This Space for Rent

I have become death, destroyer of computers

A couple of weeks ago, I modified the kernel for the Linux distribution we maintain at work (a modified R*dh*t Linux dollarware 3.0) to get around an unusual problem with the installer. The problem was pretty simple; when booting the system, we use Freedos so we can get an installer cd that works on all of the boxes we lease (some of these boxes won't boot hard disk images off a cd-rom drive, and Linux 2.4+redhat hackery is big enough so it doesn't come close to fitting on a floppy image; Freedos is tiny enough to fit on a floppy image, so it boots, mounts the cd-rom as a dos filesystem, then calls loadlin to load the kernel plus all the rococo crap that our boys in the research triangle stuff into their boot images.

This works pretty well. A few problems crept in because some versions of Freedos move the PC Extended bios data area, but those were solved by upgrading Freedos to a newer (and bigger) version. But a week ago, when the project lead (not me, drat! I wanted to go out east and get a pallet of Cheerwine) was out in North Carolina, he found a SMP machine that our installer insisted on calling a uniprocessor. So, after discussing it with my other cow orkers, I modified the Linux kernel for the installer so it was a SMP i486 kernel instead of a uniprocessor i386 kernel. We did some tests, and everything was happy, so we rolled it into our distribution.

I was taking today off as an anti-head-explosion holiday, and a couple of hours ago I got a phone call from my corporate masters. Our Linux distribution had, apparently, taken a dislike to the IBM x206 PC, and would, if allowed to boot, completely erase the BIOS on it.

Cool. We've gotten rid of all the security problems on that type of machine, and we didn't even have to use a sledgehammer!

Alas, they made me back out the changes :-(