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Installing Fedora

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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

IN THIS CHAPTER

  • Before You Begin the Installation
  • Choosing How to Install Fedora
  • Step-by-Step Installation
  • Logging In and Shutting Down
  • Reference

This chapter shows you how to get a basic installation of Fedora up and running. You will learn how to start installation, as well as specify certain configuration options during the install. Before you even insert the disc, we will take a look at some considerations you need to think about that will affect how you install Fedora. It is impossible to take you through every single variation of the install, but you will get a step-by-step guide of a typical installation, including how to log in to your new system and shut down or reboot the system.

Before You Begin the Installation

Installing a new operating system is a major event and you should make sure that you have properly thought through what is going to take place. The first thing you should consider is how the hardware will be affected by the software that you propose to install. Although Fedora runs well on an extremely wide variety of hardware, it is worthwhile checking out your hardware components because there may be a banana peel waiting for you to slip up on. The following sections provide some areas for you to investigate and think about, and may even save you hours of frustration when something goes wrong. The sections are designed to complement the ideas and checklists presented in Chapter 2, "Preparing to Install Fedora."

You start by researching and documenting your hardware. This information will prove helpful later on during the installation.

Research Your Hardware Specifications

At the absolute minimum you should know the basics of your system, such as how much RAM you have installed, what type of mouse, keyboard and importantly the type of monitor you have. Knowing the storage capacity of your hard drive is also important because it helps you plan how to divide it up for Fedora. It is also a good idea to find out whether you are using SATA drivers, or the more traditional PATA drives. A small detail such as whether your mouse uses the USB or PS/2 interface can ensure proper pointer configuration—something that should happen without fail, but you will be glad you know if something goes wrong! The more information you have, the better prepared you are for any problems.

Use the checklist shown in Table 2.2 in Chapter 2 to inventory or at least record some basic features of your system. Some items you need to know include the amount of installed memory, size of your hard drive, type of mouse, capabilities of the display monitor (such as maximum resolution), and number of installed network interfaces (if any).

Choose an Installation Type

You should also decide what the machine that you are installing Fedora on will be used for. When you know this, you are in a better position to specify packages or even leave out extraneous packages. It can also help you decide how you should slice up your hard drive to work with Fedora.

For convenience, the Fedora installer offers quick presets for a personal desktop, workstation, and server installation. Each type installs a set of preselected software libraries and applications. Use the custom installation option to select individual software packages and fine-tune your software selection. Refer to Chapter 2 for details and hardware requirements for these installs.

Choose Software Installation Options

Most new users of Fedora may be tempted to go ahead and install all of the available software so they can explore their options. However, this is not necessarily a good idea particularly from a security standpoint. The more software and server software you have installed, the more potential inroads you provide to your system through any vulnerabilities. The best approach is to decide what you intend to use your system for and choose appropriate software to match. When the system is up and running, you can rely on either pirut or yum depending on whether you prefer nice GUI programs or using the command-line. Using these two tools allows you to deflect any dependency problems and the tools are pretty straightforward.

Of course you do need to give due consideration to your hardware when you choose your software packages. After all, it is a bit much to expect a multimedia system to run at an acceptable speed on a Pentium-based system. Such a system could instead be used as a file server or even a print server, two possible functions that do not require a window manager to be running. Likewise, if you are lucky enough to be running dual (or even a quad-core PowerMac), you might want to take full advantage of the processing power. Giving thought to the software and the context in which it is installed enables you to get the most out of Fedora.

Planning Partition Strategies

Partitioning is a topic that can strike fear into the hearts of novice Linux users. Coming from a Microsoft world, where you might just be used to having one hard drive, it can seem a bit strange to use an operating system that makes partitioning important. Depending on your requirements, you may opt to have a single large partition to contain all your files, or you may prefer to segment your installation across several partitions in order to match your individual needs. You also have to take into account such things as what you will use to back up your data. With the abundance of external hard drives and flash-based memory sticks you could use these, but it is important to remember to provision back up storage space that is equal to or in excess of your specific requirements. Thanks to the ever decreasing prices of storage, a 250GB SATA drive can be had for just over $100. You will thank yourself that you backed up your data when your primary hard drive goes down!

The needs of the business should be the primary concern when deciding to implement a Linux system. Be careful when specifying a system and ensure that you build in an adequate upgrade path that allows you to extend the life of the system and add any additional storage or memory.

Knowing how software is allocated on your hard drive for Linux involves knowing how Fedora organizes its filesystem, or layout of directories on storage media. This knowledge can help you make the most out of hard drive space; and in some instances, such as planning to have user directories mounted via NFS or other means, it can help head off data loss, increase security, and accommodate future needs. Create a great system, and you'll be the hero of information services.

To plan the best partitioning scheme, research and know the answers to these questions:

  • How much disk space does your system require?
  • Do you expect your disk space needs to grow significantly in the future?
  • Will the system boot just Fedora, or do you need a dual-boot system?
  • How much data will require backup, and what backup system will work best? (See Chapter 17, "Backing Up, Restoring, and Recovery," for more information on backing up your system.)

The Boot Loader

You need to decide how to boot your system. For example, you can boot Fedora from a hard drive or removable USB key using the default boot loader, the Grand Unified Boot Loader (known as GRUB), use a commercial boot loader (as discussed in Chapter 2), or choose to not use a boot loader at all. Not using a boot loader can make booting Fedora difficult, but not impossible. For example, you can use another operating system such as DOS to jump-start to a Fedora session.

A boot loader is most often installed in the master boot record (MBR) of an IDE hard drive, but can also be installed in the root Linux partition, or on a floppy disk. The boot loader can be used to pass essential kernel arguments to the Linux kernel for use during the boot process. Some arguments might include special disk geometry settings or specifying additional network interfaces. Fedora's boot loader, GRUB, supports special operations, such as booting from read-only memory (ROM) or flashed memory chips containing boot-loading code. Using a boot loader from floppy disk works with many PCs, but you should be aware that not all PC hardware BIOS supports booting via universal serial bus (USB) removable media or from a floppy disk. In fact, most new PCs no longer include a floppy disk drive as standard!

The GRUB loader works with all BSD UNIX variants and many proprietary operating systems. This utility also supports menuing, command lines, installed RAM detection, and diskless and remote network booting. GRUB also offers password protection.

When choosing a commercial boot loader, weigh its capabilities and options. A good boot loader supports multiple operating systems, the capability to boot different Linux kernels (in order to change the characteristics of a system or easily accommodate new hardware), password protection, custom boot displays, and sane defaults, such as requiring verification before overwriting existing configurations and accommodating other recognized filesystems or previously installed boot code.

If you run into trouble after installing Fedora, make sure to read the documentation for your boot loader to acquire any diagnostic information. Most boot loaders report on any problems, and the solution might be commonly known. Your best (and least expensive) bet is to use GRUB because it is the default boot loader for Fedora Core.

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