Ok - I did it!
Gods of Linux be praised.
I rpm the sets in and did the kernel stuff (to a fresh Linux - my first [old time IRIX user]) and now have RD8 the latest build (2.4.18-17.8.0) with the nvidia drivers per this thread.
BUT. *sigh* KDM is gone?! no longer working and everytime the system boots it complains that x is respawning too quickly and is turned off for 5 minutes. Fine - I am able to log in and do a startx.
But that does not start a window manager. I had been using kdm. I do not see kdm in /etc/X11. I do see twm and gdm (I thought twm stood for "Tom's Window Manager?" not tab. When I start twm the xterm keyboard inputs are hosed. I think my XF86Config is ok - mind you I have a Quadro 4 900 XGL. And I say Quadro 4 (generic) in the Config. But X is hosed - any help?