Thursday, June 21, 2007

How to Install Linux with no CD-ROM drive or modem

Most Linux distributions come on a CD-ROM. You can also download them from an FTP site, but that requires an Internet connection. What if you have a system with no CD-ROM drive or Internet connection, like an old 486 laptop? The trick here is to have another desktop system with a CD-ROM drive, and a
null-modem serial cable.

I will show you how to do it with Slackware. It is also possible with most other Linux distributions. Insert the Linux CD-ROM in the drive on the desktop and copy the A (base) and N (networking) packages on diskettes. You need at least those in order to use a serial cable to transfer the rest of the packages.

Now you need to enable NFS networking on the desktop, and allow the laptop to connect. You can give a temporary IP address to the laptop, like that you need to add to your /etc/exports file on your desktop.

To link the two systems together, this is what you need to type on the laptop:

/usr/sbin/pppd -detach crtscts lock /dev/ttyS1 115200

And this on the PC:

/usr/sbin/pppd -detach crtscts lock /dev/ttyS1 115200

This is assuming the cable is linked to ttyS1 (COM2) on both systems.

With NFS, you can mount the CD-ROM drive remotely and tell the installation program to use a specific path to install the remaining packages. Mount the CD-ROM with a command like this:

mount -tnfs /mnt

Then run the installation program:


and enter the new path for the packages files.

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