Damn Small Linux installation

Having old hardware laying around doing nothing is a waste of course. In this case I had an old Toshiba 440CDT Laptop laying around doing nothing. The hardware specs are quite limited if you compare it to the current laptop specifications.

The Toshiba has a Pentium 133 Mhz processor and luckily it has 144 Mb of ram (16 internal + 128 expanded) which is the maximum it can support (I think). Although the screen has a resolution of 800*600 it is very nice. The harddisk is quite small with it's 1 Gb. But how can such a machine be of any use these days? It was designed to run Windows 95 and it did manage to run Windows 98, but don't ask how. Starting up costed a few minutes and then you only had some office applications at your hand.

Since the machine wasn't of any use anymore I decided to look for a small Linux distribution which might run on it. After doing some research I luckily ran into Damn Small Linux.

DSL is a very versatile 50MB mini desktop oriented Linux distribution.


Reading the DSL webpage I thought it would be fantastic to run DSL on the laptop. A 50 Mb Linux distribution with even FireFox installed. If I'm able to install it on the harddrive I still have almost 1Gb free.

The first thing I did was to try DSL. I downloaded the cd image and created the bootable cd. The laptop was able to boot from it (I did have to change the bios settings). The only problem was that the default screen size was 1024*768.

To solve this problem a boot option is needed. These options are called Cheat Codes in DSL and they originate from Knoppix. http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/wiki/index.php/Cheat_Codes

The code needed for the screen will be something like vga=xxx http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/wiki/index.php/Vga%3Dxxx

For this laptop the boot option should be vga=788 for 800*600 16 bit graphics.


It is possible to install DSL to the harddisk.

When you first run DSL and you login you will get a page /usr/share/doc/dsl/getting_started.html which gives some useful information on how tu use DSL. It also describes how ti install it on your Harddisk.

The descriptions are clear. The problem I had was that DSL HD installer was not able to clean up the old partitions that were on the disk. I had to remove them manually using the cfdisk program. After that I succeeded installing DSL on my HD. I will do it again to test all the steps. Since I have enough ram I think the 'frugal' information is the most useful. For more information I suggest you try it yourself and read the included information.

Configuring Grub

After the installation I wanted to change Grub.

I needed 2 options to load automatically.
1) the screen settings
2) the nodhcp network settings, see next chapter

To change the grup options you need to edit: ./boot/grub/menu.lst

I have one configuration enabled:

title DSL fb800*600
kernel /boot/linux24 root=/dev/hda2 quiet vga=789 nodhcp 
  noacpi noapm nodma noscsi frugal

Some op these options can be removed (enabled, like noapm) probably, but for now I do not change them.

Setting up networking

The PCMCIA Psion network card was recognised immediately. The only thing to do was to configure it. At home I use static IPs. The DSL FAQ describes it as follows:

To save static IP settings with backup/restore make changes in two areas.

Boot the CD with the cheatcode dsl nodhcp or add nodhcp to the APPEND line in the Lilo or Grub bootloaders.

Add the static IP information to the /opt/bootlocal.sh file. This file is backed up in the /home/dsl/.filetool.lst file by default. For this step you will need to know the static IP, Default Gateway and DNS nameserver of your ISP. With this information your /opt/bootlocal.sh file should have the following entries.

ifconfig eth0 xxx.xxx.x.xx
route add default gw xxx.xxx.x.x
echo nameserver xx.xx.xxx.xx > /etc/resolv.conf
ifup eth0

With these two steps you should have your static connection up and running the next boot.

Getting wireless networking to work

Now everything is working it would be handy if Wireless networking was possible. I asked my dad for a PCMCIA Wifi card. Since it is an old laptop he decided that an 'old' 16 bit Linksys WPC 11 802.11b 11 Mbit network card would be the best to try. We knew it works with Windows 98 on a similar Toshiba laptop.

Some Googling gave me the following information:


The Linksys card uses the Intersil chipset. 
You can download the linux drivers from the linux-wlan project Web site. 
Make sure you download the 11Mbps project! 

The Linux-WLAN project has Linux drivers for both 
the Prism and Prism2 based card on their Web site 

An addition to 'wlan-ng.conf' file to include the Linksys 
id info, a restart of PCMCIA services, and they come 
up and play wonderfully. 

The addition to 'wlan-ng.conf' consists of 3 lines: 

card "Instant Wireless Network PC CARD Version 01.02" 
manfid 0x0156, 0x0002 
bind "prism2_cs" 

Note that the 'manfid' values correspond exactly with 
the Intersil Prism2 Reference Design Card settings.

The most important part of information is the addition to wlan-ng.conf. I cleaned the file wlan-ng.conf and made it contain only the following:


device "prism2_cs"
  class "wlan-ng" module "prism2_cs"

card "Linksys PCMCIA WPC11 Network card"
  manfid 0x0156, 0x0002
  bind "prism2_cs"


I only entered the default SSID the network card should use.


Uncomment the line

alias wlan0 prism2_cs

Storing the settings

Now everything is configured we need to ensure that the settings are saved after a reboot.

Add the files to your ~/.filetools.lst



To test the wireless netowrk card I rebooted. The info given is:

 PCMCIA Found, starting cardmgr
cardmgr[53]: starting, version is 3.2.5
cardmgr[53]: socket 1: LinkSys WPC11 11MBps 802.11b WLAN Card
cardmgr[53]: executing 'modprobe orinoco_cs'
cardmgr[53]: executing './network start eth0'
cardmgr[53]: + iwconfig erh0 essid "escay"
cardmgr[53]: + Debian network setup
cardmgr[53]: + /sbin/ifup eth0

And I tried to ping my local network and it worked! And then I tried google everything was working!

damnsmalllinux/installation.txt · Last modified: 2012/04/14 15:13 (external edit)
Recent changes RSS feed Donate Powered by PHP Valid XHTML 1.0 Valid CSS Driven by DokuWiki