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Linux - Laptop and Netbook Having a problem installing or configuring Linux on your laptop? Need help running Linux on your netbook? This forum is for you. This forum is for any topics relating to Linux and either traditional laptops or netbooks (such as the Asus EEE PC, Everex CloudBook or MSI Wind).

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Old 09-16-2006, 02:26 PM   #1
steve s.
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Best Linux for floppy disks; Versa NEC laptop


Hello all!

Amidst a recent donation of computer parts, I received a couple of UltraLite Versa NEC laptops (they had Windows 95 on them, but it won't boot).

It only has a floppy drive. What is the easiest way to get the most complete gnome linux on some floppy drives and put them on this system?
 
Old 09-17-2006, 10:58 AM   #2
macemoneta
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The best single floppy Linux I've found is tomsrtbt. If the hard drive is recoverable, then the best floppy based installation is BluFlops.
 
Old 09-18-2006, 12:36 AM   #3
blackhole54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steve s.
What is the easiest way to get the most complete gnome linux on some floppy drives and put them on this system?
I wonder if it is even feasible to run any current gnome based distro on a win95 era computer. But if you can find some live CD distro (perhaps using a more lightweight DE environment than gnome, such as Damn Small Linux, or Knoppix using one of its lighter weight desktops -- KDE might also put a strain on your system!) that would meet your needs, I have a crazy scheme that might allow you to get it running on these old systems (assuming your hard drives are functional). While this might not get you quite the DE you wanted, it could get you more than the very lightweight distros just mentioned.

Ideally this scheme would involve an ethernet connection (possibly through PCMCIA), but if that is out of the question and you have enough patience (copying files at aprox 36 MB/hour) you could do this through a serial connection.

This is based on first installing FreeDos to your system. I am not an expert, but I believe there is a way to install at least a minimal FreeDos system from floppy. You would need enough of FreeDos to at least be able to boot the computer and be able to download either through the ethernet connection or the serial connection.

I am assuming here that your live CD of choice is organized similar to DSL and Knoppix with one large compressed file containing the bulk of the OS, a compressed kernel image and a compressed initrd. You would put the CD in another computer (or use another computer to mount the CD's iso image through loopback) and use either ethernet or serial to copy these files to your target computer. You could then boot using loadlin under FreeDos, or use a boot floppy you created based on syslinux.

You also might be able to use one of the lightweight Linux distros mentioned above instead of FreeDos to do the same thing, except then, of course, you couldn't use loadlin to boot into your new system.

You also need to be aware that with an old laptop, you might have trouble getting a GUI to run under any distro. I basically did what I have just described to get DSL onto an old laptop (except I used an existing win95 installation on that computer instead of FreeDos), and I have never gotten the GUI to work. (But I still find uses for it w/o the GUI.)

I hope this gives you some usable ideas.
 
Old 09-18-2006, 05:13 AM   #4
fozner
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I have a NEC Vers 6050 laptop and I have had good success booting it with DELI linux boot and root disk combo. Then, if you want more power, once you're at the command line, insert the boot anything disk from the slackware distribution tree and dd it to the hard drive (you did use a spare hard drive I hope). You will have to hold down some key combination, I think it's CTRL-S, when it boots to that and you can then force it to boot to a CD (stubborn bios won't boot to CD ordinarily). From there it was easy to install Damn Small Linux. Damn small is nice because it uses kernel 2.4.26 and I was actually able to compile a network card driver for it (the US Robotics 7901A) and it works fine. You may also get going with one of the recommended wifi cards (check site for details). I tried a RTL8185L but the drivers won't compile on 2.4.x without some extreme hacking.

DSL has a nice GUI and I even got sound working (it's a SB16) by using the sndconfig utility, from debian apt-get. You also need the alsa package, even though it won't work with alsa.

It's a hot little xmms box now. Kind of a bulky wired mp3 player. The really cool thing about this laptop is it runs on 12 volts. With some optional overload protection, you can hook it up directly to a car or go-kart battery. It kind of begs to be turned into a robot.

Last edited by fozner; 09-18-2006 at 05:18 AM.
 
Old 09-18-2006, 07:13 AM   #5
steve s.
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Yeah, I don't think it is going to go, crew.

This little mini-laptop doesn't have a cd player. It tried to boot it's own win95 but that kicked back to dos.

While waiting for responses (great responses that I may have to use for future pc ventures) I found an os that runs on a floppy called Menuet (sp). Very cool, but even that kicked back after it tried to figure out the visual settup.

I think the hard drive is gone. I replaced it with a drive from another one of these things, but that one may be gone as well.

I am open to suggestions about how to salvage it, though. I think it would be neat to get it running, but I can't get it to go with what I know. Two things to consider: one, how to get it to read on a pc, so how to direct cable connect it (pictures, links would help). And two, how to get an os on it. If we figure out one, two may be easier to do.
 
Old 09-18-2006, 08:28 AM   #6
steve s.
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Hey all,

Here's a picture, so everyone knows what they are dealing with.

Thanks again for the help everyone. Thought you might get a kick out of looking at some of this old stuff...
 
Old 09-18-2006, 08:45 AM   #7
michaelk
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To connect a laptop hard drive to a desktop PC you will need a special 2.5" IDE adapter cable. Just google.
 
Old 09-18-2006, 09:16 AM   #8
steve s.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michaelk
To connect a laptop hard drive to a desktop PC you will need a special 2.5" IDE adapter cable. Just google.
Like this?
 
Old 09-18-2006, 09:18 AM   #9
blackhole54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steve s.
I think the hard drive is gone. I replaced it with a drive from another one of these things, but that one may be gone as well.
I'm confused about why you think the HD is shot if it boots into DOS. Maybe I'm missing something, but it sounds to me like the worst you have evidence for is file corruption. (Which is is quite common on MS!)

Quote:
I am open to suggestions about how to salvage it, though. I think it would be neat to get it running, but I can't get it to go with what I know. Two things to consider: one, how to get it to read on a pc, so how to direct cable connect it (pictures, links would help). And two, how to get an os on it. If we figure out one, two may be easier to do.
If you use the adapter cable suggested by michaelk then it would be trivially easy to do what I suggested earlier, by simply doing a direct copy on a single computer instead of using ethernet or serial. If you want to do a more standard install that is not out of the question ... I once installed a RH 8.0 on computer that was different from the one it was going to run it on because the install CD wouldn't boot with the target computer's BIOS. (Complained about an extremely broken BIOS.) I just removed the normal disks from the installation computer and put in the target disk. I then did a normal install, taking care to tell it use runlevel 3 since when I moved the disk to the target machine it would have completely different hardware, most particularly video hardware. When I booted it on the target computer I just ran kudzu to reidentify all of the hardware.
 
Old 09-18-2006, 09:33 AM   #10
steve s.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blackhole54
I'm confused about why you think the HD is shot if it boots into DOS. Maybe I'm missing something, but it sounds to me like the worst you have evidence for is file corruption. (Which is is quite common on MS!)


If you use the adapter cable suggested by michaelk then it would be trivially easy to do what I suggested earlier, by simply doing a direct copy on a single computer instead of using ethernet or serial. If you want to do a more standard install that is not out of the question ... I once installed a RH 8.0 on computer that was different from the one it was going to run it on because the install CD wouldn't boot with the target computer's BIOS. (Complained about an extremely broken BIOS.) I just removed the normal disks from the installation computer and put in the target disk. I then did a normal install, taking care to tell it use runlevel 3 since when I moved the disk to the target machine it would have completely different hardware, most particularly video hardware. When I booted it on the target computer I just ran kudzu to reidentify all of the hardware.
Wow, ok, walk it through step by step. The pc in question is a dual boot Ubuntu and XP, so I could use either for the old pc (hopefully Ubuntu). Or I could use something else.

Supose I used the cable (I'll need it to transfer data either way later on).

Oh, and you make sense about corruption...it does go to dos. It tries to do Win95, but kicks right back out. Perhaps there is a way to salvage Win95? I'm open to suggestions.
 
Old 09-18-2006, 11:11 AM   #11
michaelk
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Either a USB or an IDE adapter will work.

This is an adapter to attach to an IDE controller.
http://cablesonline.stores.yahoo.net/25hdmounkitw.html
 
Old 09-19-2006, 12:21 AM   #12
blackhole54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steve s.
Wow, ok, walk it through step by step.
I was suggesting two different things. The first would work for live CDs like Knoppix, DSL, or any other live CD that is structured in the same way. Using an addapter cable, connect the laptop hard drive to a computer with a CD drive (or running Linux and containing the live distro's CD ISO file, i.e. the image designed to be burned to a CD). If necessary, partition, format, install filesystem(s) or whatever you need to do to get the laptop drive into a useable state. ( Under Linux, programs like parted, Gpartd , or Qtparted might be useful for this.) For DSL you would then copy the directory and file combo KNOPPIX/KNOPPIX (relative to your mount point) to one of the partitions on your laptop drive. There would be an analogous procedure for Knoppix or similarly structured live CDs. Then all you need is to put the drive back into the laptop, create a boot floppy (or floppy set) and you are ready to go. For DSL you can download the boot floppy image and copy it to a floppy with the dd command. For Knoppix you have to create a two floppy set from a running instance of Knoppix. On your laptop, you start the boot process from the floppy(s) and the system then scans your hard drive looking for KNOPPIX/KNOPPIX. When it finds it, it mounts it (via cloop) and then finishes the boot, including hardware detection. You now have Linux running on your laptop!

If this is not your cup of tea, alternatively I was suggesting doing a regular install to the laptop drive using a computer with a CD drive. In this case, remove the existing hard drives from the computer you are going to use for installation (i.e. a computer that does have a CD drive) and using an adapter cable connect your laptop drive as the master drive. Then do a normal installation. If the installer will let you, set it up to boot into runlevel 2 or 3 (i.e. not GUI). Otherwise, while you are still on this computer, boot the system and modify /etc/inittab to boot into RL 2 or 3. (When I did this with RH 8.0, I also disabled kudzu (RH's hardware detection) at boot time by modifying the contents of /etc/rc3.d. ) Then put the drive back in the laptop and try to boot it. With any luck, it will boot to a text login, perhaps with a few error messages along the way. Then you need to try to make any adjusments for the new hardware. In my case, I did this by manually running kudzu and maybe manually fidling with the video stuff. I can't garantee you will get this to work, but with enough fiddling you might. Once you have video set up properly (assuming you can get video to work on your laptop at all!), you can change inittab to boot into RL 5 if you wish.

Quote:
The pc in question is a dual boot Ubuntu and XP, so I could use either for the old pc (hopefully Ubuntu). Or I could use something else.
I think you are suggesting a third alternative which I hadn't thought of, which is to copy an existing installation of free software (you wouldn't want to violate any licenses, would you?) to your laptop drive. In this case, you would need to again use the adapter cable to connect it to your desktop computer. But this time you would probably need to configure it as slave so that you could still boot the computer normally. You would then copy the system across, again changing inittab to boot into RL 2 or 3 and possibly disabling automatic hardware detection, both on the copy on the laptop's harddrive. Then proceed as above.

Quote:
Perhaps there is a way to salvage Win95? I'm open to suggestions.
You are on your own on that! Or maybe some other poster can help you out.

Last edited by blackhole54; 09-19-2006 at 12:25 AM.
 
Old 09-19-2006, 05:20 AM   #13
fozner
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erm

Is that a cardbus slot I see? Here's a walkthrough for creating a minimal PCMCIA network boot disk that you can use to install DSL over the network: http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/network-install.html

Last edited by fozner; 09-19-2006 at 06:49 AM.
 
Old 09-19-2006, 06:51 AM   #14
blackhole54
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This is rather off topic, but since I earlier made a reference to FreeDOS, I thought I would let you know that I just ran across this article about FreeDos 1.0 being released.

I tried to play with FreeDos some about a year ago, but I didn't get very far, mainly because it wasn't a real high priority. While I can't imagine it as my production machine, it still seems interesting.
 
Old 09-19-2006, 09:17 AM   #15
macemoneta
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Folks, you're forgetting the memory capacity on a Windows95 era PC. Upgrading the memory is usually not an option either, because the cost of these very old memories exceeds the value of the machine.

Steve S.- How much memory does this have? Less than 8MB, you are looking at FreeDOS. 8-16MB, your options are tomsrtbt or BlueFlops. If you've got more your options will open up, but that would be unusual on a machine that was running Win95.
 
  


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