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Current HOWTO: 4mb Laptop HOWTO

4mb Laptop HOWTO: The Installation Next Previous Contents

5. The Installation

This section does not give much detail on the Slackware installation process. In fact, it assumes you are familiar with it. Instead, this section concentrates on those areas where special care or unusual steps are required.

5.1 Boot the machine

Make a boot-disk from one of the images. I recommend you use bareapm.i on a laptop and bare.i on a desktop - unless you have a parallel-port IDE device (pportide.i). Boot the laptop from it. When the boot: prompt appears, type "mount root=/dev/hdax" where x is the temporary root partition. Log in as root. Then activate the swap partition.

5.2 Floppy/Parport CD-ROM Install

In both these cases, no extra work should be necessary to access the installation media. Simply run setup.

5.3 Network/PCMCIA Install

Slackware has supplementary disks with tools for these and instructions for their use greet you when you log in. Use the network disk on a desktop PC with ethernet card or a laptop with pocket ethernet adaptor. Use the PCMCIA disk for PCMCIA install. Once your network adapter/PCMCIA socket has been identified, run setup.

PCMCIA install on the Aero

The Slackware installation process runs the PCMCIA drivers from the supplementary floppy. Because the Aero has a PCMCIA floppy drive, this means you can't remove the floppy drive to insert the PCMCIA CD-ROM/ethernet card. The solution is simple: the Slackware PCMCIA setup routine creates /pcmcia and mounts the supplementary disk there, so

  1. Create the /pcmcia directory yourself
  2. Mount the supplementary disk to /mnt. Be sure to specify the type as vfat - if you don't, it'll be incorrectly identified as UMSDOS and long filenames will be mis-copied.
  3. cd /mnt;cp -dpPr ./* /pcmcia/
  4. Unmount the floppy.
  5. Run pcmcia. When the script complains that there is no disk in the drive simply hit Enter: Card Sevices will start. Connect your PCMCIA device and hit Enter.
  6. Run setup

5.4 Set-up

The Slackware set-up program is straightforward. Start with the Keymap section and it'll take you forward step by step.


You do need to do this step so it can put the correct entry in fstab but make sure it doesn't run mkswap - you're already using the partition.


In this section Slackware asks which partitions will be mounted as what and then formats them if you want.

The safest bet here is to leave your temporary root partition out altogether and just edit fstab later once you know you don't need it for it's temporary purpose anymore. If you're going to reuse it as /home then it is OK to designate it as /home - obviously, don't format it now! If you intend to re-use it as a part of the directory structure that will have files placed in it during installation (/var, for example) then you absolutely must ignore it in this step: after the installation is complete you can move the files across.


Here you choose which general categories of software to install. I chose as follows:

  • A - Base Linux System
  • AP -Non-X applications
  • F - FAQs and HOWTOs
  • N - Networking tools and apps
  • Y - BSD games collection

I wouldn't recommend adding to this - if anything, prune it back to A, AP and N. That gives you a core Linux setup to which you can add according to your needs.


Choose the Expert installation method. This allows you to select/reject for installation individual packages from the categories you chose in the Selection step. Appendix A goes through the precise choices I made .

This part takes about 3 hours for a PCMCIA network install. You are prompted to select individual packages before the installation of each category, so you can't just walk away and leave it to run through.


Once the packages are all installed, you are prompted to do final configuration for your machine. This covers areas like networking, Lilo, selecting a kernel etc. Some points to look out for:

  • If you did a PCMCIA install, don't accept the offer to configure your network with netconfig. This will ruin your pcmcia networking. Wait until you've rebooted and then edit /etc/pcmcia/network.opts
  • This is the point where you should install a kernel. For a laptop the bareapm kernel is best, for a desktop simply the bare one.


The set-up process is finished but you are not. Do not reboot yet! There is another vital step to complete.

5.5 Pre-reboot Configuration

On a normal machine you would simply reboot once the installation is complete. If you do that here you may have to wait 6 or 8 hours for a login prompt to appear and another half hour to get to the command prompt. Before rebooting you need to change or remove the elements that cause this slowdown. This involves editing config files so you need to be familiar with vi, ed or sed.

At this stage your future root partition is still mounted as /mnt so remember to at that to the paths given here.


Edit this to change root's login shell to ash. ash really is the only practical login shell for 4mb RAM.


Comment out the line 'depmod -a'. You only need to update module dependencies if you have changed your module configuration (recompiled or added new ones, for example). On a standard system it only takes a second or two and so it doesn't matter that it's needlessly performed each time. On a 4mb laptop it can take as much as 8 hours. When you do change your module set-up you can simply uncomment this line and reboot. Alternatively, change this part of the script so that it will only run if you pass a parameter at the boot-prompt. For example:

if [ "NEWMODULES" == "1" ] ; then 
    depmod -a


This script starts network services like nfs. You probably don't need these and certainly not at start-up. Rename this script to something like RC.inet2 - that will stop it from being run at boot and you can run it manually when you need it.


On the Aero you should also rename this script, otherwise you'll lose the use of your floppy drive on start-up. It's worth considering for any other small laptop as well - you can always run it manually before inserting a card.

Once these changes have been made, you are ready to reboot.

5.6 Post-reboot Configuration.

If you made the changes recommended in section Pre-reboot configuration then the boot process will only take a few minutes, as opposed to several hours. Login as root and check that everything is functioning properly.

Re-use the temporary root.

Once you are sure the installation is solid you can reclaim the partition you used as the temporary root. Don't just delete the contents, reformat the filesystem. Remember, the mke2fs that came with the mini-Linux is out of date.

If you intend to re-use this partition as /home, remember not to create any user accounts until you have completed this step.

Other configuration tweaks.

In such a small RAM space, every little helps. Go through SlackWare's BSD-style init scripts in /etc/rc.d/ and comment out anything you don't need. Have a look at Todd Burgess' Small Memory mini-HOWTO http://eddie.cis.uoguelph.ca/~tburgess/ for more ideas.

Next Previous Contents

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