Q: What does a "In swapper task - not syncing" error message mean?

Just loaded Red Hat Linux 5.0. Locks up after giving the above message. Earlier it returns several errors, such as BIOS query detected -1887129962KB RAM. Also, Warning: Unknown PCI device (102b:51b). Also vfree() bad adress (ffffffff) followed by Kernel panic: Failed to allocate buffer hash table.

[Follow-up message:]

Definitely not a problem with bad SIMMs. I have WinNT and Windows 95 loaded on the same machine, different hard drive, and have no problems with them. How do I indicate to lilo how much RAM I have? It seems to me from the first error (the BIOS query) that it is not interacting properly with the BIOS.

A: The "Unknown PCI device" is a non-issue, as such warnings are common in Linux, and would be common in other OSes if they reported them. The other errors would seem to indicate some sort of hardware trouble: CPU, memory, or motherboard. I`d guess that it's bad memory, based on the other errors. Did you put more memory? Even if you're selective about RAM vendors, a few bad SIMMs and/or DIMMs may escape undetected during burn-in.

On second thought, if you are running on a PS/2 board, you may need to indicate the amount of RAM you have in lilo.conf.

Try append= "mem = ?M"
where ? is the amount of memory.

Please note that Linux will detect and complain about problems that Microsoft OSes characteristically will not even notice. MS-Windows will often silently corrupt data as it passes through bad RAM. Your described symptoms are consistent with that possibility.