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Is it possible to use broken display laptop for print server?

I am only minimally familiar with Linux, or networking.

I have four laptops (various ages and OS's) and one old desktop in my
house. My only printer is attached to a seldom-used Windows desktop (big 
and slow and noisy) on the third floor. When anyone wants to print, which
is rare (once every two weeks?) we have to go upstairs, boot the desktop,
go back to the laptop and send to the shared printer, go back upstairs to
power down the desktop, then return to wherever we first were.

For some time now I have been wondering how I might cheaply put a
low-energy-use low-noise print server in the basement that runs 24/7 and
takes up little space. Going to the basement to retrieve the occasional
print would be less problem, especially if the print server was already

Then recently the display on one of my old Dell C610 laptops died. One
minute or so after booting the display would just completely white-out. I
decided to use the hard drive and memory for some other project and was
going to throw out the old Dell. But then I vaguely remembered past
readings on the Internet from people who say they run servers without
monitors or even keyboards...

Hmm. Is it possible to boot a minimal Linux OS from a cdrom on this broken
display Dell (with 256M ram) that would enable me to use it as a print
server? I would use a wired Ethernet connection to the hub in the

Hmm. I'm thinking- would I first need to boot with an attached external
monitor to configure the Bios to use the external monitor? (chicken or

Since the display doesn't work, can I completely detach it? Or will the
Bios/OS complain?

Can I somehow boot from a rescue cdrom or Live-CD of some kind that would
allow me to connect and configure its OS via the network? Or, how can I
build my own bootable cdrom that would allow this? (The Bios will not
allow booting from USB.) I'd have to install the printer driver, which is
not native to Linux builds (Brother HL2040).

Which native Linux software would I need to run to accomplish this sort of
thing- Samba? What else?

Seems like this would be a fun project and I would learn a lot, if I can
find a tutorial, website, or detailed hints...

Keith Ostertag

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