The Linux Letter for
January 3, 2000
Welcome to the new millennium.
Unless, of course, you're among the small, but vocal minority
who insists that the millennium starts next year. In that case,
welcome to the last year of the old millennium.
You've heard about Y2K and
maybe you've even been caught up in the hysteria, but now that
it's here, you know that the world hasn't ended, the
international infrastructure hasn't collapsed, and things are
working pretty much like normal. I hope that you weren't
Of course, if your computer
runs Linux, most of the horrors that Y2K pundits predicted
wouldn't have affected you because Linux has always been Y2K
compliant. In fact, it won't have date problems until sometime
around 2034...and hopefully by then the state of technology will
have advanced to find a solution to that problem.
Before I started writing this,
I thought about trotting out my predictions of the directions
that Linux would take this year, but then I realized that there
are enough computer psychics publishing their prognostications
that one more would just be extra noise. So let's do something
Earlier this year, my tried
and true Micron TransPort XPE notebook started having display
problems. Since the computer was not only out of warranty and
Micron wasn't interested in replacing the screen, I decided that
it was time to upgrade to something more powerful. I picked a
Compaq Proliant 1675, powered by an AMD K6-2 360MHz processor.
The system is powerful, not
desktop powerful, but leaps and bounds ahead of the old Micron.
Mine has 128MB of RAM and a 6.4GB hard drive. I added a 3Com
CardBus network card. The graphics card is the standard ATI Rage
LT AGP, something that seems to be pretty common on notebooks in
the $2000 price range.
But, of course, the computer
came with Windows 98. I suppose that's not necessarily a bad
thing, since Windows does work nicely with notebooks and there
are a few programs that I run that only work on Windows, but I
really like using Linux. Since I use my notebook computer a lot,
it seemed to me that I ought to use my favorite operating system
as well. The problem, of course, is the proprietariness of most
The short story is that Linux
works well on notebook computers. I installed RedHat 6.1 on my
Compaq. It worked almost perfectly in the 2.5GB partition that I
selected, except for some really odd mouse behavior. After about
30 seconds of use, the mouse pointer would go nuts, randomly
moving around the screen and behaving as if the right button had
been pressed. A quick kernel patch fixed the problem. Of course,
this notebook, like most others, included a WinModem instead of
a standard hardware-based modem. Linux generally will not
support them. This wasn't a problem for me, since I don't use a
modem to connect to the Internet, but it's enough of a problem
that if you're considering installing Linux on a notebook you'll
probably want to purchase a PCMCIA modem as well.
Speaking of PCMCIA, RedHat 6.1
recognized the network card without any tinkering on my part.
The PCMCIA tools that are an external part of the operating
system are scheduled to be incorporated into the kernel for
If you want to install Linux
on your notebook, or you are considering the purchase of a
notebook to run Linux on, there is an excellent resource
available on the web: Linux on Laptops, maintained by Kenneth
Harker. Don't even consider installing Linux on your notebook
before you look at the site.
Winmodems still don't work under Linux, but
there are a few PCI modems out there that are hardware based. A
problem that you may see, though, is that Linux doesn't always
automatically detect them as serial ports. Fortunately, there's
a way around the problem.
Look at /proc/pci to find an entry that
looks like a modem. Record the values for the IRQ and the first
I/O address. Then use the serserial command to assign the modem
to a com port:
serserial /dev/ttySx irq port uart 16550A
Substitute the serial port that you want to
use for "x". Substitute the IRQ value that you
recorded for "irq". Substitute the I/O address
value that you recorded for "port".
Remember, under Linux, serial port number
starts with zero.