Open Source

A Voodoo3 card, Red Hat 6.1, and a little thing called GUI

Having problems using your Voodoo3 card with Red Hat Linux? Ed Engelking tells you his story and how he found a solution to his problem.

Ever had one of those days when you thought everything was going to run smoothly, but the day ended up being a major headache? I had one of those days recently when I bought a copy of Red Hat Linux 6.1. I thought that I would be able to take the software home, load it into my system, and have it up and running within a matter of a few hours. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Enter the GUI
I’ll never forget how it all began. The Red Hat installation was going perfectly. I was able to get the disc to boot from the CD-ROM drive, and had begun to do a graphical user interface (GUI) installation. The screen suddenly turned black, blinked a few times, and then displayed a few errors. And then, without warning, the system began to reboot itself.

Not being one to give up, I gave it another try, figuring that perhaps something had happened to the installation while it was being read from the disc. I restarted the computer and let it boot back into the Red Hat setup screen. I tried to do the installation via GUI, but unfortunately, the computer began to reboot once again.

Thank goodness for text
After spending about an hour trying to figure out the GUI installation problem, I finally broke down and installed Red Hat via the text installer. I figured that the GUI installation may have had a bug or two, and going around it would be the easiest solution to the problem. After a few minutes of setting up the text installation, I watched as the files were copied to my computer.

When the installation was complete, the computer shut down and restarted, and LILO asked which OS I wished to boot. I typed Linux and hit enter, and watched as the OS loaded on my machine. When the login popped up, I logged on as root, and everything seemed to be working. I breathed a sigh of relief that the text installation had worked, and I was happy. Then I tried to run X for the first time.

Is the Voodoo the culprit?
After typing startx at the prompt, the screen began to flash. A few lines of information began to scroll down the screen, and the computer then informed me that X could not be run, stating that there was a video memory buffer error. I began to suspect that this was a video problem, so I decided to run Xconfigurator from my prompt.

The text-based configuration editor popped up on my screen, and I began to set up my video card and monitor. Linux had successfully detected that I had a Voodoo3 video card installed on my system. I deduced that perhaps my monitor could be the culprit; after all, Linux was able to detect my video card with no trouble. After spending an hour or so working on the monitor, I had finally concluded that the monitor was not the cause of my dilemma.

RPMs should be renamed lifesavers
About a month earlier, I installed Red Hat 6.0 on an older computer system in my home. However, I could not get the Voodoo3 card that was installed on that system to detect at all. I had even visited the 3dfx Web site and downloaded the latest RPMs for the card, but I was not able to get the video up and running correctly. Disheartened, I burned the RPMs onto a CD for later use, just in case I decided to try Red Hat again on the machine.

An acquaintance of mine suggested that I give the RPMs a run on the machine that I was installing Red Hat 6.1 on, just to see what would happen. From the prompt, I copied the RPMs from the disc on which they were burned onto the computer, and loaded them into the system using the —force command to override the Voodoo3 information already on the system. After the RPMs had been successfully installed, I decided to run Xconfigurator again.
RPM stands for Red Hat Package Manager. RPMs contain information to add and remove packages located on a Red Hat machine.
And the final test results are…
I ran Xconfigurator once again, and Linux detected my Voodoo3 card without any problem. Figuring that I had nothing to lose, I decided to let the system test my video display. To my amazement, the screen flashed a few times, and a message appeared on my screen. Linux had detected the video card correctly! The GUI was working and I could see a message box. Once I had closed out Xconfigurator, I decided to try to run X once again. At the prompt, I typed the startx command to load the GUI on my Linux machine. The color on the monitor turned from black to gray, and an X cursor appeared. It had worked! I had successfully installed the Voodoo3 RPM and was able to load GNOME, a network object model environment created by the GNU Project , on my machine.

What did I learn?
I learned the hard way how to set up a Voodoo3 card on a machine running Red Hat Linux 6.1. Even so, I did take away a valuable lesson from this experience: Before you attempt to install Linux, or any other OS, for that matter, make sure you have the latest drivers for the hardware related to that OS in your computer. Doing so will save a lot of time and trouble down the road. Trust me on this one; you’ll thank yourself later for doing so!
To comment on this article or to share your tips for installing a Voodoo3 card, please post a comment below or send us a note.

Ed Engelking is a web editor for TechRepublic. He is also co-owner

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