"If you've installed Linux before, you're going to be a little bored with what I've got to say."
If you're one of the 6,000 it professionals who attended BrainShare 2004 in Salt Lake City, Utah, you came away clear on at least this point: Novell is committed to its Linux strategy and entrenched in the Linux space. Evidence of this point was everywhere at the 20th annual Novell techfest—from the guest appearance of Linux creator Linus Torvalds, to the Linux core of the BrainShare network, to the Linux focus of nearly one quarter of the event's 350 breakout sessions. Stay tuned for a BrainShare network story in the July/August issue.
BrainShare attendees' interest in Linux was equally clear. Linux-related sessions were among the event's most popular. In fact, of the recorded live sessions available from Tech-Sessions and included on the DVD titled "BrainShare 2004 Top 50 Recordings," roughly half of them are Linux-centric sessions, which are also available on a separate DVD. (To order recordings of packaged or individual BrainShare 2004 sessions, visit www.tech-sessions.com.)
Not surprisingly, many of the Linux sessions focused on SUSE LINUX. As you know, Novell recently purchased SUSE Linux AG of Germany, including the SUSE Linux Enterprise and Standard server operating systems (OSs) that support Novell Nterprise Linux Services. With Nterprise Linux Services, Novell makes available its renowned network services on Linux. Novell backs these services running atop SUSE Linux (or Red Hat) with its global support infrastructure, which includes training, developer, consultant and technical services.
Interest in SUSE Linux was high at BrainShare 2004. In fact, the TUT109 tutorial session titled "SUSE Linux Installation for First Time Users" was among seven of the event's most popular sessions, attracting a total of more than 800 attendees. (The slides from this presentation are available free of charge at www.novell.com/brainshare/catalog/controller/catalog.) In this session, Ronald Nutter helped first-time users set up SUSE Linux Standard Server 8 as if they were preparing it for Nterprise Linux Services. (Nutter is the network manager at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky as well as the helpdesk editor for Network World and a contributing editor to Tech Republic.)
Support for up to two Intel or AMD 32-bit processors (x86) is not what attracts small- to medium-sized organizations to SUSE Linux Standard Server 8. The secret to this product's appeal among these organizations is its ease of use and relatively low cost. Graphical configuration wizards help even Linux novices set up this server OS—and at a cost as little as $449, these novices are willing to give SUSE Linux a try. (For more information, see www.suse.com/us/business/products/server/standard/index.html.)
With Nterprise Linux Services, Novell makes available its renowned network services on Linux.
Before, During and After
Your time constraints (and my word-count restrictions) dictated the intent (and scope) of this article about installing SUSE Linux Standard Server 8, which is three-fold:
1 to offer tips about what you need to know and decide before you install the OS;
2 to give hints about what you can expect while you install the OS; and
3 to provide pointers about everyday tasks you will perform after you install the OS.
Also be aware from the outset that this article is in keeping with Nutter's assumptions about the audience for his tutorial: while you might be proficient or even expert on NetWare and Windows, you have little if any experience with Linux. In other words (and as Nutter told his session attendees), "If you've installed Linux before, you're going to be a little bored with what I've got to say."
While it's true that you can gather information as you go, Nutter recommends otherwise: "Better to have [the information you need] up front," Nutter says, "so you don't have to go searching [for it] in the middle of the install."
First, you need to determine how much of the hard disk is allocated to the already-installed OS. To do so from Windows 2000 or Windows XP, use the Disk Management option in the Computer Management application, an Administrative Tool accessed from the Control Panel. If you're using Windows 95, you can view information about how the hard disk space has been allocated using fdisk (which you launch from the MS-DOS prompt).
In either case, if Windows has not consumed all of your hard disk space, your next step is to resize the Windows partition. Tools such as Symantec Corporation's PartitionMagic (formerly PowerQuest Corporation's product) simplify this task. (For more information, see www.powerquest.com.)
If you'd rather not spend a dime on the task, you can use the fdisk utility. You can find directions for creating partitions using fdisk on The Linux Documentation Project Web site in The Linux Partition HOWTO, which you can view at http://en.tldp.org/ HOWTO/Partition/index.html. (This Web site is loaded with online documents that are particularly useful for first-time Linux users.)
Novell is committed to its Linux strategy and entrenched in the Linux space.
When you install Linux on a system that has Windows (or another OS) already installed, SUSE Linux Standard Server 8 installs the GRand Unified Boot (GRUB) manager from the GNU organization. (For definitions of GRUB, GNU and other Linux-related terms, see Linux Lingo.) Like its predecessor, Linux Loader (LILO), GRUB is software that, once installed on the boot sector of a machine's hard disk, enables you to select from two or more bootable operating systems installed on the same hard disk. (For more information about GRUB and LILO, see Chapter 4, "Booting and Boot Managers," in the SUSE Linux Administration Guide available online at http://www.novell.com/documentation/lg/suse/pdfdoc/en-SuSE-Linux-Adminguide-184.108.40.206x86.pdf.)
The Hardware Hunt
The device most likely to present a hardware-compatibility problem is your graphics card. The good news is that even if the SUSE Linux default driver does not recognize your graphics card, the card will probably still work. The bad news is that resolution will be limited (by default, 800 x 600 pixels).
Armed with your hardware list, check out the SUSE Linux hardware database at http://hardwaredb.suse.de. From here, you'll be able to determine whether SUSE Linux Standard Server 8 supports your hardware. (See Figure 1.)
One of the first questions to consider is this: Will you install SUSE Linux alone on your hard disk or will SUSE Linux share the hard disk with another OS, say Windows, for example?
You can conduct an express or an extended search of the hardware database. The extended search enables you to search for your hardware based on vendor and device names, IDs, hardware category (such as Graphic Cards) and, optionally, subcategory (such as Graphic Card Chipsets). The express search enables you to search by vendor and device names and broad categories (including Input Devices, Graphic Cards, Network Cards and Modems). In either case, the returned list notes the degree to which the product or products are supported, indicated by the following words: not, partially, problematic, full, or unknown.
You can also check to see whether your hardware is either SUSE READY or SUSE CERTIFIED at www.suse.com/en/business/certifications/certified_hardware/index.html. To do so, click the name of the SUSE version you're running, in this case, SUSE Linux Standard Server 8, to display a list of all hardware (listed by vendor and product) that is either SUSE READY or SUSE CERTIFIED. Either of these labels guarantees that the product has been tested and determined to operate fully and properly with this version of the SUSE Linux OS.
Set To Go
GUI or Text
Nutter walked through both the GUI and text-mode installation procedures in his tutorial session, starting with the GUI installation. When you install SUSE Linux Standard Server 8 on a production server, Nutter concedes, you should opt for the text-mode installation. On a production server, you want your server resources devoted entirely to servicing the network and do not want to share those resources with the GUI. Also, Novell recommends the text-mode installation if you plan to run Nterprise Linux Services atop SUSE Linux. If that's your plan, you'll want to conserve resources to maximize your server's performance.
That said, Nutter believes that the GUI installation is a great place to start in a test environment. The GUI eases the transition from the Windows or NetWare world to the Linux world. With the GUI, first-time users can familiarize themselves with the command lines at their own, comfortable pace.
The GUI and text-mode installation procedures for SUSE Linux Standard Server 8 are not as dramatically different as you might think. Aside from the obvious disparity in appearance and a few dissimilar screens, the main difference between these installation modes boils down to navigation. As you probably would expect, you typically cannot use your mouse to navigate the screens when you are installing the OS in text mode. Instead, you navigate the screens using your keyboard. For example, you use the arrow keys to move up and down lists, the Tab key to move from one section of a screen to another, the spacebar to highlight items in lists and the Enter key to activate highlighted items.
Whether you opt for the GUI or text-mode installation procedure, SUSE Linux Standard Server 8 simplifies the task with Yet another Setup Tool (YaST) 2, the SUSE Linux distribution's claim to fame. Available in either graphical or text mode, YaST2 guides you through the installation procedure, offering dialogs that explain for each step what you should do and why.
Standard or Basic
The Standard installation is the complete installation that includes the graphical front-end for configuring the Internet gateway and the file, print and e-mail servers all included with SUSE Linux Standard Server 8. The Basic installation skips those accessories and is the short path to getting you up and running. More to the point in this context, the Basic installation is all you need if you plan to run Nterprise Linux Services atop your SUSE Linux platform.
Once you select the Basic installation, YaST2 prompts you to specify your clock and time-zone settings. YaST2 then prompts you to double check your installation settings and the default plan for the SUSE Linux partitions. (See Figure 4.) After you do so, you select either Yes, to start the installation, or No, to go back and correct any mistakes you might have made.
The Partition Plan
Like all Linux distributions, SUSE Linux creates more than one partition within the partition where it is installed. The point of doing so is security related: if one part of the disk is damaged, the damage doesn't automatically endanger the entire system or all of your data.
Also seen in Figure 4, SUSE Linux (like all distributions) creates two types of major partitions:
You'll notice one thing right away: Linux uses forward slashes (/) rather than the backslashes (\) you're probably used to.
Only the SUSE Linux system can access the swap partition, which is hidden during normal operation and ensures that you won't get irritating (but all-too-familiar) out-of-memory messages.
If nothing else, taking a moment to look at the partition plan will help familiarize you with the Linux file system and standard terminology in the Linux world. For example, you might notice the subdirectories labeled hda and numbered. Linux refers to IDE drives as hd (and SCSI drives as sd). If there is more than one hard disk on a machine, the disks are noted by a letter (for example, hda). The number that follows represents the partition number
Show Details—For the Sake of Curiosity
When thus prompted, you are also given the option to "Show Details." Nutter recommends selecting this option, which displays the names of the files the program is copying. Selecting this option enables you to "see what's going on and gets you used to some of the files you're going to see," says Nutter. (You'll notice one thing right away: Linux uses forward slashes (/) rather than the backslashes (\) you're probably used to.) While the names of the files might not mean a lot to you initially, the more you view them, the sooner you will make sense of things.
At the end of this step, YaST2 returns a screen explaining that the base installation is complete and notifying you that your machine will now reboot.
The first and most important thing to remember when you're rolling in the Linux world, says Nutter, is to "Stand by your man."
The Root Password
Unless you need to perform these administrative tasks, do not log in as root. Instead, log in using the name and password for the regular user account that YaST2 prompts you to create immediately after you specify the password for the root account. (See Figure 5.)
As you can see in Figure 5, when you create this user account, YaST2 also prompts you to forward root mail to this user account. "To the average person," Nutter points out, this option is "not going to mean a whole lot." However, selecting this option is important. When SUSE Linux and many Linux applications experience problems, they generate mail messages that they send to the root account. If you never log in as root, you never get the messages. By forwarding root mail to the newly created user account, you ensure that you receive the notifications of system and application problems.
When you select this option, YaST2 shows you what it knows about your hardware, including your network interfaces, printers and modems. From this screen, you can select the hardware headlines (such as Network interfaces) or the Change option to access the configuration screen for a particular hardware device. You may then add another device or edit the one listed.
For example, Nutter recommends changing the settings for your network interface card, which by default is configured to use the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). When you select the Edit option on the Configuration Overview screen for your network interface card, you're prompted to enter the changes, in this case, the static IP address, the subnet mask and this server's host name, for example.
Ready to Roll
The first and most important thing to remember when you're rolling in the Linux world, says Nutter, is to "stand by your man." When he says this he's referring to the Linux online help system, which you can access at any point by typing man subjectofinterest at the command-line prompt. "If there's help on the system, you'll find it," with this command, says Nutter. If there's no help on the system, "there's always Google." (Yes, he's serious.)
For example, you can type man vi at the command line prompt to find more information about vi (pronounced "vee-eye"). vi is a text editor included with SUSE Linux and commonly used in the Linux world. vi, Nutter says, will "be your best friend."
See What You've Got
You have several options for finding out what hardware you've got. The best option is to dig out the documentation that came with your hardware.
If you can't find your system documentation (or never had any), try checking the system provider's Web site. Some system providers (including IBM, Dell, HP, Compaq, Gateway and the rest of the big names in hardware) list the details of their systems on their Web sites.
If you've lost your documentation and your provider doesn't list your system's specifications, you'll need to resort to alternate sources for gathering hardware information. Windows is a pretty good source, if you happen to have it running on the server where you plan to install SUSE Linux Standard Server 8. (Check out the System Information and the Device Manager, both accessible from My Computer.)
If you've got DOS loaded on an x86 machine about which you need more information, you can download PC-CONFIG. PC-CONFIG is available for free from www.holin.com and enables you to detect complete and thorough information about your hardware, including (but not limited to) CPU type and speed; RAM size; hard disk size, brand and version; VGA chip; and PCI slot cards. Laura Chappell also refers to a hardware-auditing freeware tool named Aida32 in her article in this issue. (For more information, see Aida32.) It performs intensely detailed audits of system hardware and software which will give you every detail imaginable. This is the most thorough source of information and is sure to be replete with all the details you might need.If you've got neither DOS nor Windows (nor any other OS), you can't find your system documentation, and your system provider does not list the specifications for your machine online, you might have to resort to slightly more awkward methods for hardware detection. For example, you might need to speed read the system information as it buzzes by when you first start your computer. Alternately (and probably more realistic), you can access the system BIOS before the OS loads. With any luck, your BIOS will display all the information you need.
You can find information about vi commands on any number of Web sites on the subject, including the following, to list only a few:
Nutter's personal preference for vi information is O'Reilly's 71-page vi Editor Pocket Reference. A companion volume to the more complete Learning the vi Editor, the vi Editor Pocket Reference presents "movement and editing commands, the command-line options, and other elements of the vi editor in an easy-to-use tabular format," says the O'Reilly Web site (http://safari.oreilly.com/?XmlId=1-56592-497-5).
vi always starts in command mode. In this mode, vi interprets the characters you enter as commands, not as input into a file. In command mode, you can move through the text, as well as search, replace, mark blocks and perform other editing tasks. vi also operates in insert mode (sometimes called text mode), to which you switch simply by typing i in the command mode. (To return to command mode, you press Esc.)
To view this slideshow and others from brainshare, visit www.novell.com/ brainshare/catalog/ controller/catalog
In either mode, remember that vi is case sensitive. For example, the command vi –R file invokes vi on file in read-only mode, while the command vi –r file recovers file and recent edits after a crash. In text mode, an uppercase D deletes up to the current line, while two lowercase d's delete the current line.
In Nutter's tutorial, he cited examples of how to open or create files in vi. To open an existing file or create a new one, you need only type vi file. You also can create a new file using the touch command, touch file, which creates a zero-byte file.
More Where This Came From
For information on these subjects, you can view Nutter's slides by downloading his presentation (TUT109) from the Web site identified in the introduction (www.novell.com/brainshare/catalog/controller/catalog). Be warned: these slides do not include Nutter's notes. If you want to hear the explanations that accompany these slides, you can purchase a recording of his session, which has been synchronized with the slides, for US$15 from www.tech-sessions.com.