Breathe new life into an old computer with PXE boot and TinyCore Linux

Retro PXE Functionality

Another really cool feature that can be implemented with my PXE environment is the ability to boot legacy raw disk images over PXE. This is accomplished using another component available within the Syslinux package: MEMDISK. Within the Syslinux archive that was downloaded earlier, this file is located in the /syslinux-4.04/memdisk folder. To enable booting a floppy disk over the network, there are three steps. First, the MEMDISK file must be placed in the TFTP root (preferably in the boot folder). Second, the floppy disk image to be booted must be placed in the TFTP server root. A folder off of the TFTP root named floppy could be created, and the disk image placed there. I would encourage playing with MenuetOS [5], a floppy disk OS with a GUI and many fun applications. Finally, a menu item must be configured to enable booting of the floppy disk. The menu item should look like this:

LABEL menuet
MENU LABEL MenuetOS
KERNEL /boot/memdisk
INITRD /floppy/menuet.img

Note that the MEMDISK file is referenced as the kernel to be used and the floppy disk image is referenced as the init ramdisk. This could also be configured to boot a larger disk image; however, this could impact load time and possibly performance.

Conclusion

This project was a success. My kids enjoy being able to use the Internet, email grandma and grandpa, and play a few old legacy games that I've put on floppy disks. I enjoy not having to re-image the laptop when it gets shut down incorrectly. The system's resilience is a great asset, plus it's an excellent solution for breathing life into old computing hardware.

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