Floppy Linux

A floppy Linux boots from a single floppy (sometimes more) and runs either from that floppy or from a ram disk it created. These are generally used for small utility disks, or firewalls.

Midnight Commander through a Parallel Port: MC-Link

Laplink makes a tool that allows you to connect two computers with a parallel port cable (or other connections, in later versions), boot each machine from a floppy diskette, and exchange files between the two computers. It has a nice interface that is divided into two columns, one listing the files and directories on the remote computer, the other listing the files and directories locally. If one wishes to regularly synchronize files between a number of Windows or DOS computers, or perform quick "cloning" of installations between computers, this tool is excellent.

However, Laplink does cost money, and you may not make improvements to it and sell or give them away. Also, Laplink doesn't allow you to transfer files between Linux hard drives, at least not easily (it may be possible to add ltools to the laplink DOS floppy - if you have done such a thing and have written up instructions, I would like to hear about it).

I built a floppy based Linux that allows you to do the basic functionality of the Laplink DOS diskette. It boots the machine and automatically goes into Midnight Commander, allows you to set up a plip (parallel port IP) connection from a menu in MC. It automatically launches the MC server, and has shortcuts to make the file listing display the remote computers files. I call it "mc-link."

Note: MC-Link fits on a single 1.72 MB floppy diskette, but not all older computers will boot from that, so I have also added a version that has two 1.44 MB disks.

Escape Pod Linux

Free tools to create an ISO image for burning to a CD-R drive do not exist as of this date (10 March 2003; please email me if you know of such software). As a result, I created a single floppy Linux that allows you to mount your DOS disks and make backup CDs of what is on those disks. It is very minimal, containing fdisk, mkisofs, and cdrecord. You must have enough spare space on your hard drives to hold the image of the CD (unless your computer has so much RAM that it can hold a CD image in a ram disk). I call this floppy disk Linux "Escape Pod Linux" because it allows you to pull out your precious data from a DOS or Windows computer which is "sinking" for some reason.

Future work: a general guide to making and modifying floppy linuxes.

Robert G. Ristroph
Last modified: Wed Nov 29 17:01:15 CST 2006