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This section describes the choices available, which options are practical, which ones I decided on and why.
The best tool for this is a mini-Linux. There's a wide selection of small Linuces available on the net, but most of them won't boot in 4mb RAM. I found two that will:
This gives the option of either using SmallLinux to create the partitions and muLinux to copy the root partition or using muLinux to do the whole job. Since I had two laptops I tried both.
It didn't take much time to choose Slackware. Apart from the fact that I like it but haven't used it much and want to learn more, I considered the following points:
Version 7.0 was the latest version when I tried this so that's what I used.
But I don't like Slackware!
You don't have to use it. I can't answer for all the distributions but I know that Debian, Red Hat and SuSE offer a range of installation methods and have an "expert" installation procedure
Does Debian do any other kind?which can be used here. Most of the steps in this document would apply to any of the distributions without change.
If you haven't used the expert method with your preferred distribution before, do a trial run on a simple desktop machine to get the feel of it and to explore the options it offers.
The tools I had to hand dictated a PCMCIA network install. I will point out where steps differ for the other methods. Whichever method you choose, you need to have a higher-spec machine available - even if only to create the disks for a floppy install.
This procedure requires at least two Linux Native partitions in addition to a Swap partition. Since one of the ext2 partitions will be in use as temporary root during the installation it will not be available as a target partition and so should be small - though no smaller than 5mb. It makes sense to create for this a partition that you will re-use as /home after installation is complete. Another option would be to re-create it as a DOS partition to give you a dual boot laptop.
How complex a layout?
There isn't room to get too clever here. There is an argument for having a single ext2 partition and using a swap file to avoid wasting space but I would strongly urge creating a separate partition for /usr. If you have only one partition and something goes wrong with it you may well be faced with a complete re-installation. Separating /usr and having a small partition for / makes disaster recovery a more likely prospect. On both machines I created 4 partitions in total:
In addition, the Aero uses hda3 for a 2mb DOS partition containing configuration utilities. See the Aero FAQs for details.
The full glibc libraries alone would nearly fill the hard disks so there's no question of building a development machine. It looks as if a minimal X installation can be squeezed in but I'm sure it would crawl and I don't want it anyway. I decide to install the following (for a full listing see Appendix A):
This selection matches the kind of machine described in What use is a small laptop?.
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