Originally Published: Sunday, 3 September 2000 Author: Live! Staff
Published to: news_interact_live/live! news Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Questions and Answers from LWCE Installfest

The Linux.com Live! staff has answered your most common questions on installing Linux. Get the answers you need, along with screenshots to guide you in your installation quest.

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Q. What can I do before installation to make life easier?

A. There are a few things that you can do ahead of time to make life easier. Before installing the new OS, always be sure to backup all your important files. Also open up your control panel in Windows, and look at the device manager. Make note of the type of Video card you have, and SCSI devices, your monitor type, Modem. and other hardware. If you choose properties you can also write down the resources used.

Q. What is a Partition?

A. [partition] A segment of a disk drive's storage space that can be accessed as if it was a complete disk drive.

Q. What is Bash?

A. Bash is a shell used to interact with the operating system

Q. What is a Shell?

A. [shell] [orig. {Multics} techspeak, widely propagated via UNIX] n. 1. [techspeak] The command interpreter used to pass commands to an operating system; so called because it is the part of the operating system that interfaces with the outside world. 2. More generally, any interface program that mediates access to a special resource or server for convenience, efficiency, or security reasons; for this meaning, the usage is usually 'a shell around' whatever. This sort of program is also called a 'wrapper'.

Q. Where is my C drive (C:)?

A. In Linux partitions are accessed as /dev/hda* instead of the C: and D: that you're used to

Q. What is /dev/hda?

A. /dev/hda is the first ide drive with /dev/hda1 being the first partition on that drive

Q. What if I have no space?

A. Resize existing partitions with GNU parted, a program that has the ability to resize on the fly without destroying data.

Q. What is parted?

A. [parted] GNU Parted is a program for creating, destroying, resizing, checking and copying partitions, and the file systems on them. This is useful for creating space for new operating systems, reorganizing disk usage, copying data between hard disks and disk imaging. -- http://www.gnu.org/software/parted/

Q. I am getting warnings using parted; is something wrong?

A. When resizing with Parted, a few windows system files will cause warnings, but in our experience these warnings can simply be ignored. Everything still works properly in windows, GNU parted has it all together...

Q. Do I have to use a boot disk for parted?

A. You can also install parted on your Linux system, you do not need to use a boot disk in order to use parted. In fact, if you use debian, you can simply type: apt-get install parted

Q. What is a file-system?

A. [file-system] A file-system is the method by which information is stored on disk drives. Different operating systems normally use different file-systems, making it difficult to share the contents of a disk drive between two operating systems. However, Linux supports multiple file-systems, making it possible, for example, to read/write a partition dedicated to Windows.

Q. Is defragmentation necessary for parted?

A. As long as there is no data in the area of the partition that is going to be taken to build the new partition defragmenting is not necessary.

Q. What advantages does Debian have over other distributions?

A. One of the main advantages is maintainability, the package management of Debian is far superior to many other distributions. Debian is non-profit, made by the community, for the community. Another benefit of Debian is that it is maintained by users, not a corporation. So unlike some distributions. they do not release something just to keep pace. If it is released you can be sure it has been tested a 100 different ways. There are several hundred developers actively working on the Debian distribution, more than any other distribution.

Q. Should I do a Simple or complex installation?

A. If you are new to Linux, a simple install is probably best.

Q. What is a kernel?

A. [kernel] the core part of the operating system that handles memory and processes. If you want to see the current versions try /msg info kernel

Q. How do we dual-boot Linux and Windows?

A. With a boot loader, lilo or grub.

Q. What is lilo?

A. [lilo] the linux loader, a program to create an x86 bootsector. LILO is capable of booting almost any os. When we set lilo in the mbr the active partition doesn't matter you only need to make the linux boot partition bootable via fdisk if you do not intend to install lilo into the master boot record or multiple kernels.

Q. Does lilo have to be on the beginning (first 2 gig) of the drive?

A. No longer does lilo have to be within the first 1024 cylinders of your hard drive. Run lilo with the -L option, and lilo will generate 32-bit Logical Block Addresses instead of C:H:S addresses, allowing access to all partitions on disks greater than 8.4Gb and then the 2Gb limit is non-existent. You should be careful though if using products such as ez-bios which is for bios that can't support big hard drives.

Q. What is cfdisk?

A. [cfdisk-] a simplifed version of fdisk which uses a menu like interface

Q. What partitions should I create?

A. 1 swap and one regular linux partition.

Q. What is a swap partition?

A. A swap partition is an area of your hard drive reserved to be used as virtual memory Linux uses it so it can run programs larger than the current ram size. When information needs to be moved out of random access memory temporarily, it is "swapped" to virtual memory, located in your swap partition. There are many philosophies regarding swap size one of the most common theories is to have the same amount of swap as ram, in cases that more than 64 megs of ram is available. It is also good to have the swap partition as close to the beginning of the drive as possible for the reason that accessing near the center of a hard drive is faster than the outer edge.

Q. How can you configure the kernel during the install w/o needing to recompile the kernel?

A. You can install kernel modules for device support while installing.

Q. Can parted resize swap partitions?

A. Yes. Parted has support for resizing swap partitions.

Q. Can setting too much swap can be bad?

A. Having an excessive swap actually slows the computer down and while the new kernels can access a gig of swap it really is a waste of hard drive space. Swap space, however is mandatory although no minimal amount is set.

Q. Can you resize other fs types other than fat?

A. Parted only has support for msdos, fat(16 and 32) and of course ext2 as of now. Since parted is free software, the code is available and people will probably hack in support for various other fs types if they want it bad enough.

Q. If the partition is after the first two gigs, can we boot from it?

A. There was a bug with over the 1024 cylinder with older versions of lilo That's been fixed in new versions of lilo with lba32 support

Q. Should I skip the bad block scan?

A. If time is an issue, yes. But generally, do not skip the scan.

Q. Does Debian have a "kickstart" installation method which copies a previous install automatically?

A. No.

Q. Is diskdrake from mandrake a front-end for parted?

A. Diskdrake is _not_ a front end to parted.

Q. Can I use Windows programs in linux?

A. Yes, with the use of programs such as wine and commercial products such as VMware, you should be able to run some windows programs.

Q. What is a Module?

A. A module is a plugin object to the kernel, similar to a driver; modules are kernel modules that can be loaded and are not compiled into the kernel itself. They are extensions to the operating system that can be loaded and unloaded at any time. They can be device drivers, network options, and many others.

Q. What is a hostname?

A. A hostname is a name that is used to identify a machine.

Q. Why would I need X?

A. You do not *need* X, there are everything from web browsers to games available for console mode, But for a person not used to a command-line based OS it makes the transition easier. Many new applications such as Star Office, GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program), and netscape require the X windowing system. X, X Windowing System, X11, and X11R6it, are all names for what has become the defacto standard on Unix systems. (not just Linux)

Q. Why do we want to use shadow for passwords?

A. You definitely want to shadow your passwords. This will put the encrypted passwords in a file not readable by users and therefore not available for them to run brute force cracking software on it.

Q. What is md5?

A. Md5 is a crypto hash for passwords. Md5 passwords will be more secure but may have compatability problems.

Q. What is PCMCIA?

A. [pcmcia] Acronym for Personal Computer Memory Card International Association. This organization produced a series of standards that define the physical, electrical and software characteristics of small, credit card-sized devices that can contain memory, modems, network adapters and more. Also known as PC Cards, these devices are mainly used in laptop computers (although some desktop systems can use PCMCIA cards, too) Removing the PCMCIA packages saves space where it is tight, it also removes the modules from the kernel so you boot faster, so unless you are installing to a laptop say yes to removing them.

Q. After having already installed, how do you non-descructively resize partitions?

A. Ext2resize or parted can both be used.

Q. What is the biggest drive you can use with linux?

A. As large as you want.

Q. Do passwords have to be longer than 4 chars?

A. Passwords should generally consist of 6 to 8 characters and many systems enforce this.

Q. What is apt?

A. Advanced package tool (Apt) is management system for packages. Apt can download the newest version of a package from the internet, and install it automatically on your system with no compiling. It also can control dependencies, installing the software that you need in order to use what you want, saving the user a lot of time and effort to get something to work. Debian has thousands and thousands of packages available to be installed with ease using apt. Syntax would be: apt-get install {productname} Or for example, if you want to install xterm: apt-get install xterm Apt would install xterm and anything needed in order to run xterm. Another great feature of apt is the distribution upgrade feature. Simply type: apt-get dist-upgrade And the debian system would be upgraded to the newest packages available for that distribution.

Q. What is NFS?

A. NFS is the Network File System. It allows you to access files stored on other computers on the network.

Q. What are the new ext2 features in Debian 2.2?

A. Ext2 is not maintained by debian, but rather by Remy Card(Remy.Card@linux.org)

Q. Can Linux use NTFS?

A. Linux can read NTFS, the write support is experimental. The current ntfs driver works in read-only mode with no fault-tolerance supported.

Q. What are the minimum requirements to run Linux?

A. Linux requires a minimum of a 386 processor, and 4Mb of RAM. Ideally though, a Pentium with 32Mb of RAM would be suggested. (There are specialized distributions that will run with even less hardware.) Depends on what you plan on doing. For just as a firewall a 486 dx2 50 mhz with 16 megs of ram and about 40 megs of HD space would be fine. A full X install would require 32 megs of ram and approx 500 megs depending on what options you choose This is not recommended on less then a 486 dx66.

Q. Is it possible to truncate partitions using parted?

A. Parted can indeed truncate partitions, in the case that you mean resizing the partitions into smaller partitions.

Q. What is the MBR?

A. [mbr] [master boot record] The master boot record (or MBR) is a section of a disk drive's storage space that is set aside for the purpose of saving information necessary to begin the bootstrap process on a personal computer.

Q. When does linux have to be powered down/rebooted?

A. The Only time you should have to powerdown is to install new hardware physically. Other then that, there are machines with up-times of over 500 days!

Q. How do I access my Windows files that are on the same disk as my new linux install?

A. By mounting a windows drive. For Examplem (/dev/hda1) with a fat32 filesystem (vfat) on /mnt/windows would be: mount /dev/hda1 /mnt/windows -t vfat

Q. What is mount?

A. [mount] The act of making a filesystem accessible to a system's users.

Q. What are packages?

A. [packages] Files that contain software, and written in a particular format that enables the software to be easily installed and removed.

Q. What is color depth?

A. [color depth] like the "number of colors" setting in windows or mac. 8bit is "low color" (256 colors), 16bit is "high color" (65536 colors), 32 bit is "true color" (4294967296 colors).

Q. How do you configure lilo?

A. [lilo.conf] /etc/lilo.conf, which is the configuration file for lilo. To tell LILO to prompt for a choice of operating systems to boot on startup, tell it where to find Windows, and give LILO a label to be entered at the prompt that tells LILO to boot Windows instead of Linux. Here are the four lines that'll do that:

Enter in those four lines and save the new lilo.conf file. Any time changes are made to lilo.conf you need to alert LILO of these changes. After changes, run the command lilo A prompt that says "LILO:" will pop up when booting. Hitting enter at this point would boot Linux and entering "win" would boot Windows; Doing nothing will boot Linux after a delay.

Q. Different distributions have different driver support. Who has the best?

A. This is really subjective. Debian is great, but so are many other distributions. This also changes as new hardware is introduced and new drivers are written.

Q. Do I need a backup disk?

A. It's a good idea to have one. Generally, Linux won't have issues, but newer versions of Windows have been known to wipe MBRs sometimes... boot floppies are good just in case things go wrong.

Q. What if I don't know what video card I have for X-Configuration?

A. Choose the generic SVGA card with the highest settings that work in the test screen.

Q. What is a cluster? Should I choose to create a cluster?

A. A cluster is a group of computers working intricately together for a common purpose. As a new user, there is no need to choose a cluster.

Q. What is a password?

A. [password] A code used to gain access to a locked system. Good passwords contain letters and non-letters and are not simple combinations such as virtue7. A good password might be: Hot$1-6 See Also: Login

Q. What is root?

A. The root account is the superuser account. It has no access restictions so if you're running programs as root there's nothing to stop that program from removing system files; Only use an account with the permissions you need and su to root as needed.

Q. What is XDM?

A. [xdm] a graphical login program for X11 implementing the XDMCP protocol making it possible for remote logins

Q. How do I change between a graphical and text login?

A. To change to a console login, change the /etc/inittab file. Change the runlevel from 5 to a 3 for a text login.

Q. What is a windows manager?

A. [mbm] --> [window manager] responsible for the user interface and making windows look pretty, see http://www.plig.org/xwinman/ for a comparison.

Q. How many pkgs does RH6.2 have?

A. The boxed set has well in excess of 1000 packages and to install them all would take over 1.5 gigs of hard drive space. Depending on what you choose to install it varies in size. A base X workstation with Gnome and netscape installed and other things to make life easy is about 370 packages comprising of approx 550 megs. If you forgo X and do a custom Installation no X, Redhat can be down to under 40 megs (this includes a web-browser by the way; Lynx: a text only browser, and no Java support etc.

Q. How do I add/remove hardware?

A. There is a tool called kudzu which is a hardware detection wizard similar to the add/remove hardware in windows.

Q. What should I use as a password?

A. A word not found in the dictionary, with letters and numbers would be the most resistant to a brute force password cracker.

  • good password == dR5j*$9f
  • bad password == osdn

    Q. How long does and installation take?

    A. It takes about 15-25 minutes depending on the speed of the machine.

    Q. Should I use the automatic partitioning tool?

    A. You can use automatic partition if you have no other operating system on the machine. If there is another OS installed that you wish to access again, it is suggested to use disk allocation tools such as fdisk and cfdisk.

    Q. Is there a system administration tool in Linux?

    A. Several. The most popular is linuxconf, it can be run either from console or you from within X.

    Q. Where can I get more information?

    A. http://www.linux.com/firststep/

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