Installing Linux on a Zip Disk

First of all, the kernel on the Debian Rescue Disk includes the PPA driver, which makes a parallel port ZIP drive look like a SCSI device. Of course, if you have a SCSI ZIP drive and a supported SCSI card, the ZIP drive will look like a SCSI device as well.

I know nothing about IDE ZIP drives, but can't imagine that one wouldn't be detected along with the other IDE drives (maybe as a floppy, however). So these instructions should be useful for IDE removable drives as well.

Before booting the Rescue Disk, insert a ZIP disk that you're going to reformat and use for your Linux system into the drive.

When the Rescue Disk boots up, watch the screen to make sure the ZIP drive is detected. If things scroll by too fast, wait until you get the first prompt and then use the left Shift key and the Page Up key to page back up through all the messages and examine them at your leisure.

And yes, this is a standard Linux feature, and a damn useful one, too.

If the ZIP drive was detected, make note of the device it was detected as. This will most commonly be /dev/sda. Either write down or remember the device name.

After you go through the Color Display and Keyboard Configuration screens, scroll down the menu and Execute a Shell. When you get the shell prompt, type

fdisk /dev/sda (or whatever device was detected)

and press Enter. Now fdisk is an old fashioned hair shirt style unix program, so your screen won't be cluttered up with a lot of useless information. ;-) Press m (remember menu) for a list of commands.

The first one you want is p for print the partition table. If the ZIP disk you're using was formatted for DOS, it will almost surely have a single primary partition, partition 4. Why 4? Who knows? It's not important in this context, because you are going to use the d for delete key to delete ALL partitions currently on that disk.

Once there are no partitions on the disk (check with the p key), create a new partition (n key). You want a primary partition and it should be partition number 1. Select 1 as the first cylinder, and the number it shows you as the last cylinder.

Use the p key again to see what you've done, and if you have a

type 83 Linux Native partition

using all available disk space, you're right on track.

Now use the w key to write the table and exit, or the q key to exit without writing the new partition table.

When you get back to the shell prompt, type


and press Enter to return to the installation program.

You want to Do Without a Swap Partition (because you have nowhere to put one), and as long as you have at least 8MB of RAM, this system will run just fine without one.

Next you'll want to Initialize a Linux Partition. Select the partition you just created on the ZIP disk and then proceed with the installation just by following the mainstream instuctions for Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.0.

When you get to Install Kernel Building Tools and Kernel Source you can go ahead and install the tools, but DO NOT attempt to install the kernel source, as it simply will not fit on that ZIP disk.

This is, however, room to Set Up Internet Mail and Usenet News so you can go ahead and follow those instructions if you wish.

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Last modified: 29-Apr-99 by Pann McCuaig.

Copyright 1999 by Pann McCuaig. All rights reserved.