Someone save *me* from that laptop…

So, this laptop was a pain in the ass. It can only boot from the SONY PCMCIA cdrom (that I don’t have), or its USB floppy or the internal hard drive. Nothing else is supported. Firewire/USB external CDROMS are not supported to be BIOS-bootable…

So, I tried to install Arch Linux using floppies. Too bad that the Linux kernel is a piece of shit that won’t support reading a second floppy disk! The kernel panics as it can’t find the device back. There is a 5-line patch for this ( 2.4.26.patch), out and about since 2001, but only Debian and SuSE used it. It’s LAUGHABLE for this patch to not be in the kernel all these years by default. Result: no other distro can boot with more than one floppy disks via USB! Not even Slackware.

So, in order to install Arch Linux, I had to devise a plan:
1. Load the Debian 4 boot disks (boot.img, root, cd-drivers, net-drivers.img) and place the Sarge netinst.iso on my external USB CD drive.
2. With Debian create the partition scheme as I would like it to be, both using ext2fs: hda1=700 MB, hda2=5.7 GB (the laptop has a 6.4 GB disk)
3. Install Debian on the small 700 MB partition.
4. Boot to Debian and get to the net. Install via apt-get: reiserfsprogs, ssh.
5. Format the hda2 as reiserfs (mkreiserfs /dev/hda2)
6. Go to *another*, normal desktop PC. Load the Arch CDRom, create two partitions: /dev/hda1=swap, /dev/hda2=/ and install Arch on /dev/hda2.
7. Get to the internet with Arch, install via pacman the openssh package. Edit the /etc/ssh/sshd-config file to point to the right port and IP address, and then add a “sshd=ALL” on your /etc/hosts.allow file. Start the sshd deamon via “/etc/rc.d/sshd start”.
8. Go back to the laptop. Mount its /dev/hda2 under /mnt/arch/ and then cd inside that directory. Then type:
rsync –exclude=”/proc/kcore” -e ssh -av root@ .
(change the IP address to the one corresponding on your Arch machine, type “ifconfig” if you don’t know which one it is)
9. Now wait for about 15 minutes, as the files are copied over.
10. After it has been installed on your laptop, “cd ..” back to the previous directory, and type “chroot arch”.
11. Now, setup grub with grub-install or, if that doesn’t work (mine didn’t work because Debian’s grub was already in the MBR), use lilo (type “lilo”). Lilo works.
12. “exit” from chroot, reboot your Debian. When you get to the boot manager, it now only shows Arch. Load it.
13. Now, you are inside Arch, running on the laptop. We now need to create a swap for Arch.
14. Do a “mkswap /dev/hda1″ and then type “swapon” (this smokes your debian installation). Make sure the swap is listed once on /etc/fstab too (remove any extra duplicated lines if there — that’s an arch bug).
15. That’s it. Now Arch is installed the laptop! Slackware can be installed via a similar way too.

It took me overall about 3 hours to come up and realize the devised plan… Of course, none of that crap should have happened. If the Linux kernel didn’t have the USB bug, I would have installed Arch directly via the floppies. All hail open source.

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