i've got a geforce 4 mx 440 too, and had this problem.
i think the problem is something with either the geforce 4 or the mx 440 specification.
a newer linux nvidia driver (4496 if i remember correctly) should fix it. there's a newer one than that (55.. somthing or other), but apparently it's buggy. stick with the 4496 one, it's tried and true (as far as i'm concerned).
there is one catch thou. once you install the driver, you must change your x setup to use 4.3... not 3.3 or whatever. otherwise the driver just simply won't load.
also, i think you'll have to reboot after installing the driver. depending on how you've loaded X. if you didn't load x on startup and installed the driver without loading X at all on that boot, you might not have any problems.
the annoying thing is, given certain distributions, it's hard to find how to turn X off or change to 4.3 before it goes haywire.
mandrake boots using some framebuffer method for install, so you dont' have any problems with mandrake on install, and you can choose your whole X setup from there.
redhat however (or at least 9, which i've been trying) doesn't give you so much flexability, and the screen goes stupid even during install.
anyway, hopefully that should help.
if you're trying 2.6 kernel, you'll still need to update your nvidia driver, but you have to patch it first. but i'll save that for another post.