11.1 uses the same X.org X Server version as Ubuntu 8.10 (1.5.2), so I was able to copy over the openchrome driver files, and now open SuSE handles the display correctly as well!