Linux on a Compaq Presario 1830

Summary of what works

Note: I no longer have this machine. I'm leaving this information here in case it is useful to someone.


A friend just bought a refurbished Compaq Presario 1830, and wanted help installing linux. Since I'm partial to Slackware, we installed Slackware 7.0. However, most of this applies to more common distributions like Red Hat and Debian.

We began by blowing away the existing partitions and starting from scratch. This was partially a mistake: there are a couple things worth saving first:

This machine's 6G drive is configured with a 1.5G D: partition that is for rescue purposes. All drivers and backup software are there, not on the "rescue" CD. I gave an earful to the Compaq tech about that, and they sent 2 CDs by Fedex that include the info, but....


We made a 2G partition for Win98 and a 4G partition for Linux. The Windows install went ok, but we're missing video and network drivers. The video drivers should be easy, but sound was/is nearly impossible. Still waiting...

The linux install itself was straightforward. (If this is where you're stuck, you need a basic install guide. Perhaps this one will do.) Setting up device drivers, however, was more complex. Read on.

X / Video

The video board is an ATI Rage LT Pro, on a the PCI bus. It works with the XFree86 3.3.5 SVGA server. However, at 16bpp, there is no hardware acceleration. The driver notes say the hardware accel isn't supported beyond 8bpp. :(

The screen is 1024x768 pixels (one of which is broken!!).


The sound card is a "JBL Pro Audio with Bass Reflex", whatever that means. A Compaq tech guy called it a "JBL Performance Audio PCI". JBL's website (if that's the right JBL) doesn't mention anything about its existence.

But, I was able to determine that it uses the "ESS Solo 1" chipset, and got default (in Windows) specs of IRQ 5, DMA 1, I/O 0x220-0x22f and 0x330-0x331. Currently, modprobe esssolo1 claims to succeed, but catting a test sound file to /dev/audio just yields noise.

Still working on it...

PCMCIA Network Card

The machine didn't come with a card, but I have two of my own. I tried both, and both yielded (in /var/log/messages) the error "register_netdev() failed".

In desperation, I tried recompiling the kernel (I had been using the Slackware 7.0 net.i boot disk kernel), and it worked! I don't know which option was off in net.i, but it defaulted to on in the new kernel. Just plug in the card and that becomes 'eth0'.

You can configure network stuff like IP address in /etc/pcmcia/network.opts. After changing it, just remove and then re-insert the card for the changes to take effect.

Advanced Power Management (APM)

During the aforementioned kernel recompile, I enabled APM support. Do this, it's a good thing. (At very least, it lets the 'apm' program report battery status.)


The modem is a Lucent 56k v.90 winmodem. I haven't tried it though...


For some reason, Linux isn't able to change the hardware date chip's idea of what time it is. So for several boots in a row, it would think it was 1999 on boot, I'd change it with 'date', and next time it'd be back to 1999. The workaround for now is to change the date with BIOS (F10 when it's showing the big Compaq logo).

Update: You can use hwclock to sync system and hardware clocks.