Dell Inspiron 8100: VGA Kernel Options

Just installed CrunchBang Linux on the old Dell Inspiron 8100 (1 GHz 512 MB Pentium III laptop) to get some experience with OpenBox and maybe make the thing usable with the Arduino IDE on my electronics workbench.

As with most distros, it features a totally useless boot progress thermometer splash screen that hides all the interesting details. Carving the splash quiet options off the kernel line in /boot/grub/menu.lst gets back to the usual torrent of text info, which I find comforting. But the default screen is 80×25, which means things scroll by at a pretty good clip…

Adding vga=ask to the kernel line lets you dump what the BIOS thinks will work. This includes:

  • 0x345 or 0x346 = 1600x1200x16
  • 0x315 = 800x600x32
  • 0x31A = 1280x1024x16

Plus a whole bunch of other modes that don’t matter much these days. Anyone for 40×25 text mode?

I wanted 1600×1200, but both of the listed options caused a garbled display: double-spaced raster lines and eventual overlapping wrapped text. There’s probably a BIOS bug in there somewhere.

Choosing the 80×60 modes produced truly ugly squashed text.

After some poking around, 0x31A produced a usable display that, to my wondering eyes, appears to be 1600×1200. The kernel expects the decimal equivalent of that value: vga=794.

It’s plenty dense enough for all the boot text…