I originally installed RedHat Linux 4.2 (Biltmore) from the RedHat CD-ROM. It went very smoothly. There is not even any need to make a boot disk, since the Compaq boots from the CD-ROM if it is inserted when you power on the machine.
The one hitch occurred when the installation reached the point of configuring the network. Since the kernel supplied with RedHat 4.2 did not include the ThunderLAN driver, it could not see the network interface. So network configuration was skipped and had to be done post-installation. This problem is no longer an issue since the tlan driver is now a standard module.
I expect that installing any of the other popular distributions of Linux would be similar. If anyone knows of a distribution that includes more support for the Compaq, please let me know.
Another problem with installing Linux is that the Compaq firmware setup program comes installed on the hard drive, not in ROM. So when you partition the hard drive for Linux, you have two choices: delete the setup partition and lose the built-in setup capability, or keep the partition and work around it. I deleted the setup partition before I realized it was there. This is no real problem however. You can download all the setup software from Compaq (go to Compaq and select Services and technical help, then Desktops, then ROMPaqs and System Software). After you download the F10 Setup and PC Diagnostics ROMPaq, use any DOS machine to make a set of diskettes for setup purposes. You can then boot to these diskettes any time you need to run setup.
Click here for a description of a way for Linux and the setup partition to coexist.
I have installed Linux on some more recent Compaq Deskpros and found that this problem does not exist for them: apparently Compaq has thought better of this idea and has reverted to placing the setup program in firmware.
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