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I have a Compaq 2145US notebook and I had similar problems getting anything installed. Severeal suggestions that helped included:
1) turn off legacy USB support in the BIOS setup
2) I was not able to get the pcmcia module to work correctly with any distibution with this notebook. (I tried RH9, Slack9, MDK9.1, and Suse8.2). Turning off the pcmcia services did allow me to install, but I had to boot off a CD to edit out the pcmcia since the machine would hang during bootup at this point.
After these changes I was able to get RH9 running whci I used for a while, but without any power management, or pcmcia services. I also did not have any luck getting the built in wireless card working under RH9 or any other distro I tried.
I don't know if this helps, but this is my experience with it. I gave up and removed linux off this machine and restored it as a WinXP only box. Just too many incompatibilities to fool with. Linux seems to work much better on my desktop machines.
I had no problems installing SuSE 8.2 on my 2170. I did disable legacy usb support in the bios before installing.
Getting my Netgear MA401RA wireless card working took a little tinkering, but it works fine now. I detail my installation at http://pages.sbcglobal.net/zvan.
thanks to everyone who posted my friend and I are really close to getting the wireless card to work with only a few slight modifications to the kernel I will keep you posted on how this goes. BTW I went with Red Hat 8