There are different ways to boot a Linux-System with old laptops, dependent on the existing hardware. Often they cannot be started directly from CD-ROM because the BIOS does not support this. In this case you can try a bootmanager with "boot-from-CD" support,for example the Smart Boot Manager(http://btmgr.webframe.org ). FreeDOS(http://www.freedos.org/)has included this bootmanager into their bootfloppys. You can download the floppyimage from here(http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/micro/pc-stuff/freedos/files/distributions/1.0/fdboot.img).
It's easy to build a bootdisk from a running *NIX system:
# wget http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/micro/pc-stuff/freedos/files/distributions/1.0/fdboot.img # dd if=~/fdos1440.img of=/dev/fd0
If you still own a MS-Windows-like operating system you probably need the RawWrite tool to build the bootdisk.
This installation method worked perfectly with my old Shinada Laptop.
Lutz Willek <l.willek_at_belug.de>