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  Caldera Linux...

[May 2021] I spotted this 'big box' version of Caldera Linux for sale at a thrift shop...

I was intrigued and it was only 1, complete with floppy disk, CD ROM, and a proper user manual, so I thought I would give it a try.

It dates back to the Windows 3.1/95 era and boasts "Netscape Navigator Free Inside!" I always assumed Netscape was a Windows-only thing.

I'm doubtful I will be able to get this old variant of Linux working on any of my current systems (if at all) as they are all 64-bit and dual-core at the lowliest end. I never really got into Linux until, perhaps the last ten years, when installing from a USB drive became straightforward and (generally) problem-free. I remember trying to install a couple of different variants prior to this development, such as were included on CDs on the covers of Linux magazines, but with no luck. [My knowledge and abilities with these things is too limited, as will become apparent...]

Reading into the 240-page manual (published in 1996), in the voice of LGR, it talks of Matrox Millennium 2 MB graphics and serial modems on COM 2...

Will I end up building an old system just try this OS on? Watch this space...

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[Attempt #1] My lowliest-spec machine, while being dual core with 4GB of RAM had IDE and floppy drive headers. I connected up an old floppy drive I still had knocking about and my lowest spec IDE hard drive, still a massive 60GB, along with a CD-RW drive set as slave.

I was able to boot from the Caldera CD and proceeded with the installation. I suspected from looking at the manual that this could get complicated and sure enough it was pretty hands-on. I had to specify my hard drive's cylinders, heads and sectors, luckily these were clearly shown on the drive's label.

Sadly the install could only handle a hard drive with a maximum of 1024 cylinders, and mine had 16,383, but the manual envisaged this and instructed me to use boot from a DOS diskette. Fortunately I still had a Windows 98 Startup disk that worked and gave me access to fdisk to remove any previous partitions.

I then started again with the Caldera CD. The setup process required me to create two Linux partitions, one for swap space and one for the installation, but I did something wrong here and it ended up either telling me there was insufficient space or sending me round in circles at the "FIFO" stage. I took a break.

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[Attempt #2] I booted from my Windows 98 Startup disk and removed the previously created partitions using fdisk. I then booted from the Caldera CD and created fresh new Linux paritions, a 64MB type-82 swap file, and a 512MB type-83 installation partition (forgetting that 684MB was required for the full installation).

However, it seemed then that the remaining space was used for the operating system as on this occasion I was able to progress through the FIFO stage. The installation of all the packages took some time, I could have made another cup of tea.

Installing a modern-day operating system is largely automated compared with how things used to be. Beyond the hard drive details other settings were requested:

- "Select a CD-ROM drive type" (I left it on the default)

- "Enter the complete hostname (FQDN) of your computer...ie noname.nodomain.nowhere" (Umm?)

- "Network card not found" (I tried eth0 - 9 with the same result... I have onboard ethernet, perhaps that's not going to work?"

- "Select a suitable driver from your printer" (I have no printer connected right now, but that would likely be an issue)

- "Select which X server to use" (it defaults to Metro Link's enhanced X11 Display Server)

The installation was "complete" and the system rebooted. I was then asked for my username which thankfully the manual informed me was "col", I keyed in my chosen password, and then... oh, the manual told me I had to type "startx"... as I say, it's very hands-on!

That looks promising...

However, while there was a mouse cursor on the screen it wouldn't move with my PS/2 connected mouse (I'd specified "PS/2 bus mouse). I was able to Tab around though as indicated. The screen resolution was on 640x480 and I think 16 colours and I tried to change this and even get the mouse working but leaving that screen took me to the desktop but the resolution and mouse issue remained...

While I could tab around here I couldn't do much else. The manual warned me that I should do a proper shutdown procedure rather than just switching the system off, but I wasn't able to do that and CTRL+ALT+DEL did nothing (also mentioned in the manual). I switched off and back on again...

Caldera wouldn't start up again.

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It looks like another install is in order. The manual suggests I can get back into LISA, the Linux Installation and System Administration stuff I got into before.

I could try other mouse and display settings.

Beyond this I am keen to try the system online so resolving the "eth0" port issue would be next but that FQDN stuff is also way over my head! If anyone reading this has any understanding of this stuff and would like to provide some assistance in this project it will be gratefully appreciated! [Contact]

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