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Trick question!

Just to see if any­one can fig­ure this out:

How do you in­stall Lin­ux on a box with the fol­low­ing hand­i­cap­s:

  • No eth­er­net (or to­ken ring or ar­c­net, etc)

  • No CD (or DVD)

  • A pcm­­cia flop­py that has no Lin­ux driv­er

  • No oth­­er OS in­­stalled

  • You can't add any hard­ware

  • You can't move the HD to an­oth­er box or open the box at al­l.

  • It must be a re­al dis­­tro, like Red Hat, SuSE or De­bian, not a toy or flop­py dis­­tro.

  • Avail­able hard­ware in the box: key­board, mouse, se­ri­al port, par­al­lel port, mon­i­­tor, a toshi­­ba li­bret­­to flop­py drive (as­­sume it does­n't work with lin­ux, yes, I know there's a "driver", if you can make it work, I want a copy ;-)

  • Use of an­oth­er PC with what­ev­er soft­­ware or hard­ware you want is al­lowed, ex­­cept the soft­­ware must all be Lin­ux (no DOS flop­pies or stuff like that)

  • Any ca­bles you want can be used.

  • Any me­­dia you want can be used for the in­­stal­l.

I will give the an­swer in a week, hope­ful­ly some­one will an­swer first.

Yes, it can be done. In fac­t, I have al­ready done it, a while ago (see the "S­mall Lin­ux" ar­ti­cle in ths very site)

Tim Cook / 2006-04-03 05:12:

Do it via a serial connection.

Has been around a long time in various versions.

Thanks to the maintainers.



Jeffy / 2006-04-03 05:13:

I don't know the version of the Libretto, but here are some strange methods that have been successful for me:

1) Use a USB Flash drive. Place the bootable media on the flash, and set the bios to recognize USB storage as bootable zip or floppy.. Depending on the bios and flash capabilities. And yes, a flash drive is media...

2) Use a PCMCIA Ethernet that is bootable. They do exist :))

3) Bootable Backpack cdrom in the pcmcia slot.

4) USB Zip Drive (See #1 above)

5) Use a single floppy that offers boot/root into ram without further need of the floppy. Just ensure you have enough tools to format/partition the hard drive and grab other files. Usage of the parallel or serial port can work wonders.

-----Untried possibilities------

1) IrDA boot. Boot off the IrDA port. The spec exists. Not too sure if it is properly supported.

2) SLIP nfs to another boxen using #5 above.

3) USB Harddrive or CDROM. Pretty straight forward.

ammoQ / 2006-04-03 05:14:

Install DOS, use CarbonCopy or similar to transfer the Linux files over the serial or parallel Port, then boot Linux using LOADLIN and finish the installation.

Richard Corfield / 2006-04-03 05:15:

I managed it once, very slowly, using a serial cable onto another machine with a copy of Debian on its CDROM. I needed to boot a floppy though (presumably the BIOS can do that) with an initrd which had enough on it to set up a serial point to point connection. Then it was a straight forward network install over the serial network from the other machine, and I was getting about 10K per second at 115200 over the serial port. Modern ports can go faster I think.

bertjan / 2006-04-03 05:15:

I see two possibilities:

1) as previous posters suggested: serial, iff you can get the libretto to boot from a linux-floppy-distro.

2) pcmcia-floppy? so it boots from pcmcia. why not use a CFcard in a pcmcia adapter, or a microdrive? sort of like USBflash, but you didn't mention any USB port ....presumably you don't even need to have a bootstrap system to make your serial line listen, since you can boot straight from medium.

mkc / 2006-04-03 05:16:

You're not giving enough information. Are you saying that the laptop has *no* OS whatsoever on it, and that you're not allowed to load anything but Linux, and that the floppy drive will not load Linux from a Linux floppy? If so, then it sounds impossible. If one of the three is false, then it should be possible, if annoying.

Roberto Alsina / 2006-04-03 05:17:

Ok, some answers and clarifications:

mkc: Almost: the laptop has no OS whatsoever, you can only use Linux, and there is no linux driver for the floppy. However, the floppy works using the BIOS. So, you can boot linux, but when linux tries to read from the floppy, it fails.

bertjan: no USB ports. I suppose I could get a pcmcia-USB thing, but without a OS, it doesn't do much good :-)

ammoQ: no DOS floppy allowed, sorry!

Jeffy: Hey, nice ideas :-) Sadly, this is a 1995 computer, so it has no idea how to boot from USB. A PCMCIA CD should work, assuming it can boot from it, yeah.

And finally, Richard Corfield: that's how I did it, so you win. Since the FD has no Linux driver, I needed a linux-in-a-floppy that ran entirely from the ramdisk (tomsrtbt doesn't work because of that), I ended using an old HAL91.

After it boots from there, start a ppp link over the serial port to the other linux box, format the HD, throw a basic debian, install LILO, and it's all downhill.

copycon / 2006-04-03 05:17:

Do via serial conection to another box

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