MuLinux, Part 1

One month ago we moved to our new house. Since then, things have settled down, but one thing still is missing: our working room still serves as a storage room, with my old computer packed into boxes.

Until that moment we both use my (even older) Toshiba Satellite Pro 400 CDT. This computer is not really fast, but in the mean time I have gotten used to it. It’s really comfortable working on the sofa, but to connect to internet I have to move to the floor of the hallway. For the moment we have this solution, but sometimes one computer just isn’t enough for two people.

That’s why I dug up my really old laptop, a 486 with 8 Mb memory and 525 Mb harddisk, but without CD player. I once installed Windows 98, but it wasn’t running perfectly. Besides this, I don’t have a licence for this machine, and don’t want to buy one. Therefore I decided to install GNU/Linux on it.

Taken the absence of the CD-player and the minimal hardware, I started looking for a floppy-based distribution. I once used the HAL91 distribution, but this only runs on a RAM disk, while I want to be able to install it onto my harddisk. Then I found MuLinux, a tiny single floppy based distribution with the ability to copy the installation to the harddisk, and with some add-on floppies to install additional features like the X-Windows system, Wine, TeX, … It looked promising, so I set to work.

While the disk images were downloading to my Toshiba laptop, I started the other laptop from a DOS bootdisk to format the harddisk. It had quite some bad sectors, but that shouldn’t be a big problem. In the mean time the download was finished. I extracted the DOSTOOLS to C:\mulinux and copied the images (BOOT, WKS, SRV en X11) to the same directory. Next, I runned unpack.bat, which opened the main archive mulinux-13r2.tgz. Then I fired up makefi.bat, which created an installation disk. Since muLinux distribution running from floppy, installation means preparing the floppies. After the installation disk was prepared, I rebooted my Toshiba, after which the installation process prepared the BOOT floppy.

I immediately took this floppy to my old laptop and booted it with it. It booted nicely and started the configuration procedure. The first thing I had to do was configure the swap space. The harddisk was DOS formatted, but I want to install my linux on a ext2 partition. Therefore I decided to boot the machine with only the necessary configuration, after which I should be able to use the linux fdisk utility to partition the harddisk. For the moment I configured the swap space as a file on the DOS partition and continued.

After configuring the swap space I had the option to load each of the available add-on disks. After selecting No for each of them, a configuration menu was presented with three options: No additional configuration, a minimal configuration or a custom configuration. I selected the minimal configuration, and Linux continued loading its applications onto the RAM disk.

At the end I was asked if I wanted to save these settings as default (which I did not since I want to change the partitioning) and then I was offered a tour which I also declined.

Finally I was presented with the prompt, indicating that I could start to work. This prompt is a silly thing, since the multi-user options are on the SRV add-on. Anyway, I enterer root (just for the show) and fired up fdisk. I quickly deleted the DOS partition and created an ext2 partition and a swap partition.

I rebooted the laptop, and went through the same procedure again, but this time I used my new partition as swap space and did some more configuration, like the keyboard layout.

Unfortunately, my time to play with computers is finished for today, so I saved my configuration to the floppy (setup -s lock) and shut down the machine.

Tomorrow I am going to copy the files from the RAM drive onto the harddisk and if I have enough time left, I am going to install the SRV and WKS add-ons. That will keep me busy for a while…

Jeroen Sangers @jeroensangers