Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Breathing life in an ancient piece of hardware – The Pocket Linux Guide

One of the things I want to do in 2008 is to write a series “Thirty days on the command line”. I know it has been done before, which means that I have more than enough background material to tackle the problems I no doubt will encounter.

A few weeks ago I got a big box from a friend who cleaned out his study. There was enough cards and components to build two computers again and one of those is on it’s way back, with Ubuntu of course. Some stuff was simply vintage material giving an indication of how much we had to go through to expand our hardware.

One item opens the way for a great experiment: an old Compaq laptop with a whopping 4 Mb RAM and a huge 84 Mb hard drive. No CD-ROM and I don’t even think there is a network connection on it. Ii’s a guess, but I don’t think Compiz Fusion will run on it. Time to start looking for a small Linux distribution that can be installed via floppy disks. With this and the 2008 plan in mind I stumbled into The Pocket Linux Guide.

The Pocket Linux Guide gives a step by step description on building a GNU/Linux system from source code via floppy disks. It seems similar enough to Linux from Scratch and thus a good way to learn the intricacies of a Linux system.

• We have built a system, from source code only, that fully implements all of the commands described in the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard requirements for a root filesystem.
• We have learned how to use Internet resources to locate and download the source code needed to build a GNU/Linux system.
• We have written basic system startup and shutdown scripts and configured them to execute in the proper runlevels.
• We have included support for multiple users on virtual consoles and implemented permissions on system files.
• But most importantly, we have learned some good design techniques and project management skills that will enable us to tackle any future projects with ease and confidence.

No doubt there are other distributions that can run on the vintage laptop. I am thinking about PuppyLinux and DSL, but if you have other suggestions, just fill me in.

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One thought on “Breathing life in an ancient piece of hardware – The Pocket Linux Guide

  1. I haven’t tried or considered trying it myself, but someone mentioned fdlinux before.

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