Running Linux At Work, On The Sly

I’ve been meaning to have another look at Linux for a while, but I’ve been too scared to install anything after a run in with Debian and an Ultra Sparc 5 that scarred me for life. Now that LiveCDs are in vogue, it seemed like good time to try out Linux again… but this time at work.

After a long look through the The LiveCD List and DistroWatch, I decided to go with a lightweight Slackware variant called SLAX.

My first hurdle was burning a LiveCD. Having never used a CD burner before I was expecting some difficulty, but it was actually pretty simple. I just downloaded the SLAX 4.2 iso, opened Roxio Easy CD creator (on Windows), found the file, and clicked OK a few times.

Next I tried to boot my work computer from the LiveCD, but the sysadmins had locked the box down tightly, and it just booted Windows again. The SLAX website suggested making a bootloader floppy using RawWrite to copy an image of Smart Boot Manager onto a blank diskette. I did so, and rebooted using both the LiveCD and the bootloader floppy. Success! Take that, sysadmins!

SLAX booted relatively quickly, and after logging in I typed gui at the command line to launch KDE. The window manager came up looking beautiful, so I guess it must have autodetected my video card. I checked the resolution and refresh rate and they were the same as I usually use under Windows. Nice.

I wanted to see whether I could access my hard drive or not, so I ran Midnight Commander next. Everything was in order, and SLAX had properly automounted my Windows hard drives (as read only, which I understand is an ntfs thing). I tinkered with KDE for a bit then saved my config onto a fresh floppy using the configsave command at the terminal.

Internet access was next on my list, so fired up Konqueror only to discover that I didn’t have any. Bummer. I felt certain the SLAX website would have some good suggestions on this topic, but without internet I would have to log out and boot back into windows to get them. Oh well.

Back in Windows and Firefox, I found the info I needed and took note of my network settings. I also printed out half of the SLAX website as I didn’t feel like spending half the evening rebooting. Once I got back into SLAX I read my printouts carefully, then typed three lines at the terminal and had internet. Sweet.

As some tunes would go nicely with my surfing, I opened the media player to listen to mp3s from the hard drive, but sadly I couldn’t get any sound. A quick look around the SLAX website revealed how to fix this; typing alsaconf in the terminal detected my sound card and got the music playing.

All in all I’m very impressed with SLAX. It’s pretty easy to set up for a *nix, and its so small you can actually run it from RAM for lighting speed! (You can do this by typing slax copy2ram at the boot prompt.)

My next tasks are to get Perl, php, and an Oracle client going (TOra if licencing permits, something hacked up with ADODB otherwise). The SLAX site tells you how to roll your own custom iso, so if it all works out I should soon have everything I need to use Linux at work on a single CD.

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  1. Red Wolf

    3 March 2005 at 5.28 pm

    Very nice. The problems you hit are exactly the problems I hit when playing with Red Hat.
    Thanks for the NTFS heads up. I’ll have to remember to convert the drives to FAT32 beforehand. Incidentally, I recently installed a second hard drive, shuffled files around and discovered that most of my video files do not like NTFS either.
    No internet to speak of via Red Hat, but I think the dodgy winmodem may have been throwing a spanner in the works on that count. Looks like it might be time to try again now I’m no longer stuck with dialup


  2. sbszine

    4 March 2005 at 9.37 am

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure FAT32 should be writeable by both Linux and Windows. There’s some drive sharing info floating around to support that, but I haven’t tried it out myself. There’s also some links to winmodem drivers for Linux at the SLAX site.


  3. SuicideGreen

    12 March 2005 at 2.34 am

    they don’t even let me change the desktop image at work.


  4. Red Wolf

    12 March 2005 at 10.33 am

    Painful. It’s bad enough that I have to put up with locked down application directories. This ridiculous Windows security move cripples programs that need to write back to their app directories to save program settings. Microsoft’s Office suite is a prime example of a program crippled by security.
    As bad as that is to live with, locking down the entire environment only alienates people. One of the dumber moves by corporate pinheads


  5. sbszine

    14 March 2005 at 2.50 pm

    Yah, that’s teh suxx0r. WSFTP is such a program… you have to manually re-enter addresses and passwords each time you fire it up on a locked down machine.


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