I just installed Debian Sarge using the RC2 installer on an Inspiron laptop with an 8 MB ATI rage mobility M4 video card. I chose the 2.6.8-1 kernel and the framebuffer worked during boot up with vga=771. I have tried repeatedly to compile a kernel and keep the framebuffer working, but I can't.
I tried recompiling the kernel using the same kernel configuration that the installer used. I didn't change anything in the custom kernel. However, when I reboot into the custom kernel, I get a blank screen during boot up. I have tried setting video=vesafb and video=aty128fb and both give a blank screen.
Any ideas? I am giving up for now.