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Old 10-17-2003, 08:02 AM   #1
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Question XFree86 Configuration 4.3.0 - Help Required!

I recently decided to resurrect an old laptop machine which was lying around with Windoze 95 installed and errors on the partition table! All fixes failed and I decided to wipe it completely and install Linux in an effort to join the growing masses of users, to give myself an education in Linux and to get something usable out of the machine before transferring away from Windoze altogether on my desktop.

After reading all of the literature, forums and comments I downloaded a number of Distributions, Mandrake 9.1, Red Hat 9, Suse 8.2 and Slackware 9.1.

The laptop is a Compaq Armada 1580DMT, 150Mhz, 2.1Gb HD, 32Mb RAM, Cirrus Logic CL-GD7548 Video Card (Capable of SVGA at 800 x 600 with 1Mb RAM ) and a 12.1 TFT display.

Although somewhat dated hardware, I have recently ordered an additional 64Mb of RAM and a 20Gb Hard drive in order to breath a little more performance and capacity into the machine and am expecting delivery in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, after trying all of the simpler installations Mandrake, Red Hat and Suse, it was clear that the size of the distributions was just not going to be feasible with the existing set up, mainly video problems. Slackware is proported to be not ideal for Newbies like myself but being a glutton for punishment and a seeker of knowledge I decided that if I were to learn Linux fully then this would probably be the best route to go!

The installation went great.....all installed in about 2 Hours. However, on starting up the XFree86 Configuration I am unable to get a suitable video output on the screen. I have all of the technical details of the screen, refresh rates etc ......and some other config file outputs from others gleaned from the internet for the same machine, however these tend to be for older versions of XFree86. Current output is a rectangular box in the middle of the screen, filling about half of the screen, directly in the centre. KDE appears but cannot be used as the menus fill out over the edges making it impossible to find the buttons. Running the config setup gives the option to select the Cirrus Logic card but it looks like it converts to VGA and not SVGA. 4.3 versions of XFree seem to have had a specific SVGA Server but not with the latest distributions. The automatic configuration option when selected implements a VESA driver......and I'm totally confused!

Could anyone give me a simple step by step newbie guide to altering the 4.3.0 Config file manually or direct me to a suitable web page. And I mean even down to the keys to press as I have no idea what I am doing and would appreciate all and any help anyone can offer. I have done some extensive searching and can find nothing to assist me so rather than give it all up thought I would try a last appeal for assistance.


Old 10-17-2003, 08:16 AM   #2
Registered: Aug 2003
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If you have all your hardware's technical details, you could configure XFree86 manually (That is with the cmdline-tool ;-)).
To do this, you'll need to move another terminal [ctrl][alt][F1]
login as root,

#cd /usr/X11/bin


answer the questions.
Old 10-21-2003, 03:41 AM   #3
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Yup. Slackware is a great choice for that machine!

Now, let's get to the problem.
You'll need to setup X correctly. Apparantly, it's using 640x480 or some such silly low resolution.
Let's try to edit this by hand.
you can use joe, or pico to edit the /etc/X11/XF86Config file by hand.
Don't worry, it's not so complicated.

Basically, the driver shouldbe set to Vesa at first. (this should get you at least something workable)

VESA is not the best, you're right -- but it's a sort of catch-all that will at least get X up and running.
The problem we need to fix first, is the resolution.

So here's what we do-- use the command (as root):
pico /etc/X11/XF86Config

to open the Pico text editor which is simple to use -- scroll through, and you'll see all sorts of configuration details to how X Windows is set up.

Find the part that starts with:
Section "Device"
Identifier "(current identifier)"
Driver "(whatever it is now)"
Change Driver to vesa (lowercase is important).

The next section should be labeled "Screen"
Make sure Device matches the section above.

Now, on to the resolutions --
The color depth supported by vesa are 8-24, i believe -- however, since you're running on older hardware, let's go ith something conservative like 16.
So uncomment DefaultDepth 16
(That means take the # sign out from in front of it.. conversely, commenting a line out means putting the # in front of the line... commented lines in scripts or configuration files are NOT read by whatever they're meant to be interpreted by)

So uncomment DefaultDepth16 and comment out any other Default depth that is selected.

Below that, it'll tell you what resolutions the default XF86Config File is set to -- these aren't working for your LCD --. You see, most earlier Laptop LCDs are set to work only at one resolution, which is why you're seeing the tiny box in the center.

So, since you said yours is capable of 800x600, let's set it to that.
Under section labelled:
Subsection "Display"
Depth 8

change it to read:
Subsection "Display"
    Depth    8
    Modes "800x600" "640x480"
Now, save the file with control-o (write out) and then control x to exit the pico editor.
Issue the startx command again, and see what you've got.

The vesa driver is just about the slowest video driver available, but it almost always works. LIke I said, this is just something to get you up and running. Later on, you'll want to fiddle with the Xserver for the specific card youv'e got in your laptop.

You'll notice that Xwindows configuration can be a pain at first, but it's all rather straightforward.

Good luck!
ps- hope this wasnt too hard to follow... I'm writing this at quite a late/early hour


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