Linux on my Toshiba Libretto 100CT – ii

Posted 2006.10.24 0.00 in Computers/Internet/Technology

Last time, I introduced my Toshiba Libretto, and got as far as trying out the Damn Small Linux distribution.

Damn Small Linux is designed to fit a full Linux GUI Desktop onto a 50MB CD – or even a USB thumbdrive, or a PCMCIA card. It is designed in fact as a Live CD – meaning, you boot from the CD (or USB drive or PCMCIA card) and can use Linux without having to lose your normal operating system, and without having to make changes to your hard drive. This is all well and good, but useless for me. The Libretto doesn’t have a CD drive, or a USB port, and can’t boot from PCMCIA cards. And anyways, I wanted linux on the hard drive as my primary / only operating system, not as a sampler CD.

I had a spare laptop hard drive that was ready to go – an 800MB Toshiba drive that came with another old Toshiba. I partitioned it as /dev/hda1 with 500MB, /dev/hda2 with 100MB, and /dev/hda3 with 128MB. The first partition would be mounted as /, the second partition would be mounted as /home, and the third partition would be the swap space. This left almost 100MB of unused space on the hard drive. This is one of those little things about the Toshiba Librettos – they have a hardware / bios Hibernate function. If it ever goes into Hibernate, it will copy the contents of RAM onto the hard drive, starting at the end. So for 64MB of RAM, you need to leave at least the last 64MB of hard drive unused. If you don’t… the BIOS will still copy the RAM into the last 64MB of hard drive, happily overwriting whatever you have in there. It’s a “feature”, not a “bug” ;-). Anyhow, just something to keep in mind: always leave at least 64MB unused at the end of your hard drive, on a Libretto 100.

Anyhow, Damn Small Linux of course comes with tools to allow you to install it off the Live CD and onto a partition of your hard drive. Naturally, I didn’t read all the instructions and details. I got as far as finding the name of the tool, and that’s as far as I read.

Installing to a hard drive was easy enough, and before long my Xubuntu distro was archived and removed to an external drive, and Damn Small Linux was my only OS. That’s when I ran into trouble.

As near as I can tell (I still haven’t read all the documentation) the hard drive install uses the same methodology as the Live-CD, to save settings and files and configurations. In other words, any changes made during a session are rounded up and archived somewhere, then when rebooting, the archive is copied back onto your home directory etc and things pick up where you left off. This is the only way to do it with a live CD — you can’t make changes to a burned disk on-the-fly like you do to a hard drive filesystem. But on a hard drive, it’s really not necessary IMHO. It also confused the heck out of me. See, I saw all these files and things that I didn’t want or need, didn’t think they were important, so I deleted them all….

And every time I rebooted, all my settings were gone, networking didn’t work, it just kept reverting to the defaults. GRRRRR! Well, I’m no Linux guru, but I’ve been using it for 8 years now, and I do know my way around some of it. I found the scripts in /etc/rc#.d were my problem. I deleted them, and deleted the stuff in /opt and the other files that did the archiving game with the settings. Then I added my own bootlocal script, to ensure that when the booting was finished, everything was set up the way I wanted it. And, voilla! It’s a Damn Small Linux distribution, but it’s not quite Damn Small Linux any more.

Along the way, I found more documentation and got a few more things working right, like apt-get and all the perl modules. I’ve got my /home directory on its own partition (always good for easy backups and to keep /home safe if you need to re-install the OS or whatever). My wireless lan card works great. My SSH daemon starts automatically. Next, I will look into getting a build environment working, with gcc and make and all those goodies.

Another great resource are the Damn Small Linux Forums – a bulletin board where thousands of other DSL users post questions and answeres to various problems, tips, and tricks.

In the next installment, I’ll cover some customizations to the GUI, tweaks that I’ve done to make it just exactly the way I like it.

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