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For the record- I have done a search and I haven't seen anything quiet like my error...
Another thing I can't do is the Ctrl Alt + or Ctrl Alt -
My Laptop doesn't have a Keypad and the '+' key must be shifted to work... but that doesn't work... (Can I change the Ctrl Alt + to something else?)
First, which version of XFree86 are you using. You mentioned downloading it, so I'm assuming 4.2.0. However, you mentioned "Modelines", which were done away with in version 4.x.x I believe. Let us know which version you're using.
Ok, if you're using 4.2.0, just follow the steps in the thread I linked. Your video hardware will most likely be recognized without a problem and the correct driver selected.
Also, the Thinkpad 770 I'm using will only give me 1024x768. If I go to 800x600, the screen shrinks to what appears to be the 320x200 size with 800x600 desktop. Weird. The screen size is small on boot up under windows too.
You can try http://www.linux-on-laptops.com
There is a configfile for xfree. But that file is for 3.6.0 changing the xversion might give you more trouble than you got already.
Just check with google - there are a couple of sites that deal with laptopinstalls.
If you're still working on this, here's something I found out this morning. I was upgrading my thinkpad to Slack 8.1 which has XFree86 4.2.0. Using the same video driver (Trident 9397) that worked with XFree86 4.1.0, I'm now getting "messed up" video.
I'm thinking there may be an issue with 4.2.0, so you may want to try 4.1.0 if you haven't gotten it to work yet.