DSL Experiments

(06-Feb-08: This area of the site is ancient - a more-recent version of DSL is available at www.damnsmalllinux.org.

I recently ordered a 'Damn Small Machine', which comes complete with a 256MB USB stick and Damn Small Linux (hereafter referred to as 'DSL') pre-installed. This machine is very small; here are a few pictures of it:

Things worthy of mention: I haven't taken the protective film off the monitor yet (it's new). If you think this room (the kitchen) is untidy, you should see the rest of the flat - it's a serious mess!

After getting DSL working, I wanted to use it on my wireless network. Since it's so small, I wanted to be able to move it around without being encumbered by lots of tangled Cat-5 Ethernet cable. In my blog, I talk a lot about my experiments.

I tried several USB wireless devices with the new box. As usual with Linux, it's a gamble as to whether or not a device will work and wireless USB adaptors seem even more dicey. It's not Linux's fault - it's down to the manufacturers of the adaptors either not being willing to release drivers for Linux, or releasing buggy, closed-source drivers that will only work with a few kernels. It was for this reason that I was careful to choose hardware that was shown as being supported by Linux. Even with this confirmed, I did not know if a certain adaptor would work because the manufacturers often change the hardware without notice.

I ended up buying two Linksys WUSB11 USB wireless adaptors. Only one has arrived so far - the other one's probably at the sorting office, waiting to be picked up (sigh). I was disappointed to find that adaptor #1 doesn't have a Prism chipset but has an Atmel AT76C503A. That wasn't quite as bad as no support at all, as drivers are available:

I tried the berlios.de drivers first - I have not tried the Sourceforge one yet. And then to my next problem: to compile the drivers, I needed kernel source. I downloaded a vanilla Linux kernel from kernel.org, found the Knoppix commandline patch at (insert URL here). I was not able to find the XFS patch. Finding the kernel config proved most difficult, since DSL does not have it in /boot, doesn't have it in /usr/linux and I couldn't find it anywhere, so I had a root around in my old CD box and found an old Knoppix 3.1 CD, which has the config in /boot. The only way I could transfer it out was via floppy disk (remember those?) as the network card was not supported.

When I typed 'uname -a', the DSL box showed that it was running a 2.4.26 kernel with SMP enabled. This is was not good news as SMP can cause problems - indeed, once I'd compiled the drivers, I found that the card would lose association with its access point and would often need resetting. I would also suggest disabling APM in the BIOS setup.

To be continued...
Meanwhile, if you know what you're looking for, you'll find some precompiled stuff in the 'files' dir.