Originally Published: Monday, 20 September 1999 Author: Owen Kelly
Published to: news_learn_firststep/Firststep News Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Linux Installation: Part 1

Most newcomers to the Linux operating system have fears to overcome, and here is where we will dispell some myths. Linux is not hard to install, it will not break your machine, and you will not have to delete your Windows/Other operating system to install it.

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Most newcomers to the Linux operating system have fears to overcome, and here is where we will dispell some myths. Linux is not hard to install, it will not break your machine, and you will not have to delete your Windows/Other operating system to install it. If you wish to install Linux as the only operating system on your computer, it is only marginally easier to do then to set up your computer as a dual booting machine. Dual booting means, that if you want to try Linux, but you still do a lot of your work in Windows, that you can choose which you wish to load when your computer initially powers on.

99% of people will have obtained Linux on a cd of some sort, and probably without documentation on the installation process. The lack of documentation is not a stumbling block, Linux is the one operating system that actually can give you too much literature to read at a time, its a small testament to how powerful the Operating System is.

The very first thing you need to make when installing Linux, is a boot disk. This allows a tiny version of Linux to fit on a single floppy disk, that will allow you access your cdrom drive, or network to install Linux, and locate where all the installation files are kept. The boot disk is made from an image file. You can think of image files as facsimiles of the original disk. For example, on my computer, I received many floppy disks with it when it was bought. For poracticality, I threw out the disks and made images each one, and stored it on my Hard Disk. Now, if I need to use one of those floppies again, I can put a blank disk in my drive, and write the image to the new disk, creating an identical one to the original I had over 4 years ago. The advantages of using images are too vast to explain here, but you can rest assured, that you will meet them again, and again. We will go into more detail on the use of images later.

To create the image, you need to use a DOS utility called Rawrite.exe, obviously, as we dont have Linux installed, we cant use Linux to create the image. Use the Windows find program to locate rawrite.exe, and note the directory where it is. Use the find utility again to locate all files ending with the .img suffix, ie: find *.img, again noting the full directory location. The image file you will need to use is usually called boot.img, or 144.img.

When you run rawrite you will be asked to enter the image location. Use the location you received from the find utility and press enter. The utility will ask you to choose which drive you wish to use, most people will use drive a. After telling the utility what drive you have specified, you have to insert a blank floppy and wait 2 minutes. The program will tell you if you have been sucessful.

The next step is to defragment your hard disk. Open up the "My Computer" icon on your desktop, find the first hard disk on your computer (This is where we will install Linux), right click on the icon, and select properties. A screen will appear with PieCharts denoting the drive's free space. We are not interested in this (Although, if you have less that one gigabyte free, you should seriously consider buying a new disk to install Linux with). At the top of this new window, there is a tab called 'Tools'. Click on this tab, and a set of three icons appears vertically. One of the options is called defrag. Click on this, and allow the program to do its work.

Defragmenting a drive, puts all the information stored on it into one place, this allows Linux to take up the remaining free space, without causing any errors or conflicts. It will also give you the advantage of speeding up your Windows programs.

After the drive has been defragmented, you need to shut down your computer. With the computer powered off, put the boot disk you created into the floppy drive, and turn your computer back on. After a few test of your system, the computer will detect Linux on the floppy disk, and start booting it. You will reach a prompt at some stage, asking you to choose options, just hit enter. Your screen will fill with unfamiliar text telling you of hidden details you never knew about your computer. This is the first time you will see the power of Linux in action. If this text seems unclear, do not worry. You will become very familiar with the options on screen after a short time. Remember that when you used a computer first, you had to learn about it. Now you are starting anew, but this time, you will learn much much more.

The install routine will probably ask you what type of keyboard you have. Tell it, and then press enter. The next step of installation is telling the computer where your Linux install files are located. For simplicity's sake, we are going to assume that you have Linux on a cdrom, waiting to be installed. The location you need to choose is 'Local CDRom'. Highlight it, and press enter. The installation program will prompt you to insert the CD. After doing this, the installation program now runs from the CD. The floppy is no longer used.

The first step of installation is now completed. The CD has been read, and is ready to do its work.

Owen Kelly (owen@linux.com)

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