Well, in the end it was all remarkably easy.
- Debian first via floppy then network install, ensured kernel contained vfat fs support, created three partitions (one for FreeDOS, one for Debian and a swap for Debian). Much downloading and unpacking then ensued...
- Into Debian, apt-get install dosfsutils, mkdosfs /dev/hda1 (I made FreeDOS the first partition in case of any cylinder problems), mount -t vfat /dev/hda1 /mnt
- Still in Debian, fetched the beta 9 ISO and boot floppy images down, copied the ISO to /mnt, dd -if=fdboot1440.img -of=/dev/fd0 -b 1024 sync ; sync
- Reboot from FreeDOS floppy, ISO automatically found (a pleasant surprise) and the install proceeded.
And that's that. The only thing I have to worry about now is the dreaded XFree86 config, which is currently playing up. All else is fine.
I should probably reveal the purpose I have in mind for this box - it's for use as a C64 transfer mechanism. I have an adapter cable which lets me use an ancient Commodore 1541 floppy drive as a PC peripheral, but the software which uses it requires DOS. The idea is to dedicate this old laptop to the task (turns out to be an 8Mb RAM P150). Debian will be used to FTP the C64 disk images down, then FreeDOS will be used to transfer the images onto a genuine 5 1/4" C64 disk via StarCommander and this XE1541 adaptor cable. The whole lot will then be run on a C64 and retro gaming goodness will ensue.
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