Another Linux installation experience

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After several years of procrastination, and some unsuccessful bids on eBay, I finally got a laptop computer. It's a Dell Latitude, and it came with a 650 mHz processor, a 12 MB hard disk, and 128 MB or memory.

"Only 128 MB of RAM," you say? Hell, I got by for years with a Commodore Amiga that had "only" two MB. I wasn't worried about this because my plan was to install Linux on it, and knew that Linux would work with this configuration.

So, after switching on the power and making sure that I got what I paid for, I proceeded to install RedHat Enterprise Linux Version 4. For a personal-use computer, it might have made more sense to install Xandros or Ubuntu, but I already had a copy of RH Enterprise on hand; somebody gave it to me at the recent LinuxFest in Bellingham. RedHat has another important advantage; it's easy to find RPM's for updated software.

After completing the installation (I had to depart from the RH Enterprise default configuration because I have no intention of ever using this laptop as an Apache host), the first problem I had to address was networking. The laptop came with a Linksys WPC11 wireless card, and RH Enterprise doesn't support it. The first thing I learned (and this is important information for geeks) is that this card uses the rtl8180 chip set. After some more googling, the consensus seemed to be that the best way to get this card working is to use a module called ndiswrapper. Downloading the source (from and "make install" was half the battle. (Since I didn't have any network connection, I had to use a modern “sneakernet”; burning what I downloaded onto a CD-ROM and moving it to the laptop. Fortunately, I bought a spindle of cheap blank CD-ROMs a few months ago.)

What ndiswrapper actually does is serve as a “wrapper” for Windows drivers. So, I had to get the Windows driver for the Linksys card. This was easy to find, because there's a directory on the site for supported cards. The driver that I ended up using came from Following the directions for ndiswrapper, I unzipped the driver file into /etc/ndiswrapper.

“modprobe ndiswrapper” gave me a “wlan0” device. However, it takes a bit more effort to get a wireless card working than an ethernet card. It's necessary to run “iwconfig”, and this is what worked:

iwconfig wlan0 channel 11 essid default mode managed

The “essid default” parameter is important, but the key thing for getting this working is “channel 11”. The channel has to match the channel of the wireless router that you intend to connect to. The remaining steps to get this working were:

ifconfig wlan0 netmask up
route add default gw

“” is the IP address of the router, and “” is the address I assigned to the laptop.


0 #7 Guest 2006-06-16 07:01
Rather then manually setting DISPLAY to run X over your lan and having to deal with the cumbersome task of bypassing the X security features, e.g. using "xhost +" and enabling TCP connections, you could've used the SSH built-in ability to tunnel X connections.
All you'd need to do in that case is enable X tunneling on the SSH server by adding "X11Forwarding yes" to your sshd_config file, and then start SSH sessions from the client with the "-X" parameter.
SSH will do the rest, it will setup the DISPLAY and proper X secrity for you so you can avoid the insecure "xhost +".
0 #6 Theodore Kilgore 2006-06-16 03:32
First, let me say that I approve very much the idea of setting up the printer by hand. I use Slackware and I still use lpd in spite of the fact that it has recently been dropped from the distro. The following comments are based upon the successful setting up of a printer hooked to a machine on my home network. There are two possible problems that I see in what you did.

You said:


"Pretty simple, right? This just says that if you make an attempt to print on
the device lp, it will be routed to a printer named devps on a machine named

Are you sure that the printer on crow is actually called this? If the line
in crow's /etc/printcap says this is the name of the printer, then good.

"The problem is, this didn't work. I got a permission error, and I never
figured out what the problem was."

Perhaps you did not also set the option


in /etc/lpd.conf

and if you did not do this, then lpd is looking for an attached printer and
refusing to print over the network, no matter what you put in /etc/printcap.

Unfortunately this is only in recent versions of lpd, so anyone who did not
use lpd in the past couple of years probably does not know this. This config
file simply did not previously exist.

Hope this helps.
0 #5 Guest 2006-06-16 03:31
RHEL4 (or CentOS 4) is fine as an operating system. Especially for somewhat older systems where hardware support is guaranteed.

The advantage of an enterprise operating systems is that you can run it for 8 years from GA with security updates without needing to upgrade your system.

Even if upgrading takes half a day, why would you want to spend half a day to upgrade one system every 6 months to get basicly the same functionality.

Fedora is nice and you'll have the latest stuff, but often 'having the latest stuff' is not the most important. For desktops it might be, for servers it never is.

When RHEL5 is released later this year, it will be newer than FC5, will be 'more ready' for the desktop and will have again 8 years of security fixes. We can only hope the Gnome libraries are stabilised by then so we can recompile Gnome programs released in 2008 on RHEL5 without requiring to upgrade Gnome to the latest release.
0 #4 Alex 2006-06-16 03:30
I see that you are well versed in the way's of 'nix, but why choose rhe4 for the laptop? You'd have a much easier time with a distro like ubuntu, mandriva, or mepis. The 128Mb of ram would be an issue for any of the large desktops, so damn small linux or puppy may have been better due to their modest system requirements.
0 #3 Guest 2006-06-15 22:09
So you were concerned about memory footprint, but use OpenOffice and Firefox?

If you actually ran the KDE desktop with Konqueror and KOffice (1.5.1 is quite good) you'd probably find it much lighter overall since they all share the same libraries and are generally lighter than their "stand-alone" counterparts.

I've run KDE in this configuration comfortable in as little as 96MB of RAM (uncomfortably in less, but that's no fund) on systems as slow as 500Mhz.

Of course, Red Hat's KDE (and most other of their desktop packages) aren't the swiftest, so perhaps that has coloured your perceptions somewhat.
0 #2 Guest 2006-06-15 15:08
RHv4 is quite a bit behind Fedora Core 5, especially at supporting laptops since RH4 is really for servers and big iron machines.
0 #1 Guest 2006-06-15 13:23
I have a similar laptop but a little slower with the same amount of Ram. I am thinking of putting Xubuntu on it.

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