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Linux.ie: Installing Mandrake 8.0

Apr 28, 2001, 19:22 (33 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Glen Gray)

[ Thanks to Ken Guest for this link. ]

"This is part one of a two part article discussing my experiences installing Mandrake 8.0 on two PCs. The first one (and the subject of this article) is a legacy PC, my first sweet heart, a Dell Dimension XPS P90 with 32Mb RAM. Part two will discuss installation on a slightly more up-to date slim-line laptop, a Sony PCG-Z600NEK PIII 650 and 128Mb RAM."

"But on with our binary tale. The Dell had been knocking around in pieces for a couple of years. It was originally bought back in 1994 as a replacement for my Amiga 500. Originally running with 8Mb RAM and a #9 GXE64 gfx card with 1Mb it was a good machine for its day. But a little too archaic for my needs today. Last year I managed to salvage some 72 pin SIMMS and up'd the RAM to 24Mb and more recently to 32Mb. I also swapped some other spare hardware for a Matrox Mystique with 4Mb RAM and acquired two 2.1Gb IDE drives, an Intel Ethernet Express 100 NIC and a 100Mbit HUB. I began rebuilding it as I wanted to learn more about networking and Linux. Like a lot of users I had only ever experienced Linux on my desktop PC and not in a network environment. The machine has been functioning as a server/gateway for my three machine HAN (Home Area Network). It was running various versions to RedHat 6.x and 7.0 throughout its resurrected life. I'd used diald as the means for doing demand dialling up to this point but had problems getting it to run properly on a 2.4 kernel. So in switching to 2.4 I was also going to experiment with using pppd to do the demand dialling."

"So that's the history of the box. Now to the installation. I downloaded the ISOs for both CDs as soon as they were released. As slow process even with our fast connection here at work as everyone else seemed to have the same idea. The first thing I had to do was to create a boot disk as the BIOS on the Dell doesn't allow for this new fangled feature of booting of a CD of all things, even after updating to the latest version from the Dell web site. Backed up my config files to floppy for possible fall back later on if this didn't work. Booted the install disk and then...nothing. My screen went blank as the monitor lost its signal. But the box was still on, though appeared not to be doing too much. I realised that the kernel was probably trying to boot into a frame buffer mode. Sure enough a quick search later found that it was using a frame buffer mode and the you need a VESA 2.0 compliant BIOS to use the generic frame buffer in the kernel. Unfortunately the BIOS on the Matrox Mystique is only compliant with VESA 1.0, yes even after a BIOS update on it too. VESA 2.0 compliance is achieved either through a DOS TSR program or by the Windows9x drivers. I mounted the boot disk to see if there was anything that could be done. Sure enough I found LILO'esque settings in a file named "syslinux.cfg". I removed the default setting and the command to display the message (which was the part causing the problem). There were quite a few options in the file, more than is documented in the READMEs. I had the choice of either a Text based install or an undocumented (I think ?) VGA16. I decided to try the VGA16 as everyone goes on about how great the Mandrake installer is. And it is. Even running in a VGA16 X session. It was a little slow, either because of the X session or because of the way it's written. It looks like its a bunch of perl scripts that are using GTK bindings. Perl definitely figures in there somewhere."

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