The following method has been written for use with the Slackware Linux distribution. It assumes some familiarity with it's installation. The installer will also need access to a working Linux system of any distribution. It also assumes the destination system has 4 to 6 megs ram. More powerful systems can use this method also but you will probably be able to find a faster easier way. It is not intended to be used by first time installers or by people new to Linux. Only issues specific to the use of a zip drive as source media will be covered here.
I have an OLD 486/20 slc with a 120 meg hd, 4 megs ram and a 2400 baud modem that I wanted to run Linux on. It has no cdrom drive or pcmcia connectivity, and will never see a network card (parallel port style). There is nothing left that can be upgraded on this unit.
Linux has been at the cutting edge from the start but also breathes new life into some older 386 and 486 hardware. The documentation says "386 with 2 megs ram no math coprocessor" but try to find a distribution that will do it today. Slackware can be placed on a 4 meg machine with some work and a prayer. The following system greatly reduces the work. Prayer always helps, even with the best of systems.
I've used the following system with 3 other laptops, and one 386 desktop machine. The lamest being a 386 with 4 megs ram & 60 meg HD no math coprocessor. While this system works well I'd like to be able to do similar tricks with Debian, RedHat, Caldera Lite, and some of the other popular distributions offering more choice to Linux users I help this way.
Installing from cdrom or Ethernet are the methods of choice when available. In cases where floppy disk install appears to be the only choice a parallel port zip drive offers numerous advantages. These include better speed than a floppy disk, and fewer disk changes. In addition on systems with minimal ram "6 megs. or less" the ability to install a swap file on the root disk uncomplicates the install greatly by freeing you from the need to creat one on the hard disk before running setup. When installing Slackware the swap file allows installers to choose the color.gz root disk or text.gz. The color.gz is not recommended for floppy based installs on machines with such limited resources. With a zip disk you may also produce an emergency boot disk during the initial install, by freeing the first floppy drive. Something not possible during a normal floppy based install on systems of this type.
This method has been used with Slackware Ver's. 3.1, through 3.4 A full Slackware install requires 2 zip disk's not counting source packages if they are desired. You will need one parallel port zip drive & cables, and a 1.44 meg boot disk. Pencil and paper are optional for making a few notes during install.
At least two systems are required to use this install method. The first (host) system is used to prepare the installation media and must contain a working Linux system. The second will be the target system. Once the media has been prepared it can be used to install to as many target systems as you like. I work from cdrom but you can down load your distribution from the Internet if you have a fast enough connection. For me this is not practical.
let (floppy) represent the path to and directory you mount your 1.44 meg floppy disk on. let (zip) represent the path to and directory you mount your zip disk on. let (cdrom) represent the path to and directory you mount your cdrom on. let (verx.x) represent the distribution version you are installing.
If you down load your disk images please let (cdrom)/slakware the path and directory to those images. My parallel port zip drive shows up on my system as
I've never seen it come up as any thing else unless I run fdisk on it and change the partition table, creating more than one partition on the disk. Then I always get corrupt disk error messages when I try to use it. You may however mark the partition type 83 Linux etc... if you wish with out trouble. You also need to know the device names of your cdrom and 1.44 meg floppy drives. Mine are
I'll use my device names, you use yours ;-|)
/dev/hdc cdrom /dev/fd0 1.44 meg floppy
About Slackware and slakware (note the missing c in slakware). Slackware is the name of the overall distribution and slakware is the name of the directory where Patrick Volkerding places the stable "not experimental or developmental" packages for installation. Whenever I'm writing about slakware I'm writing about the directory.
Linux Installation and Getting Started by Matt Welsh
If you are having trouble accessing your zip drive please see the Linux
ZIP drive mini-HOWTO by Grant Guenther
When you have completed your install I can not recommend strongly enough that you work through the
Small-Memory mini-HOWTO by Todd Burgess
I also recommend the LOWMEM.TXT document from the Slackware documentation on your cdrom or Slackware ftp site. This document discribes a system that eleminates many of the difficulties discribed in that document.