For 486s

Tor Olav Stava t-ol-sta at
Fri Nov 4 00:05:19 PST 2005

Ian wrote:

Hello :)

>I have a number of 486 machines. They have very little memory
>16M or less. My interest is to make a version of Linux to
>run a few programs on these, particularly the mail program
>Mutt and Midnight Commander; no X stuff. I need to keep
>well below 100M drive space.
>I now have the LFS live CD and theres a Pentium 400MHz I can
>use for compilation. What Id like to know before I start is
>whether this is going to be a rather too difficult task
>for someone who is not very experienced with Linux and
>up till now has never compiled a kernel. I suspect Im
>going to have to whittle the kernal down a great deal
>before it will be ok for these old machines. Is this
Anything goes, right? My guess is, it will work.
First of all I would think about replacing Glibc with uClibc to get the 
memory and binary footprint as small as possible.
Use compiler flags to optimize for size (-Os I think), and possibly the 
uname_ix86 kernel hack, so you don't have to struggle with 
cross-compiling (It will make your pentium look like an 486 by inserting 
a kernel module).
Figure out excactly what hardware's in your boxes, and comile the kernel 
with the bare minimum needed.
When all is done, you'd have to strip down the system to fit your 
harddrives, I guess that'll be the hardest work.
Have a look at HLFS for some tip about uClibc, and the stripped-down LFS 
hint, to get started.

>Is this the right place for this enquiry?
There's also some other distros that might suit your need, but if you 
prefer compiling from source this is the right place to be. For me, it's 
been the most awarding Linux experience ever, but it's also been a tough 
road. I would recommend it to everyone who wants to get to know Linux.

Good Luck!

--Tor Olav

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