Introduction - Overview of problems - BIOS update - Preparing the hard disk - Installation - Kernel update - X-Server update - Fine-tuning - Summary - Credits - Links

Last changed: 18.01.2008

Red Hat Linux 7.3 on HP omnibook xe4500

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In January 2003, I've bought an HP omnibook xe4500 notebook.

Hardware components: Ports: Output of:
I decided to install Red Hat Linux 7.3 Personal (it was cheap: 4 EUR for 8 CDs + 1 DVD, yeah! :-) ) and because I experienced some problems I searched the Internet for other pages that contain information about Linux on a omnibook xe4500 and found the following two helpful pages:


It looks like there exist different versions of the omnibook xe4500 with different components (e.g. hard disk, chipset revisions), because some things worked fine for my installation where the two pages describe problems and vice versa. So I put this page online with a basic description what I did to get things working, additional information not provided on the other pages and the intention to be helpful for omnibook xe4500 owners that want to install Linux.

This page is a quick & dirty hack (uhmm, not any more, I hope... ;-) ) and work in progress! Use the information provided here at your own risk! This is no step-by-step instruction installation manual, so you should have a bid knowledge what you are doing. Some points will be omitted because there exists enough documentation on the net (e.g. partition resizing, how to build a kernel etc.). Consider this page as a collection of installation hints! ;-)

Most tips & solutions here should work for other Linux distributions aswell.

Overview of problems that may be experienced
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First, I want to give an overview of possible problems (and solutions), so you know what oddities may happen during/after installation.

Generally, the system works not stable with the shipped kernel 2.4.18(!), but after updating to the latest stable version (2.4.20 at the moment of writing this document) things work better/fine!

Conclusion: DO update the kernel!

Problems and solutions:

BIOS update
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Update 02.08.04: BIOS KB.M1.94 (SP27515/SP29154/SP29155)

HP has released an BIOS update to version KB.M1.90 that solves problems with the display driver under WindowsXP. The problem is hardware related AFAIK, so it may be a good idea to update the BIOS anyway before proceeding.

xe4500 drivers & updates can be found at

There existed a page about the display driver problem at

Older BIOS versions are available on HP's FTP-Server:
Look for files with names XE4KBxxx.exe

BIOS KB.M1.20:
BIOS KB.M1.30:
BIOS KB.M1.40:
BIOS KB.M1.90: (dead)
BIOS KB.M1.93:
BIOS KB.M1.94 (Flash update from Windows #1):
BIOS KB.M1.94 (Flash update from Windows #2):
BIOS KB.M1.94:

Preparing the hard disk for Linux
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When shipped from HP, the hard disk has two partitions: a small hidden ~20MB partition (ID 0xa0, IBM Thinkpad hibernation) that holds the HP Diag Tools usually started with <F10> from BIOS splash screen and a second large partition (ID 0x07, NTFS) with the pre-installed WindowsXP. In order to have space to install Linux you have to reduce the NTFS partition. There are several tools that can resize the partition as desired (e.g. Powerquest's Partition Magic, ...) so choose the one you like best and go ahead :-)

Then you have to create at least a / (root) Linux partition and a Linux swap partition.
My partition layout looks something like this:
        Partition	Size	File system			Description                                                                         
        /dev/hda1	 20MB   IBM Thinkpad hibernation	Hidden HP Diag Tools partition                                                      
        /dev/hda2	  5GB   NTFS				WindowsXP                                                                           
        /dev/hda3	 24GB   Win95 Ext. (LBA)		Extended partition that holds the following partitions                              
          /dev/hda5	  5GB   Linux ext3			Linux / partition                                                                   
          /dev/hda6	128MB   Linux Swap			Linux swap partition                                                                
          /dev/hda7	  8GB   Win95 FAT32			 8GB space for data; FAT32 because Linux NTFS write support is experimental!        
          /dev/hda8	 10GB   Win95 FAT32			10GB space for data; FAT32 because Linux NTFS write support is experimental!        

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Nothing special to say here: The installation took about 45 minutes for me, one reason for this is probably because of disabled DMA for HD & CD-RW combo drive (see Enable DMA)

Kernel update
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Update 13.11.03: update to at least kernel 2.4.22 which fixes the screen flicker problem!

I won't describe the full process of building a new kernel, only some important hints. Search the web for documentation, e.g. the Kernel-HOWTO...
X-server update
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Update 07.07.03: Red Hat has released an updated X-Server (XFree86-4.2.1-13.73.3) that fixes console/X-Server switching lockups, but if you use gpm on console the mouse will be unusable if you switch back to X.
Update 11.11.03: Red Hat is now Fedora, Red Hat Raw Hide is now Fedora Development and the new link is

Download the latest XFree86 Red Hat Rawhide RPM packages (that was the XFree86 4.3.0 preview release 4.2.99-3-20021230.4 for me) from Rawhide packages are (experimental) development releases that may not work and may contain severe bugs, but most of the time they work :-) The new XFree86 4.2.99 has more separate packages than 4.2.0 from Red Hat 7.3, but there's no problem to install them because RPM will tell you which dependencies are not fulfilled.

If you want to rebuild the XFree86 packages (as I did - i686 optimized stuff is reason enough for doing that ;-) ) you must also download and update fontconfig and freetype.

Here is my X-server configuration file: XF86Config-4

DRM/DRI (Direct Rendering Manager/Direct Rendering Infrastructure) (19.04.2003)

DRM/DRI is unstable, better skip this section... (Hint: in case of problems with DRI comment out 'Load "DRI"' in XF86Config-4 to disable it (again)! DRI also causes problems with swsusp (software suspend)!)

Direct rendering does not fully work, because the kernel module is too old.

/var/log/XFree86.0.log shows the following warning messages:
        (WW) RADEON(0): [dri] Some DRI features disabled because of version mismatch.                         
                        [dri] radeon.o kernel module version is 1.1.1 but 1.3.1 or later is preferred.        
        (II) RADEON(0): [drm] failure adding irq handler, there is a device already using that irq            
                        [drm] falling back to irq-free operation                                              
        (II) RADEON(0): [drm] Kernel module too old (1.1) for agp heap manager                                
A new radeon driver from fixed this:
/var/log/XFree86.0.log now shows:
        (II) RADEON(0): [drm] dma control initialized, using IRQ 9                
        (II) RADEON(0): [drm] Initialized kernel agp heap manager, 5111808        

Update 02.05.03: With XFree 4.3.0-6 lockups are gone (XFree86-4.3.0-radeon-irq-gen-lockup-from-cvs.patch: works around a lockup that can occur on server shutdown/restart with the radeon driver due to bugs in DRM IRQ handling in the kernel).

ATI has its own 'Linux and XFree86 Information page' that can be found at

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02.08.04: HP omnibook xe4500 with Red Hat Linux 7.3, kernel 2.4.26 + swsusp-2.0 patch, XFree86 4.3.0-42, omnibook kernel module 2004-07-01

What works:
What doesn't work (yet) or what I didn't test (yet):
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Thanks to
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