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Subject: Looking for a FAQ
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1991 19:25:43 +0200
From: Linus Benedict Torvalds <email@example.com>
Right ho, the subject says it all ... Linux could definitely do with a
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions for all you who haven't been on the net
all your life :-). And as I'm sure anybody who has read my "help-files"
would agree, I'm not the best possible person to write it. Thus a new
project: getting a FAQ done with help from the linux-activists.
I've talked (yes, you can try to talk with me if I'm logged in) with
Robert Blum, and he's promised to help. Our idea was to get as many of
the linux users/would be users to ask questions they think ought to be
in the FAQ, and hopefully you could try to answer them too (and don't be
shy just because you aren't certain you get it right - I'll go through
the FAQ for techical soundness anyway, but your answers will make
editing much easier).
I'm especially interested in some tutorials/"true stories" from people
who installed linux without the help of minix. Not only will they help
make the FAQ, but I could try to make things easier for the next
version. The FAQ should also contain some pointer to what people are
doing, and what has been done (like init/login, the bison port, g++,
I guess the easiest way to organize this thing is to mail me with a
subject containing "FAQ". I'll then compile it to one big thing and
send it out to whoever wants to edit on it. If you want to be one of
the people working on it, please mail and say so. I'll be happier the
less I have to do with this thing :-), and even if you just think you
could try to check for things you find incomprehensible, mail me and
tell me you'd like to help with it. Alternatively, you can mail Robert
Blum (whom I happily let take over the main responsibility for this
thing if he wants it) at "firstname.lastname@example.org".
If you can get your grubby little hands on the minix FAQ, you could try
to make a skeleton one for linux, trying to answer the questions
yourself first, and adding/removing questions of your own. Also, please
resend the questions you've already asked (and hopefully got answered),
as I really cannot sift through all my mail looking for questions, and
rewriting the answers (my mailbox is about 400kB - most of it on linux).
Editing the whole thing would probably be easier if you did some
pre-editing yourself: trying to get the thing to look like part of a
After we have gotten something that looks like a real FAQ (possibly
divided it into several parts: one general FAQ, one on installation
etc), I (or Blum) will post it to the mailing-list and set it up for
ftp. It will take some time: waiting for questions, then editing them,
mailing the new versions to the persons interested in this project,
revising them again after comments ... But hopefully we'll have a
better FAQ after that. I hope enough people mail questions/interest,
that I personally can get on to write the system programs.
I'd suggest a simple form for all the questions/answers: Something that
can easily be (semi-)automatically edited into something more
QUESTION: Xxx xx x x x xxx xxx xx xxx?
ANSWER: try to have some kind of skeleton answer here.
If you honestly haven't got a clue about the answer, please still ask
the question - nobody will flame you (sure, sure).
PS. It seems most people who had problems have got it working now. To
summarize: It works on SX's and with only 2M of memory. It also "works"
with a monochrome card, but you won't be able to see anything. Mtools
doesn't understand DOS 5.0 (big partitions at least), but Linux seems to
boot ok anyway. Anybody who simply cannot get it to boot out there?
PPS. I wrote over my minix-partition yesterday (don't even ask why -
some things are better forgotten :-), and although I got minix-386 up
and running again, it's kind of limping now (no bash, no make). It seems
I'll have to write fdisk/mkfs/fsck for linux just so that I wouldn't
need minix any more. Something good came out of it.
PPPS. As there still isn't a fsck-program for linux, be very careful
about rebooting the computer without syncing. The buffer cache is /at
least/ 500kB, and 1.5M buffer-cache is normal for machines with more
memory, so if you don't sync, there could be A LOT of buffers that
aren't written out to disk.
Subject: Re: Looking for a FAQ
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 91 15:43:20 -0500
From: tytso@Athena.MIT.EDU (Theodore Ts'o)
To: Linus Benedict Torvalds < email@example.com>
I, too, I have managed to bring up Linux without the need of Minux. I
have a 40 MhZ AMD 386 with a 200 Meg clone. A couple of notes:
N1) The Minix demo disk which you can get from plains.novak.edu only
works for 5.25" disks --- this isn't documented anywhere, but I spent a
lot of time trying to get it to boot on my 3.5" A drive. It would print
the first message about "loading Minix system", but it would hang before
printing the menu. I finally had to give up, recable my drives so that
my 5" drive was my A drive to get Minix to come up.
N2) The numbering convestion for partition in Minix and Linux are
different!!! The way I dealt with it is to use a disk editor to write a
message "This is the Linux parittion" in the first sector of the
partition, and then use "head -3 /dev/hd" to find the right
partition number on both Minix and Linux.
N3) I have MS-DOS 5.0, and the mtools worked just fine on my hard disk.
All of my partitions are less than 32 MEG, so I'm still using the FAT-16
filesystem. It would be nice if Linux understood the DOS extended
partitions, though. This would allow mtools could read my other DOS
partitions. In addition, it would mean that I could use one of the DOS
extended partitions as Linux partitions, so I could avoid chewing up
the 4 primary partitions available on my 200 meg drive.
[ Note: whoever decided that IBM hard disks only needed 4 partitions
should be condemned to recabling machine room floors; CP/M on
Heath/Zenith machines had 8 partitions available, and much more friendly
tools to modify said table! ]
N4) I have also experienced the panic which Patrick L. McGillan has
described. I suspect DOS setting some cruft which isn't getting cleaned
up. The panic happens happens right after the "Loading system" and
before the system has a chance to print the "Partition tables ok" message.
N5) I have managed to build the Linux kernel under Linux, using the 16
bit binaries which Linus provided. One little gotcha is that it is
necessary to rename the binaries provided in gccbin.tar.Z to the names
which the Makefile is expecting. Other than that, though, things went
N6) It wasn't obvious that the "em" program in utilbin.tar.Z was
actually MicroEmacs. I was really happy once I found it, though!
Perhaps there should be a quick note mentioning this fact somewhere. At
the moment, the programs which I seem to be missing the most are 1)
more, 2) gdb, and 3) fsck. The first should be a lot easier to get
working than the last. :-)
And now, for some questions:
Q1) On nic.funet.fi, I found sources to shoelace, which seems to be a
way to boot Minix without needing a floppy boot disk. Is anyone working
on something similar for Linux? The other interesting thing about
shoelace is that it came with a file "shoefsck.c" which seems to contain
the necessary code filesystem checking for Minix. However, there's no
copyright notice on that file, and no email address for the author,
either. Does anyone know what the status of that code is? I was
considering trying to use that code to make a fsck for Minix.
Q2) Similarily, there are sources on nic.funet.fi for a fsck program for
Minix. It looks like it was derived from the Minix fsck, but since it
is available for anonymous FTP with no notices saying "don't touch
this", I wonder if would be consider fair play to base a fsck for Linux
on the code, and either distribute the code or patches to the code with
a note that you can get the rest of the program from nic.funet.fi.
Q3) Linus, can you provide the configuration files for gcc and friends?
It would be interesting to see what's necessary to actually compile
one's own version of gcc/gas/etc.
Thanks to everyone on the list! I don't think I would have managed to
get Linux up and running with out a lot of helpful hints which were
posted on the list --- and I've only been on the list for a couple of
Subject: Re: Looking for a FAQ
Date: Sat, 9 Nov 91 18:16:35 +1100
From: Bruce Evans <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ted Ts'o writes:
>N1) The Minix demo disk which you can get from plains.novak.edu only
>works for 5.25" disks --- this isn't documented anywhere, but I spent a
It should work on 720K disks. The Minix /dev/fd0 does not support 1.44M,
/dev/PS0 is needed for that, and the demo disk has fd0 hard-coded.
>N2) The numbering convestion for partition in Minix and Linux are
>different!!! The way I dealt with it is to use a disk editor to write a
The Minix hard disk drivers sort the partition table :-(. This problem
goes back to DOS 3.0 (3.2?) and before, which have a different idea
about the partition order than 3.3 (but I think it is just a straight
reversal, not a sort).
>It would be nice if Linux understood the DOS extended partitions, though.
>[ Note: whoever decided that IBM hard disks only needed 4 partitions
>should be condemned to recabling machine room floors; CP/M on
Kai Uwe Rommel says that extended partitions have worked to solve this
problem since DOS 3.3. I wonder where this is documented.
>Q1) On nic.funet.fi, I found sources to shoelace, which seems to be a
>way to boot Minix without needing a floppy boot disk. Is anyone working
>on something similar for Linux? The other interesting thing about
Since Linux uses the Minix file system, the shoelace binaries should work
immediately. The sources probably require changing because of different
>shoelace is that it came with a file "shoefsck.c" which seems to contain
>the necessary code filesystem checking for Minix. However, there's no
>copyright notice on that file, and no email address for the author,
This file was copied from the Minix fsck.c so it is presumably copyright.
Most of the rest of shoelace could be used by Linux without copyright
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