Published on: Friday 14th August 1998 By: Tarique Sani
"Give me one good reason why?" This is the ubiquitous question I hear from my better half before every project I under take, I usually end up giving three, and here are the three that I gave for having Linux on my PC.
But before I go any further let me warn you that this article assumes that you are fairly knowledgeable about your computer and you are a power user, secondly I don't fancy myself as a Linux guru so I may not be able to answer some of your questions (Any Linux Guru out there willing to help :)
I will be using Red Hat 5.0 distribution of Linux because in my humble opinion it is the most user friendly distribution available and it is almost "plug and play". I do know that Red Hat 5.1 is out but I have got 5.0, if you want to know whats new in Red Hat 5.1 see http://www.redhat.com/products/product-details.phtml?id=rhl-intel under the changes from previous version section. If you are going ahead with the install don't worry the installation will leave your Windows 95 setup untouched (yes you will have two computers in one).
A 386 with 8 MB of RAM will do, but a 486 with 16 MB of RAM is a good start - RAM is cheap and the more RAM you have, the better the performance. In fact inability to run JDK on my 486 was the prime reason for me to install Linux, that was almost a year ago.
A full install of Red Hat 5.0 will take about 540 MB - but if you are short on disk space, you can also get away with around 100 MB.
You will need a CD-ROM drive (unless you intend to install via FTP or NFS:.) Linux recognises just about every CD-ROM drive, so anything with a speed of 2x upward should do.
If you plan to run X Windows, which you should, you'll need a VGA display, but if you are just looking at running Linux as a text based workstation, or as a server, just about any display (even a CGA) will be just fine.
To integrate Linux into a network, you'll want an Ethernet card. Linux has built-in support for most popular Ethernet cards (both ISA and PCI), so anything you can lay your hands on should be acceptable.
Though some of the older cards may require you to set the base address an IRQ manually.
Finally, you should ensure that you have a serial port for communication, a parallel port for printing, and a serial port (or a PS/2 mouse port) for mouse. All are optional, though you will need a mouse if you intend running X Windows.
If your PC does not support booting off CD-ROM, you'll also need two blank 3.5" diskettes. Ensure that your PC allows booting off diskettes, you may have to enable this in the system BIOS.
Before you begin ensure that you have enough space for installing Linux and "defrag" the hard disk so that all the empty space is at the end of the disk. Next step is to partition the disk to hold Linux. Red Hat insists that you have a separate partition for Linux, which I wholeheartedly support because DOS/FAT16 is too flimsy to support a multi user system like Linux.
The simplest possible way of starting the installation process is to insert the CD-ROM into the drive and booting off it. This requires that your PC can boot off a CD-ROM and that the option is enabled in the BIOS (most new Pentiums allow this).
You can also start the Linux installation directly from the CD-ROM. Go to the \DOSUTILS directory on the CD-ROM and run AUTOBOOT.BAT.
If you have a SCSI bootable device, then, you'll need to create the Linux boot and supplement disks before you start the installation. To make the disks, go to the \IMAGES directory of the CD-ROM and run makedisk.bat file or the rawrite program. Keep two 1.44-MB floppy disks handy.
You will be asked if you are using a color monitor. Even if you have a monochrome monitor, select yes because Linux will run in grayscale mode. A screen asking you to specify the keyboard type (select default) follows this and the type of media that contains the packages to be installed (selectCD-ROM).
You are then asked to specify whether you're upgrading or doing a fresh install. Choose the latter. The next prompt is an important one. It asks whether you have any SCSI adapters? If you have a SCSI bootable device, you will need the Linux supplement disk.
The next part deals with disk partitioning, and is slightly tricky. You have to select a partitioning utility to set up the mount points. Choices available are Disk Druid and Linux fdisk. Both work fine, but I used Disk Druid. you'll need to create a Linux swap partition and a Linux native partition. All partitions are created by using the add button in Disk Druid. Keep your swap partition to 64 MB if you have 16, 32, or 64 MB of RAM. Use the tab key to navigate through the various buttons in Disk Druid utility.
After creating the Linux swap partition, note down the remaining hard disk size. The size specified here is 1 MB more than the actual (A bug in Disk Druid?). When you add partitions, you will be prompted to enter the partition size. Whatever be the number of partitions, ensure that the total disk space that you specify is 1 MB less than what Disk Druid displays. Press the F12 key to save changes and continue. You will be prompted to select the mount point. This is where all the Linux boot files will be located (Linux native partition). If it doesn't prompt you for it, then highlight the Linux native partition and select the edit button in Disk Druid. Enter a '/' when it asks you to specify the mount point and continue.
The next two options prompt you to format the swap space and the Linux native partition. Both screens have an option to check for bad blocks while formatting. If you have a new hard disk, you can disable this option, as checking for bad blocks takes time. If you have an older hard disk, and are not sure whether it has bad blocks or not, you should enable this option.
Next comes installing the software components. The installation program displays a dialog box showing the list of components. Use the spacebar to select or deselect an option. You can select from the various packages, or select all by going to the bottom of the list and selecting the everything option. Installing everything takes slightly more than 500 MB of space. Press continue and Linux starts copying all the files to the hard disk. This process takes about 20 minutes.
After all the files are copied, Linux will detect your mouse, display card, and the monitor. In each case, it displays a list of devices to choose from. Select from the list of devices that pop up. If you're not sure of which mouse and monitor you have, select Microsoft compatible mouse, and generic monitor options. When it asks you to set up the default resolution and color depth settings, select don't probe (selecting probe may halt your system). You will also be prompted to enter the video memory and the clockchip present in the display. Enter the video memory, and leave the clockchip setting to no clockchip (unless you are very sure about your chipset.)
Next enter the mode you want to run it in. This is where you enter the resolution and color depth. Choose the one your display adapter supports (If in doubt choose 640X480 8bit color.) All these settings are required to run X Windows. If these settings are not correct, you can always reconfigure them after the installation. For this, login and type Xconfigurator (X should be capital). Same prompts for setting your display card and monitor will come up again.
Next in the list is the network configuration. You can skip this if you are installing Linux on a stand-alone desktop. Dial up connections will be dealt in the next article.
Linux automatically detects any network cards in your machine. If there's a PCI Ethernet card, Linux automatically detects it and continues to the TCP/IP configuration. But if there's an ISA card, you will need to supply a base address to it before proceeding. Commonly used base address is Ox300. In the TCP/IP configuration, you have to specify the IP address, netmask, default gateway, and the primary nameserver. If you are setting up a fresh network, then use the reserved IP address range meant for LANs192.168.1.x. It makes sense to give this machine the IP address 192.168.1.1. If this is also your primary gateway to the Internet, then set the Gateway address to the same IP address.
Then you are prompted to enter the domain name, and the host name. If you have a domain name registered, you can enter that here. For example, I used SANIsoft.com as the domain name, and <computer name>.SANIsoft.com for the host name.
Next you have to configure the time zone. Choose from the list as fit for your country. Linux then prompts you to start the services, and gives you a list of the ones it's going to start. Leave it to default and continue. (If you are curious you can press F1 on each of the options to see a brief description.)
Now comes printer configuration. Select Yes if you want to do this now, this will bring up a dialog box asking where the printer is Local, Remote lpd, LAN manager. Choose local for your desktop.
Enter the name of the queue, and the spool directory (lp by default, leave it as such). Select the type of printer from the given list. You will now need to supply the root password. This should be at least six characters long.
Finally, it asks you to specify where Linux will boot from. Select master boot record. Linux will reboot and present you with a LILO prompt, enter linux (entering dos will boot to Win95) here the system will complete booting procedure and give you a login prompt Enter username as root and the password.
If everything went ok you will be presented with a command prompt. type startx and press enter to start Xwindows, after a while you will see a win95ish kind of interface.
Congratulations! You have successfully installed Red Hat 5.0 Linux, In the next article we will see how to get connected to the Internet using a Dial Up connection. Mean while, you can read the documentation for Linux found in the directory /usr/doc, particularly in the HOWTO and FAQ subdirectories, you will appreciate the various formats in which the documents are available, HTML for easy reference PS for easy printing.
You will also notice that your windows partition shows up but with short 8.3 file names, to fix this use the File System Configuration tool in Xwindows control panel and change the partition type to VFAT to enable long file names.