Freesco
...From Scratch.


FAQ's, HOWTO's & Documentation
FAQ's
General
 
 
 


General FAQ's
Important note: Read our Third Party Disclaimer.

  1. What is Freesco?
  2. How much does Freesco cost?
  3. What do I need to run Freesco?
  4. Where do I download Freesco from?
  5. How do I make a Freesco floppy disc?
  6. How do I install Freesco once I've made the disc?
  7. What is the latest version?
  8. How can I install Freesco to a hard disk instead of a floppy disc?
  9. How do I upload to the http server built into Freesco?

1) What is Freesco?

Freesco is a free piece of software, developed by the people at www.freesco.org, which allows you to set up a computer as a "router".

This has many uses, from connecting two different computer networks together (called bridging), sharing Internet access using a single modem or Internet connection across an entire network (so that an entire network in a office can connect to the internet using a single modem / Internet connection simultaneously), setting up dial-up access to a network (so that people can use the office network from their home machines).

It's also capable of a whole lot more and it all fits onto one floppy disc, including it's own operating system.

2) How much does Freesco cost?

Nothing. You download a single hassle-free, advertisement-free program and install it on a computer which you no longer wish to use (e.g. an old 486 machine with no monitor etc.). Freesco fits on one single 1.44Mb floppy disk, and even self-boots, so there is no need to buy a seperate operating system (like Unix, Windows or DOS) for the machine using Freesco. It accomplishes this because Freesco uses a custom-modified Linux (a free Unix derivative) as it's own operating system.

Freesco can be used for any purpose, commercial or not, without payment, for as many machines as you like. The Freesco site does include a Donation section where you can support the authors of this great piece of software but this is, of course, voluntary.

3) What do I need to run Freesco?

A computer. This computer can be anything from an ancient 386 to the latest and greatest 20,000 GHz computer. This computer will be "sacrificed" in that you won't be able to use it for other programs or operating systems while it's being used as a Freesco router (this is not entirely true, Freesco runs a form of Linux).

The Freesco computer needs to have a working floppy drive and either a network card and a modem, or two network cards inside it (greater capacity exists within Freesco for up to two modems and three network cards and future version will no doubt extend this further).

Freesco does not need:

  • a hard drive (though one can be installed and used). Freesco installs nothing on your hard disk (until you tell it to. See later about Freesco on a hard-disk), nor does it even write to the hard disk unless you type a specific command, so your computer will not be affected and will keep it's old operating system. Removing the floppy disc from the drive and rebooting will boot your system as normal.

  • a monitor (though it's helpful should something not go right first time).

  • a keyboard (though it's helpful when setting up the machine for the first time).

  • a mouse (at all)

  • a CD-ROM drive (at all)

  • a fast processor; a 66MHz machine is more than fast enough for most networks, the determining factor being the speed of the Internet access and network bandwidth.

  • lots of RAM; in fact, enabling the option to let Freesco use more than the first 8Mb can cause problems with connecting to some Windows-based ISP's over a modem! It can run on a machine with 128Mb of RAM, but it'll only really use the first 8 or 16Mb because that's all it needs.

  • an operating system; the Freesco disk includes it's own OS, a cut-down version of Linux, which is put onto the floppy disk when you make it.

You do need:

  • a Linux-compatible modem, either internal (ISA or PCI) or external (serial port). Not all modems are Linux-compatible. Many recent internal modems are what are known as Winmodems. A Winmodem can only work in Windows, because they use cheap components which make the software drivers (and therefore the actual processor of your computer) perform the work that the modem should, by rights, be doing.

    These drivers have not yet been properly ported to Linux operating systems and, unless manufacturers decide to cooperate, probably never will be. Simply put, a Winmodem is a cheap bodge-job of a modem.

    Usually, most external modems are not Winmodems and most cheap internal modems are Winmodems. There are exceptions to the rule, however, and you can check if you have a Linux-compatible non-Winmodem at Rob Clark's Winmodem compatibility list at http://start.at/modem/.

  • a Linux compatible network card. Most network cards are Linux-compatible, though some may need to be set to non-Plug-'n'-Play mode. This is a simple operation and is a standard feature on most network cards. Most notably, NE2000 compatible cards (the most common type) are supported in Linux for ISA and PCI cards.

    Please note that it is not necessary that other network cards on the network be Linux-compatible or that the other workstations be Linux-based. So long as the network itself (including the Freesco workstation) all use the same network, there is no problem.

    For instance, the example setups given in this review of Freesco include a fairly common example of a Freesco router using a ISA NE2000 card (set to use a non-PNP mode) and an external modem (which isn't a Winmodem) being used to allow an entire network of Windows machines to share the modem connection to the Internet.

  • A "spare" computer to be the Freesco computer, i.e. one that you no longer use or intend to use. As stated above, this can be just an old, slow, floppy-only desktop computer without a monitor or other peripherals.

  • Either these instructions, a knowledge of Linux or the dedication to read and learn for yourself from the Freesco website.

  • A single, blank 1.44Mb floppy disk (preferably new or relatively unused).

  • Access to a DOS or Windows computer to download Freesco and make the Freesco floppy disc in the first place. This only needs to be done once so, for example, could be done at a friends house, the office, a library or an Internet cafè.

4) Where do I download Freesco from?

You can download Freesco from the many mirror sites on www.freesco.info/freesco.org. We may be putting up Freesco for download from this site at a later date if we can. The file you want is called freesco-027.zip You may also want to download the file modules-027.zip at the same time. modules-027.zip contains extra network card drivers and keymaps for non-US keyboards. Freesco can be used on a non-US keyboard without these, but some characters may not be where your keyboard says they are, e.g. the @ and " keys may be interchanged.

5) How do I make a Freesco floppy disc?

First, download the Freesco .zip file(s) from one of the download mirror listed on our Links section. The files you need are called: freesco-027.zip and (optionally) modules-027.zip

You will need to make an new, empty directory (folder) on the hard drive of a computer (not necessarily the one that will be the Freesco router). Copy the .zip file(s) into that directory and unzip them using a utility such as PKZIP, ENZip, Winzip, Power Archiver, ZipMagic or another similar decompression program.

Using your decompression program, extract the .zip file(s) to their own directories. This should leave you with a directory with the following files:

Filename:
Size: (bytes)
Description:
   
date-uix.tgz
9,204
Date command for Unix.
date-w32.zip
29,422
Date command for Win32
fast_fd.bat
341
Floppy-maker (fast)
freesco.027
1,474,560
Floppy image
freesco.scp
1,304
Dial-in script for Windows DUN
history.txt
3,157
Describes the history of Freesco and it's various versions.
make_fd.bat
152
Floppy-maker (standard)
rawrite.exe
10,341
Utility used by floppy-makers
readme.txt
4,105
Well, what do you think you should do with this file?
safe_fd.bat
310
Floppy-maker (slow but more compatible)
syslinux.com
7,016
Utility used by floppy-makers

Next, insert a blank, formatted disk into your floppy drive A:. Make sure it is not write-protected (the little black bit of plastic should be covering the hole). If this disk is not blank, all data on it will be permanently erased and will be unrecoverable!

Go to the directory that the files for freesco-027.zip were extracted to and double-click on the program make_fd.bat that you just extracted from the zip file. A screen will show you:

 make_fd - RAWRITE
This batch file will write the floppy image
"freesco.027" onto a disk in drive a:

Please insert a formatted diskette into drive A: and press -ENTER-:

If, at this point, you do not wish to make the Freesco disk, press Ctrl-C and close the window. If you do, press Enter. The floppy disc will spin for about one minute, then the program will finish (indicated by "Finished" in the title of the window). You've just made a Freesco disc!

6) How do I install Freesco once I've made the disc?

Answer to follow.

7) What is the latest version?

At the time of writing, the latest version of Freesco is version 0.2.7, with version 0.3 in the pipeline.

8) How can I install Freesco to a hard disk instead of a floppy disc?

Make a Freesco floppy, boot into it, log in to a console, type

move2hdd

and then reboot. This will create a ROUTER directory on C:\, along with a file ROUTER.BAT. When run from DOS, this will run Freesco.

Renaming this file to AUTOEXEC.BAT or including the line:

CALL ROUTER.BAT

inside AUTOEXEC.BAT will make Freesco boot up from the hard disk every time you boot the machine.

PLEASE NOTE: Only IDE drives are supported under Freesco (no SCSI support is planned). Larger IDE drives may also cause problems with Freesco.

9) How do I upload to the http server built into Freesco?

You have several choices:

  • Copy your files onto a floppy disk and then copy them onto the Freesco machines disc manually.

  • Use the program snarf (which is already included with Freesco) from the Freesco machine to download the files from a website or other computer on the local network with a web server to the Freesco machine's hard disk.

  • Install a third-party package. There are two types of packages which can help you transfer files to the Freesco machine:

    Samba (e.g., samba / smbd from wapr) will allow the Freesco machine to show up on Windows' Network Neighbourhood, where you can then copy files across like you normally would between two networked computers.

    FTP daemons (e.g. ftpd from Fernando Rocha, proftpd from wydmy) will let the Freesco machine act as an FTP server, where you can then upload files as you would upload to any other FTP server.

 

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