Linux on the Versa LXi
I am currently running RedHat 6.1 on my Versa LXi. I have the video, sound, PCMCIA, and DVD working, albeit with some qualifications as noted below.
This page is geared toward getting RedHat 6.1 up an running on a LXi. If you have any input as to the running of other distributions of Linux on the LXi and would like me to include that info on this page, feel free to e-mail me. Also, any comments or suggestions concerning this page are welcome.
The Versa LXi has the S3 Savage MX 3D chip set, with 8MB of video ram. This chip set is brand new (as of 12/99). As you can guess, there is currently no XFree86 X server for it. None of the existing standard X servers can drive this chip set to satisfactory levels. The SVGA server can only muster a tiny 320x200 resolution, and the VGA server achieves the typical 640x480 at 16 colors (not exactly fulfilling on a 1024x768 LCD screen). If you try to use either of these servers with the MX chip set, your system also decides to get unstable. Even the updated S3 Savage SVGA server will not work with the MX chip set.
The FBDev X server works well with this chip set. After much
effort and trial and error I was able to come up with a configuration
that will work with the LXi. The first thing that has to be done is
setting the vga tag in LILO to start the Frame Buffer in the kernel.
Here is a copy of my lilo.conf file
(yes, I am dual booting with windoze), take note of the "vga=" setting,
this is the setting for 1024x768 with 32bit color depth, that's right,
32bit. I have included a list of the "vga=" tag settings taken from the
the one that suits your needs. If you pick a lower color depth it will
give you better performance. Because the one drawback with the FBDev
server is, for the Savage MX chip set, it's totally un-accelerated. The
lack of acceleration is bad for games like quake, etc., but on this
laptop the video performs well enough to be acceptable for almost every
other task. The last step to getting the video working on the LXi is
setting up the XF86Config file, as an example I have included mine here. It is nothing special, only that you
will notice it has no timings :-)
The LXi uses the ESS Maestro-2E sound system, with the ESS1978 chip set. This is now considered and older chip set as it has been out for some time now. This is the same chip set that I had in my Versa LX. As a result of its age, there are now divers that have been developed for it by the Linux community, specifically by Zach Brown of RedHat.
To get the sound working with the LXi you need to set up you conf.modules file to have these entries. You also need to download the driver that Zach Brown has produced and install it per the instructions on his web page. The current version of the Maestro driver is 0.13 which was written to fix the bugs in NEC's version of the ESS1978 chip set on the LX. The driver is still in what Zach Brown calls "beta" quality, and it should be noted that the volume control system for the NEC Versa Dock is not in this (or any) version of the driver. If you want to get sound out of the dock in Linux, you'll have to wait. Just as a side, 4Front Technologies also has a driver that will work with this chip set, however, you will have to pay for it, and it also does not work on the docking station.
The LXi uses the Texas Instruments PCI-1450 CardBus Controller. This is a departure for NEC from the Ricoh RL5C578 CardBus controller that they used in the LX. A CardBus controller puts PCMCIA and CardBus cards on the PCI Bus, which has a tremendous positive impact on performance, it is light years ahead of a standard PCMCIA controller. The higher performance of the CardBus allows for the use of 100 MBps Network cards and Zoom Video cards like the Margi DVD decoder card that NEC sells.
As fate would have it, the PCMCIA system support works right
out of the box. RedHat has included pcmcia-cs-3.0.14 with RH 6.1 and it
is setup in the default install. This setup works with my 3com combo
card (both the modem and the ethernet port work), and it even sees my
DVD decoder card, although it has no idea what to do with it.
DVD's are not usually in the ISO9660 CD file system format. The typical DVD format is UDF. Support for UDF comes pre compiled into the kernel in most distributions shipping 2.3.x kernels (it is with RedHat 6.1). CD-ROMs can be read on the DVD drive since the drive can read ISO9660 format. It is a good idea to also compile in support for the Joliet extension to the ISO format. Even though Joliet was a Micro$oft standard, it can read long file names off a cdrom unlike ISO9660, and more and more CD are using it.
It just does.
The touchpad, basic apm, ide controller, and most of the other systems are older technology and have been used by NEC for some time. As a result, all of these systems work well with Linux. The only two devices that I have on this computer that do not work are the DVD decoder card I mentioned earlier, and the USB ports. On the Docking Station everything is working sans the volume control, ie. no sound on the dock :-(
Everything but the DVD decoder and USB
Last updated 1/15/00