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Installing Red Hat Linux

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Learn the basics of installing Red Hat Linux. You will first learn how to prepare your system for the installation, and then you will decide how to boot Red Hat. You will finish with a step-by-step guide to the actual installation process.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

In This Chapter

  • Choosing How to Install Red Hat Linux

  • Step-by-Step Installation

  • Login and Shutdown

  • Reference

In this chapter, you learn how to do a basic installation of Red Hat Linux. You'll see how to boot and then install Red Hat installer using the CD-ROMs included with this book. The chapter first shows how to prepare and research your install, choose a strategy on how Red Hat will use your computer's hard drive, decide how to boot Red Hat, and then how to complete the Red Hat installation. You'll get a step-by-step walk through of a sample installation, and then you learn how to log in to Red Hat and shut down or reboot the system.

Preparing for the Installation

Part of the process of installing Red Hat (or any operating system for that matter) is to first research how well the new operating system will fit into an existing hardware environment, or if new hardware will be required to host the operating system. The following sections provide some basic points to consider when installing Red Hat.

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

Research Your Hardware Specifications

You should first have a basic understanding of your system's hardware, such as the type of mouse, keyboard, or monitor, the amount of installed system memory, and the size of the hard drive. You need to know the storage capacity of your hard drive in order to choose a partitioning scheme, for example. Knowing the difference between a PS/2 and USB mouse will ensure proper pointer configuration. Such information will help make the installation fast, efficient, and as trouble-free as possible.

Use the checklist shown in Table 2.2 in Chapter 2, "Preparing to Install Red Hat Linux," to inventory or at least record some basic features of your system. Some items you'll 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 know what type of installation you plan to do beforehand (such as a workstation, server, firewall, gateway, router, development system, and so on). The type of install, or rather, the purpose of your intended install will dictate the type and amount of software installed (and also influence hard drive storage requirements).

For convenience, the Red Hat Linux installer offers a personal desktop, workstation, and server installation. Each type will install a set of preselected software libraries and applications. Use a custom installation to select individual software packages. See Chapter 2 for details and hardware requirements for these installs.

Although you can support nearly any operation (such as a development workstation or server) by installing all the software included with this book's CD-ROMs, this approach is generally not a good idea unless you're testing new hardware or using Red Hat at home. The reason for this is that installing extraneous software not relevant to support specific operations in a business or production environment can introduce a security risk. For example, it would be unwise to have compilers and software development tools installed on an e-commerce Web server because successful intruders can simply upload and build malicious software with relative ease.

Choose Software Installation Options

Most new users with standalone Red Hat Linux computers will install all the software included with Red Hat Linux and depend on Red Hat's RPM technology to sort out and handle software dependencies (see Chapter 8, "Managing Software and System Resources" for more details about using RPM). Although Red Hat is very stable and robust (read, doesn't crash), crafting an efficient, stable, and working system can sometimes require consideration about the type of software to use given your existing hardware. For example, don't expect to run a fully loaded multimedia workstation if you plan to use Red Hat on an early Pentium-based PC. However, that same PC can easily support email, print, or FTP server operations, and even perform light duty as an intranet documentation Web server.

Planning Partition Strategies

Part of planning a custom system involves implementing a partitioning strategy based on how you plan to use Red Hat and, as previously mentioned, the capabilities of your existing hardware. For example, if you plan to host thousands of graphic images or audio files, how much storage will you need? If you plan to back up this collection, will you use a tape drive, or will you simply copy the files to another hard drive?

If you are planning an installation for a corporate or enterprise-level environment, you must also consider future expansion or evolution of the system. You will want to craft a flexible system that can evolve with your business and its system needs.

Knowing how software is allocated on your hard drive for Linux involves knowing how Red Hat Linux organizes its file system, or layout of directories on storage media. This knowledge will 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 Red Hat Linux, or do you need a dual-boot system?

  • How much data will require backup, and what backup system will work best? (See Chapter 11, "Backing Up, Restoring, and Recovery," for more information on backing up your Red Hat Linux system.)

CD-ROM Installation Jumpstart

To install Red Hat Linux from the CDs included with this book, you must have at least a Pentium-class CPU, 650MB hard drive, and 64MB RAM. You'll need at least 128MB to install using Red Hat's graphical installer. A 10GB hard drive can easily host the entire Red Hat distribution, leaving about 5GB free for other data.

To begin the installation, set your PC's BIOS to boot from CD-ROM. Next, insert the first CD-ROM and boot your computer. Press Enter at the first screen and follow through the subsequent dialogs to install.

Remember or write down your system's root password. Also, even if you thoroughly test configuration of a graphical desktop during installation, choose to have Red Hat boot to a text-based login (see the section "Step-by-Step Installation" later on). You can start a graphical session after you finish the install, reboot, and log in. You can always set Red Hat to boot to a graphical login later (see Chapter 6, "The X Window System," to see how).

If you have a floppy drive, create a boot disk during the install (see the "Step-by-Step Installation" section in this chapter). Finally, finish the install, remove the CD-ROM from your computer, and reboot. Then log in and enjoy Red Hat Linux!

Choosing a Boot Loader

You will need to decide how to boot your Red Hat Linux system. For example, you can boot Red Hat from a hard drive or floppy disk using the default boot loader, the Grand Unified Boot loader (known as GRUB), or the Linux Loader (known as LILO).

LILO is a small boot loader usually installed in the Master Boot Record (MBR) of an IDE hard drive, the root Linux partition, or on a floppy disk. This loader (like others) 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. You can use other boot loaders, such as GRUB, to support special operations, such as booting from read-only memory (ROM) or flashed memory chips containing boot-loading code. Some, but not all, PC hardware BIOS supports booting via a network through Universal Serial Bus (USB) removable media or from a floppy disk.

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.

On the other hand, LILO has a much longer Linux history and might be more familiar to long-time Linux users. Both bootloaders offer password protection, but LILO's password protection must be configured following installation, and LILO may not be supported in future releases of Red Hat Linux, according to Red Hat, Inc.

NOTE

Red Hat's mkbootdisk command can be used to create floppy and CD-ROM boot media while using Linux. To do so, use the Linux kernel release number (returned by using the uname -r command) and a specified device. For example, to create a boot floppy, use the command like this:

# mkbootdisk --device /dev/fd0 ´uname -r´

To create a CD-ROM boot image image (which must then be burned onto a CDR or CDRW blank), use the command with its -iso option like this:

# mkbootdisk --iso --device boot_cd.img ´uname -r´ 

Red Hat Linux can also be booted from a DOS session using the LOADLIN program, a DOS PATH to the Linux kernel, and the location of Linux kernel, such as

LOADLIN c:\KERNEL\VMLINUZ root=/dev/hda2 ro

In this example, the kernel named VMLINUZ is loaded, and the second primary partition of the first IDE hard drive is specified at the root (/) partition of the Red Hat Linux system.

NOTE

If you find that LOADLIN fails to boot Linux and complains about a large kernel size, you can either try using make bzimage to build a smaller kernel or rebuild a kernel that relies less on built-in features and more on loadable modules. See Chapter 24, "Kernel and Module Management," for more information.

When choosing a commercial boot loader, weigh its capabilities and options. A good boot loader will support multiple operating systems, the ability 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.

If you run into trouble after installing Red Hat Linux, make sure to read the documentation for your boot loader to acquire any diagnostic information. Most boot loaders will report on any problems, and the solution might be commonly fixed. Your best bet is to use GRUB because it is the default boot loader for Red Hat.

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