This is a record of my experiences installing and configuring Slackware
8.0 on a Compaq Presario 1200XL304. This unit has a 6 gig Toshiba hard
drive, a 13 inch HPA (upscale passive matrix) monitor, a VIA WDM
sound card, a Celeron 600 CPU, 64 megs of RAM, and a Trident
Cyberblade video card. It is heavy and somewhat clunky, cheap to buy,
and quite reliable, at least so far. Mercifully, it is quite generic,
and there is little that can't be dealt with in terms of getting Linux
up and going.

There is a great deal of documentation out there covering all aspects
of Linux installation and operation, and so this article assumes either
a basic knowledge of these topics, or access to other sources of
information. There is a good installation section in the Slackware
Book, available online, in the website.

  • Slackware Book

    The hard drive was partially repartitioned using the fdisk on a Slackware
    3.9 ramdisk, out of habit. However, this could as easily have been done
    from the installation CD, using cfdisk or fdisk. The extended/logical
    "d:\" drive was taken out, backup data and all, and replaced with a primary
    1130 MB ext2 (83) partition and a 124 MB swap (82) partition.

    Compaq kindly supplied a free 2 CD complete backup, as a replacement for
    the data that was deleted to make room for Linux. This could have been
    provided in the first place, but, better late than never! Why take up almost
    a quarter of a hard drive with inert reinstallation data that could just as
    easily gather dust on compact disks?

    If necessary, it might make sense to reinstall with W98 instead, in order to
    avoid the automatic repartitioning that has been reported to occur using
    the Compaq ME backup. However, it hasn't been necessary to do this, so far.

    The Slackware bootable installation disk fired up without hesitation,
    and the installation process itself was quite straightforward.
    There wasn't enough drive space for everything with only 1130 MB
    in the ext2 Linux partition. Windows partitions were automatically
    mounted, and this turned out to be very handy, as the abundant space in
    these can be used for storage of numerous and bulky files like MP3s or
    JPEGs, and accessed readily with either OS. Next time around, the drive
    will be divided evenly between Windows and Linux.

    The winmodem problem was dealt with by buying a Xircom hardware pcmcia
    modem card. It installed flawlessly on /dev/ttyS3, requiring only
    standard pcmcia support. This, of course, was the cowardly way out.
    Sorry. Try if you don't want to take this route.

    The advanced power management functions will not work on this unit
    with the standard kernel. Entering [apm] at the prompt only produces
    the message "No apm support...". This must be replaced with
    the bareapm.i kernel from the kernels directory on disk 2. Note
    that this is for 2.2.19, there is no equivalent for 2.4.5,
    and the standard 2.4.5 kernel does not have apm support. Instructions
    concerning the exact ins and outs of replacing the kernel are to be
    found in the appropriate section of the Slackware Book, linked to
    above. Just follow the instructions fastidiously, and don't lose
    track of your old files. Also, make sure that you have an alternate
    means of accessing your system if you mess up.

    Drive and monitor settings were added to the /etc/rc.d/rc.S file that
    is read during the boot process. These might have to be edited a bit
    to suit individual tastes and requirements. They're not really
    necessary, but I put them in to show what can be done to the console
    during boot, or later at the prompt.

    hdparm -S 10 /dev/hda # sets hard drive spin off to 50 sec.
    setterm -blank 2 -store # blanks the screen after 2 minutes

    The sound system was brought to life by adding the following line to
    the sound section of the /etc/rc.d/rc.modules file.

    /sbin/modprobe via82cxxx_audio # module for VIA sound card

    Surprisingly enough, the X window system went in quite easily,
    despite the facts that the HorizSync and VertRefresh rates weren't in
    the manuals, not forthcoming from Compaq e-mail support, and had
    to be hunted down on the internet. Here is the XF86Config file from
    my system.


    The best ColorDepth is "16." The system defaulted to "24," but this
    depth can't coexist with resolutions above 800x600. (See the top of
    "Screen Sections.") And, despite the fact that the LCD display on the
    Presario XL304 only goes to this res, it is sometimes handy to have a
    larger virtual desktop. Don't bother with 640x480, as this produces an
    onscreen mess. (A year later. Now it is left at 24, and the res. is
    set to 800x600 only.)

    The horizontal sync rate (HorizSync) in xf86config should be set to
    31.5-37.9, while the vertical (VertRefresh) should be 40-150.

    The video memory came set to 4 megabytes, but should be reset to 8
    for best performance. This can be done through Windows | control
    panel | system, or in the bios. The latter can be accessed by pressing
    f10 when the Compaq logo is up, before lilo or anything else at startup.


    Both the command line mp3 players (mpg123 or amp) and pppsetup have
    worked flawlessly, whereas their X counterparts have been a right
    nuisance. Basically, the underlying console aspect of Linux is
    as rock solid as the 15-25 year old mainframes that this type of UNIX was
    originally written for. The X stuff is visually appealing and lots of fun,
    but not as foolproof and robust.