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Using a laptop as a terminal

I have an old dell 386 notebook that is essentially useless. Is there a way I can configure it and Linux to use it as a 'dumb terminal' through the comm port ? Is there a piece of SW I'll need or will one of the standard 3.1 apps work? Its been so long since I used 3.1 I dont remember whats in it but I think this probably would be better done from a DOS prompt anyway.
Obviously I would have to have win 3.1 or DOS on there (and since it only got an 80MB HD loading Linux really isnt too appealing).

Sooner or later I'm going to move Linux to a different machine (probably an old pentium I have laying around) and I really dont want to buy a monitor when its going to act mostly as a server anyway and I can do routine stuff from one of the machine networked to it.

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Actually Linux is not as big as most installation packages would make it seem. You can PROBABLY put it on a 386 with 80Mb HD. The lowest I've dared to go is 486. Just do a custom install and strip away all the unecessary packages. It should be smaller than DOS even(I think)
Good luck
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I dont know if I want to go through the trouble of trying though. Its a very slow 386 and there is no CD ROM.
I just pretty much wanted to use it as a terminal for when I need to run maintenance or whatever as well as to test out mulitple clients, etc.
Any ideas how to install to a laptop that can either be wiped clean or left with DOS/3.1 partition left on there and no CD drive.
Drive space is limited to 80 MB.
This wouldn't be a main or even oft used machine, it would be more like a terminal that I would use.
I'm sure once I get Linux on there, if it will run, I can make it talk to the hose machine via serial, parallel or even lan through my hub.
Hmm. The easiest way I can think of is parallel pc-pc file transfer. The cable's about $10 and DOS has a utility(called interlink) that would allow it to interface with another PC to share the other PC's CDROM Drive and install from there. The other simpler but more costly is to get a portable CDROM drive.
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P.S. The Linux kernel "Character devices" needs to be configured to "Support for console on serial port".
I'll give that a try this weekend.
null modem cable is VERY SLOW!! I'd still recommend a laplink cable(parallel port)
I have a standard parallel cable (Not a printer cable) that I can use as well.
Thats how I used to do direct cable connect to my win98 machine from my 95 laptop (work machine).

I'll try them out this weekend and we'll see what happens.
That cable should work.
There are Linux Distributions that fit on standard Floppy Disk (1,44 Megs !!!)

Take a look at and search for MuLinux ...

How're the things going ?
Well, I tried to install a mini distro and go that route but one version was in french and the keymap wasn't compatible so I could never logon to change it to english and another version I tried wouldnt finish booting so I think I'm going to have to make a DOS bootdisk and put an terminal emulator on the disk and go that route.
Unfortunately this old laptop only has like 2MB ram and that seems to be the shortfall with the mini distros.

Adjusted points from 20 to 30
I found a terminal program and I have a null modem cable (I dont want to switch between the printer and a parallel cable every time I use this configuration) and there is definately some communicatioin going on there because I get a 'Parrity Error Break Error' when I run hardware setup (lothar) but I dont seem to be able to get a login. I'm pretty sure I have the config setup (gettydefs, inittab) right.
Any ideas ?
On the terminal program settings, try E-7-1 with 9600 baud first.
It's simply not as easy as plug and play. Based on my experience to setup hundreds of Unix consoles, it wouldn't work right out of the box even you have all the correct parameters.
I'll give it a go when I get home this evening.
I also got my hands on a little toy I found last night but didn't get a chance to try, 'serial terminal linux'.
I'll try both this evening and let you know.
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Alright ! I got it working. For some reason I cant login as root from the laptop/terminal but my user has pretty much all the permissions as root so no biggie.
Cool, time to dig out one of my old, old, pentium machines in the garage and see if I have a hard drive big enough to use for a server.

Congratulations !