Eric Baxter

Installing Damn Small Linux on a Gateway Solo 2500 laptop

After being given an old Gateway Solo 2500 laptop I decided to install linux on it. I went with Damn Small Linux (DSL) because it sounded nice and I figured it would work fairly well on such an old machine. It took me a few days to get it to work because I have no idea what I'm doing. What follows is the procedure that I settled on, which was drawn from several sources on the internet. I decided to write it up for my own reference and to help anybody else that is trying to do something similar.

General notes:

If you just boot DSL off the cd as is, you will run into two significant problems: 1) the display will be completely FUBAR'd, 2) it will run slowly as it will continuely access data from the CD drive (maybe b/c there's not enough RAM to put everything that's needed?). The first problem is fairly easy to resolve, but the second I think requires installing DSL to the harddrive (what I think the DSL people call a frugal install for some reason). The notes below show you how to do a frugal install of DSL onto the machine.


1. Put DSL cd into tray, boot up computer, push F2 at boot to enter bios. Set the following (taken from

>Advanced-->Integrated Peripherals:

>On-board stereo sound [Enabled]

my working settings are:

I/O Adress: [280H-28FH]

MPU-401 I/O Adress: [330H-333H]

INterrupt: [IRQ5]

DMA Channel: [DMA CH0]


Joystick: [Enabled]

Also, make sure that you set the bios to boot from the CD drive.

Not really sure if these are all necessary, but I applied them.

2. Exit bios, and dsl should start. At prompt do

>dsl 2 vga=788 //2 keeps dsl from starting graphical interface, vga=788 tells dsl to use appropriate resolution settings

>cfdisk //formatting utility

3. In cfdisk, set the following (you will have to delete any existant partitions):

hda1 bootable primary 100mb (type 83)

hda5 logical * (type 83)

hda6 logical 600mb (type 82)

where the * is your total harddrive space minus the 600+100mb you allotted to the other partitions. Some comments: when I set the types, they didn't seem to still be set when I used cfdisk again, not sure why this is. Also, these harddrive setting are pretty conservative. You probably don't need a full 100mb for the bootable partition, but I had issues when I made it less than about 70mb.

4. Reboot using

>shutdown -r now

and startup dsl again using

>dsl 2 vga=788

I think rebooting is necessary to set partition tables. Or something.

5. Run at the command prompt

>mke2fs /dev/hda1 //or whatever your bootable partition was

>mke2fs /dev/hda5

>mkswap /dev/hda6

>swapon /dev/hda6

When I ran the last line, it often spat out some error about the device or service being busy. Well screw you too.

Reboot again using same command as before

6. Now we do the frugal install. The following info came mostly from the frugal install pdf made by the DSL peeps.

>/usr/sbin/ //not sure if this is the exact command

After running this command, the install will start. Answer the questions with the following values:

Target partition to hold image: hda1

Install from liveCD

DON'T use any boot options (not sure why this was a problem)

Specify a default restore partition: y, hda5

Do you wish to specify a different partition for myDSL: y, hda5

When you get to the end of this process the computer should restart. Take the CD drive out of the tray, and the computer should boot into DSL.

7. On the first boot, it will ask you some question about using xfbdev or something else. CHOOSE XFBDEV. This will make it so that the display actually works.

8. The end. Hopefully this helped.