MC-Link Linux


All you need in order to use MC-Link Linux is this 1.722 MB floppy image: mc-link-1.1.img.

You have to format a floppy diskette to 1.722 MB. On Linux you do this with the command "fdformat /dev/fd0u1722". Then write the image file directly to the diskette with the command "dd if=mc-link-1.1.img of=/dev/fd0u1722".

I am not sure how to format a floppy to 1.722 MB when using windows. However, once you have done so, you can write the image file to the floppy using the free tool rawrite -- available from DOS and other Microsoft systems.

Should you wish to rebuild or modify MC-Link you may wish to download separately the following files, which are on the diskette image above:

To build an MC-Link floppy, format a floppy as above, then make a DOS file system on it. On Linux you can do this with the command "mformat a:" or with the command "mkdosfs /dev/fd0u1722". Then copy the files to the diskette, either by mounting the diskette and using "cp" or by using the command "mcopy". Finally, you must run the command "syslinux -s /dev/fd0u1722" to make it bootable.

Some older computers will not boot from a 1.72 MB floppy. In such a case, you can download these two separate 1.44 MB floppy diskettes, and boot from the boot disk, and then put in the root disk when it asks. This will get you the same system as the single 1.72 MB diskette.


Connect a laplink style parallel cable between the parallel ports of your two computers. Put the disk in one computer, and boot it up; then take it out and put it in the other computer, and boot it. (You can make two copies of the disk and boot both at the same time if you do this a lot, it will save time. If you use the 1.44 diskettes, boot the boot disk first, then put in the root disk when it asks, and repeat on the other computer. ) Midnight commander will start automatically. (This is true even if you switch to another terminal with ALT-F2, because MC is started from the profile script in the shell. You can switch to another terminal and exit MC if you need a regular prompt.)

First mount your hard disks. If you press F2 a menu will come up (the menu should come up automatically when MC starts), and one of the choices is to try to mount the first four partitions of all IDE hardrives on appropriately named directories in /mnt; it will pause afterwards until you press return. You should switch the highlight to the left hand column (hit TAB if the highlight is in the right hand column), and highlight the /mnt entry, and press enter. You can similarly visit the sub-directories to see the mounted contents of your hard disks. You have to mount the disks on both computers, and you have to be at the computer to mount the disks -- you can't do it remotely.

On one computer press F2 again and select "Set up parallel network as machine One." On the other computer press F2 and select "Set up parallel network as machine Two." You have to set up one computer as "One" and the other one as "Two" or else the connection between them won't work. After running the menu option, MC will again wait for you to press enter; a message on the screen will remind you that you can easily get to the remote computer's hard disk by pressing control-/ (press and hold down the "Cntrl" key, press the "/" key, and release both). You have to physically be at each computer to set up networking, you can't do it through the wire.

When you press Cntrl-/ you get a "hotlist", and from the menu one of the things you can select is "remote hard drive". This is /mnt that holds the mounted hard drive on the other computer.

At this point you can copy files back and forth using MC. You may have to read help or tutorial files about MC on the internet or on a more complete Linux system than can fit on a floppy. However, knowing that if you highlight a file and press F5 it will prompt you for where you to copy it, should allow you to get started. The best way to learn MC is to look at the help file on a full linux system; this floppy system was small to hold the help document. The mailing lists described on the Midnightcommander homepage are good places to ask questions.

You may send me email ( with questions.

Known Bugs and Limitations

I modified the source to the mcserv program so that any password works with any account; I did this because it kept giving a bad password error. So don't copy that executable and use it as a server on a computer connected to the internet.

I am not sure how to rebuild the libc on the floppy from source. The libc was copied (along with file system layout) from Nehal Mistry's PAUD, who copied it from Andrew Clausen's parted boot disk, which is a Linux boot floppy that allows you to run the GNU Project's partition editor. I have to track that down so I can include the configure line and compile commands in my rebuilding instructions.

The script to mount disks could be made smarter, especially if I could fit a version of fdisk on there.

How I did it

I started by trying modify PAUD. I ran out of room on that disk and started making 1.722 MB floppies, which meant I had to switch to using syslinux to boot instead of writing the kernel and initial ramdisk to the floppy with dd. It took me quite a while to get a pingable plip connection working. After that I tried several different ftp servers unsuccessfully, and went through a number of different versions of midnightcommander; I tried older versions because I thought they would be smaller and easier to put on the floppy, but carefully configuring the latest version turned out to be the best way.

These instructions should explain how to re-create this particular version.

How you can modify it

Suggestions for changing kernel, boot up script, adding and removing programs.

To make the two 1.44 MB floppies, I did the following commands:

I figured out the rdev commands by reading the file Documentation/ramdisk.txt in the linux kernel source, version 2.4.20.

Robert G. Ristroph
Last modified: Sun Sep 7 01:52:30 CDT 2003