Floppy Only Install (No Netcard, Linux Only)

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If this process seems a little daunting to you, remember that it is written with a lot of built in sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek humor.

If it still seems too tough, and you have a Windows OS, you can try AwPhuch's method here.



This process may cause excess stress and frustration.

Not recommended for people with high blood pressure, a history of heart problems or aneurysms, pregnant women, or anybody else who is unable to cope with high levels of stress.

The author takes NO RESPONSIBILITY for any damage, either mental or physical, caused by this process.

Who this document is for

This document is for those who have a target machine which they want to install DSL, but which has neither a CD-ROM or other large removable media drive, nor network accessibility. These instructions should be the last choice for installing DSL onto old hardware.

If you have USB, Serial, or parallel, consider the recommendations under Who this document is not for.

Who this document is not for

If you have a CD-ROM but cannot boot from it, you should use the DSL boot floppy, available in the same directory as the DSL ISO. Or you may want to consider Smart Boot Manager: http://freshmeat.net/projects/smartbootmanager.

If you have a network card, you should use Floppy_Only_Install_with_Netcard_(Poormans_Install).

If you have neither CD-ROM nor Network card, but have a USB port, or a 9-pin Serial port, or a parallel/printer port, you should seriously consider using these to transfer the DSL ISO.

If you have USB, you can use a USB drive to transfer the files, much faster than using only floppies. Or you could use a USB to Ethernet adapter. If you have Serial, you can use a USB to Serial adapter, available at Radioshack or Fry's. Or you can use a Null Modem Cable to attach the target to a network. If you have parallel, you can use a ZIP Drive, which is likely available at your local computer shop or some garage sales, or maybe a friend. You may also be able to find a 2x parallel CD-ROM drive for under $2.

Finally, if you don't have CD-ROM, Ethernet, USB, Serial, or Parallel, double-check, because you probably do. If you really don't, or don't want to buy anything new, consider removing the hard drive from the target, mounting it into your host system, copying the ISO, and then putting the drive back where you got it. Seriously, this is likely an easier solution than using the following instructions.

You will need:

  • The target machine which you want to install DSL.
  • A host machine, with an already installed linux distro, or a host machine booted by Knoppix (not DSL). Your regular everyday machine is probably fine.
  • I recommend having at least 60 BRAND NEW floppies, so that you don't have to re-use the same floppy over and over and still have a few extras. You can do it with as few as 4, but I wouldn't recommend it.
  • A copy of the latest DSL iso, md5summed and checked out. Gotta be perfect.
  • A DSL boot floppy for the version you are installing.
      • LOTS of patience

Step 1

Set up your work area.

It should be a relatively large table with ample room for 2 monitors, 2 computers, 2 keyboards, 2 mice and pads if needed, lots of elbow room.

You also need a comfortable chair.

The work area should be clean and free of clutter. That means put away your bills, Magic: the Gathering cards, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, or whatever.

Gotta be clean. As little to get in your way as humanly possible.

Step 2

Set up your computers to where you can use either one of them comfortably without adjusting anything. This is easier if you have a rolling chair.

Make sure you have power for everything and net access.

Wireless networks make this easier.

Step 3

Make some coffee, put some beer (soda, if you're underage, like me ^_^) on ice, order pizza, or wings, or Chinese, or something.

You're gonna need it before we're done.

Trust me.

Do it.

I'm serious.

You'll thank me later.

Step 4

Boot up the computer you want to install DSL onto with Tom's Root boot (I will call this the "target system" or just "target").

Fire up the other computer with Knoppix or whatever other distro of your choice (I will call this the "host box" or "work box") and download or access the DSL iso. Make sure its md5sum checks out.

Step 5

Copy the fsplit script onto your host box and do the following mode change.

        chmod 755 fsplit

This will make it executable, and act the way we want it to.

Step 6

Run fsplit on the iso and cut it into 1.4mb chunks.

        fsplit dsl-x.x.x.iso 1400

This process may take a while, depending on the hardware of your work box.

Go get a drink or something if it takes more than just a few minutes.

You should get about 38 (more or less, depending on the exact size of the iso) files with names xx00, xx01, xx02 and so on. These are your single floppy images.

To make check that these images are correct, rebuild the iso with:

        cat xx* >tmp.iso

Now check the isos with:

        md5sum *.iso

If tmp.iso and dsl-*.iso match, great, move onto the next step. If they don't match:

        rm tmp.iso
        rm xx*

and restart step 6.

Step 7

On the target system, use fdisk to create a fat32 partiton of at least 110mb (for the reformed iso and all the image files) at /dev/hda1. Later, this should become your swap partition, so make it however big you want that to be.

If you don't know how to use fdisk, a short walk-through of using fdisk to create partitions is available at http://www.tldp.org/HOWTO/Partition/partition-5.html. If you still don't get it, google is your friend.

Format the partition using this command

        mkdosfs -v -F32 /dev/hda1

(Thanks to Tom Oehser, the guy behind tomsrtbt)

Reboot the target machine into Tom's again and mount hda1.

Now for the FUN part!

Step 8

Remember all those 1.4mb files we made earlier?

Start copying them onto floppys and then onto hda1of the target system. This will take a while.

        cp xx00 /mnt/floppy

Just repeat that for each file.

By now, your beer (soda) should be cold and your pizza or whatever should have arrived. Grab a cold one and a slice of pie and settle in for the long run.

Step 9

Once all those files are on hda1 of the host system, run the following command.

        cat xx* >

Make sure that the name is EXACTLY the same as the original iso.

Check the md5sum of the reformed iso.

        md5sum dsl-x.x.x.iso

If the number checks out, move on to step 10. If not, find out which floppy image(s) is/are the culprit(s).

First, redo the second half of step 6, where you check to make sure the floppy images are good. Hopefully they are. If step 6 sanity check fails now, you probably have a very faulty hard drive on your host machine.

Most likely, though, the fault was in the transfer of the floppies, and in this case, the originals on the host machine will check ok.

If step 6 checks are ok, do an md5sum on each of the floppies on both the host machine and the target machine with:

        md5sum xx*

Find out which floppy is different and recopy that one from the host to the target. Restart step 9.

If you don't want to manually look at 38 md5sums, you can run:

        md5sum xx* >target-list.txt

and copy target-list.txt over to the host machine. Then, on the host, run:

        md5sum xx* >host-list.txt
        diff target-list.txt host-list.txt

This will output which floppy images differ, aka identify the culprits.

Hopefully, it will work on the first try, unless you have a bad floppy, your floppy drive has a bad read, or whatever. Floppies are notoriously unreliable.

Step 10

It's celebration time!! You did it! The hard part is over!!!

Delete the xx** files and do this.

Make a folder in /mnt called iso.

        cd /mnt
        mkdir iso

Mount the iso to /mnt/iso.

        mount -o loop -t iso9660 dsl-x.x.x.iso /mnt/iso

Copy the contents of /mnt/iso to /mnt/hda1.

        cp -R /mnt/iso/* /mnt/hda1/

Unmount everything on the target system and reboot it with the DSL boot disk in it.

        umount /mnt/*

At the boot prompt, type in "dsl fromhd=/dev/hda1". If everything worked right, it should fire right up, just as if it were running from CD!

You can do whatever you want from here. I'll leave that up to you. Doing a regular HDinstall or whatever and setting up the swap partition.

Give yourself a high five! YOU DID IT!!!!!!!