hal91 is an interesting distribution of Linux. It was made by Øyvind Kolås in Norway. However, Øyvind has stopped working on hal91, and his webpage, http://home.sol.no/~okolaas, has gone down permanently. I did not make any part of hal91. I only made this webpage. hal91 works on any PC with a 486 or Pentium processor.
+ It fits on a single floppy disk
+ You don't need to modify your hard drive in any way. You just make a hal91 floppy and boot from it.
- It lacks a graphical interface
- It hasn't been updated for more than five years
I don't recommend hal91. See the "Alternatives" section below to find some good alternatives. Click here to download a zipfile with hal91 and rawrite.exe anyway. Follow the steps in the "Making a boot disk" section below. If you want, you can also read the hal91 user's guide.
Making a boot disk
Please note: hal91 is text-only, and you'll need to have some basic knowledge of the text-mode Linux commands to use it once it's installed.
These instructions are for Windows computers. If you're running Linux already, unzip hal91.zip and type: dd if=hal91.img of=/dev/fd0
Download this zipfile. There is another link to it above. (If you need an unzipping program, download WinZip.) The zipfile contains the hal91 disk image (the exact contents of the hal91 floppy disk, saved as a single file) and rawrite, a DOS/Windows program for copying the disk image onto a floppy disk.
After you've unzipped hal91.zip, transfer the disk image to the disk. Put a formatted 3.5 inch floppy disk in the a: drive. Everything on the floppy disk will be erased! Start the rawrite program. Enter the name of the source file (hal91.img), then enter the target drive (A). Press Enter once more, then just wait as rawrite saves hal91 onto the disk. You don't need hal91.img or rawrite anymore unless you want to make another hal91 disk.
With the hal91 floppy disk in the drive, restart your computer. Soon, you'll be running Linux. From there, you're on your own in command-line Linux - no graphics, just plain old text mode. You can read the hal91 user's guide if you want. A Beginner's Introduction to Command-line Linux is more useful if you don't know how to use Linux. Or pick up any introductory Linux or UNIX book. Good luck!
If you're having problems downloading, you can get the hal91 disk image from here, here, here, or here (make sure to rename it to hal91.img after it's downloaded.) Then, get rawrite.exe from here, here, or here. If you're having problems installing or using hal91, remember that there are dozens of other tiny distributions out there. You can always try another one - go to the linux.org distribution list and scroll down to "Mini and Specialty Distributions".
Good choice: A tiny distribution (1.5MB or so)
I've never tried it, but MuLinux sounds good. It can boot from a floppy or from a hard disk. It supports addon floppies with software like X11, GCC, VNC, SSH, Samba, and Netscape. If you don't want MuLinux, there are links to other tiny distributions at LinuxLinks.com and dmoz.org.
Better choice: A distribution with a loopback filesystem (50MB to 300MB)
Another good alternative to hal91 is installing a Linux distribution that uses a loopback filesystem. This means that it installs on a DOS/Windows-formatted disk, in a folder of your choice such as C:\LINUX, without any disk partitioning or formatting at all. There are a few of these available at http://www.linux.org/dist/english.html; I've tried DragonLinux. DragonLinux starts up faster from a hard disk than hal91starts up from a floppy. DragonLinux also includes far more software. Only the "Full" version includes the X Window graphical interface. If you're willing to leave your computer on overnight to download it, or if you have high-speed Internet access, you can get DragonLinux at http://dragonlinux.sourceforge.net/about.php.
Mandrake Linux is the best distribution available. Mandrake is even easier to install and use than Red Hat, its major competitor. Its setup program can resize partitions on your hard disk without destroying any data, but you'll need at least version 9.1 to resize the "NTFS" partitions Windows 2000 and XP generally use. Mandrake has drakconf, a utility which can set up your computer to talk with all sorts of hardware. It has urpmi, a "package tool" which automatically downloads and installs the software of your choice. Find out how to set up and use urpmi. If you'd like to download Mandrake, LinuxISO.org is a good place to download the CD images. You can buy Mandrake CDs at CheapBytes. If you live in the USA or Canada, US$13 gets you all 3 CDs; shipping is included. Or, you can simply buy a book that includes a Linux distribution on CD at no extra charge - perhaps the best deal because it provides excellent documentation.
Linux books often include Linux CD-ROMs at the back of the book, so why not buy a Linux book next time you need a Linux distribution?
If you're new to Linux, I recommend the Red Hat Linux 8 Bible. Unlike most other Linux books and manuals, it requires no previous Linux knowledge at all, but it has enough advanced material to teach seasoned Linux users everything they need to get the most out of Red Hat Linux. Plus, it includes the full CD-ROM version of Red Hat Linux, which normally costs $40 for a boxed version.Click here to buy it from Amazon.com and get free shipping. You'll be fluent with Linux faster than you think.
If you already have some Linux experience and are looking for some more advanced information, spring for Running Linux. This volume is the ultimate guide to advanced Linux tasks, describing how to get optimum results from any major distribution you could possibly think of. Whether you run Slackware, Suse, or anything else, this book will guide you through all sorts of useful tasks. The sections on networking, setting up Web and FTP servers, and rebuilding the kernel are especially well-written. This book is highly useful for users of any distribution. It is the fourth edition of the book, published in December 2002.Click here to pick up this invaluable book for at Amazon.com. You won't regret your decision.