Yet another archeological challenge...
Topic: Yet another archeological challenge...
started by: fpp
Posted by fpp on Sep. 15 2007,16:21Hi all,
Browsing through this forum while waiting to be allowed to post, I saw I'm not the only one trying to give old hardware new life using DSL. But my challenge is perhaps more extreme than most that I've seen so far... :-)
I have salvaged an IBM ThinkPad 760ED from a corporate garbage dump, which is about eleven years old. It is still functional, the battery even charges somewhat, and it boots Windows95 from a 1GB hard disk (manufactured August 1996...). It has 32 MB RAM (soldered chip - although there are also two empty SODIMM banks, finding EDO memory for the beast is probably neither simple nor cheap :-). The 12" screen is only 800x600, but I figured it would make a good digital picture frame if I could only run DSL on it and without the HDD.
So far so good - now the problems : No floppy. No CD-ROM. No USB, of course. Just the HDD, and a couple of PCMCIA ports.
At first I thought I might get lucky, because in the BIOS you can specify PCMCIA as a boot device. So I took a 1GB CF card, put it in a PCMCIA adapter, and used a better-equipped laptop to do a frugal install on it. Then I transferred it to Methuselah and tried to boot on it, but it looks like the BIOS only supports booting from removable drives (floppy or CD) that way ; at least that's what the drawing on the screen (no text) seems to be trying to say... A sort of 5" floppy sketch with an arrow pointing to an external reader, another arrow pointing to the F1 key on the keyboard, and when you press that an error number... Well I guess it would have been too easy :-)
Next I ordered a CF-to-IDE adapter to directly replace the disk. This is quite a chore, because the disk is hidden in a metallic case with a special connector for easy replacement. The case must be opened and the disk removed to get at the IDE connector, and then there are the gory details as it having no pin numbers, lacking a hole where the pin is present on the adapter, etc.
After some hacking and trial-n-error reconnecting, I have finally seen the start of a boot process... but it doesn't get very far, yet : after the POST, it just prints "GRUB" on a black screen and sits there forever.
I had similar adventures with LILO a long while ago, so I guess maybe this is a FAQ and I forgot to do something after the frugal install on the other laptop ; in which case I'm close to success... then again it could be a boot problem due to the 760 itself, in which case I'm stuck.
The only things related to Grub I can remember during the frugal install are the two questions at the end, to choose between Grub and Lilo then asking if the active partition was Windows (answered 'yes').
Can anyone suggest what to try next ?
Posted by roberts on Sep. 15 2007,17:07Does the laptop BIOS see this as a hard disk?
When you used anothet box to load up did you plug it in as hda and unplug all other drives, as it would be on your laptop?
If you have unplugged all except the cf/ide when installing then there would be no windows.
Posted by yangmusa on Sep. 15 2007,18:58You should probably check that BIOS recognizes the CF card. I'm guessing that since you get the GRUB message (stored on the card) then it is recognized. My first attempts with DSL, after the BIOS boot message I would just get a blank screen with "no operating system found" - and I could never get the BIOS to see the card properly. The second card I bought worked fine, I didn't have GRUB problems so no suggestions on that one.
Posted by fpp on Sep. 16 2007,20:22
I must admit I hadn't even thought of looking - as yangmusa said, I sort of thought that if GRUB started, the card must be working as a disk already...
That said, the BIOS on the 760 was modern for its time (graphical and mouse-operated !) but totally devoid of text and not very informative. The icon for HDD1 is there, so something is recognized, and you can launch a test on it... actually the test fails at the very end with some fun diagnostic (DEV 017 - ERR 91 - FRU 6010) but it goes on for a good while. As a first approximation I'd say it's working, at least enough for booting (although maybe problems down the way if I were to write to it at full capacity, I guess).
Never thought of that either :-)
The card was hdc when I did the install...
Do I need to start over again (I'd prefer to avoid messing with my son's laptop's disk if I can avoid it :-) or is there something I can edit on the CF as it is, if I mount it somewhere else ?...
Posted by fpp on Sep. 24 2007,09:36From the lack of response I guess my last question was either stupid or naive... A pointer to the relevant FAQ perhaps ?
Posted by ^thehatsrule^ on Sep. 24 2007,14:46Reason? Probably because CF users are limited and then not everyone reads every thread :P
Since it sits on grub and has no error message, my guess is that you need a different boot loader. I have found that LILO works on my oldest hardware, whereas others such as grub do not.
Sometimes it could be some setting in your BIOS related to disk drives that you could change to make things compatible... for this I mainly just did trial-and-error - but from your description, your BIOS doesn't seem to be of much help.
Getting to more general problems, it could be a hardware problem as you stated. Bad RAM and IDE channels, etc. sometimes happen and can cause undesired results. Taking things out, switching around, replacement, testing things etc. could help to isolate problems. (but your RAM is soldered anyways)
Posted by fpp on Sep. 25 2007,21:11Thanks for that, but I think there are simpler causes that should be ruled out before resorting to last-ditch measures :-)
Probably roberts gave me the best hint when he asked how the installation was done on the other laptop. I guess GRUB (the part on the MBR) is not looking for the rest of itself in the right place...
Now I just need to mount that CF on that other laptop again and try to find where the grub.conf and/or menu.lst files are on a frugal install... I guess not in /etc :-)
Posted by ^thehatsrule^ on Sep. 25 2007,21:47
Posted by andrewb on Sep. 26 2007,01:19Have you tried the loadlin/poormans install:
< http://damnsmalllinux.org/wiki/index.php/Loadlin_Install >
This will allow you to do all the setting up on the 760 once you have copied the filesystem accross as described in the Wiki. At least this way you will be able to get DSL up & running. What is the graphics chipset in the 760? I tried to get DSL onto a 755 with the WD90C24 chipset & finally had to resort to using the method described at the foot of the wiki page:
< http://damnsmalllinux.org/wiki/index.php/Vga%3Dxxx >
Posted by fpp on Sep. 26 2007,19:44Thanks for the hints andrew. I hadn't thought of using the loadlin install, but it might be a good way of checking out hardware issues before I hack at the CF problem again...
Posted by roberts on Sep. 26 2007,23:16If you installed CF as hdc then your grub entry would be looking at the wrong non-existent drive when relocated into laptop as hda. That is why, I always install CF/IDE adapter as hda in host white box. The bios sees the boot loader but cannot find hdc to continue.
Posted by fpp on Sep. 28 2007,20:55Thanks for the confirmation. So your recommendation is to redo the entire install with the CF as hda ? No way to salvage the current installation by modifying a GRUB conf file on the CF ?...
Posted by roberts on Sep. 28 2007,21:43No. You should be able to mount it in another box and then drill down to /mnt/hd??/boot/grub/menu.lst
Then edit appropriately for hda1 or hda2 however you have it installed.
Posted by fpp on Sep. 30 2007,20:22Ah, thanks for the confirmation ! I'll try that out as soon as I can snatch a ride on the schoolboy's laptop :-)