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Linux and hal91 - an introduction

by Jason Spiro


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What is Linux?

How to get hal91 working

Linux Books


What is Linux?

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Linux is a free "open-source" operating system based on Unix. It was initially developed by Linus Torvalds in Finland. Open-source means that anyone with computer programming skills can make improvements to Linux by making changes to the computer source code, provided they post their changes back up on the Internet for others to take advantage of.

Most computer stores sell packaged versions of Linux. They generally include Linux with some additional Linux software on a CD-ROM, as well as a printed manual. they'll often sell a box with Linux on a CD-ROM, plus other things like a printed manual. This is more convenient than waiting to download everything yourself, but can be expensive. CheapBytes offers Linux on CD - no manuals included - for as little as US$2 per CD, plus a flat shipping fee of US$5 to ship up to 18 CDs anywhere within the U.S. and Canada.

Linux comes in many distributions, developed by many different people and companies. Every distribution works differently - it's all very confusing. Some include the graphical interface, "X Window"; some are text-only. Some take up dozens of megabytes of disk space; some fit on a single floppy disk. You can read about them all at the linux.org distribution list.

Hal91 is an interesting distribution of Linux. It was brought to you by Øyvind Kolås in Norway. However, Øyvind has stopped working on hal91, and his webpage no longer even mentions it. Hal91 works on any PC with a 486 or Pentium processor. Although not as full-featured as other Linux distributions, it fits on a single floppy disk, and you don't need to modify the hard drive in any way. (You just start the computer up with your hal91 disk in the floppy drive.) It's a good way to try Linux yourself.


How to get hal91 working

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  1. 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.
  2. Download this zipfile. (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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 find the hal91 user's guide at http://jspiro.tripod.com/linux/hal91guide/hal91.html. A more comprehensive guide, though, is "A Beginner's Introduction to Command-line Linux" at http://floppix.ccai.com/labs.html. Good luck!
  5. If you're having problems downloading, you can get the hal91 disk image from 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".


Linux Books

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When you're ready for a graphical interface and additional software, it's time to move on to a full-fledged Linux distribution. Due to the shoddy quality of the manuals included with many boxed Linux distributions, you're best off buying a book about Linux with an included CD-ROM.

[Linux: The Complete Reference cover]If you already have some Linux experience and are looking for some more advanced information, spring for Linux: the Complete Reference. This 1,257-page volume is the ultimate Linux reference manual, describing how to install, run, and get optimum results from any Linux program, utility, or major distribution you could possibly think of. It fully explains (and provides abundant screenshots) describing how to configure the system, how to write programs for Linux, and even how to recompile the kernel step-by step. The book is very useful for users of any distribution, but it goes into extra detail about Red Hat Linux 7.0 and Caldera OpenLinux 2.4 - because both are included! Click here to pick up this invaluable 1,257-page powerhouse for just $27.99 at Amazon.com. You definitely won't regret it.

[Red Hat Linux 7 for Dummies cover]For novice Linux users, I recommend Red Hat Linux 7 for Dummies without a doubt. Unlike most other Linux books and manuals, it requires no previous Linux knowledge at all. Plus, it includes the full 3-CD-ROM version of Red Hat Linux 7.0! Click here to buy it from Amazon.com for the reasonable price of $20.99. You'll be fluent with Linux in no time.

[Master Red Hat Linux Visually cover]If you're more of a visual learner, try Master Red Hat Linux Visually instead. As with Red Hat Linux 7 for Dummies, you'll need no previous Linux knowledge whatsoever. You'll learn everything about Linux through screenshots and step-by-step instructions. From installation, customization and using the GNOME graphical interface to networking, administration, and security. As an added bonus, the book includes Red Hat Linux 6.2 on two CD-ROMs. Click here to get it from Amazon.com for only $24.49. You'll quickly learn Linux the visual way.


Page last updated: Nov. 14, 2001.