It may have been a tiny bit misleading the other day, to drop a hint at a floppy-based OS that superseded anything I was discussing at the time. It’s true that I do have something very useful and very flexible to mention — mostly as a note to myself, of course — but it wasn’t 100 percent accurate to allude to it in the context of floppy OSes.
Because technically it’s not a full-fledged OS. It’s just a boot disk … but what a boot disk it is.
That, as you might have guessed from the images, is the Slitaz boot floppy that doesn’t get much attention, even if it should. No one is to blame for that; Slitaz itself is so amazing that this little floppy is easy to overlook.
I’ve mentioned PLoP Boot Manager in the past — that’s on here. I’ve mentioned Smart BootManager in the past — that’s on here too. Plus memtest, three or four Windows-based options, network booting support and two great little tools for system analysis.
Those two — Navratil Software‘s NSSI and Erwan Velu’s HDT — deserve more attention by themselves. But swirled in with the long list of things you can do with the Slitaz boot floppy, the entire mix becomes the perfect instrument for taking a close look at the guts of a system.
People sometimes ask how to find out things like VESA version or ISA sound card addresses or mainboard chipset versions; there’s your answer. Pop that into the drive of any mostly-working leftover computer built post-1994, and you should be able to see exactly who, what, where, when and why of everything inside.
The fact that both of those tools are so light and so precise makes them valuable by themselves, but bundling them on the floppy makes the entire business irreplaceable. I know there are other floppy or CD boot tools out there, and really any two-disk boot Linux system will allow you to look at the general rundown on a machine.
But for example, NSSI also includes some basic benchmarking and diagnostic routines. You can rank the processor graphically against others in its range, test the internal PC speaker and even generate reports for other use. It’s got more goodies in than a candy factory. HDT has its own array of tools and options as well, and anything that NSSI omits, HDT no doubt covers.
I have a habit of saying, “This is a keeper,” and then something sits on the shelf for a month or two before I overwrite it with something else. But really, I’ve already run this through both the Pentiums I have in the house and I’ve slipped the floppy into a bag for when I visit the local recycling shop. The space it takes up is no indication of how useful it is … to some people, that is.