Linux on a DELL 8100:
Dell 8100 (go figure)
15" TFT screen
30 Gig HDD
512 Meg RAM
16 Meg NVidia GForce2Go video card
24X DVD-CDRW drive
Internal PCI network card, internal PCI modem
Advanced Port Replicator

Good News:
I have since installed RedHat 7.3 onto this machine. RH7.3 installs without a lot of the problems listed below and has a decent video driver already built into the distro, but I still use the NVidia drivers listed below. The modem still needs the files below as well.

Wireless update:
The Linksys Instant Wireless Network PC Card, Version 3, works like a charm. Add the following lines into /etc/pcmcia/config after you see what the manfid is for your card in /var/log/messages when you plug it in the first time
card "The Linksys Group, Inc. Instant Wireless Network PC Card ISL37300P RevA"
manfid 0x0274, 0x1613
bind "orinoco_cs"

Notes about this procedure:
I used Red Hat 7.1 and 7.0 for this installation. Since then, 7.3 has come out and I will update this page if/when I get a wild hair and update or install it from scratch.

System overview:
I like this computer. It's a great looking laptop and finally I have a screen that I don't need binoculars to view. I was looking for a replacement to the workhorse Compaq 1210 I had and abused for close to four years. I did a bit of comparison shopping and was looking for the clearest screen. The Dell inspiron series comes out near or at the top of the laptops for overall satisfaction in all the comparisons I've looked at and the consistant comment is how clear the screen is.

I do not know what Windows is like on this computer, I've never run it. The first boot I did was resetting it so that it would boot via CDROM and boot straight into RedHat installer.

Real problems here. I could not get RedHat 7.1 to load except once. It seems that there are those that can load it and do not have the problems I did, but after about a dozen tries, text, expert, anaconda, and just about every combonation possible. I made it with 127 meg swap (remembering the older limitation on swap), with no partition greater than 8 gig (ouch! LOTS of partitions) with all in one, every way I could think of to make it different. It always failed at the formatting the swap partition. I got errors about X, I got errors about swapon(), and other assorted errors. I searched the RedHat site and found that 7.1 has a problem with SOME of the 8100s out there. Well, it turns out that mine is one of the 'SOME.' The one time it seemed to install, I got filesystem errors out the wazoo and it refused to boot beyond the mounting filesystems. I read as much as I could find and these instructions are a compilation of a handful of sources and my experiences putting them together. Hopefully it saves some time for someone else.

Update: Seems RH 7.1 and 7.2 install has a problem with the dma on this machine. When you boot from the CD and get the LILO prompt, type 'ide=nodma' and install normally. You can turn it back on or not turn it off, actually, after installation. It's just the installation that needs that switch. I had already installed it, though

I got out my RedHat 7.0 and it installed without a problem. I used the following partitioning:
/dev/hda1 54416 /boot (50 Meg)
/dev/hda5 15757248 / (15 Gig)
/dev/hda6 521748 /var (512 Meg)
/dev/hda8 12373372 /home (12 Gig)
swap 136512 swap (128 Meg)

I am used to the <1024 cylinder limit for the booting partition, I understand that is no longer a problem, but it doesn't hurt to have the /boot as it's own partition. When asked about X, set the values to whatever you want but do not let it boot to init level 5 (do not let it boot straight into X.)

LILO as the bootloader
I booted it into init level 1, at the LILO prompt, type 'linux 1' or 'linux single'

GRUB as the bootloader
When you get the GRUB boot screen, go to the kernel you want to boot
type 'e' for edit
cursor down to the line that starts:
kernel (and has the settings in the line)
type 'e' for edit
go to the end of the line and put 'init 1' on the end of the line
type 'b' for boot

Either of these will boot the box into run level one. You can then cd into /etc/rc.d/init.d and moved pcmcia to pcmcia.back. The pcmcia that comes with RedHat 7.x freezes up the computer and you don't get beyond that if you leave it alone.
This got the laptop to boot into init level 3 and start setting the computer up for use.

I downloaded kernel 2.4.17 and pcmcia-cs-3.1.30, put them into the /usr/src tree and compiled the kernel using the .config file from here.

Some notes about the .config file:
This file puts the network card driver built into the kernel for both the internal PCI network card (CONFIG_EEPRO100=y) and the port replicator network card (CONFIG_VORTEX=y).

To use a 2.4.x kernel with Redhat 7.0, you must update your modutils, I put modutils-2.4.2-5 in and it works just fine,

In order to use the CDRW as a writer, you have to use the SCSI device, so I set the SCSI IDE to yes (CONFIG_BLK_DEV_IDESCSI=y) and added the line
'append="hdb=ide-scsi"' to /etc/lilo.conf.

In GRUB, I added the ending 'hdb=ide-scsi' at the end of the kernel line
The following lines to /etc/modules.conf:

alias scd0 sr_mod # load sr_mod upon access of scd0
options ide-cd ignore=hdb # tell the ide-cd module to ignore hdb
pre-install sg modprobe ide-scsi # load ide-scsi before sg
pre-install sr_mod modprobe ide-scsi # load ide-scsi before sr_mod
pre-install ide-scsi modprobe ide-cd # load ide-cd before ide-scsi

I burned a CD just to make sure this worked and that went off without a hitch.

I use VMWare to run WIN98 occasionally so I built the Real Time Clock into the kernel (CONFIG_RTC=y) and made the parallel port modular (CONFIG_PARPORT=m CONFIG_PARPORT_PC=m)

The rest of the .config file is about such things as turning on the USB and
more mundane things. Read the rest of it to your heart's content.

I opened the file /usr/src/linux/Makefile and change the line from
#export INSTALL_PATH=/boot

export INSTALL_PATH=/boot

This puts the new kernel stuff into that /boot partition that I created and keeps it within the first 1024 sectors of the disk.

While in the Makefile, look at the line towards the top of the file that says:
Here is where you can call it whatever you want to and make sure it is not conflicting with an installed kernel. Mine looks like this: EXTRAVERSION = IPTables
Then you need to build your kernel and modules:
make dep
make modules
make modules_install

Here's where is diverges again for the GRUB Vs LILO install:
make bzlilo

make bzImage
(remember the EXTRAVERSION switch? Here is where you need it)
cp /boot/
cp arch/i386/boot/bzImage /boot/vmlinuz-IPTables

Here is what is now my /etc/lilo.conf and what has become my grub.conf after building all this.

Configuring X:
RedHat 7.0 does not have an NVidia driver in with the XFree86 that comes with it. I downloaded the two files from NVidia, NVIDIA_GLX-1.0-2313.tar.gz and NVIDIA_kernel-1.0-2314.tar.gz. If newer ones are out, by all means use them. I avoided the rpm files even though they reportedly work because I wanted to see what they were doing when installing. Yes, you need both the NVidia GLX and the NVidia kernel parts to make it work. They install without any problems if you have been doing this step by step as I've written it.

The NVidia modules are ready to go as soon as you have done 'make' inside each of the directories created when you untar the files.

I have put a couple XF86Config-4 files in the FILES section. One is for when the machine is docked and I use a Logitech Optical Mouse, the other is when it's undocked and I need the touchpad. I have the BIOS set to use the internal touchpad if there is not an external mouse plugged in. These run the laptop LCD screen at 1600X1200 in 16 bit color. I'll put more up as I find out the limitations of each. So far, I have been unable to use 24 bit or 36 bit color as it makes the screen flash when I have the config file set to either of those as a default and the only way I can stop it is to remote shell to the laptop and either kill off the X server or init 3 the machine.

I got this with the PCI NIC and modem built in. There are two types and you will not know which one you got until you boot. LTModem is a package that will make the Lucent version of the modem work, it works well, too.
Download the file from above and read the README and follow the instructions and if you have the Lucent chipset and not the 3Com, it will work.

kernel 2.4.17
pcmcia-cs 3.1.30
NVidia Kernel Stuff
NVidia GLX stuff
Docked Version
Undocked Version
Linux on a Dell Laptop FAQ