"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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