Fedora Core 4 on a
Dell Dimension XPS R450

XPS R450 Specs

27 Feb 2009:

Back in early 1998, when my wife and I were both gainfully employed, she did most of her work on Windoze, I desktop published on the Mac. The Dell company was (and still is) a great choice for high-performance Intel boxes. She ordered an XPS R450. I ordered a Mac G3 266 Minitower. Mine arrived from the Apple Store a day before her Dell, but I didn't open the carton. We had a contest: whose box would connect to the web first? I beat her by about 25 minutes. My Mac's Netscape was displaying Yahoo! News after 18 minutes. Her Windows machine, with it's complicated EULA-unlocked setup took well over 45 minutes out-of-the-box to connect. Admittedly, 10 to 15 minutes of that was her having to dig through the documentation for the misplaced elaborate Windows 98 EULA code number.

I resurected the XPS R450 (current value $175) box the other day to use on my basement workbench for web research when I do DIY projects. Of course, Linux was my OS choice. I needed to run Firefox for web standard compatibility, so I picked the newest distro I have on hand, Fedora Core 4.

Installation

I opened the CD tray and slipped FC4 CD 1 into it and rebooted by pressing the Dimension's front-panel reset button.

The R450 only has 8MB of RAM, so I chose the "linux text" version of the Fedora Core 4 install selections. (OK, I did this AFTER the installer eventually displayed cryptic errors which I ASSUMED to be a result of insufficient RAM.)

I chose the "Workstation" installation, answered all the DOS-like screen questions by pressing Enter to activate the "OK" buttons.

Partitioning

Here I chose "automatic partitioning". Anaconda, Fedora's installation program, found the existing Windows and Linux partitions. I chose to erase and replace all partitions, trusting Anaconda (with fingers crossed) to do it right.

I let the installer re-format the disks. I also let it install GRUB as the boot loader. For testing in my home office LAN environment, I picked DHCP and the installer found and configured the on-board ethernet port, and found my Linksys Cable/DSL router DHCP server. I entered an 7-character cryptic root password.

Installation took about 90 minutes on this lamer. Remove the last CD and reboot...

Blah, blah, blah... the eth0 interface got an IP from my router... oops, the X server couldn't start.

Re-Configuring X on FC4

To find out what the difficulty was, I waited until the 3 tries to start the X server gave up, giving me no hint as to what the problem was. I logged in as root and at the command line issued the startx command. The result indicated the 16-bit mode was unsupported by the Dell's RIVA128 card.

Fedora uses the newer implementation of X, by Xorg, not the older XFree86 used by Redhat. So the display config file is /etc/X11/xorg.conf

I edited that file with vi. In the display section, Fedora had mis-set the depth to 16 bits for the RIVA128 card. I edited that to 8 and also in the following section, and set the display modes to "1024x768" "800x600" from the original "800x600" "640x480".

Still logged in as root, I issued the startx command again and got the "X" in the middle of the screen as I was supposed to. Success. Gnome started up (excruciatingly slowly on this little 8MB machine -- gotta find some RAM somewhere...).

I launched Firefox and am surfing.


RN 02/26/2009

 

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Linux: Micron Millennia
Linux: NEC Versa 2650
OS X: beige G3

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