Slackware 14.1 is released!

A good friend mentioned that Slackware 14.1 was just released.

So I thought I’d take this time to instead install SLS 0.98-1 on Qemu.

Now this was the first version of Linux that I actually started to use.  The 0.11 stuff was really a pain to install Minix then copy over enough linux to get it working.  Instead SLS gave us a more usable distro to be installed on a machine with nothing.  And thanks to locating a download set was trivial.

Back in late 1992 I downloaded the zip files from CCUG at a blistering 2400 baud.  I remember it took a week to get the A, B and C series.  And I had to get a new box of 5 1/4″ High Density diskettes for the install (and another two for my MS-DOS / Windows 3.1 backup).

And just as back then, these zip files are missing files.  INSTALL.END is missing from the A & B sets, which confuses the installer.  The kernel source is linked to /usr1 which by default doesn’t exist and will cause that part to fail unless you use a virtual terminal (alt+f2) to remove /root/usr/src/linux so the installer will create the path itself after the installation of the A set.

SLS 0.98-1
SLS 0.98-1

Once it’s installed, it is pretty bare.  vi, more, less, grep, and make are not in the install set, so it’s kind of difficult to move around.  Emacs is there if you want it.  As ultra primitive as this set is, it does install on an empty machine, which for the time was a big accomplishment.

One cool feature of this installset is that you aren’t tied to Minix’s filesystem, but you can use the new and exciting extfs, or Extended File system.

While the default kernel doesn’t see my emulated ne2000, as at this point the only supported NIC is the Western Digital 8003.


As mentioned in we.c it was heavily based on the 386bsd code, although Linux used it’s own TCP/IP implementation, and not importing the Net/1 code.

I would imagine there are patches out there that’ll  no doubt add in NE2000 support.

Also included was a very primative dosemu version 0.3, that can sort of run some MS-DOS programs.

dosemu on linux

More complicated stuff like Qbasic will crash it out.  Although with a bit of work I did get MS-DOS 5 to boot from it’s “virtual hard disk”.  It really is more so amazing it works as well as it does at this point.

For anyone feeling crazy, here is my installed disk image, and here is the ‘fixed’ install diskettes.

Linux the old

My first experience with Linux was with SLS, or Soft Land Systems. It was the first pre-packed Linux system for those of us who didn’t have a Minix system to cross build from. Although Taunenbaum saw this as a draw back, like Linus many of us had 386 computers, and wanted to exploit their power. Many of us were sickened by the shattered hope that was the 286, which provided protected mode, abet in 64k chunks. The 386 offered the holy grail, or a 4 gigabyte address space! No more offset games.

At the time the closest one could hope in terms of a personal Unix was SCO Xenix, which with the developer packages was prohibitively expensive, or Coherent. Coherent was a clean room re-implementation of Unix version 7 ( ).

I’m going to use Qemu, again because of it’s cross platform nature, and it’s ability to emulate the NE2000. One can only hope one day that VMWare or Virtual PC would allow some kind of interface for us to ‘hack’ emulated hardware into their infrastructure…..

Anyways first let’s create a 200mb disk

Qemu-image create –f qcow sls.disk 200M

Don’t laugh, 200mb back then was a ‘big deal’… Really. Mine was SCSI, and probably weighed some 7lb.

Unzip your sls distro somewhere accessible from your Qemu tree. I’m just going to stuff mine under a sls directory. During the install we will need a boot disk, simply copy any one of the files to ‘boot’. We’ll touch on it later. To boot from the floppy I’m going to issue:

qemu -L . -hda sls\sls.disk -m16 -net nic -net user -fda sls\a1.3 -boot a

At the LILO prompt simply press enter. Then you’ll be informed
Press to see SVGA-modes available, to continue….

Press space. Early Linux kernels had this annoying ‘feature’ compiled in.. I know, I think I’m the only person that doesn’t like custom fonts, nor do I like directory colors.

At the login prompt, login as root then run the fdisk command. The keystrokes for creating a primary Linux partition is as follows:

Now we are going to make a smallish swap partition.

Now we need to change its type to swap.

It’s just a byte flag, but each operating system selects a flag to identify itself to others, a marker of what is where. Before emulation on dual boot systems this was a “big deal”… However now dedicating a virtual machine to an entire OS takes out the complexity that plagued so many users so long ago….

Let’s save the changes type typing in ‘w’.

We are then told to reboot the system. Type in ‘sync’ a few times, then close qemu & restart it with the same flags.

Now we can login as ‘install’. We can use the color screen, so enter ‘y’. We are going to do the brave thing, and use floppy disk images. That’s option 1. The floppy images are 3 ½” so that’s option #2.

Now we need to identify the root & swap partitions. Select #1, then type in /dev/hda1. It will want to format it, so let it. Next select #2 for the swap, and type in /dev/hda2 .
Now we can select #7 to commence installation.

To get the full experience we are going to install the full thing… 100MB of it.. Option #4. We don’t want to be prompted we simply want everything that SLS has to offer, so answer ‘n’.

You will be prompted for a2-a4 Don’t forget in Qemu it’s ctrl-alt-2 for the runtime config, and you just issue:

change fda sls\a2

and so on for the rest of the disks. Then ctrl-alt-1 to go back to the main screen.

While this may seem tedious it’s better & faster than the real thing. Trust me!

Once X11 finishes unpacking, place in the boot disk, and let it write to it. Next feel free to preset the video mode to -1. We don’t have a modem, so you can answer no. Next we’ll allow the install to mark /dev/hda1 as the active partition. Just press enter for the question about dos partitions. Pick a snazzy hostname. The default softland works just fine. We have no patch disks, so you can just enter ‘n’ and press enter.

Phew we have just installed SLS! Press enter!

After that you can boot up into Linux 0.99.15g/SLS 1.0 . The best that 1994 has to offer.

Before we leave for now, lets get X-11 rolling. Login as root, no password, and then run syssetup. Choose 5,2,6,0. This configures the basic VGA server, a PS/2 mouse & exits the basic program. Running ‘startx’ Should get you into a really old X-11. No Gnome/KDE here! The mouse however acts erradictly. Ctrl-alt-backspace will bring you back to the prompt. I’ll see if I can figure this out later…

But for now that covers a basic install. Next up we’ll do some networking, and a game perhaps….