laptop as a terminal

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I am about to get a headless server.  I have an old laptop that I'd like
to use as a serial terminal.

The laptop will be off unless I need to access the server.

The goal is to set up this laptop to boot into minicom as quickly as
possible, and background all of the other stuff - network initialization,
and so - so that I can see what is going on.  (the laptop is old and slow,
and I don't want to wait on it to boot up for several minutes.)

Can anyone suggest a way to do this?  I'm not sure how to go about
backgrounding stuff but in such a way that it still boots in the right


Re: laptop as a terminal

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Understand that the kernel boot is still going to take some time as it
looks for installed hardware/peripherals/etc.  That being said, the best
way to avoid all avoidable overhead is to boot into single user mode since
that won't start networking or other daemons.

Learn and understand the structure of the startup files in /etc/init.d and
how they are selected as symlinks in /etc/rc?.d then you'll quickly see
how to customize a runlevel that only provides the functionality that you

minicom shouldn't need any other backgrounded daemons running and should
work fine from runlevel 1.

Re: laptop as a terminal
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If all you want is a dumb terminal then use something running under DOS.
You can get Freedos for free, dig out a suitable terminal program and
use that. Probably a fraction of the boot time for Linux.

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Re: laptop as a terminal

as said before, if you don't need anything except serial console, you should
boot to some DOS. It can't get faster.

If you want to use linux, make it easy, just for your purpose.
Compile a linux kernel without anything you won't need (you only need serial
support, console via graphics hardware, keyboard) and compile a minicom (or
something else) statically. Then copy it to /sbin/init (you won't start
other programs) and mount root read-only (cannot destroy your fs). Make sure
you create appropriate devices etc.
You could even use BusyBox to create a linux system as simple as possible.

But if you still need things like networking, framebuffers, shells, maybe
even X, you're not done. Then I'd recommend to create a partition (5 Mb
should be much too large) and put a simple DOS inside it. FreeDOS, as
recommended, is a good idea. Or maybe you have some old DOS disks lying
around (4 or 5 should be sufficient).


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Re: laptop as a terminal
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I like it... I'll just hack up init to do what I need....  IIRC the
busybox init code is pretty small.... So it shouldn't be difficult to
launch minicom right off the bat and proceed with initialization in the

Re: laptop as a terminal

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Try a distro that'll let you install as little as you want, like gentoo.
Maybe a distro that is designed for booting off a floppy?
Build a minimal kernel with just drivers for your hardware.  Don't even
bother with sound or networking.
You should be able to get away without X; just use the console frame buffer.
No services;  put minicom into rc.local.  It shouldn't take a whole minute.

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