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Installing Linux (Red Hat 6/6.2/7)


 

(©) Philip Ludlam, 2000


 

Introduction

 

From the outset I would like to say that I am not going to repeat the installation guide that comes with Red Hat Linux, or any other linux for that matter. What I am going to write about is my experience with installing Linux on various machine - my own, a friend's and two (soon to be three) at work.


 

Getting Started

 

The first thing you need to install Linux is a Linux distribution. A distribution of Linux is a particular version of Linux. There are six or so major distributions, and several minor ones, unfortuantly they are not one hundred percent compatiable with each other. When I say versions, I am refering to the differences in the installation programs and the way the system is set up.

What is core between all distributions of Linux, is the kernel and the layout of the filestructure. The kernel is the most important bit of Linux, and it handles the fundamental input/output operations, schedules processing, deals with the memory and contains all the major hardware drivers.

Now, what I am going to say is obvious, but not many people do this though. Only once during my eight installations have I needed a rescue disc, in order to get my computer working again. What had happened was that the installation program had hung when trying to write to a disc (I found out later that there were defects on the disc). However as the installation had not finished, incomplete information had been written to the boot sector of my main hard drive. This called for a rescue disc which contained boot sector/partition tables information to be used to restore the computer to how it had been. It then required reinstalling Red Hat (for the eighth time) as I had just messed up my Linux partitions


 

Why Red Hat

 

To be honest, I wouldn't say that I did much research into this. I can remember being told or reading about the various Linux distributions and hearing that Red Hat was the easiest to get to grips with for Linux new-comers. I have sinced learned that Debian is considered to be the easiest, but I've stuck to RedHat, as that is the one that I know.

Red Hat was not my first experience with Linux. I have in my possession the BURKS (second edition) CD Rom (BURKS stands for Brighton University Resource Kit for Students). On the BURKS CD was the slackware distribution of Linux along with a few 'getting-started' tutorials. I remember spending some time reading this and I was quite intrigued by what I was reading, even though I couldn't use it on my Acorn.

Looking back on what I did, I can't say that I regret anything, the distribution I choose, nor what I got (a single CD with the main Red Hat distribution and manuals). At the time, yes I know would have preferred manuals (and possibly someone to hold my hand as I went through it!) but the whole time I was sure that whatever happened, I could still run Windows :-).


 

Getting Red Hat

 

While surfing the web and looking at Linux websites I had a look for companies that would sell me a CD with Red Hat on it. I can't remember exactly how I can across the Linux Emporium http://www.linuxemporium.co.uk but I think it was through http://www.linux.org.

What I got when I purchased the Red Hat 6 CD was just one CD which had the main distribution on it. The printed manuals and other application CDs that can with the full Red Hat package were not part of it, although the manuals in HTML form are on the CD. These, however, are of no use during installation as Linux locks the CD drive once you access the drive.


 

Pre Installation Details

 

With Linux and (probably) other Unix variants, installation is not a case of put in the disc and go. Unfortunately, that is what I did. I jumped straight into installing Red Hat. What I should have done is to read the installation instructions and to understand, at least partially, what was required of me. You need to know details about your system in order for software such as X-windows and facilities like networking to work correctly.

In order for you to get a grasp of what I wrote down and used when installing Linux, this is what I have:

Keyboard
Standard 101/102-key or Microsoft Natural Keyboard
Thankfully the graphical installer that comes with RedHat 6.2 and later comes with an installer that lets you try out your keyboard with different settings.
Graphics Adapter
Producer : Silicon Integreated Systems
Chipset : SiS 620 (620)
This information is only required if you want to run X-windows.
Monitor
Horizontal frequency : 30 - 70 KHz
Vertical frequency : 47 - 150 Hz
Again, this is only required if you want to run X-windows.
Mouse
Standard PS/2 mouse, 2 buttons
Again, this is only required if you want to run X-windows.
Sound Card
PCI Audio Legacy Device Properties
Input/Output Range : 0220-022F, 0388 - 038F, 0330-0331
Interupt Request : 05
Direct Memory Access : 01, 05
This is what you need to run your sound card under Linux, which can be usefull for sample editing, playing CDs/MP3s and so that you can hear the little sound effects.

If you want to connect to the internet through a dial-up connection then you need to know your modem and ISP details, and if you have an intranet connection, through a enternet card (for example), then you need to know your IP number, gateway address, DNS and NIS or DCHP as required.

In essence, if you want Linux to use something then you need to know what it is and how you can communiacte eith it!

All this information can be obtained by either looking in the manuals supplied with your hardware, though opening up your computer case and looking, or though the 'System' icon, under Start -< Settings -< Control Panel in Windows.

In order to even attempt installation you need to have spare disc space, with which you can create partitions for Linux to use. There is no point me describing to you what a partition is or how to create one and what it will be used for. Instead I will refer you to your Linux distribution, either the manual in hardcopy, or HTML documents on the CD.


 

Installing Linux

 

The CD was set up to run using three different methods

  1. If you can configure your computer to boot using the CD drive then you can start the installation this way. This involves altering your BIOS settings (only temporarily) to use the CD on startup and means that you don't need a boot disc to get going.
  2. From the DOS prompt, not from within a Windows shell, you can run a program called 'EZStart.bat' which will start the installation from the CD.
  3. If either of these are not possible then you could create a boot disc from which you can install Linux. This requres using the program rawrite to write an 'image' directly to the disc. This image is then read by the computer when it starts and then will start the installation, off the rest of the CD.
Whatever method you use there is documentation on the CD and in the supplied manuals if you are unsure.


Now, being somewhat on the lazy side I decided to go with the easy option, of booting from the CD drive, straight into the Red Hat installation. Now most of the installation is easy, as long as you have read the documentation beforehand, the only tricky part as far as I was concerned was that of partioning the drive, and what to set the size of each partition. The table below shows what I currently have set up.

Mount point Device Requested Actual Type
/mnt/hda1 hda1 6149M 6149M Win95FAT32
/boot hdc1 10M 15M Linux native
/home hdc5 600M 603M Linux native
/tmp hdc6 200M 203M Linux native
/var hdc7 128M 133M Linux native
  hdc8 125M 125M Linux swap
  hdc9 125M 125M Linux swap
/usr hdc10 1M 2698M Linux native
/ hdc11 200 203M Linux native

A few notes about my setup.

My Win95FAT32 partition
This partition is where windows resides, and as you can see I have it setup as /mnt/hda1 under Linux
the 'hda'and 'hdc'devices
The hda device is the master drive on the primary IDE channel, the hdc device is the master drive of the secondary IDE channel, and for you information the slave on secondary channel (hdd) is my CD drive. If his means nothing to you look up hardrives and/or partitions for Linux.
My /boot partition
This is me being too cautious, but you can never be too careful. You only need this if you think you may have problems booting beyond the 1,024 cylinder limit, which is around the 8Gb point on a drive
My /, /home, /tmp and /var partitions
My information for setting these four partitions said that on a 2.2GB harddrive you should have 50M, 600M, 100M and 64M respectivly. As you can see I didn't exactly double the values, just looked at how much disc space was used per partition (from previous installs) and tried to even things out.
My two swap partitions
They say that your swap partition(s) should be two and a half times that of the amount of memory you have in your system. I went slightly more, well about four times in fact. The reason that there are two partitions both of 125M is simple. For swap memory Linux cannot access the space above 128MB on swap partitions (although there no limit to the number of swap partitions) and I don't want to waste disc space. Due to my harddrive the next step below 128M was 125M and hence the two partitions of this size.
My /usr partition.
Although the requested size was 1M, I had selectecd the 'grow to fill size' option, hence why it takes up the rest of the space on my harddrive. Please note that I did create the / (root) partition before the /usr partition.

Please note that this is my setup, and yours can be completly different, there is no right or wrong way to do this. You could get away with just a swap and root partition, or you may want a /home partition so that you can reinstall your system without losing any of the files in your home directory.

I decided to install all the components/programs on the CD. If the installer has a in text styled interface then the following will work. While the installer is installing/setting up the system you may want to press Alt + F2, or Alt + F3, Alt + F4 or Alt + F5 to see what it is actually doing. And if you can, try to read the comments about each program whilst they are being installed, the author obviously has a sense of humor.

Under RedHat 6: The only problem that I had was with the X-windows system, as version 3.3.3 (which was on the CD) didn't support the chipset used in my graphics card. If you find that the chipset used in your graphics card is not listed then this may be the case. Continue with the installation, but don't set the system to start up under X-windows. When it comes to running X-windows then if the display resolution is 320 by 256, where everything looks big then X-windows does not support your chipset. If this happends then surf to http://www.xfree86.org to find the latest version which does work on your machine.


 

References

 

About half of the information I have put above came, not from my experience, but from printed and unprinted information.

  1. First on the list is the one and only issue of Linux Answers which was published by Future Publishing around the end of October last year. Since then then have gone on to publish Linux Format once a month
  2. Secondly the HTML manuals that came with my Red Hat (http://www.redhat.com) CD.
  3. And last but not least the BURKS (Brighton University Resource Kit for Students) CD (http://www.burks.brig.ac.uk).

 
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