Last Updated on September 30, 2010 by Dave Farquhar
The presidency again. The story that won’t die. I thought it was over! When will it end? This is the most ridiculous recount story I’ve heard yet.
New adventures in Linux. I was trying last night to make a Linux gateway out of a single-floppy distribution for the first time. I looked at a number of distributions and finally settled on floppyfw. Why that one in particular, I never decided completely.
Gatermann and I put a minimalist system together: a vintage 1994 Socket 5 Pentium mobo, a P75, 24 MB of 72-pin SIMMs, a floppy drive, a 2 MB PCI Trident video card, and two Bay Netgear 310TX NICs in a beat-up case. Neither of us normally names our computers, but looking at it, we decided this computer’s name was most definitely going to be Mir.
It booted up and seemed to detect the two cards, most of the time. Once it told me eth0 was sitting at IRQ 149 and had a MAC address of FF FF FF FF FF FF, which disturbed me greatly for obvious reasons. Fortunately, this board’s AMI BIOS allows you to manually assign resources to the PCI slots, so I went in and did that: PCI slot #1 got IRQ 9, up through PCI slot #4, which got IRQ 12. That gave me some consistency, but I never did get it to successfully ping any address except 127.0.0.1, the loopback address.
We may be dealing with a hardware problem. We’ll tackle it again soon, possibly with a more complete distribution. I have no shortage of small hard drives. I also have no shortage of other parts.
These projects never go smoothly but I always get them running eventually.
Picking a single-floppy distribution. The big thing is finding one that supports the hardware you have. There’s not enough room on a floppy disk to support every kitchen sink and hairdryer that you might want to use in a Linux box, so any old distribution might not work with your hardware. When Steve DeLassus and I were making a gateway out of his 486SX, we couldn’t find any distribution that didn’t require a math coprocessor, for instance. (There are some now.) If you’re using NICs based on the DEC Tulip chipset or NE2000 clones, you shouldn’t have any trouble, but if you’ve got exotic NICs, not every distribution will support them.
Plus, some of these projects have to be built under Linux. Gatermann doesn’t have a working Linux box at the moment. Others build on any old PC running DOS or Windows. Each distro has its own specialty, so you just have to find one that matches your hardware.
This search over at Freshmeat can give you a headstart if you’re interested in this kind of thing.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.