LinuxQuestions.org
Share your knowledge at the LQ Wiki.
Go Back   LinuxQuestions.org > Forums > Linux Forums > Linux - Laptop and Netbook
User Name
Password
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).

Notices


Reply
  Search this Thread
Old 03-16-2005, 06:59 PM   #1
coldsalmon
Member
 
Registered: Mar 2005
Location: USA
Distribution: Kubuntu Breezy
Posts: 79

Rep: Reputation: 15
Linux on a 486 8MB RAM?


Hi,

I'm a Linux newbie who's decided to fire Microsoft, and I've just acquired a second laptop which I would like to run Linux on. It is a 486 Dell Latitude 450MC with 8MB of RAM and a 256MB HD. It's currently running Windows 95. It has two PCMCIA slots, and a 3.5" floppy drive which I believe is broken, because it always says it is not ready, even when I insert disks that work on other systems.

My original plan was to boot up BasicLinux off of two 3.5" floppies, but since the drive is broken, that is no longer an option, and now I don't really know how to get any new information on to the laptop. I have come up with 4 plans which I am not sure will work:

A: it already has a 14.4 kbps Dell PCMCIA modem, though the cable has been lost. I could concieveably get a cable (though I don't know if they make them anymore) and use this to connect and download a version of Linux that runs in Windows 95, and use that to format and install Linux.

B: I could get an ethernet card and use that to download Linux.

C: I could get a PCMCIA flash drive and transfer Linux on that from my other laptop.

D: I could use a 2.5" to 3.5" IDE hard drive adaptor as suggested by a guy who already did this and has a webpage: Linux on the Dell Latitude XP 450C (I can't post URLs to this forum yet, apparently). The only other computer I have is a laptop, though, so I don't know if that would work.

My main problem is that I am a newbie, and I have no knowledge about hardware or software compatibilities on older machines such as this one. This is totally a hobby project for fun, and to help me to learn Linux better. If anybody has any suggestions or information for me, I would be most incredibly greatful!

--C

Last edited by coldsalmon; 03-16-2005 at 07:01 PM.
 
Old 03-16-2005, 08:12 PM   #2
uberNUT69
Member
 
Registered: Jan 2005
Location: Tasmania
Distribution: Xen Debian Lenny/Sid
Posts: 578

Rep: Reputation: 30
Hi,

You will probably have problems trying to get graphics running with only 8MB, but anyway:

Without a floppy or cdrom you're limited to:
1. loadlin (or similar)
This method runs linux from a dos prompt and can be used for installing.
Seems like a good idea, but unless you successfully install linux right up to installing a boot record, you might get stuck with an unbootable system.
2. hard drive swap
I reckon this will be your best best. Take the hard drive out and put it in the other laptop... install linux on it and then pop it back in.

If you want to get things on/off the laptop you will need either:
modem, parallel/serial 'laplink', ethernet or manual transfer with flash drive.
Ethernet would be the best option.
 
Old 03-17-2005, 05:58 AM   #3
short101
Member
 
Registered: May 2004
Location: Aust.
Distribution: Debian
Posts: 424

Rep: Reputation: 30
Not trying to put you off linux, but..... That is VERY limited hardware, and if you do get some sort of linux installed it will be mostly command line with very limited graphics. For a newb, not a very pleasant experience. Have a go, but dont give up if you meet the ugly black monster that is the CLI and dont know where to go from there. I am still a newb when it comes to linux, but I know enough now to know that 8Mb ram and 256Mb hdd = tears for a newbie.
 
Old 03-17-2005, 06:13 AM   #4
db391
Member
 
Registered: Jun 2004
Location: Britain
Distribution: Slackware
Posts: 186

Rep: Reputation: 31
Yes, 256MB is very very tight hard disk space to try and run Linux on, you'll probably get only the command line with 256MB disk space.

At least 540MB, 810MB or better, 1 gig is a reasonable minimum requirement for linux..

And 8 MB of RAM will run linux, but trying to run X graphics will be very slow. One suggestion would by to download TinyX which is an X server for limited-memory computers. (you won't be able to run KDE/gnome - only light windowmaker/icewm etc)

So in closing, (from my experience) a very small Linux (console) will run on your laptop
 
Old 03-17-2005, 07:07 AM   #5
wapcaplet
LQ Guru
 
Registered: Feb 2003
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Distribution: Gentoo
Posts: 2,018

Rep: Reputation: 48
I wouldn't totally rule out running X, but take db391's advice and check out TinyX if you want to go the GUI route.

I don't know whether using the ethernet card in the laptop will help you until you can get it booted. Some machines can be network booted (from a boot image hosted somewhere else on your network), so you may want to investigate that.

I think maybe your best bet, if the floppy drive is truly dead, is to try the hard drive adaptor idea. Barring that, I don't see any way to get Linux on there, aside from replacing the floppy or booting from an external drive somehow.
 
Old 03-17-2005, 10:40 AM   #6
IsaacKuo
Senior Member
 
Registered: Apr 2004
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
Distribution: Debian 9 Stretch
Posts: 2,349
Blog Entries: 8

Rep: Reputation: 383Reputation: 383Reputation: 383Reputation: 383
If you're a newbie, it's better to learn Linux on a more modern system--something with at least 128megs of RAM and a working bootable CD-ROM drive. NO HARD DRIVE IS NECESSARY!!!

I suggest you try out Mepis (the latest version is Mepis 3.3), and try it out on your main system. This is a LiveCD--it runs straight off of the bootable CD without needing to install anything on a hard drive. Thus, you can experiment with Linux without affecting your existing Windows install at all. You get a full featured GUI environment with lots of heavyweight applications.

If you try to cram Linux into an old 486 with only 8megs of RAM, you're in for a lot of effort and frustration and not a whole lot of payoff.

In contrast, if you experiment around with Mepis, you get a minimum amount of effort (just download the .iso and burn it to CD), and a lot of fun in return!
 
Old 03-17-2005, 11:00 AM   #7
coldsalmon
Member
 
Registered: Mar 2005
Location: USA
Distribution: Kubuntu Breezy
Posts: 79

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 15
Funny you should mention it, I've been running Mepis on my main laptop for about a week now, and have also been experimenting with about ten other LiveCD distros. I think I like SLAX the best, especially because it is very fast. I grew up with DOS, so a command line isn't an issue for me. I actually like it, because the system is much more transparent that way. Lynx is a much faster browser than Firefox too!

Anyhow, I think that the harddrive swap would be a good idea. As long as I can find a suitable cable, I could just connect the Dell harddrive to my Gateway laptop, boot with the SLAX CD and install it to the harddrive. It comes with KDE, but I figure I could always switch to a less intense window manager later.

I want to try to avoid Damn Small Linux becasue it has so many different things jammed in together in such an odd configuration. SLAX seems a bit more standard. So far I've only done LiveCD distros like DSL, SLAX and ASTRUMI, but if anyone knows of a non-LiveCD minimalist distro (preferably Slackware) that would be good for this, let me know.

Here's what I've been able to figure out about the harddrives:

Dell:
260 MB
20-pin, 1 1/8" plug

Gateway:
37 GB
22-pin, 1 3/4" plug w/ two other pins on the side

I guess they're both IDE, the gateway definitely is.

Anyhow, thanks for all of your help. As long as I can get Nethack up and running, I'll be happy!

--C
 
Old 03-17-2005, 11:10 AM   #8
coldsalmon
Member
 
Registered: Mar 2005
Location: USA
Distribution: Kubuntu Breezy
Posts: 79

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 15
I also thought that maybe the floppy drive just can't read high-density floppies. Does anybody know about this? I haven't used floppies in years, and can't remember when high-density floppies came out.

--C
 
Old 03-17-2005, 11:17 AM   #9
KimVette
Senior Member
 
Registered: Dec 2004
Location: Lee, NH
Distribution: OpenSUSE, CentOS, RHEL
Posts: 1,794

Rep: Reputation: 46
On a 486 with a small HDD and a tiny bit of RAM, you're best off either forgoing the GUI or booting from a live CDs (as others suggested), configure a good-sized swap partition on your hard drive, and when X starts, be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait.

I've run Xwindows in as little as 4MB but it's annoying to wait for SwapSwapSwapSwapSwapSwapSwapSwapSwapSwapSwapSwap to finish while X loads, and even more annoying when apps quit - without any notice whatsoever - when they run out of memory space because even your swap space is filled.

That 486 might be useful as a *very* light duty router, but that's about it. Pentiums with scads of RAM can be had so cheaply these days that there's no sense in setting up Linux on a 486 other than to say that you did it. Those bragging rights and $2.00 will get you a large cup of coffee.
 
Old 03-18-2005, 04:26 AM   #10
coldsalmon
Member
 
Registered: Mar 2005
Location: USA
Distribution: Kubuntu Breezy
Posts: 79

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 15
Yes, I am mostly doing this for the challenge. I think that I will give the computer to my girlfriend so that she can play Nethack on it (seriously), so all I really need is a basic console OS and about 4 MB for Nethack. There are really only two issues:
1) how I'm going to get any data onto it if the floppy drive is broken, it has no CD, and no network interface.
2) backward-compatibility with the old hardware by newer distros.

I took apart both of the hard drives on my laptops today, but they were different sizes, and the 486 didn't fit into the Pentium's HD slot, since apparently HDs from before 1996 were a few mm taller. I was thinking of using a serial or parallel cable and transferring that way. Anyone know about that?

--C
 
Old 03-18-2005, 08:05 AM   #11
uberNUT69
Member
 
Registered: Jan 2005
Location: Tasmania
Distribution: Xen Debian Lenny/Sid
Posts: 578

Rep: Reputation: 30
For serial/parallel data transfer, you could use what used to be known as a laplink cable.
You should be able to use standard(?) laplink tools in 95 to transfer files from your newer laptop
(newer versions of MSwin call this method DCC - direct cable connect)
and then loadlin your linux install.

You _should_ be able to do this...

... but you run the risk of making the system completely unbootable.

A parallel laplink cable (4bit bidirectional) should be cheap enough to buy, but much cheaper to make.
(I've never bought one)
From memory, if you on a 486 you'd be lucky to have a 16550 uart ... might be 8550,
so at BEST you'll get 115Kb on serial (max theoretical), but around 300Kb on parallel.
You _should_ also be able to network the old laptop under linux using this method.

ps. Are there _any_ signs of life from the floppy drive?
Perhaps you could take it apart and check it out ... just do basic things like clean the heads, etc ...?

It would be a _really_ good idea to find a way of booting this machine on something other than the hard drive before you start
That means either transplanting [the] hard drive, and/or replacing floppy.
 
Old 03-18-2005, 12:22 PM   #12
coldsalmon
Member
 
Registered: Mar 2005
Location: USA
Distribution: Kubuntu Breezy
Posts: 79

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 15
The floppy drive hums and stuff, and the light goes on, but it always says "device is not ready." It hasn't been able to read any disks at all. I was thinking that perhaps it was because I was using high-density floppies, but I can't remember anything about that from my distant past. I guess I'll take the drive apart, couldn't hurt!

Thanks,

--C
 
Old 03-18-2005, 10:24 PM   #13
uberNUT69
Member
 
Registered: Jan 2005
Location: Tasmania
Distribution: Xen Debian Lenny/Sid
Posts: 578

Rep: Reputation: 30
I'd be very surprised if it was a double density drive.
eg. even the IBM PS/2-80 (386-20 server) had a high density drive (and 16550 uarts).
...and laptops usually use what are considered to be 'cutting edge' at the time

The only machines I have with double density 3.5" drives are an XT laptop (Toshiba 1200? with 20MB hdd)
and a weird 'all-in-one' (keyboard and machine combined) XT-based machine that boots from eprom.

Be careful not to adjust screws and such ... you'd need an oscilloscope to fix that ....
or a lot of patience, a reference floppy, and a fair bit of luck.

You _might_ be really lucky with just a good clean (cross fingers).
A drop of CRC/WD40 (water displacement lubricant spray) on sliding parts probably wouldn't hurt,
and a touch of light grease on the drive shaft for the head assembly (if it's dry).
Try moving the parts around to free up any sticking.

Hopefully the problem is not electronic ... and just a sticking head-movement or switch.
 
Old 02-21-2006, 05:50 PM   #14
mnmnerd
LQ Newbie
 
Registered: Feb 2006
Posts: 1

Rep: Reputation: 0
I have the same laptop, with the same problem. The floppy drive just didn't want to read floppies. But then I discovered that if you hold the floppy eject button in a little bit, it should read the floppy. Try that and it should hopefully work.
 
Old 03-16-2006, 07:05 AM   #15
darion
LQ Newbie
 
Registered: Mar 2006
Posts: 24

Rep: Reputation: 15
[QUOTE=db391]Yes, 256MB is very very tight hard disk space to try and run Linux on, you'll probably get only the command line with 256MB disk space.

Two years ago I installed ALT Linux Junior on Intel 486 with 120Mb hard drive and 8Mb memory. With X, Windowmaker, mplayer, ZX-Spectrum emulator with 2 games, Xawtv to watch tv(I have ATI TV Wonder VE card) , some games like tetris. And 8Mb swap file on system value. I think if use compressed tools, it's may be march more space.

Offcourse it's no way to go blind to do it. You have to install system from worked linux system. The key to do it is rpm option --root. Good luck.
 
  


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
Linux on old 486 w/ 200Mhz and 32MB RAM Haldrik Linux - Newbie 4 06-09-2005 06:44 PM
Suggestions on damn small Linux distro that supported by 8MB RAM and 200MB hard disc jychin DamnSmallLinux 2 08-09-2004 06:54 AM
Damn samll linux distro supported by 8MB RAM and 200MB hard disc jychin DamnSmallLinux 1 08-09-2004 01:31 AM
Kernel Panic: Installation of Slack 8.1 on 8mb RAM PC donbellioni Slackware - Installation 4 07-22-2004 10:48 AM
DX2-50mhz - 8mb-ram - 250mb-hd Cray2 Linux - Distributions 5 08-14-2003 03:01 AM

LinuxQuestions.org > Forums > Linux Forums > Linux - Laptop and Netbook

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:46 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