Installing Slackware Linux on the Ambra SN8660

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About the machine

Ambra SN8660 The Ambra SN8660 is a notebook computer with a 25MHz 486 processor. It was sold by IBM, at a time when Ambra was an IBM brand name; the technical specifications are still available on the IBM web server. It's smaller than a standard laptop, but not as small as, say, the Toshiba Libretto (which also runs Linux). In fact, it's similar in size to the HP OmniBook 800. The LCD screen is monochrome, VGA resolution.

There's considerable variation in pointing devices for machines of this class; the OmniBook has a tiny pop-out mouse on a pivoting lever, while the Libretto has a thumb-operated mouse on the lid, beside the screen. The Ambra has a small trackball in the bottom right-hand corner, with two buttons on the outside of the case. It appears to the OS as a PS/2-style mouse.

The disk in the Ambra is only 170Mb.

Installing Linux

In general, one can install Linux from floppy disk, CD-ROM, or via a network. In this case, I have no CD-ROM drive for the machine, so that rules out one of the easier methods. A network install, of course, requires a network interface such as ethernet. The Ambra has no built-in ethernet, but I do have an Etherlink PCMCIA card (and cable). However, the small-memory Slackware installation disk does not include PCMCIA drivers. Installing the drivers just takes up too much memory, causing the installation to fail. So, I made myself a set of Slackware 7.0 installation floppy disks.

Getting Slack onto the Ambra

Only one way to do it: floppy disks.

The Result

I have a handy, small Linux machine that can act as a Telnet host or serial terminal. It runs at a whopping 12.47 BogoMIPS, which is about right for a 25MHz 486.

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