This arrangement again requires a DOS machine with a speech synthesizer and a terminal emulator program. However, instead of dialing up a remote computer, it is used as a terminal to a local computer running Linux. To get to this point, you need to install Linux on a machine. You may be able to prevail on a knowledgable friend to help you with this. However, it is also possible to install it yourself with speech feedback for almost the whole procedure.
First, some background. Even the simplest Unix system requires a program called the kernel and a root file system. The kernel has all the device drivers and resource management functions. One normally thinks of a "file system" as residing on a hard disk or floppy disk, but during an installation it is usually in ram. Linux is normally installed by writing a kernel image to a floppy disk, called the "boot floppy", configuring it to reserve a section of RAM for a ramdisk, then filling that ramdisk with data from a second floppy disk, called the "root floppy". As soon as both floppies have been read in, the user can log in as "root" and complete the installation. The sighted user logs in on the "system console", that is, the computer's own keyboard and video display. However, remember that Unix has been a multiprocessing operating system from the very beginning. Even this very primitive Unix system, running out of a small ramdisk, also supports logins from a terminal connected to a serial port. This is what a blind user can use.
To connect the two computers, you can use a "null modem", a serial cable that connects ground to ground, and transmit on each end to receive on the other. The cable that comes with the DOS application LapLink will work fine. It is particularly handy, in fact, because it has both a 9 pin and a 25 pin connector on each end. If you want to check a cable or have one made, here are the required connections:
For two 9 pin connectors, connect pin 2 (receive data) to pin 3, pin 3 (transmit data) to pin 2, and pin 5 (signal ground) to pin 5.
For two 25 pin connectors, connect pin 2 (receive data) to pin 3, pin 3 (transmit data) to pin 2, and pin 7 (signal ground) to pin 7.
For a 9 pin connector (first) to a 25 pin connector (second), connect pin 2 (receive data) to pin 2 (transmit data), pin 3 (transmit data) to pin 3 (receive data), and pin 5 (signal ground) to pin 7 (signal ground).
You may have noted that I have included no connections for the
"handshaking" signals. During login, the serial port is handled by
agetty. Recent versions of this program accept a -L
switch which tells it not to expect modem control signals. The
version in Slackware 3.0 does, but the one on the 3.0 (and earlier)
installation root disks does not. However, Pat Volkerding has assured
me that the root disks in the next release of Slackware will have the
updated version of
agetty. It is also possible to use the
earlier root disks [
Emacspeak with Earlier Slackware Releases].
Consult the documentation on your CDROM, or downloaded from an FTP site, and choose a boot disk with the proper kernel features for your hardware (IDE or SCSI, CDROM driver, etc.). I have the InfoMagic September 1996 "Developer's Resource" set of six CDROMS. Slackware 3.1 is on disk 1 of that set, mostly in the two directories slackwar and slakware. (Note the difference in spelling. You will access them in alphabetical order: first slackwar, then slakware.)
Documentation on the boot floppies is in \bootdsks.144\which.one. A copy of the DOS program for writing boot images to a floppy, rawrite.exe, is in the same directory. Assuming the cdrom is the M drive under DOS, one might use these commands to write to a floppy disk in the A drive:
C>m: M>cd \bootdsks.144 M>rawrite scsinet.s a:
Similarly, to write the "text" root disk:
C>m: M>cd \rootdsks M>rawrite text.gz a:
If you install from floppies, you should also copy the Emacspeak package onto a floppy with a command like this:
C>copy m:\contrib\emacspea.tgz a:
For the actual installation, proceed as follows: Use the null modem to connect the computer running DOS and equipped with speech output (which I will call the "DOS machine") to the computer into which you want to install Linux (the "Linux machine").
Boot the DOS machine, and start your terminal emulation program. Set it up for 9600 baud, no parity, eight data bits, 1 stop bit.
On the Linux machine, insert the "boot" disk and boot (power up, cntl-alt-del, or hit the reset switch). It should read the disk for five seconds or so, beep, and stop with the following text:
(Note: in the following, the large blocks of text quoted from the installation disks are preceded by "-- begin quote" and followed by "-- end quote". To skip to the end of a quote, you may search for two dashes starting in the first column. I have word wrapped some sections to limit the line lengths.)
-- begin quote
Welcome to the Slackware96 Linux (v. 3.1.0) bootkernel disk! If you have any extra parameters to pass to the kernel, enter them at the prompt below after one of the valid configuration names (ramdisk, mount, drive2) Here are some examples (and more can be found in the BOOTING file): ramdisk hd=cyl,hds,secs (Where "cyl", "hds", and "secs" are the number of cylinders, sectors, and heads on the drive. Most machines won't need this.) In a pinch, you can boot your system with a command like: mount root=/dev/hda1 On machines with low memory, you can use mount root=/dev/fd1 or mount root=/dev/fd0 to install without a ramdisk. See LOWMEM.TXT for details. If you would rather load the root/install disk from your second floppy drive: drive2 (or even this: ramdisk root=/dev/fd1) DON'T SWITCH ANY DISKS YET! This prompt is just for entering extra parameters. If you don't need to enter any parameters, hit ENTER to continue. boot:
-- end quote
I have almost always been able to just hit "enter" at this point.
After your entry, the Linux machine should read the floppy for another twenty seconds or so, then boot the kernel. The first thing it prints is "Loading ramdisk...", which is somewhat misleading. In this case, "ramdisk" is actually the name of the kernel configuration.
Each device driver in the kernel displays a line or two. The particular disk I'm using (the "bare.i" bootdisk) displays more than one screen's worth. It is possible to type shift-page up to scroll the text back. On my machine, the boot messages are as follows:
-- begin quote
Loading ramdisk..... Uncompressing Linux...done. Now booting the kernel Console: colour VGA+ 80x25, 1 virtual console (max 63) Calibrating delay loop.. ok - 35.94 BogoMIPS Memory: 23028k/24768k available (688k kernel code, 384k reserved, 668k data) Swansea University Computer Society NET3.035 for Linux 2.0 NET3: Unix domain sockets 0.12 for Linux NET3.035. Swansea University Computer Society TCP/IP for NET3.034 IP Protocols: ICMP, UDP, TCP VFS: Diskquotas version dquot_5.6.0 initialized Checking 386/387 coupling... Ok, fpu using exception 16 error reporting. Checking 'hlt' instruction... Ok. Linux version 2.0.0 (root@darkstar) (gcc version 2.7.2) #1 Mon Jun 10 21:11:56 CDT 1996 Serial driver version 4.13 with no serial options enabled tty00 at 0x03f8 (irq = 4) is a 16550A PS/2 auxiliary pointing device detected -- driver installed. Ramdisk driver initialized : 16 ramdisks of 49152K size hda: IBM-DBOA-2720, 689MB w/64KB Cache, LBA, CHS=700/32/63 ide0: at 0x1f0-0x1f7,0x3f6 on irq 14 Floppy drive(s): fd0 is 1.44M Started kswapd v 188.8.131.52 FDC 0 is a 8272A Partition check: hda: hda1 hda2 hda3 VFS: Insert root floppy disk to be loaded into ramdisk and press ENTER
-- end quote
Some messages will of course be different on a machine with different hardware. Now, insert the "text" rootdisk and press ENTER. After it is read, the following is displayed on the console:
-- begin quote
RAMDISK: Compressed image found at block 0 JAVA Binary support v1.01 for Linux 1.3.98 (C)1996 Brian A. Lantz VFS: Mounted root (minix filesystem). INIT: version 2.60 booting none on /proc type proc (rw) INIT: Entering runlevel: 4 Welcome to the Slackware Linux installation disk ,version 3.1.0-text! ### READ THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW CAREFULLY! ### You will need one or more partitions of type "Linux native" prepared. It is also recommended that you create a swap partition (type "Linux swap") prior to installation. Most users can use the Linux "fdisk" utility to create and tag the types of all these partitions. OS/2 Boot Manager users, however, should create their Linux partitions with OS/2 "fdisk", add the bootable (root) partition to the Boot Manager menu, and then use the Linux "fdisk" to tag the partitions as type "Linux native". If you have 4 megabytes or less of RAM, you MUST ACTIVATE a swap partition before running setup. After making the partition with fdisk, use: mkswap /dev/<partition> <number of blocks> ; swapon /dev/<partition> Once you have prepared the disk partitions for Linux, type "setup" to begin the installation process. You may now login as "root". slackware login:
-- end quote
The program that prints the login prompt is called
Slackware 3.1 root disks are set up to allow logins only from the
computer's own keyboard. You will have to reconfigure it to also
allow logins from a serial port. This requires typing four lines on
the Linux machine keyboard, with no voice feedback. If you realize
you have made a mistake before hitting the carriage return, you can
erase it with the backspace key. You can also discard what you have
typed on a line with control-C. Here is what you type:
root cat >>/etc/inittab s1:45:respawn:/sbin/agetty 9600 ttyS0 control-D init q
I will repeat that with explanations of what is going on.
First, type "root" and a single carriage return
to log in (no password is needed). Next, you need to append one line
/etc/inittab. Type the following two lines:
cat >>/etc/inittab s1:45:respawn:/sbin/agetty 9600 ttyS0
Finish each line with the "enter" key. Then type a control-D, which
signals end of file to a Unix program. (Note: In the second line, the
next to last character is an upper case "S". Everything else is in
lower case.) This adds a line to the configuration file
of the program
init, to instruct it to use
agetty to watch
for logins on the first serial port on the Linux machine, called
"COM1" under DOS, or "/dev/ttyS0" under Linux. To use the second port
instead, change the last item on the above line to "ttyS1".
init to reread
this point the DOS machine should display the login prompt (the third
of the blocks of text quoted above). On the DOS machine, type
root, and finish the installation. (The next thing you should do
is create and enable a swap partition.)
If you don't get the Slackware installation disk prompt, try the following:
ATand a carriage return. You should get a reply of "OK" from the modem.
Once you get the above prompt on the DOS machine, you may type
root and a carriage return to log in, and complete the
installation like any other user. Of course, you must remember to
include these packages: emacs, tcl, and tclX.
The installation script will offer to prepare a boot floppy. You
should do this, since it is the most foolproof way to boot Linux. You
will probably also want to install
lilo (which is an abbreviation
for "Linux loader") and/or
loadlin (which is an abbreviation for
"load Linux"). The installation script can install lilo. Loadlin is
a DOS program that will let you boot from DOS to Linux. Install it on
a DOS partition, and copy a compressed kernel file (usually named
zImage) to the same partition. While running DOS, you may boot
Linux with a command like
loadlin zimage root=/dev/hda3 ro/.
(I have assumed here that the kernel image is in the same directory as
the loadlin program. You may find it more convenient to store kernel
images in subdirectories named for the kernel version.)
After the Slackware setup script finishes the main installation, it will tell you to restart by pressing cntl-alt-del. Before doing that, you should install emacspeak. It can be found with the other "contributed" software. In the InfoMagic set, it is in slackwar/contrib. Assuming you are installing Linux directly from a cdrom, the setup script will mount the cdrom under /CDROM, and you may install emacspeak with the following command:
# installpkg /CDROM/slackwar/contrib/emacspeak.tgz
If you install from floppies, insert the floppy you made earlier and type this:
# mount -tmsdos /dev/fd0 /floppy # cp /floppy/emacspea.tgz /tmp/emacspeak.tgz # installpkg /tmp/emacspeak.tgz
You should not install the package directly off the floppy disk, because the DOS filesystem will not allow the full filename, so the installpkg program will think the package name is "emacspea" and will store its records under that name.
If you have a DoubleTalk or LiteTalk speech synthesizer, you should also install the emacspeak-dt package.
Reboot the Linux machine with the new boot floppy, with the DOS machine still connected. You should get a login prompt on the DOS machine. Celebrate! After getting this system working, you need to learn emacs (third option) and Unix system administration.
Mostly you will learn system administration as the need arises. First adding a user (yourself), then installing programs, and so forth. The exception to this is making backups, which you should learn before you need them.
Among the many programs you will need to learn are these:
Register a new user, including creating a home directory and adding an entry in /etc/passwd.
Create and unpack
.tar files, which are collections of
files (something like
.zip files). To list the contents of an
tar -tf foobar.tar. For a more verbose listing, use
tar -tvf foobar.tar. To unpack an archive, use
Change permissions of a file or directory.
Change ownership of a file or directory.
Search directories recursively. For example, the command
find . -name '*alpha*' -print means: search starting in the
current directory (
.) for a file whose name contains the string
-name '*alpha*'), and print its path and name
Display the amount of space occupied by files or subdirectories. For a file with "holes", this may be much less than the length of the file.
Display filesystem capacities, free space, and where they are mounted.
Display filesystems, where they are mounted, and the mount flags.
Configure and check internet protocol (IP) network interfaces, including Ethernet cards, SLIP links, and PLIP links.
Configure and check IP network routing, after the interface is configured.
Check IP network connectivity, after the interfaces and routes are configured.
Transfer files across the Internet.
Here are some programs you may want to install:
Approximate grep searches for approximate, not exact, string matches (also called "fuzzy string searches").
Search Internet archives for files.
Convert text files between Unix and DOS formats.
Fuzzy string searches in large collection of files (uses agrep).
Text mode web browser.
Here are some Web pages related to Unix system administration:
General information http://www.ensta.fr/internet/unix/sys_admin/ or http://www.sai.msu.su/sysadm.html
There is a Unix system administration tutorial at http://www.iem.ac.ru/sysadm.html
UnixWorld Online Magazine Home Page http://www.wcmh.com/uworld/
Internet Essentials for UNIX System Administrators Tutorial http://www.greatcircle.com/tutorials/ieusa.html
Pointers to Unix goodies available on the Internet http://www.ensta.fr/internet/unix/
Pointers to Unix system administration "goodies" available on the Internet http://www.ensta.fr/internet/unix/sys_admin/