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framebuffer is a kernel thingie...so, if your kernel doesn't have it compiled in, you'll need to recompile your kernel. you still might have it (I don't know about stock kernels, I've used a custom one for a long time now), and if you do, you need to give some options in your bootloader to use it...in grub, at least, you just append the option vga=xxx to your kernel line, where xxx is a certain number that describes the resolution and colors. these numbers (and help for lilo users) can easily be found from google, just search for framebuffer vga options or grub/lilo vga options or something..
if you put the option in your bootloader but nothing happens, then you almost surely don't have framebuffer support in your kernel...
Distribution: RH 6.2, Gen2, Knoppix,arch, bodhi, studio, suse, mint
those are settings that are changed on the monitor itself. so i guess your monitor doesn't have those controls? weird.
anyway, svgatextmode is a program you can play with. it's not standard. you'll have to find it on the web.
ie, if you want to run 800x600 at 24bit, just append vga=0x315 in lilo or grub, BUT make sure you have the framebuffer enabled, or your screen will go blank. AFAIK, RH9 out-of-the-box kernel has fb enabled by default.
Actually it doesn't, I tried installing RedHat with X, then framebuffer works, but if it's a bare install without X, it throws an error when specifying higher resolution. That's why I was curious how to see what is inside the kernel at any given time.