Oct 31, 2008

linux installation made easy

So you are on Windows and contemplating a switch. Before you do that, consider this. If you are an average Joe who uses his PC just for typing documents, watching movies, surfing the Web and listening to music, catch the first train back to Windows Land. Linux is not for you. On the other hand, if you are a born explorer with a burning desire to understand how your operating system works and to be able to control how it works, `Welcome aboard'. 
But Linux is not all cakewalk. Watch your step, for it is no merry stroll we take. It is more of journey, which will lead you right into the innards of your O/S. So lets start at the beginning--the history of Linux. 


There was a time, when there was no Windows, no Microsoft and believe it or not, computers still existed. It was the age of Unix. A mostly command line based operating system which was robust, stable, mostly crash free and yet costly. Linus Torvalds (Father of Linux), at that time, was a University student from Helsinki, Finland. He had a PC but could not afford Unix and since CD ROMs were still in the research stage, piracy had not become the orde of the day. And although Unix was ideal for PCs that were networked or connected with each other, it was too big for a standalone PC an average student had. So Linus decided to make his own o/s. 
Back then, there already existed a small version of Unix called Minix that was not very popular. Linus made a new o/s of his own and named it Linux for his own name. In August 1991, he posted the o/s and its source-code on the still budding Internet with a request to anyone who may download it to make suggestions and/or improvements in the o/s and mail them back to him. A wise move. 
And nothing had prepared him for the number of responses received. People who surfed the Net in those days were mostly computer science students and Linus had made something everyone needed. What’s more, everyone could modify the o/s to personalize it. Soon hundreds of emails started pouring in. And the Linux community had been formed. 
What propelled Linux was that it was an open source O/S. i.e. the source code of the operating system was not only available to anyone who wanted it, but he/she could modify it. The only(and at that time just moral not legal) obligation was that the individual had to email the change to Linus and he would incorporate it into the Official version of Linux if he felt it was good. 
As the Internet grew in size, thousands of programmers across the world started working on Linux, each one either adding something new or correcting a flaw somewhere. Therefore all the good things got included in the official version and soon Linux flowered into a full-fledged Operating System. 
Later of course, Linus started distributing Linux under the GPU or General Public License. This entitles a user to change the source code of the O/S and distribute it, even commercially, provided he agrees to publish the change. In return he gets a copyright to that change. And this is how it is today.As an operating system, the newer versions of Linux are almost as easy to use as MS Windows. They have ‘Windows’ and ‘Taskbar’ and all the stuff but the real beauty of Linux is in the command line - the Linux Shells. 
You can install Linux and make it co-exist with your existing windows Operating System without having to reinstall Windows. And this can be done without causing any loss of your data.


A hard disk with at least 1GB of free space which, after installation of Linux will become unusable for Windows till you uninstall Linux if ever. Please leave at least 50 MB free for the Windows System Minimum Hard Disk Space: 1 GB 50 MBsRecommended Hard Disk Space : 2.5 GB (This will leave at least 1 GB Free after installation) 

RAM requirements:Minimum : 16 MB RAMRecommended : 32 MB RAM 

A Linux Installation CD and a CD ROM drive.Minimum : Any distributionRecommended : Caldera Linux eDesktop 2.4 ( Latest as of Feb 2001)Or Recommended : Suse Linux 6.3 (Chip CD April 2000) or Suse 7.0 .If you can’t get the above Chip CD, you can download any Linux distribution, without its Commercial Packages from the distributor’s site if you have broadband and then burn it on a CD if you have a CD Writer. WWW.SUSE.COM , WWW.CALDERA.COM, WWW.REDHAT.COM 
OrFind the Linux User Group (LUG) in your city from www.linux-india.org or www.LinuxIndia.org. Each LUG has a mailing list and a request here will find you at least one person willing to lend you a CD. After installation you can get the CD copied commercially for about 100 bucks and it is perfectly legal. 

Your hardware specificationsThis can be mostly found in the books accompanying your computer. Find the names of your Graphic Accelerator Card (if any), Sound Card. Find out the vertical and horizontal refresh rate ranges of your monitor. If the monitor came with a book, you will find it there. Also find its maximum resolution and frequency. Most people don’t have any SCSI drives, but if you know you have one, find the name. 

A partitioning softwareWe use Partition Magic 6.0. And it is the only one I recommend. If you have Windows 98/95 Partition Magic 4 / 5 will also work. However, you can also use System Commander 2000. In case you have Windows ME installed, you will have to use Partition Magic 6.0 as nothing else will work. 
Windows installation disk and boot floppiesThese are essential in case you goof up very badly (chances of this happening are less than 5% if you read this properly). If you don’t have boot floppies, don’t fret. Partition Magic / System Commander will make them for you when you install it. If you have any means of backing up your software, please do it now. You can do so on a zip drive, a CD writer or if you have a large hard disk, on a separate partition where Windows is not installed.

Partitioning Hard Disk 

By now you have installed Partition Magic. (P.M) here, we take P.M 6.0 as an example. Version 5.0 has the same interface. First cick on ‘Create New Partition’ in the lower left of the screen. Click Next. Now choose the Hard Disk (if you have two hard disks), on which you want to install Linux and click Next. It is advisable to install Linux on your Primary Hard Disk (The one with Windows on it). In case you have one, it is the default option. Then click on yes when it asks if you want to install a new Operating System on the partition Click Next. Choose Linux from the list of Operating Systems before clicking on Next. 

Ext2 option is chosen by default. They recommend installing Linux on a Logical Partition, do it. Click Next. Choose the recommended option in the next screen. Go to Next. If you already have more than one partition, you have to choose from where PM should derive space to install Linux. Choose the partition where you have (freed up) space for Linux and click Next. Decide the size of the partition. Enter 1000 in the MB box for 1 GB and 2000 for 2 GB. Enter at least 128 MB less than the total space you freed for Linux as we will need this for another partition called ‘Swap Space’. Enter any name you want to keep for this partition in the Label box and click Next and then Finish. 

Now they recommend creating a Swap Space partition for Linux. Click `Yes’ and then `Next’. Put the Swap Space on the same Hard Disk as your Linux partition, if you have 2 Hard Disks. Now you have to go through 3 steps in the same way as above. In the 4th step, you have to decide the size of Swap. 128 MB is enough for most people. Enter a Name (Label) if you want to before going on to Finish. Now click on `Apply changes’ and the computer will restart. PM will do the partitioning and this process will take about 15-20 minutes on a P3-450 more if you have a slower processor so be patient. 

Caution : When the computer is restarting, do not interrupt the process in any way unless asked to by the instructions on your screen. 


We assume you have all the apparatus listed above in place along with the books etc and all info you can get about your hardware as a safeguard. We are taking Caldera 2.4 as the example, as it is the easiest. For those using SUSE, the installation is similar and almost as easy. Now you have to Put the Caldera CD in the CD-ROM and Restart your PC. Before this you need to ensure that your PC can boot from the CD ROM. This is the default for 99% PCs. But in case you are the odd one out, this can be done from the BIOS. The ideal order in which to boot disks is: 
1) Floppy 
2) CD-ROM 
3) HDD 
4) Anything Else 
The Boot order is one of the menu options in BIOS. You can start the BIOS by pressing F2 when your computer boots. Do not change anything else in the BIOS. Save the changes and restart. Now you can insert the CD in the CD Rom drive and Restart you PC. THE PC boots from the Caldera CD and you can now see a screen offering you various modes of installation. Choose the ‘VESA INSTALLATION’ mode.Now select your Language : English 

The next screen offers you a choice of your mouse. It detects the appropriate option by default. Check to see if you can move your pointer around and click things and then click Next. If it doesn’t find the appropriate model from the drop down list and choose it Next screen offers a choice of keyboards. Most people have a Generic 104 KEY keyboard. Test if all the letter and number keys are working in the space below. 

It offers a choice of your video card. We suggest you click Probe. The screen flickers for a while and then offers the right choice. If it does not, you can choose your card from the list. In the next screen you choose your video mode. Here is where you have to find the Horizontal Frequency Range of your monitor and what maximum frequency it supports. If you have a decent video card, 800 * 600 at 61 Hz will work. 640 * 480 at 60 Hz should work for most people. If not, choose a lower option like 400 * something etc. If the screen offers an option to test it, test this mode, if you can see an image similar to your Windows Desktop the configuration is OK.

Choose 32 bpp in the lower left options and choose `No Virtual Desktop’. In the next screen choose Prepared Partition and then select the partition(s), which you formatted for Linux and the installer will format them again when you click format. Unfortunately this has to be repeated. Do not format your Windows partition by mistake or you will lose all your software. You can differentiate between the two by their drive letters. These drive letters can be known when Windows reboots after partition magic repartitions your hard drive. If you don’t know them, stop the installation reboot in windows and find them.

In the next screen, choose the partition to be mounted as root. The 1 or 2 GB partition, which you formatted for Linux should be mounted as root and not any other partition. Select ‘Install LILO on MBR’ which is the recommended option. Later you have to choose which Operating Systems you want to boot into. Generally, the list consists of Caldera and Windows. Select `ALL’ 

Now, choose what kind of installation you want. This can be decided by the amount of Memory that each takes and how much you have freed for Linux.After that it asks you to configure your modem printer etc, from a list and your Internet service provider (ISP). Select the Time Zone : Asia Calcutta, for example. You can do this easily by clicking on Calcutta in East India on the world map above. Choose ‘Hard Ware Clock Set to Local Time’. It asks you for data like name and 2 passwords.

Wait till installation gets over. Click Next and allow Caldera to reboot. You get a list of Operating Systems you can boot into. Choose Linux and after 1 minute you get a screen asking for your user name and password. Enter them and you have booted into Linux. 
After that Explore Learn Fiddle and if you screw up, reinsall. You can boot into Windows by selecting Windows at the boot up menu. 

And happy working with Linux. You sure will enjoy it.