TINY Linux was the answer. A twelve-diskette install (by which I mean, 4 diskettes, round-n-round) later, I had a small Slackware 4.0 installation on my little laptop that could get on the internet. A little more work (i.e., manually setting network settings, as I had no DHCP client installed yet), and I had an installation that could grab packages from mhvlug.org with wget.
I want to mirror this distribution via ftp on irrsinn.net soon, because that is the only resourece for Slackware 4.0 files I could find. Problem is, it’s a bit expensive under my hosting plan to set up anonymous FTP. At the very least, I can mirror it via HTTP.
I’m obviously not running X (nor do I wish I could), nor am I too worried about the security of running a Slackware 4.0 installation. I’m not running any servers, and I’ll only be connecting to the Internet to ftp files up to my server and reference writing resources on the web. It’s a sweet little deal.
In fact, I like Slackware so much that I’ll be installing it onto my other old machine — Willie, a 300 MHz with 256 MB of RAM and only a 1.2 GB hard drive. I’ve had Windows 2000 on it since I got it, but there wasn’t enough room to install all of the updates it needed, even with all of my applications on a second (larger) preferably storage-only hard drive. I basically use the machine to serve files and play Diablo II, both of which I can do ably in Slackware if I install X. With the help of Penguin Pete’s X Window Manager and Desktop Environment Guide (a wonderful read; go read it, even if you know nothing about Linux), I’m using Fluxbox on Willie.
My little laptop doesn’t have a name yet. I think I need more time to determine its personality before I give it one. The next I’m going to do is to silence the mutha, though, because it’s PC beep is loud and occurs seven times while booting and every time I make the wrong keypress. I couldn’t use the damn thing in class even if I wanted to, for fear that I might, at some point during the 50 minutes, mistype. I don’t know yet if my solution to that will be via software or hardware (just unplugging the damn pc speaker).