Originally Published: Friday, 10 November 2000 Author: Chris Ball
Published to: install_guides/distributions Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

SuSE 7.0 Install Guide

Chris Ball, known primarily as the Assistant Prject Manager of the Multimedia section of Linux.com, has put together a fantastic guide to installing SuSE Linux. If you haven't heard of SuSE before, you must be from the United States or the Pacific Rim. SuSE is one of the top 'distributions of choice' in the European Union. Since Chris is from Brighton, England, he seemed the natural choice to write this install piece. Enjoy!

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SuSE 7 is the latest release of a Linux distribution with a solid history. Always finding favor with most Linux users, SuSE maintains a great reputation both in the desktop and desktop research areas and in the server-side market. SuSE releases are incredibly adaptable distributions.

SuSE 7 continues this history admirably, as shown by the inclusion of a refurbished graphical install, the inclusion of the latest version of the X Window system (X4) with custom modifications by SuSE, and - on the other side of the coin - a networking administration tool for corporate users called ALICE (the Automatic Linux Installation and Configuration Environment). ALICE allows admins to create configuration scripts that will let them run the same SuSE install on any number of workstations. If you talk to anyone involved in deploying systems for schools or large businesses, chances are that they'll moan about the way Windows makes them run an install, then install service packs, then install Office, then.. the list goes on. With ALICE, business users can pre-select the applications they want installed, and let everything be done in one step.

On top of all this, SuSE's also managed to squeeze in the latest 2.2 Linux kernel (2.2.17), greatly extended USB support, and the option to use the ReiserFS Journaling Filesystem. All sound promising? Good. Read below for my comments and tips on installing SuSE 7.0.

Test system:

I installed SuSE on a Pentium III-500 with 192mb RAM, a Gigabyte motherboard, an ATI Fury 8mb graphics card, a 15Gb hard drive, and a Mitsumi CD burner.


Three versions of SuSE are available. The free version gives you access to everything except technical support, ALICE, and some bundled commercial programs, and the Personal and Professional versions. The Personal version comes with 700 packages on 3 CDs and costs $39.95, and the Professional version costs $69.95, and comes with either 6 CDs or 1 DVD, containing 1987 packages. Wow.

No matter which version you choose, the installation procedure stays almost identical. One difference is package selection, which will clearly have more features in the Personal and Professional versions.

It's going to seem like I'm holding you back in these first steps. Lots of wonderful Linux productivity awaits, but first you need to know about a few things. Sorry.

Step 1: You really need to back up important stuff on your hard drive before you try to install Linux. I know, it's time consuming and icky, and only idiots would trash their hard drive during something like a Linux install, right? Well, wrong. Think about what it'd be like to lose all your e-mails, all your personal files, maybe even some work data. You'll get this horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach. I've been there. Concentrate on that, and sort out a backup.

Step 2: You're going to need to know more about your computer's intimate details than you really want to - do you really know what chipset your sound card uses, what horizontal and vertical sync rates your monitor uses, and the exact model of your graphics card? Didn't think so. To find out, I'm going to borrow words of wisdom from Mark Stone, taken from his Debian install guide at http://linux.com/firststep/installguide/debian

DeviceInformation Needed
Hard Drive(s)Number, size, and type of each hard drive. Which hard drive is recognized by your computer as first, second, and so on. Which adapter type (IDE or SCSI) is used by each drive.
RAMThe amount of installed RAM
CDROM Drive(s)Which adapter type (IDE or SCSI) is used by each drive.
SCSI Adapter (if any)Make and model of the card.
Network Adapter (if any)Make and model of the card.
MouseType (PS/2, USB, serial, or bus). Protocol (Microsoft, Logitech, MouseMan, etc.). If serial, the port to which it's connected.
Video AdapterMake and model of the card. Amount of video RAM.
MonitorHighest color depth and screen resolution the monitor supports under Windows. Horizontal and vertical refresh rates.
Modem (if any)If external, the serial port to which it's connected.
Windows can actually provide you with most of the information you need about your system. Select Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> System. You should see something like:

Most of the information you want will be found in the Device Manager. Selecting that tab should bring up a window like this:

This will show you which devices are installed on your system. Selecting a device, and clicking on the "Properties" button will show you the settings for that device.

Step 3: Partitioning. This is the part when you get a wave of nervousness, and are faced with the realization that you could blitz everything on your hard drive. Go back up. I mean it this time.

You can either (bravely) give Linux your whole hard drive to play with, or, more realistically, you can dual-boot Linux and Windows. I'm going to go through the dual-boot process, because there's no skill involved in dedicating a hard drive for Linux - SuSE will handle it for you automatically. Again, it's back to Mark Stone for the specifics.

Bill Gates once said, "640k of RAM ought to be enough for anyone." It's that kind of forward-looking view of the world that gives us a peculiar DOS contrivance now turned into a useful tool: the disk partition. DOS, Windows 3.1, and even the initial release of Windows 95 had limitations on how much hard drive space they could recognize. If a drive were larger than this recognizable limit (2 Gigs under Windows 95, I believe), then the operating system simply couldn't "see" the rest of the drive.

To work around this limitation, drives could be formatted into logically separated segments, called partitions. Once formatted in this way, each partition was treated by the operating system as if it were a separate hard drive. Under Windows, if you started with hard drive C:, and partitioned this, the first partition would appear as C:, and the second partition would appear as D:.

We'll exploit this construct to leave one partition formatted as a Windows partition, and to create a second partition formatted as a Linux partition on which to install SuSE.

Windows 98 can recognize large disk sizes, so these days most computers ship with a hard drive formatted as a single partition. This means that you'll need to:

  • defragment your hard drive;
  • resize the existing partition to fill only part of the drive, and
  • add a second partition on the newly freed up space.

The trick is to resize your Windows partition without destroying any of the data. This used to be an arduous task. These days it is fairly straightforward using a simple tool called GNU Parted. Here's what we're going to do:

  1. Create a boot floppy disk containing the absolute minimal Linux components needed to run Parted;
  2. Boot your computer with this floppy disk;
  3. Run Parted to shrink your Windows partition;
  4. Reboot the computer and start the SuSE installation.

Resizing your hard drive nondestructively will be easiest, and least likely to cause problems, if you defragment your hard drive first. Windows doesn't store all files in contiguous sectors on your disk. As a result, files can end up scattered across a much larger portion of your hard drive than the amount of drive space you're actually using. Defragmenting simply packs all sectors being used as efficiently as possible onto the beginning of your hard drive.

You can use Windows' native defragmenting tool by selecting Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Utilities -> Disk Utilities. More effective deframentation programs come with utility suites like Norton Utilities.

Creating a Parted Boot Floppy

Initially, your hard drive will look something like this if you select My Computer -> C: -> Properties:

To create the Parted floppy, you'll need:

  • a blank floppy disk,
  • the Parted disk image,
  • a program for writing raw files to disk called Rawrite.

You can get the Parted disk image from http://www.gnu.org/software/parted/. It's the file ending in the .img extension. There should be a copy of Rawrite on your SuSE CD. If you can't find it, you can always download it from ftp.debian.org/debian/tools/.

When you run Rawrite it will prompt you for the source file; give it the path to where you've downloaded the Parted disk image. This will be something like "C:\Windows\Desktop\parted.img". It will then prompt you for the target location, meaning your floppy drive. Enter in "A:". Now simply reboot your computer with this floppy disk in the drive.

Running Parted

When this floppy boots, you'll see a lot of unfamiliar messages scroll by that are a routine part of the Linux boot process. You'll eventually come to a command line prompt, something reminiscent of running DOS, and you'll see a message that says, "You can run parted by typing 'parted DEVICE' where device is the name of the drive you wish to partition."

Linux has a different naming scheme for disk drives. All devices, including disk drives, are listed in a directory called "/dev". IDE hard drives -- the most common type -- start with the letters "hd". The first hard drive will be "a", the second "b", and so on. Each partition on a drive gets a number, starting with "1". So Linux would refer to the first partition on your first hard drive as "/dev/hda1", and would refer to the whole first hard drive as "/dev/hda".

The command we're looking for, assuming you have an IDE drive, is: parted /dev/hda.

This will bring you to a new command line with a prompt like this:


If you hit enter, type "?", or type "help" at this point, you'll get a list of all the parted commands, like this:

Let's assume we want to shrink our partition down from 10 Gigs to, say, 4 Gigs. Then we want to resize minor partition number 1, starting at the beginning, and ending at 4000. The command would look like this:

(parted) resize 1 0 4000

That's all you have to do.

You may see some warning messages appear when running parted that have to do with either small discrepancies in the way Windows and Linux measure disk size, or that have to do with moving Windows system files. In our experience, these warnings can safely be ignored.

If you reboot your computer at this point, Windows 98 will come up just as before, and all your programs and files will be intact. The only difference you'll notice is that Windows now thinks it has a smaller hard drive:

Me again. That's it - you're now ready to experience Linux. You can stick your first CD in your CD drive, make sure that your BIOS lets you boot from CDs, and sit back while the picture below scrolls onto your screen.

Yes, I know, it's bland. It gets a lot better shortly. Hit - you should be met with a vast amount of scrollage, and then a cute screen welcoming you to YaST2. The screen you're seeing is running under what Linux users call "X" - the most popular graphics system for Linux.

SuSE has clearly put a lot of time into their graphical install. The sidebar on the left is contextual, and will keep you posted as to what you should be typing into the strange little boxes. You can go back and forward at any time during the installation.

Section 1: Locality, Keyboard and Mouse:

It's not going to be easy to put your answers in the strange little boxes if SuSE doesn't know what keyboard you're using! Here, you're given the chance to tell SuSE where you are in the world, what time zone you're in, what language you speak, and what kind of keyboard and mouse you have. Mice are often a bit of a worry, because they're often not labeled. If, like me, you have a white mouse with 'Microsoft' written on, two buttons and a little grey roller thing, then you have a 'Microsoft Intellimouse'. If it goes into a small, round connector at the back of your PC then it's "PS/2," if it goes into a 9-pin connector then it's "Serial," and if it goes into a small vertical connector, then it's USB.

Section 2: Partitioning:

You thought we'd done this already? Well... sort of. We've made ourselves space for a Linux partition, but we haven't actually created it yet. Fortunately, it's not so hard - SuSE has an "Automatic Partitioning" option that will do the job. Just make sure it doesn't try to play with that Windows partition of yours. You should end this section with your Windows partition, a big "Linux Native" partition (this is where your data will be held) and a small Linux Swap partition.

If you're happy to let SuSE work things out for itself, click on the "Automatic Mode"partitioning set-up. If, like me, you'd rather set things up yourself you'll need to go into "Expert Mode"and add two new partitions to your hard drive. SuSE will ask you for some information - the important points are:

New Partition 1:
Mount point : /
Type: Linux Native
Size: Everything you have remaining *minus* 130.

New Partition 2:
Mount point: (n/a)
Type: Linux Swap
Size: See below.

The size of a Linux swap partition is a very hotly debated point, but I've found 127Mb for the swap file to work well, unless you have less than 64mb of RAM. If you have less than this, your swap file should be your real RAM multipled by two, so, a 32mb swap file for 16mb of real ram. Once you've worked out how much swap you need, stick it in the box, and hit okay.

Section 3: Hardware detection:

This is where those sound card irqs and network card information come into place. SuSE will autodetect as much as it can, and prompt you for unknown devices. It's best to go through each of the 'Configure' stages, even if you think SuSE's got everything perfect - just check that everything makes sense, and that there isn't any white space. Once everything looks acceptable, it's on to the software.

Section 4: Software selection:

This is the fun part. Now that we have a place for data, we can start to install software. Depending on whether you're using the free, Personal or Professional version of SuSE, you'll be seeing a different screen right now. What stays the same, though, is that you'll be asked whether you want to install packages to the extent of A Few Things, Lots Of Things, or Everything. There's also a handy "Expert selection" button for when you want to choose packages individually. I chose the Everything button, and sat back and gloated about how much hard drive space I have.

Section 5: LILO:

LILO is an acronym which stands for "LInux LOader." It's a program that sits on the very beginning of your hard drive, in a place called the Master Boot Record (MBR), and gives you a choice over booting into Windows or Linux.

When SuSE detects that you are still running Windows, it'll pop up the screen below and ask you to make a boot disk. This is a Very Good Idea, and will save a lot of hassle if you ever lose your MBR - this would happen if you needed to reinstall Windows, or just if you were poking around and erased it. Make the boot disk.

Section 6: Personalization:

Okay, we're nearly there! SuSE wants to know who you are - this information will go on your outgoing e-mails, among other things. You need to feed SuSE a first name, last name, login name, and password. If you're not sure what to choose as a login name, the "Suggestion" button will make a sensible suggestion from your first and last names.

Section 7: X Setup:

Right. Next up, we have to get those graphics looking pretty. SuSE will try and detect your monitor and graphics card, and will then ask you what resolution you want to run X in, and what color depth. Personally, I use 16bit color - your resolution, however, depends on your monitor size.

A good standard is:

  • 14/15" monitor: 800x600
  • 17" monitor: 1024x768
  • 19" monitor: 1280x1024
  • 21" monitor: 1600x1200

    Once you've chosen your values, click "Test." If you're launched into a screen where everything seems smaller, things have probably worked out for the best. If not, you may need to check that you gave SuSE your monitor and video card details correctly.

    Section 8: Preparing for a reboot:

    And that should be just about it! SuSE will congratulate you on the install, and reboot the system - keep that boot disk in the drive, and you'll soon be greeted by an X login screen, and a welcome to SuSE 7 message. If you're unsure what to do next, use the menu at the bottom of the screen to go through your new applications.

    Section 9: What do to next?

    Once you've played with SuSE for a while, there are a couple of questions you'll have, and a couple of things you might be interested in doing. I'm going to cover setting up a dial-up connection and updating packages, as they're both common tasks that might need doing after a fresh SuSE installation.

    1: Configuring a modem:

    To configure a modem in SuSE, we need to use the YaST setup tool, and be logged in as root. Here are the steps:

    1. Login as root
    2. Start YaST
    3. Scroll to "System Administration," and press enter.
    4. Scroll to "Network Configuration," and press enter.
    5. Scroll to "Configure a PPP network," and press enter.
    6. Scroll to "Autodetect Modem," and press enter.
    7. Once SuSE has detected your modem, press enter.
    8. Scroll to "Configure The Current Profile," and press enter.
    9. In the dialog that pop us, you will need to enter (a) the access number for your ISP, (b) your username, and (c) your password.
    10. Highlight "Exit"' and press enter.
    11. Exit YaST, and agree to save the new configuration for your system. Your modem will be configured.
    12. Once this has been done, you can type "wvdial &" from the *root* console at any point to make a connection to the Internet.
    13. Once your modem has finished dialing and connecting, you can use applications like Netscape, KMail or telnet, and can proceed to the section below on upgrading packages, if you wish.
    14. Your connection to the Internet can be stopped by running the /etc/ppp/ppp-down script as root.

    2: Updating Packages:

    Now that we have dial-up working, we might as well use it for something. Start up a YaST session, and head to "Adjustments of Installation," then "Install Medium." We're going to choose the install method "Install from an FTP site," and after clicking "Okay" to that, we're asking where we want to install from. If you're in the States, 'ftp.suse.com' - the default entry - should be fine. If not, you may want to try and find a mirror site to install from; more details are at www.suse.com. After clicking "Okay" to this screen, YaST will connect to the ftp server, and download a large file full of update information; this was 1.6Mb on my machine. Go make some coffee, and it'll be done before you know it - the words "Installation Medium Okay" will pop when the download is finished.

    Right. Now to the fun part. You'll be returned to the Main Menu, and be able to select "Upgrade Packages." This will use the package information you downloaded from the ftp site in order to set-up a sensible upgrade of your system to be using the very latest versions of software. Once YaST has done this, you can tell it to start the upgrade process.

    There's really very little else to say about updating packages - SuSE did a fine job in automating a tricky process, owing to their use of the RPM packaging format.

    Well, that's it from me. If you had any trouble in your installation, some good places to try for help are the SuSE-Linux set of mailing lists, http://www.geocrawler.com/lists/3/Suse-Linux or #linuxhelp on the Openprojects IRC network -- you can get to the network by using an IRC client to connect to irc.linux.com. Instructions for getting on Openprojects are over in the Live! section.

    In the words of the SuSE team, "Have a lot of fun."


    Backing Up
    We've been there. Don't make me say it again. :)
    a competitor to KDE (in what ever sense these free programs compete). Gnome's newer than KDE, but has a very strong following all the same.
    SuSE's default Window Manager. KDE gives you a desktop, a task bar, and puts borders around windows. It runs on top of X.
    A program to shrink partitions, if they contain unused free space.
    "Segments" of your hard drive. Using partitions, you can split your hard drive into space for Linux and Windows at the same time.
    "Point-to-point protocol." A way of connecting to the Internet, usually through a modem.
    Redhat Package Manager - a tool to keep track of software that exists on your computer, and to make sure that none of it is conflicting in any way. RPM is the primary package manager for the Redhat and SuSE distributions.
    Window Manager
    KDE/Gnome are both window managers. They make X (which is normally fairly ugly) look nice and pretty, and give you a means of managing applications.
    X Window
    "The X Window System" (or X) is the system a typical Linux system uses to display a GUI (Graphical User Interface). No matter whether you use KDE, Gnome, or any other Window Manager, X is there.
    "Yet Another Setup Tool." SuSE's setup program, which is run both at install time, and also anytime you want to make changes to your SuSE system. Used by typing 'YaST' at a console while logged in as root.

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