How I Install Linux on a Digital HiNote Ultra II (Or possibly any other machine without a CD/DVD-ROM)

This is a lovely machine if a bit ancient it works flawlessly under Windows 95 which it was designed for I’ve even run W98 and ME on it and got the Mobile Media working. Linux is a little difficult but not impossible.

Digital HiNote Ultra II

P120 CPU
40MB Memory (Standard is 8MB but I upgraded it).
10GB Hard Drive (Standard is 1.5GB but I replaced it).
1.44MB Floppy Drive (Attaches underneath the unit).
CD-ROM (Mobile Media, will not work with Linux).
11.4″ inch Screen.

Here is a picture of one: Image

My main problem is the PCMCIA card I have three or four none of which seem to work using the floppy based install method (Apart from Debian which I will come back to).

First things first lets make a cup of coffee.

We’ll pretend you have an empty hard drive in the Ultra (I’ll just use the word Ultra from now on) with my method you’ll need;

  1. Another Computer mines Windows based so that’s what I’ll use here.
  2. Partition Magic or similar.
  3. Either a 3.5 to 2.5 IDE lead or an external USB caddy (2.5″ inch).
  4. The iso’s of your required distribution.
  5. The boot floppy’s from your distro (There should be an explanation of how to make these on the distributions Web Site).

Got a coffee? Here we go.

Method 1a.
3.5 to 2.5 IDE Lead

Turn the Ultra upside down you’ll see a slide lock with a retaining screw, take out the screw slide the lock back and gently remove the hard drive and caddy.

Undo the retaining screws and ease off the IDE lead block, be very careful its easy to bend the pins on the hard drive, take out the hard drive and attach the 2.5 end of the 3.5 > 2.5 IDE lead then move to your computer (With the computer turned off) attach the 3.5 end to a spare IDE slot, if you don’t have one spare remove the CD/DVD-ROM you don’t need it for this.

Turn on your Computer you should see the drive detected once booted up check in *My Computer* to see if its there. So far so good take a sip of coffee you’ve earned it.

Start Partition Magic you should see the Ultra HDD, I don’t know your setup so you’ll have to figure it out. Now you have some choices to make, either way you’ll have to make a FAT32 1st partition the size will be determined by the size of all the iso’s typically they are 633MB each so get the calculator out and add them all up to get the size of the FAT partition you need.

Now comes the choice part you can add the Linux partitions now if you want most want a
/Boot /Root /Swap but you can just make the whole remaining space a Linux partition then let the Linux Installer sort out the partition for you but that comes much much later. When you are happy click apply, finish your coffee and put the kettle on for another one it takes a bit for all the tables to be reset.

OK so we now have the Ultra HDD with a FAT 32 partition big enough to hold the Linux iso’s go to the folder holding the iso’s and copy them over to the Ultra FAT 32 partition when the copying has finished shut the computer down remove the Ultra HDD and IDE lead from the computer (don’t forget to plug the ROM drive back in if you disconnected it) remove the 2.5 end of the IDE lead and reassemble the Ultra HDD in its caddy and put it back in the Laptop.

Excited? Make another coffee.

Put the 1st floppy in, it maybe ‘Boot’ or ‘Rescue’ or something else but the Floppy install HOWTO of your Linux choice will tell you, start the Ultra and press FN F3 make sure the boot order is Floppy then Hard drive save and exit the system will reboot and the floppy install starts select HDD (Hard Drive) install and away you go.

Drink that coffee you’re a winner!!

Method 1b.

Pretty much the same as 1a. Except put the Ultra HDD in the external USB Laptop caddy no need to open up your computer plug the USB into your computer and follow the instructions from Start Partition Magic through to Excited? Make another coffee

This method only works if your distribution supports FLOPPY INSTALL.

Method 2.

I’ve tried various RPM based Distros and none seem to have the necessary PCMCIA drivers for my particular cards, however Debian will work with the Xircom Realport 10/100 card I have there is no need to do any of the above as the floppy’s will be able to partition the drive for you while in situ.

  1. Download the installation floppy images
  2. Use Rawwrite or similar to make the install floppy’s
  3. Stick the network card in and connect your 10/100 cable.
  4. Stick the Debian Boot floppy in.
  5. Start the Ultra choose FTP install

This will install the base system for you once it’s up and running just use apt-get to add extra packages.

DON’T try any of this on a dialup your partner will kill you when they see the phone bill Broad Band is your friend.

Getting a graphical display is tricky but not impossible I ran Red Hat 6.2 in graphical mode for some time but I will deal with graphics under another heading.


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