I wanted to build a small-as-possible Linux for the purpose of creating a lightweight NAS a few years back. I even downloaded the uclibc development tools and started compiling for the purpose of doing it. Then I got distracted.

I guess it doesn’t matter. I think NASLite had beaten me to the punch anyway.Here’s how it works. You download the appropriate floppy for the network type (SMB for Windows networks, NFS for Unix) and network card you have. You find an old PC. As long as it has PCI slots, it’ll work. Drop in the NIC if there isn’t one there already, and then drop in as many as four IDE hard drives. (The disk will reformat the drives if there’s anything there, so make sure they’re new or scratch drives beforehand.) If the BIOS doesn’t support the drives because they’re too big, disable them in the BIOS. Don’t worry, Linux controls the drives directly so you don’t need the BIOS. Boot off the floppy, and it joins the network and you’ve got a bunch of disk space for the cost of the drives and possibly the NIC.

Nice, huh?

This isn’t suitable for use in most corporate environments since it creates wide-open storage (it might work well as a big file dump, so long as people realize there’s no security there, but I’ve learned the hard way that users tend not to listen, or at least not remember, when they’re told such things). For home networks it’s fine, unless you’ve got wireless, in which case anyone who can get into your wireless network would also be able to get to your NAS.

Even then, it’s useful if what you want is a central repository for programs like Irfanview and Mozilla Firefox that you install on all your PCs and want to keep handy.

At any rate, if you’re creative and careful and have a Linux box and know how to use the dd command (or have a fairly up-to-date copy of WinImage) to copy a 1.72-meg disk image to a floppy, this is a useful tool for you.