How to install & setup Freesco 031 on a headless machine

A headless machine is a PC that doesn't have a monitor or keyboard attached. Basically this procedure involves using another PC to make a couple of small changes to files on a newly-created Freesco floppy. These changes enable a local telnet server and a local network connection between the router and PCs inside the network. Then you can run the Freesco router's setup program inside a Telnet window on one of those PCs.

I wanted to do this because my Freesco router is on top of a high shelf, and I can't plug a monitor into it without moving a lot of stuff around.

Note: This howto assumes you're creating the Freesco boot floppy on a Windows machine. I've tried it on a simple network, with 2 Windows PCs behind a floppy-based Freesco router which is connected to a cable modem. If your network is different, I don't know for sure that this procedure will work.

  • First problem you might find is that many PCs will generate an error message and halt if switched on without a keyboard plugged in. You can probably change this default behaviour in the BIOS/CMOS setup, but you have to attach a monitor and keyboard to do that. :-( On some BIOSes this is done by setting the machine to “Halt on: No Errors”

Anyway, assuming you can get past that hurdle (note, PS/2 keyboards are theoretically not hot-swappable), follow the standard procedure, as described in the manual, to create a bootable Freesco floppy.

On that floppy disk:


If this file exists, Freesco knows that it's being booted up for the first time, and goes into the setup routine, which we don't want.

Edit ROUTER\ETC\SYSTEM.CFG as follows:

ENATEL=s #47. Enable telnet server

Note: you'll use Telnet later to finish setting up the Freesco router

If your router has an old non-PnP ethernet card and/or BIOS you may have to find out the IRQ and port addresses and put them in the [Ethernet Hardware] section as well. As far as I know, stuff manufactured in the past 5 years or so won't need this.

Add the following section to the end of SYSTEM.CFG. This sets up your local network so your Telnet app can communicate with the Freesco router:

# [Network 1]
INTNAME1=eth1 # Interface name (eth1|arc1e|arc1)
IPADDR1= # IP adress of this interface
NETMASK1= # Network mask
NETWORK1= # Network address
BRDCAST1= # Broadcast address
IPRANGE1="" # IP pool, empty disables DHCP on this interface

Save SYSTEM.CFG, then boot the router with the newly-created floppy. With a good Telnet application, like Putty, you will be able to connect to the router from a PC inside the network, and run the setup program, to set up the network properly. Telnet to the address IPADDR1, that you put into SYSTEM.CFG.

There's an alternative to the above editing process. If you have a copy of SYSTEM.CFG from a previous installation of Freesco then you can try just copying it onto the new Freesco floppy. I did this when upgrading Freesco 030 to 031, with a couple of edits to SYSTEM.CFG to deal with default settings (modem stuff and DHCP logging) that appear to have been changed in version 031. I don't know if things are similar enough to make this practical when upgrading from 027 to 031. Compare the old and new versions of SYSTEM.CFG carefully if you try it. And make sure rdonly=n…

VERY IMPORTANT: If you upgrade by simply copying SYSTEM.CFG, don't forget you MUST still telnet into the setup program to change the default passwords, or your Freesco box will be very hackable!!

By the way, to turn off read only mode on a machine without a kb/monitor, you will need to put the floppy in another PC and edit SYSTEM.CFG so that rdonly=n

freesco/howtos/monitorless_keyboardless_install_howto.txt (49506 views) · Last modified: 2006/06/24 03:02 (external edit)
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