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Small Linux

By Steven G. 1998



Small Linux is a two disk distribution of an minimal Linux.

It has two objectives:

- create a minimum distribution that will boot.

- to have a distribution that will boot on a machine with 2 meg.

Quick Start

You'll need about 20Mb in drive C: during installation, if you plan to install to hard disk.

Small Linux is distributed as 2 raw disk images and doc files

You can download the two disk images and get two files: boot_1.0.9 and root_1.0.9

Or, you can download a gzipped file.

If you have the gzipped file, you need to decompress the smalllinux.tar.gz file with the command "tar zvxf smalllinux.tar.gz

Untar and unzip the files. Make a Boot disk and a Root disk. Then boot up the computer with the Boot disk first.

After the startup of the system is finished you're presented with the login prompt. The only user available is root, without password.

Quick Start Notes

We don't intend to give here a course on Unix. You should read one

of the many books on Unix/Linux, attend a Unix course or gather

info and docs on the Net. We can give some hints though

- Linux has support for virtual terminals. You can access them

by pressing ALT + Fx, where Fx is a function key from F1 to F8

- some commands in Linux are similar to their DOS counterparts

if not equal ( dir=dir, cp=copy, rm=del, cat=type )

- the equivalent of AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS are the files

/etc/inittab and the files under directory /etc/rc.d

To set up swap space for better performance:

# dd if=/dev/zero of=/swapfile bs=1024 count=8192

# mkswap /swapfile 8192

# sync

# swapon /swapfile

You can test that you have more memory with the "free"

Full Small Linux Contents

1.0. The Small Linux package
2.0. Linux operating system
3.0. Installing Small Linux
3.1. Distribution set
3.2. Preliminary information needed
3.3. How Small Linux works ?
3.4. System requirements
3.5. Installation
3.5.1. Making disks
3.5.2. Using disks
4.0. What you get ?
5.0. Using Small Linux
5.1. After installation
5.2. Booting the computer
5.3. Making backups
5.4. Mounting a hard drive
5.5. Mount Additional filesystems
5.6. Virtual terminals
6.0. Security
7.0. Author's comments
8.0. Bugs

1.0. Small Linux

Small Linux is a minimal distribution based on the Linux operating system by Linus Torvalds. See Section 2.0 for getting information on Linux.

Small Linux will never to be a respectable package. No updates are promised. The user is responsible for the security of the system as well as possible hardware and software failures during installation and opera- tion.

The authors have tried to establish a X Windows terminal environment with minimal space requirements and best possible performance. This package is freely distributable. This document is should be included in all copies.

X Window System is a trademark of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. See section 2.0.

Most of the software is covered by GNU General Public License and so the source code must be available freely. We have taken the binaries from Debian and sources of Debian are available from

Jump to chapter 3 if you want to install Small Linux imme- diately.

2.0. Linux operating system, and small utilities

For detailed description of Linux, get Linux Information Sheet (INFO-sheet) and META-FAQ from*


Small Linux is not a complete Linux system.

3.0. Installing Small Linux

3.1. Distribution set

Small Linux comes with two floppies. The first one contains Linux kernel and boot parameters. The second floppy disk includes basic binaries and files needed to set up the computer.

3.2 Preliminary information needed

You need at least 2 meg of Ram and a 386 intel compatible processor.

3.3. How Small Linux works

Small Linux boots the Kernel off the Boot floppy, then mounts the Root floppy as the root device with runable utilities.

3.4. System requirements

For Linux a minimum requirement is a computer with a 386SX processor.

No hard disk space is required. If a hard disk is available it should be used.

A swap partition on the first ide hard drive will be used if it is available.

The device support in Linux is compiled into the kernel.

3.5. Installation

3.5.1. Making diskettes

You need two preformatted HD disks with no bad sectors. It might be useful to label disks as "Boot 1.0.9 Small Linux" and "Root 1.0.9 Small Linux". In dos you need RAWRITE.EXE for writing images to disks.

C:\> rawrite

Here you should type your floppy drive letter and give "boot_1.0.9" as the name of disk image.

C:\> rawrite

Here you should type your floppy drive letter and give "root_1.0.9" as the name of disk image.

In UN*X the task is similar:

% tar zxvf smalllinux.tar.gz

% dd if=boot_1.0.9 of=/dev/fd0

% dd if=root_1.0.9 of=/dev/fd0

3.5.2. Using disks

To install Small Linux

(1) boot from the boot disk
(2) insert second disk when it is asked for
(3) log in as root
(4) explore

4.0. What you get ?

32 bit Linux multitasking multiuser environment. a minimal set of utilities including cp, ls, mount and plus basic binaries including ash a small shell.

5.0. Using Small Linux

5.1. After installation

After installation all configuration information is saved on the second disk. Even if you would like to do *not* write-protect your floppies. This will soon lead to a system crash. Also the removing of the second floppy disk from the drive during a session is fatal. This disk contains binaries and configu- ration files which are vital for operation.

5.2. Booting the computer

In multitasking environment several programs are executed at the same time. The operating system has also disk buffers in the memory, which contain data waiting to be written on disk. These are some of the reasons why shutting down is a complex process. For this purpose there is a special command, which you should use when you want to end your the session. It is called


You should give this command only after you have finished all your applications. The rebooting takes a little time and you can follow the system sending signals to various programs. When you see the message from your graphics adaptor it is safe to turn the power off.

The ctrl-alt-del key sequence is monitored by Linux and shortly after this command has been given the rebooting process will start. This is fully equivalent to the reboot command written by hand.

5.3. Making backups

If you want to make backups, you can mount your dos hard disk using mount command and simply copy files to some desired directory. Backuping might be necessary for your configuration files. Remember that dos file system uses only 8+3 characters for a file name. Also only capital letters are supported by dos.

5.4. Mounting a hard drive

In Linux hard disks are treated as devices and the location of the device files is the /dev directory. IDE hard disks are devices /dev/hda and /dev/hdb, which stand for the first hard disk (BIOS C disk) and the second hard disk (BIOS D disk) respectively. A single hard disk is usually divided into several partitions. Each of these partitions can be accessed separately and for this purpose there are devices /dev/hda1, /dev/hda2, /dev/hda3 etc. for the C drive and /dev/hdb1, /dev/hdb2 etc. for the D drive.

A partition can be mounted on an empty directory. In Small Linux disk there are some directories in / for this purpose. These directories are:


The next task is to find the correct partition for mounting. This can be done by using the fdisk prog- ram. Give a command

% fdisk -l

The output should look like this:

Disk /dev/hda: 14 heads, 62 sectors, 768 cylinders Units = cylinders of 868 * 512 bytes

Device Boot Begin Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/hda1 203 203 767 245210 5 Extended
/dev/hda2 14 14 202 82026 83 Linux native
/dev/hda3 4 4 13 4340 1 DOS 12-bit FAT
/dev/hda4 * 1 1 3 1271 a OPUS
/dev/hda5 * 203 203 462 112809 7 OS/2 HPFS
/dev/hda6 463 463 500 16491+ 82 Linux swap
/dev/hda7 501 501 767 115877+ 83 Linux native

Disk /dev/hdb: 8 heads, 35 sectors, 872 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 280 * 512 bytes

Device Boot Begin Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/hdb1 1 1 586 82022+ 6 DOS 16-bit >=32M
/dev/hdb2 587 587 871 39900 5 Extended
/dev/hdb5 587 587 871 39882+ 83 Linux native

This is a sample partition table. We find that there are two dos file systems we can use. With the command

% mount -t msdos /dev/hda3 /dos

we mount the dos boot partition on the /dos direc- tory. Now this partition can be used for writing and reading data. After finished, the partition can be released by

% umount /dos

The proper releasing procedure is important, because otherwise the files might not be written correctly on the hard disk. The reboot program will take care of unmounting, if you forget to do it yourself.

When you know the correct partition device on your computer, give command

% mount -t msdos /dev/hd?* /dos

where ? stands for the correct hard drive and * for the partition number. The dos disk will be attached to your Linux file system and you can use it as your floppy disks. Remember the limitations of file names, though.

Unmount it with

% umount /dos

5.5. Mounting Additional filesystems

Small Linux is capable of mounting many types of availble filesystems, like msdos, minix, and ext2k. For major work mounting of a hard disk is required.

Linux is a full operating system that is capable of use many filesystems in a multitasking environment.

5.6. Virtual terminals

While running Linux in ascii mode, you can switch to another terminal by pressing keys Alt-F? simultaneously, where ? can be from 1 to 6. This way you can have six sessions open at the same time. Use the who command to see the users currently logged in.

6.0. Security

No security measures have been taken with Small Linux.

7.0. Authors' comments

Do not expect Small Linux to behave as well as a full Linux Distribution. Users are encouraged to install a full Linux system on their computers.

We wish you good luck !

8.0. Bugs

Doubtless many. Feel free to contact the author, but remember: we don't promise anything !


a) we do not support Small Linux
b) we do not promise that Small Linux does anything
c) Small Linux may distroy all your data
d) we can not promise that Small Linux will not
distroy all human civilization

Thank you ! Steven G.