Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Project: Building An All-Text Linux Workstation - Part 1

When I see an old PC in the trash, I have a strong urge to rescue and adopt it like a stray puppy. My wife, of course, has very effective ways of constraining my behavior in this regard, so I don't have nearly as many computers as I want. I hate seeing computers go to waste. I figure if the processor and the power supply are still working, the computer should be doing something. So what if it can't run the latest version of Windows? It can still run Linux!

Over the next few weeks, I will show you how to take an old, slow computer and make it into a text-only Linux workstation with surprising capabilities, including document production, email, instant messaging, audio playback, USENET news, calendaring, and, yes, even web browsing.

Why would anyone want to build a text-only workstation? I don't know. Because we can! And besides, it's a great way to learn a bunch of command line stuff and that's why you're here, right?

So if you want to play along, find yourself a computer with a least the following:
  • Pentium processor or above
  • 64 MB or more of RAM
  • 2 GB or larger hard disk
  • PS/2 or USB mouse
  • A PCI Network card (no ISA or wireless please)
We're going to format over the existing software so don't use a valuable machine for this project. Many machines from the Windows 98 era should be good candidates. I will be using an HP Pavilion (circa 1996) with a 600 MHz Celeron, 320 MB of RAM and a 20 GB disk.

Good luck and I will see you again soon!

Further Reading

Other installments in this series: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14


  1. Looking forward to this series. It would be even sweeter if I still had my ][e from '83 and could replace Apple ProDOS with a Linux distro.

  2. Hi

    I'm really looking forward to this as well, but when are you going to publish the first step of the guide?


  3. some really nice learning material
    and you got that right about learning command line

  4. Quick question: In the second installment you discuss adding USB mouse support. Does this mean a PS/2 keyboard is required initially? More specifically, will a USB keyboard work correctly upon initial installation?

    1. To answer my own question now that I've gone through this GREAT tutorial... My machine recognized a USB keyboard immediately upon installation, usbmount was only necessary for the mouse.

      Anyone debating trying this tutorial, do it! Its a great time and you'll learn a lot!