Gateway Solo 3300 Walkthrough

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I came into possession of an old Gateway Solo 3300 laptop. These were the original "netbooks", though they're woefully underpowered by today's standards. Even so, it was free, and I intended to make a serviceable netbook out of it. The obvious solution to the problem was to install a mini Linux distro on it; enter Damn Small Linux.

The problem with this particular laptop, however, is how to get it installed since it does not have a CD drive or a floppy drive, and can't boot from a USB device. (It actually does have external floppy and CD drives, but this one didn't come with them.)

I started reading up on booting via PXE (which the laptop does support). After much Googling and reading, I was under the impression that this would be a rather involved process to get a PXE server configured and running.

On the DSL forums I read that there are packages to enable PXE on DSL. I really wanted something that was PXE-ready right out of the box. Then I happened across SliTaz linux. This is another mini distro, and is intended to load completely into RAM. Lots of cool things about it, but for my situation the best thing is that it is easily configured to run as a PXE server.

Since SliTaz is meant to run completely in RAM, I can't use it as the installed OS on the little laptop. It only sports 64MB of RAM, and SliTaz wants 128MB to run well. SliTaz does have some options for running on low-memory systems, and I tried them out, but the speed trade-off just wasn't worth it.


  • You want to fully install DSL as the ONLY operating system on your computer.
  • You either don't want any of the data on your computer, or you've already backed it all up safely.
  • You have the following items:
    • Target Machine: Gateway Solo 3300
      • Pentium III
      • 64MB RAM
      • 5GB Hard Drive
      • No removable media drives
      • USB port (but unable to boot from USB)
      • BIOS capable of booting via PXE (thus must have ethernet port)
    • Host Machine (PXE Server)
      • Anything capable of running SliTaz Linux
        • I used a Dell Inspiron 8100.
      • USB port
      • Ethernet port
    • Other items
      • Cross-over ethernet cable
      • USB flash drive (big enough to hold DSL distro)

Get the Live CDs

  1. Download SliTaz linux ISO and burn to disk. You will need to use the "cooking" version, which has the necessary apps for running a PXE server. I used the loram ISO (derived from "cooking") for reasons that will be explained later.
  2. Download DSL ISO (I used the standard 4.4.10 ISO) and copy to USB flash drive. I did this the long way: First I burned the ISO to a disk, then just copied all the files from the disk to the flash drive.

Set Up the PXE Server

  1. Boot the host machine with the SliTaz disk (assuming it will boot from CD/DVD). Again, I used my old Dell Inspiron 8100. Note that SliTaz loads completely to RAM, so you'll want at least 256MB of RAM, though it will run on less. The reason you want more RAM is that you'll be copying the kernel image and compressed filesystem files into the RAM disk.
  2. Per the simple instructions, set up the SliTaz-booted machine as a PXE server. If you know the proper settings, it's a good idea to include the vga=xxx option in the boot parameter list when editing the PXE configuration file. For the Gateway Solo 3300, the setting is vga=788. Leave the Netbox window open; you'll need it later.

Prepare Target Machine

  1. Connect the target machine to the SliTaz server with a cross-over ethernet cable. I did this to avoid reconfiguring my home network (router settings, etc). Trust me, this is the simplest thing to do.
  2. Turn on the target machine and enter the BIOS setup, usually by pressing a function key within the first few seconds of being powered on. For the Solo 3300, press the F2 key.
  3. Set the client machine's BIOS to boot via PXE (on other machines, it might be called something like network boot).
  4. Save settings and exit the BIOS setup.
  5. The client machine should connect to the PXE server and boot SliTaz.
  6. When the GUI logon screen pops up, press Ctrl-Alt-Backspace to exit out of X.
  7. At the CLI prompt, login as root (password is root).
  8. Run fdisk to partition the hard drive. I set mine up this way:
    1. hda1 = 256MB swap
    2. hda2 = 4.5GB linux (for the DSL installation)
    3. hda3 = ~500MB linux (temp use for installation)
  9. Format the new partitions appropriately with mkswap and mke2fs.
  10. Plug the DSL USB flash drive into the target machine and mount it.
  11. Copy all the files from the flash drive to the temporary (hda3) partition. Note that you may need to rename the KNOPPIX directory and file if they were changed to all lower-case when copied to the flash drive.
  12. Shutdown the client machine and remove the USB flash drive.

Install DSL on Target Machine

  1. Remove the SliTaz disk from the host machine (should have automatically been un-mounted).
  2. On the host machine, insert the DSL USB flash drive and mount it.
  3. Copy the linux24 and minirt24.gz files from the flash drive to /boot on the host machine.
  4. In the Netbox window, go to the Server / PXE tab and edit the configuration file like this:
       label dsl
       kernel linux24
       append initrd=minirt24.gz rw root=hda3 vga=788
  1. Now go to the Server / DHCP tab, click Stop, then click Start. This will pick up the changes you just made to the PXE configuration file.
  2. Boot the target machine again. This time it will boot into DSL.
  3. When fully booted into the DSL environment, see [Installing_to_the_Hard_Disk] for the remainder of the installation.
  4. That's it! Don't forget to change the BIOS settings of the target machine to boot from the hard drive now.