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RedHat-8 X-Windows deadly freezing on HP Pavilion 8495

Emil Nissimov
Occasional Advisor

RedHat-8 X-Windows deadly freezing on HP Pavilion 8495

Recently I installed RedHat Linux 8 (3+2 CD's burnt from the official download, see http://www.redhat.com/download/mirror.html)
as a second OS on the second 30 GB partition on the 60 GB Quantum Fireball disk of my HP Pavilion 8495, the first partition carrying
the original Win-98.

The RedHat istallation went smoothly by recongnizing all the pertinent hardware (the original one that came with HP Pavilion 8495, May 1999). After booting to Linux from the GRUB dual-boot menu, the system went directly into the X-Windows environment (the KDE desktop). The only thing not working was the Riptide soundcard/modem PCI combo-card, but
there is a web-site (http://www.mbsi.ca/cnxtlindrv/) which offers
the appropriate Linux drivers.

However, to my shocking surprise, only few minutes after I was playing with the KDE desktop windows and programs, the screen freezed deadly with only the mouse still moving, but with no response to any other keyboard etc. input. The only solution was a brute-force power switch off. The same story, i.e., deadly freezing of the X-Windows/KDE
desktop and subsequent brute-force cold reboot keeps repeating itself everytime I log on to Linux - most of the time the freezing occurs
upon trying to drag program or terminal windows with the mouse.

Apparently, my problem is a problem of X-Windows (XFree86), since when I switch to a text-only virtual console, the RedHat Linux 8 OS works flawlessly. I checked the XF86Config file and all entries seem to be correct, including the section about the video-card (ATI Rage 128) - it says that the correct driver r128 has been installed, all other
hardware parameters (of the monitor SONY CPD-200ES: resolutions, color-depth, horizontal and vertical freq.) also appear to have been
correctly entered. Therefore, I wonder what might be the reason for the persistent system crashes of RedHat Linux 8 under X-Windows on my HP Pavilion 8495???

As a matter of fact, already the first week after I bought my Pavilion 8495 back in May 1999, I had to upgrade the ATI Rage 128 video-card driver (under Win-98) since the originally installed driver similarly
caused random deadly freezings of the system. After this upgrade, however, I never had freezing problems under Win-98.

If the issue is incompatibility of the standard Linux ATI Rage 128 driver (r128) with the current version of XFree86, is there a way to upgrade it (I didn't find any hints on the ATI and XFree86 sites)???

Any advice will be whole-heartedly appreciated. Thanks in advance, Emil Nissimov (Sofia, Bulgaria)

2 REPLIES
Bruce Copeland
Trusted Contributor

Re: RedHat-8 X-Windows deadly freezing on HP Pavilion 8495

I don't find this too surprising. The ATI drivers for XFree86 really aren't that great. There are several things you could try to do:

1) Search the web with Google for something like XFree86 ATI Rage 128. You'll probably get lots of links, but look for ones that describe successful implementations and give examples of the /etc/X11/XF86Config file. Then compare those files with your own, and make incremental changes (Keep backups of your originals).

2) Configure your installation to use the VESA framebuffer driver. This won't give you great performance, but it should allow you to work in X long enough to do some more configuration.

In both these cases, you want to boot into Linux without running XWindows (Run level 3) to do your editing of the XF86Config file or to run XConfig. Then try switching to X (telinit 5 or reboot, etc.)
Emil Nissimov
Occasional Advisor

Re: RedHat-8 X-Windows deadly freezing on HP Pavilion 8495

Thanks a lot, Bruce. The solution turned out to be as trivial as that: I simply downloaded and installed the latest ATI Rage 128 driver
http://dri.sourceforge.net/snapshots/rage128-20021022-linux.i386.tar.bz2 and now there are no more system lockups.