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Old 03-01-2002, 05:49 AM   #1
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Registered: Jul 2001
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Question Installing Linux on an (old) 386

This is the situation:
someone promissed me some (2 I guess) 386-es that he does not need anymore...
Being the curious bastard that I am () I would like to install Linux on these (or one of them in case I have to add parts from the first to the second machine in order to be able to run Linux)
machines... As you all know... Running Linux implies that you install it first ()

Box configs: I believe that (if I throw all of the shit of both boxes together) I will have 2HDs (for a total of at least -so I hope- 200MiB), the necesairy keyboards and mice, 32MiB RAM (again, so I hope) at least one 10/100Mb EtherNet card and the needed screens and processors

now, this is what I would like these boxes to do (if linux gets installed on it): I would like them to be fully text mode (no fancy KDE, Gnome or etc... - the poor things don't have the RAM and resources to run them) but to be a server (HTTP, FTP, TelNet, SSH). I would really want it to run TelNet and SSH so that I can administer it from (withing as wel my other box) Windows as wel as Linux. The HTTP and FTP is just for fun (because fun is all there is Linux UserGroup West-Vlaanderen

so here are the questions:
What do I need to know to be able to install Linux on (one of these) boxes (remember, they are 386-es). This means packages (which are needed and which ones are not - remember, I only want text mode, I don't want anything for graphical mode to be installed)
Are there people here who did this before and can offer me some advice, hints, etc...
Old 03-01-2002, 09:05 AM   #2
Registered: Feb 2002
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I'm thinking maybe slackware would be the way to go. It could run on a 386 and does't require much mem or hd space. The base install I think is just 50mb. Goto Slackware and check it out. They also have great online docs there too.
Old 03-01-2002, 10:57 AM   #3
Registered: Feb 2002
Distribution: ubuntu
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You could also build you're on system for the thing:

Old 03-01-2002, 02:30 PM   #4
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Distribution: Debian Sarge (2.6.9-albooksleep) on a PPC
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There's another thread on Linux on a 386, with a fair amount of info. the first page is mostly irrelevant because you've already chosen a use for your computer(s), but the 2nd page starts talking about what distro to use, and how to do it and such.

find it here
Old 03-02-2002, 08:14 AM   #5
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Registered: Dec 2001
Distribution: RH 7.X
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Another possibility...

A good use might be making a dial-on-demand internet router. Check it out here

Minimum requirements are as follows:

8MB ram
3com 3c509 or novell ne2000 nic
16550 external serial port
external modem
3.5" floppy drive

I have set up several for friends and clients, and it works nicely. the whole thing runs from a floppy. Unhook the HDD and it's quiet as a mouse. I run them without monitor and keyboard (if the bios allows, and after configuring the floppy, of course).

On the other hand, you could have some regular linux fun, like making a iptables firewall, print server, etc. Old boxes like that make good task machines. NFS installs are easy to do if you don't have a cdrom drive.
1 members found this post helpful.
Old 03-03-2002, 12:05 AM   #6
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Try this "" I have looked at it. It sounds like just what you want. No gurantees.
Old 03-11-2002, 12:28 PM   #7
Registered: Feb 2002
Location: Mission Viejo, California, USA
Distribution: Gentoo
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thin clients

A minimal install of practically any Linux distrobution should be fine. I use RedHat 7.2


The best use I have seen for these old machines is as thin clients. The only program the thin client has to run is XFree86. Everything else runs as X clients from a server. So basically it turns a 386 into a high powered workstation ( as long as the server is powerfull). Of course, XFree86 will run better on a 486 than a 386.

For more details, see the Linux Terminal Server Project:

Here is a duplicate thread:

Last edited by zmedico; 03-31-2002 at 06:44 PM.


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