RedHat 6.0 Linux on a Used NEC Versa 2650CDT

My employer

recently obsoleted a number of Versa notebooks. I became aware of this and asked if I could experiment with a couple of them. I obtained a 2650CDT and a 4000 with the intent of adding to the growing undercurrent of non-Microsoft operating systems at this small, about-to-be-sold company.

2650 Specs


I couldn't get the Versa to boot from the CD - the BIOS didn't have a setting for this; so I made a boot floppy on another Linux box.

Installer Freeze-Up

I chose to install most of the packages appropriate for a laptop, excluding most servers, X-development and Emacs (just too large!). I always install the web and ftp servers so I can test web pages and easily transfer files.
     There is something odd about the Versa mouse/keyboard hardware. After two tries in which the nearly-finished RedHat installer hung at the "Some kind of PS/2 mouse has been probed" screen, I intuitively went into the BIOS by hitting ALT-ESC and disabled the IRDA port which was set at COM-2. This worked once - later, after trying a RH6.2 install (which didn't work at all!) I had to use the 'expert' install option after booting from the floppy, and this allowed my to install without interactive X-configuration. I then read the XF86Config from a floppy and manually created the mouse device link using

# ln -s /dev/psaux /dev/mouse

Configuring X

The utility 'Xconfigurator' properly auto-configured for the Glidepad, even to turning on the "tap-click". Then came the usual difficulties with the XF86Config. It usually sets the horizontal and vertical refresh ranges too narrow in an attempt to prevent damage to cathode-ray displays. I visited a (now-defunct) Linux On Laptops website, found some settings for NEC Versa LCDs and hand-built a working 16bpp display section and "modeline" of the XF86Config file. I would probably run a slower Versa machine at 8bpp.

Upgrading to RedHat 6.2

Being a glutton for punishment, an associate decided to give the 6.2 install one more try. This time, we chose the upgrade option rather than a full install. Although the install routine ran flawlessly, the keyboard and touchpad were non-functional at boot up (as with the previous 6.2 install attempt). The problem was eventually traced to a probe for new hardware that 6.2 performs during the boot process. The startup service that initiates the hardware probe is called 'kudzu,' which must be disabled to prevent the probe. To turn off kudzu, boot into single user mode by typing linux single at the LILO prompt. Let the system boot, then at the prompt:

# su
# chkconfig --list

Find kudzu in the table and note which run levels are marked 'on.' For example, if run levels 3, 4, and 5 are on, type the following command at the prompt:

# chkconfig --level 345 kudzu off

At this point, I re-booted and the keyboard/touchpad worked fine. The only anomaly showed up when I attempted to set up xdm (graphical login screen). For some unknown reason, the laptop got stuck in a permanent loop between run levels 3 and 5, continuously switching between the text and X login screens. As long as I keep it in run level 3 and use the startx command, everything works.


Not yet implemented; the Linksys 10-base-T PCCard accompanying the 2650 is missing its RJ45 connector pigtail.






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