/ jansonius / scientific software / linux

BasicLinux


Introduction

BasicLinux version 2.1 is a small Linux distribution, based on Slackware 7.1. Most of the documentation and support comes from the BasicLinux Mailing List, and a lot of information can be found in the archives of this list. I thought, however, that a somewhat more structured presentation of this documentation could be helpful. For that reason I wrote this page and the installation instructions as presented below. This page also provides the software needed. A computer with 32 Mb RAM is sufficient to run BasicLinux with all applications as presented here except for OpenOffice: this huge office suite requires at least 64 Mb; 128 Mb recommended.

BasicLinux (BL) has been designed to keep old hardware running. The first version of BL (BL1) was happy with a 386 with 8 Mb RAM and the latest version (BL3) has similar system requirements. Hence, at first sight, combining BL with Opera and OpenOffice seems to be conflicting with the philosophy behind BL. Old hardware, however, is evolving. In 2008, old hardware, defined as hardware no longer bought or sold by a secondhand computer shop, is a 120-200 MHz Pentium with 32-64 Mb RAM and 1-2 Gb HD. This is, with some RAM added, the perfect "BL2 with Opera and OpenOffice" computer! In 2010, even old hardware will be able to run more modern Linux distributions. Currently, the main reason to keep this page in the air is for educational purposes: if you have successfully dissected an old Slackware version, you understand Linux.


Basic functionality

Here, everything is presented to run BasicLinux 2.1 with Opera and OpenOffice.

The 21 Mb zip-file also includes PDF viewer XPDF (version 0.90; for some PDF files a more up to date viewer like PSVIEW for DOS will be needed), image viewer XV and GhostScript (for printing). Opera 9.27 can be used as an alternative but more recent versions of Opera (9.5+) are incompatible with BasicLinux. Likewise, do not download a more recent version of OpenOffice: OpenOffice 2.0+ cannot be used with BasicLinux.


Extensions of BL2

Below, several possible extensions of BL2 are described. For most extensions, one or more packages have to be downloaded from either this page or a Slackware 7.1 mirror, or both. A list with Slackware mirrors that still support 7.1 and other old (but not outdated!) versions can be found here.


1. Fortune

Also missing Slackware's nerd philosopher at login? Download bsdgames.tgz from any Slackware 7.1 mirror from /slakware/y1, install it using installpkg, and add a single line at the end of /etc/profile using pico: /usr/games/fortune.


2. Additional fonts in OpenOffice

To improve compatibility with windows, additional fonts may be helpful in OpenOffice. Download Courier New, Arial and Times here, copy the downloaded archive file to /opt/oo115/share/fonts/truetype, cd to that subdirectory and unpack the archive:

tar -xf ttf.tar

3. Beyond VGA (640x480x16) mode

In the basic installation instructions, video mode was limited to VGA (640x480x16). This was done because VGA is the only video mode that is easy to install and runs on virtually any computer. Since the graphical software used here (Opera, OpenOffice, XPDF, XV) can be used in VGA mode, there is no real need to replace the default Xserver (XVG16). If you prefer a higher resolution, more colours or faster performance, however, another Xserver has to be installed.

Before upgrading, make a backup of the Xserver configuration file /etc/XF86Config. This makes it possible to return to VGA mode in the case installing another Xserver appeared to be unsuccessful. In that case simply copy the backup file to /etc/XF86Config and re-install the VGA Xserver xvg16.tgz using installpkg (BasicLinux uses the most recently installed Xserver).

Before another Xserver can be installed and configured, some information regarding your computer has to be collected. First, how your mouse is connected (COM1, COM2 or PS/2). Second, some specifications of your monitor: maximal resolution (for example, 1024x768), horizontal sync rate (for example, 24-60 kHz) and vertical refresh rate (for example, 40-75 Hz). Finally, information regarding your video card, including memory size (Pictview for DOS together with SuperProbe from within BasicLinux can be used to uncover these details).

Now look (from within BasicLinux) in /usr/lib/X11/Cards to figure out which Xserver corresponds to your video card. Download the appropriate Xserver (for example, xsvga.tgz or xs3.tgz) from any Slackware 7.1 mirror from /slakware/x1 and install it using installpkg. If your card is not in the database, finding the right Xserver (if any exists) may be pretty difficult. An educated guess is to try xsvga.tgz. Alternatively, stay with VGA.

Now it is time to start xf86config. This utility helps you writing a new /etc/XF86Config (note: the utility name is in lowercase; the configuration file name has uppercase characters as well). Carefully read and follow all hints given during running xf86config. One hint may be misleading: it is suggested that all modes that cannot be supported will be automatically skipped by the server. It seems necessary, however, to change the modes for all four colour depths to (at most) the maximal resolution that is supported by both all four colour depths and your monitor. While changing this, it is most convenient to make the virtual screen size equal to the physical screen size.

If all this has been finished, type startx to start X and keep your fingers crossed. Type Ctrl-Alt-Backspace if anything goes wrong (some "trial and error" may be needed before /etc/XF86Config is perfect). If you end up with a virtual screen that is larger than the physical screen (that is, if you see a blue screen without any toolbar), then move the mouse to search for the borders of the virtual screen or click the right mouse button (or type Ctrl-Esc) to activate the menu.


4. Flash-Player

One of the most useless extensions of the web: the adobe flash-player. However, sometimes you need this plug-in to access a site. The last version of the flash-player that can be used with BL2 is version 7. Download this version here, rename the downloaded file into libflashplayer.so, and copy it to /opt/opera854/plugins/. The flash-player can be turned on and off via: Tools => Quick preferences (F12) => Enable plug-ins (suggested default: off, especially in the case of a dial-up connection). In Opera 8.54, Motif needs to be installed before the flash-player can be used (in 9.27 the essential parts of Motif have been included). Download Motif from any Slackware 7.1 mirror from /contrib/openmotif2.1.30 (7 Mb) and install it using installpkg. Note: the flash-player does not function in VGA mode.


5. (La)TeX

Download two packages, tetex.tgz and tex_bin.tgz, from any Slackware 7.1 mirror from /slakware/t1, install them using installpkg, add /usr/share/texmf/bin to the path in /etc/profile using pico, and reboot. Note: (La)TeX uses a lot of disk space and continues to grow after installation (fonts are generated when used for the first time). In DOS, ChiWriter can be used for writing scientific documents or LaTeX for DOS.


6. GV (PostScript viewer)

Obligatory when using (La)TeX; may also be used as a PDF viewer. Download four packages from any Slackware 7.1 mirror: gs_x11.tgz and gv.tgz from /slakware/xap1, libc5.tgz from /slakware/a9 and libc5x.tgz from /slakware/x1, and install them using installpkg.


7. Text editor

The default editor in BL2 is a stripped-down version of pico. The full version of pico can be downloaded here (extracted from/slakware/n8/pine.tgz). This single file should be copied to /usr/bin/pico. Alternatively, an editor like mcedit can be used. This editor supports (La)TeX syntax. Download mc.tgz from any Slackware 7.1 mirror from /slakware/ap1 and install it using installpkg (note: the functionality of both pico and mcedit is better in text mode than from within X).


8. Fortran and C compiler (G77/GCC)

Download from any Slackware 8.1 mirror binutils.tgz, gcc.tgz, g77.tgz and make.tgz from /slackware/d and glibc.tgz from /slackware/l, and install them using installpkg.


9. USB support

The default kernel of BasicLinux, 2.2.16, doesn't provide USB support. To use a USB memory stick, a 2.4 kernel can be used temporarily (as network access and printing do not work with this kernel, the 2.4 kernel cannot be used as default kernel). Installation instructions and software (kernel 2.4.31 and three modules) can be found here (0.8 Mb). A digital camera supporting the mass-storage protocol or any other device supporting this protocol can be connected to BL2 in this way.


latest update: 4-7-2009

DOS windows