Linux on the Dell Inspiron 8100
From the discussions at eGroups, it is clear that many users (including myself) have encountered seroius problems when installing Linux on the Dell i8100.  The installation of Slackware, RedHat, or Mandrake dies (usually near the format stage but probably when swapon is called).  The most recent releases do not appear to have this problem (e.g. Mandrake 8.1 and Roswell RedHat (Beta)).  This document describes how to install RedHat 7.1 on the Dell Inspiron 8100. The materials available here were collected in part from discussions on the linux-dell-laptops discussion group at eGroups:  Don't forget to check out other linux installs for Dell laptops at (especially the i8000 series).
 The System
Model Inspiron 8100 
CPU  1.13 GHz Intel PIII 
Memory  256 MB SDRAM (single 133 MHz module)
Video  NVIDIA GeForce2Go/32MB 
Sound  ESS Maestro 3i 
Screen  15" UXGA+ TFT active 1600x1200
Disk  30 GB Ultra ATA 
Optical  DVD-ROM /CR-RW combo
Mini PCI  Lucent Winmodem and Intel PRO 10/100 ethernet adapter
  (1) Red Hat 7.1 Linux Install
(a) If your i8100 is also going to serve as a wintendo, you can migrate the preinstalled Windows operating system (Windows ME in my case) onto the first partition, by following these instructions.  Otherwise just skip to (b).  Turn off virtual memory in Windows ME.  Run the defragmentation program.  Run scandisk.  Make a startup disk.  Copy restorrb.exe, fips.exe and errors.txt from the dosutils directory of the 1st RedHat installation CD to the boot floppy.  Reboot with the floppy.  Type fips at the command prompt.  Follow the instructions and chose the end cylinder for your windows partition (cylinders 1-749 will give you about 6 out of the 30 GB on the hard disk).  Reboot into windows.  Turn the virtual memory back on and run scan disk to make sure everything is ok.  Now you can install a real operating system on the rest of the hard disk.
(b) At the boot prompt, type "linux ide=nodma" to avoid crashes when swapon is called during installation (see Bug #53168 at Bugzilla).  DMA can be re-enabled after installation.  The "ide=nodma" option works in conjunction with other common options like "text" and "expert".  Follow the installation procedure as you normally would with a few exceptions. 
(i) Select text login mode rather than the graphical interface since you will have to configure X-windows manually just like the i8000.
(ii) Most likely, your network card will not be recognized.  This is ok since it also can be configured manually.
(c) When you reboot after the installation, login as root.
(i) Add "alias eth0 eepro100" to /etc/modules.conf.  If you use your i8100 as an NFS server, you may get a kernel panic under heavy network load.  I encountered this for my Dell PowerEdge 2500 server which has an integrated Intel PRO 10/100 NIC.  Here is the easy fix.
(ii) Edit /etc/sysconfig/harddisks and uncomment the line with USE_DMA=1.  This re-enables DMA which speed up my buffered disk reads by a factor of 5 (from 4 MB/sec to 20 MB/sec).  Use the "hdparm -T -t /dev/hda" command to check the performance if you are interested.
(c) Kudzu will detect your network card after rebooting, and you can setup your networking.
  (2) X-Window Setup
(a) Install the kernerl source from the 2nd installation CD if you have not already done so.  (rpm --install kernel-source-2.4.2-2.i386.rpm) 
(b) Download the NVIDIA drivers from their site:
(c) Install the latest NVIDIA_kernel-x.x-xxx.src.rpm and NVIDIA_GLX-x.x-xxx.i386.rpm. 
(i) rpm --rebuild NVIDIA_kernel-1.0-1251.src.rpm
(ii) rpm -ivh /usr/src/redhat/RPMS/i386/NVIDIA_kernel-1.0-1251.i386.rpm
(iii) rpm -ivh NVIDIA_GLX-1.0-1251.i386.rpm
(d) Download and install an XF86Config-4 for the GeForce2Go video card in /etc/X11.  Files for a variety of resultions are available from several sources.  Be careful when using the rpms from Dell.  They may overwrite files that you might want to keep, and they need to be modified.  (See notes by Derek Bruening)  I have not tested all of these files.
1024 x 768:  Dell ; gdenhollander ; Alfred Park ;
1280x1024:  Dell ; gdenhollander ; Alfred Park
1400x1050:  Dell ; ; gdenhollander ; Alfred Park
1600x1200:  Dell ; Derek ; gdenhollander ; Alfred Park
  (3) Winmodem Setup
Although I have not tested the winmodem setup, drivers are available for certain Lucent winmodems in RedHat.  The following links may be helpful.  and  . 
  (4) DVD/CD-RW Setup
I was able to read and burn CDs automatically since the RedHat installation correctly detect the combo drive and added append="hdb=ide-scsi" to /etc/lilo.conf.
  (5) Sound Configuration
Again, the sound card was properly configured during the installation of RedHat 7.1.
    Last updated: 8 October 2001 
This page is maintained by Greg Tschumper (