LinuxQuestions.org
Download your favorite Linux distribution at LQ ISO.
Go Back   LinuxQuestions.org > Forums > Linux Forums > Linux - Newbie
User Name
Password
Linux - Newbie This Linux forum is for members that are new to Linux.
Just starting out and have a question? If it is not in the man pages or the how-to's this is the place!

Notices


Reply
  Search this Thread
Old 08-28-2011, 11:20 PM   #1
Rodrigo7
LQ Newbie
 
Registered: Aug 2011
Posts: 5

Rep: Reputation: Disabled
Question Boot into floppy to load Linux off USB?


Hello,

This is my first post here, and I'm hoping that someone will be able to help/guide me with the following issue.

One of my computers is an old Pentium-75 with 128MB RAM, running Windows for Workgroups 3.11 on a 1GB hard disk (you read that right!). It has two floppy drives (3.5" A: and 5.25" B: ) and a CD-ROM drive. Neither the CD-ROM nor any USB device can be set as a boot device in the BIOS.

I would like to repurpose this computer for use in a distributed computing project (I recognize that its contribution would be modest), but without affecting the installation on the HDD. Therefore, I would like to know if it is possible (and if so, how) to boot into some version of Linux via the floppy, to then direct the system's attention to an installed Linux on a USB stick.

I could then install a Linux version of the DC software on the USB stick, and write to the stick, bypassing the hard disk completely. This would avoid the complications of partitioning the HDD or dealing with multiple OS booting: if I wanted to load Linux, I could use the dedicated boot floppy; and if I wanted to load Windows, I could simply not insert the floppy.

An alternative way that I can think of to do this would be to use the floppy to direct the system's attention to the CD-ROM drive, where Linux would exist as a live CD and then load. Although I couldn't write anything to this drive (either add programs or write data), at least I could use this setup to run the DC software and write to the USB stick.

So the questions are: 1) Is either of these scenarios possible (and if so, how)? and 2) What version of Linux would you recommend to accomplish this, given the hardware specs? (Preferably, one with a GUI.)

I should note, FWIW, that I have very little experience with Linux, but I do use it as an end-user when checking my Windows systems with live CD malware scanners, so it's not a completely foreign environment. Just mostly!

One data bit that might help. Tonight I wrote the Feather Linux BOOTUSB.IMG file to a 3.5" floppy using PLoP's DISKIMG.COM on a Windows 98 system, then booted the P75 with the diskette and it came up, even appears to have identified the USB card -- but of course, I don't have anything installed on the USB stick for it to find. (Hmm, the thought popped up that maybe I could install a Linux distribution on the USB stick via my Win98 box, but then the hardware settings would be all wrong.)

Another data bit is that I tried the PLoP Boot Manager program itself, and it didn't work on the P75.

Thank you very much for any help you might provide.
 
Old 08-28-2011, 11:28 PM   #2
rokytnji
LQ 5k Club
 
Registered: Mar 2008
Location: Waaaaay out West Texas
Distribution: AntiX 17 , ChromeOS
Posts: 5,075
Blog Entries: 20

Rep: Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326
Old Blog post of mine using Smart Boot Manager Floppy on Compaq 1540DM

http://www.linuxquestions.org/questi...q-1540dm-1393/

Quote:
(Hmm, the thought popped up that maybe I could install a Linux distribution on the USB stick via my Win98 box, but then the hardware settings would be all wrong.)
DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE HARDWARE SETTING IF INSTALLING TO USB AS A LIVE USB WITH SOMETHING LIKE http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/ or http://www.linuxliveusb.com/ or http://www.pendrivelinux.com/univers...easy-as-1-2-3/

Last edited by rokytnji; 08-28-2011 at 11:45 PM.
 
Old 08-28-2011, 11:45 PM   #3
jschiwal
LQ Guru
 
Registered: Aug 2001
Location: Fargo, ND
Distribution: SuSE AMD64
Posts: 15,733

Rep: Reputation: 671Reputation: 671Reputation: 671Reputation: 671Reputation: 671Reputation: 671
All you need on the floppy is Lilo or grub chainloading the mbr on the pen drive. You could also edit the config file for Lilo or grub with the kernel, initrd and root directory entries for the pen drive. I think chain booting would be easiest and allow you to experiment with different Linux distros without needing to change or edit your boot floppy.
 
Old 08-28-2011, 11:49 PM   #4
rokytnji
LQ 5k Club
 
Registered: Mar 2008
Location: Waaaaay out West Texas
Distribution: AntiX 17 , ChromeOS
Posts: 5,075
Blog Entries: 20

Rep: Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326
Quote:
Originally Posted by jschiwal View Post
All you need on the floppy is Lilo or grub chainloading the mbr on the pen drive. You could also edit the config file for Lilo or grub with the kernel, initrd and root directory entries for the pen drive. I think chain booting would be easiest and allow you to experiment with different Linux distros without needing to change or edit your boot floppy.
Just to elaborate because

Quote:
I should note, FWIW, that I have very little experience with Linux
http://wiki.linuxquestions.org/wiki/Boot_floppy
 
Old 08-29-2011, 10:26 AM   #5
Rodrigo7
LQ Newbie
 
Registered: Aug 2011
Posts: 5

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: Disabled
Quote:
Originally Posted by rokytnji View Post
Thanks very much. Unfortunately, the instructions there are for creating a boot floppy from within Linux. They seem to assume that one already has a working Linux installation, which is just what I'm trying to create. So it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.

I also tried the Universal USB Installer that you linked to (thank you). I ran the program and, although it told me that it did "successfully" move the files over to the USB stick (a 2GB PNY), it also reported (before moving the files) that I wouldn't be able to boot from the stick. No problem, I thought -- I'm not trying to boot directly from the stick anyway. So I put it in the USB slot on the P75, booted from the boot floppy, and then after identifying the USB devices Feather Linux gave a whole slew of error messages, culminating in a "kernel panic" and the keyboard lights flashing.

The first error was: Accessing Feather Linux at /dev/sda1... cat: No file /KNOPPIX/etc/ld.so.cache
Setting paths.../linuxrc: /KNOPPIX/bin/rm not found

...followed by a long list of other "not found" files and pathnames.

I put the USB stick back in my Windows machine to see what's on it, and it contains a few files and a couple of directories -- BOOT and KNOPPIX. The only file in the Knoppix subdirectory is Knoppix (117MB). There is no mention of any of the files or subdirectories under /Knoppix that were not found. Huh? I did precisely what the Universal USB Installer said to do, made no modifications (not that I saw any opportunity to make them), and this is the result. So the program doesn't seem to work for me, as it failed to create the required system files on the USB stick, even though AFAIK I followed the installation procedure exactly.

Any ideas? What am I missing?

Also, I reviewed the documentation for the Smart Boot Manager next, but it contains a ton of unfamiliar terms, such as:
"If you want to boot linux with Smart BootManager, you must install LILO into the Superblock of your linux partition, instead of into MBR!" I've (barely) heard of LILO, but what is a "Superblock"? And, creating a Linux partition on my hard disk is something I'm trying to avoid by using the floppy+USB arrangement.

Thanks for your patience, this is wholly new territory for me.

-Out At Sea With No Compass
 
Old 08-29-2011, 07:04 PM   #6
jefro
Moderator
 
Registered: Mar 2008
Posts: 16,356

Rep: Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377
Might look at plop linux. They have a boot image to boot to unsupported usb flash drives.


I'd look at netboot.me and boot.kernel.org and others too that can boot to the web.

Just as easy to setup a knoppix distro either on cd or other to then start knoppix terminal server and then boot over the lan. If no pxe then get a gpxe/ipxe media.

Last edited by jefro; 08-29-2011 at 07:05 PM.
 
Old 08-30-2011, 04:57 PM   #7
Rodrigo7
LQ Newbie
 
Registered: Aug 2011
Posts: 5

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: Disabled
Quote:
Originally Posted by jefro View Post
Might look at plop linux. They have a boot image to boot to unsupported usb flash drives.


I'd look at netboot.me and boot.kernel.org and others too that can boot to the web.

Just as easy to setup a knoppix distro either on cd or other to then start knoppix terminal server and then boot over the lan. If no pxe then get a gpxe/ipxe media.
Thank you very much, I'll take a look at these.

Here's what I've been able to do so far. I downloaded Smart Boot Manager and put it on a floppy, then I burned an ISO of Damn Small Linux onto a CD, and put both disks in the P75. SBM loads nicely, but then the CD "catches" only about half the time. No matter -- that's good enough for my purposes.

Trouble came when the DSL loading process (?) had a hard time understanding my quirky 2GB second HDD. It's actually a 4GB drive I installed last year that required custom formatting/partitioning software because the PC's BIOS cannot recognize more than 2GB. The DSL booting process would end up in some kind of error loop (with the same error message about "hdb1" scrolling up endlessly). Problem solved when I disconnected the offending drive , then DSL made all the way through.

So far so good -- now I have a DSL live CD running on that museum piece. But although the OS appears to be aware of the PCI USB card (dmesg yields several references to UHCI), I haven't yet found a way to make it recognize any USB stick that I plug in there.

Any suggestions?

Thanks.
 
Old 08-31-2011, 02:32 AM   #8
jschiwal
LQ Guru
 
Registered: Aug 2001
Location: Fargo, ND
Distribution: SuSE AMD64
Posts: 15,733

Rep: Reputation: 671Reputation: 671Reputation: 671Reputation: 671Reputation: 671Reputation: 671
Quote:
Thanks very much. Unfortunately, the instructions there are for creating a boot floppy from within Linux. They seem to assume that one already has a working Linux installation, which is just what I'm trying to create. So it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.
If you have a cdrom live distro, then you a working installation.

Also I'd recommend reading the documentation for grub. Grub itself has a command line interface were you could enter the location of the kernel, initrd file and the root directory for grub. Entering 4 commands you could boot up to the Linux installation on the pen drive, and then from there you may find it easier to modify the boot floppy or create a new one. You could instead use the grub CLI directly to make the modifications.

You might consider checking for a BIOS upgrade adding USB boot support, however I doubt there would current support for such an old computer.

Good Luck.
 
Old 08-31-2011, 12:03 PM   #9
Rodrigo7
LQ Newbie
 
Registered: Aug 2011
Posts: 5

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: Disabled
Thank you, I'll look into these and see what comes up.
 
Old 08-31-2011, 03:27 PM   #10
jefro
Moderator
 
Registered: Mar 2008
Posts: 16,356

Rep: Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377
PCI usb catds usually have to have both bios and OS support, I agree. In this one case I guess you could try to update bios but I doubt they ever offered support for that feature.

Second part is you can sometimes use rawrite4win to dump floppy images in dos and windows. There is even dd for windows.
 
Old 08-31-2011, 09:51 PM   #11
Rodrigo7
LQ Newbie
 
Registered: Aug 2011
Posts: 5

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: Disabled
Quote:
Originally Posted by jefro View Post
PCI usb catds usually have to have both bios and OS support, I agree. In this one case I guess you could try to update bios but I doubt they ever offered support for that feature.

Second part is you can sometimes use rawrite4win to dump floppy images in dos and windows. There is even dd for windows.
I'm afraid you're right. I took out the new USB PCI card and then booted DSL again to see if it made any difference -- dmesg showed the exact same references to USB as when the card was in there, so the effect of its being in there was nil. And the card got recognized when I put it in another PC, so the reason isn't a bad card.

So it looks like the only hope is to flash the BIOS. Amazingly, the manufacturer (Dell) still does offer updates for my 1994 model. But the descriptions of the BIOS updates don't say what they're for, so I can't tell if they have anything to do with adding USB support. Given the notorious risks of a botched BIOS update, the safest/sanest course for me is probably to forget about using USB on that PC. (I don't think that long ago they made any provision for backing up the BIOS, but I'll look into it.) I can still learn about Linux with the live CD, and then maybe graduate to putting it on an actual hard disk.

Thanks a bunch to all of you who helped, you gave me some homework to do!
 
Old 08-31-2011, 10:11 PM   #12
jefro
Moderator
 
Registered: Mar 2008
Posts: 16,356

Rep: Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377Reputation: 2377
Network boot may work.
 
  


Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off



Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Boot floppy that tells computer to boot USB drive? General Debian 23 02-19-2014 09:55 PM
Boot a USB device through floppy in order to install LINUX alderfc7 Linux - Laptop and Netbook 3 04-25-2009 05:31 PM
Boot from floppy to load DVD drivers e_james Linux - Laptop and Netbook 3 01-21-2009 10:37 AM
Emulate USB floppy to boot from USB.. feasible? Q4U Linux - Hardware 1 01-31-2007 03:24 PM
"LI" from boot floppy? Can't load XP or Linux. Damaged MBR or boot sector or ...? SparceMatrix Linux - General 10 09-27-2002 01:20 PM


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:15 AM.

Main Menu
Advertisement
My LQ
Write for LQ
LinuxQuestions.org is looking for people interested in writing Editorials, Articles, Reviews, and more. If you'd like to contribute content, let us know.
Main Menu
Syndicate
RSS1  Latest Threads
RSS1  LQ News
Twitter: @linuxquestions
Facebook: linuxquestions Google+: linuxquestions
Open Source Consulting | Domain Registration