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Fedora Core 3 Walkthrough Part 1: Installation

This is the first of a multiple part series on Fedora Core 3. I put this together in response to a discussion regarding whether Linux, and specifically Fedora Core, is ready for the masses. My response is: I’ll show you and you can decide for yourself. To that end, I’ve included several screenshots and an ongoing narrative explaining the installation process. In future installments I’ll cover starting the system for the first time, keeping the system up to date and secure, as well as the software you get with Fedora Core.

(Click on each screenshot below to see it full-size.)

The first thing you have to do is download Fedora Core. It ships on four CDs, so you will need to download and burn the CD images. On Windows, if your CD burning software is installed correctly, you can just double-click each CD image to begin burning it.


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When you’re ready to install Fedora Core, the first step, of course, is to turn on the computer. You’ll see the usual setup messages, which will look something like this. On some computers, though, you’ll probably see the logo for the manufacturer instead.

If your computer does not automatically start from the CD/DVD drive, press the key for the boot menu. This is usually F12, but it may vary depending on your system. Some systems don’t have a boot menu, but will allow you to change the boot options in the system setup. Check the on-screen messages here or your system manual if you are not sure. If all else fails, call your PC manufacturer’s technical support and ask them how to get the system to boot from a CD.


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If the system booted from the Fedora Core CD, you will see this screen. Most of the time you can simply press ENTER to start the installation. In a few rare cases, you might need to specify options here. If you’re interested, you can hit the F2 through F4 keys for more information and to see what the available options are.

If you press the F5 key, you’ll receive information on rescue mode, which lets you boot a rescue system from the Fedora Core CD. This is analogous to the recovery console in Windows 2000 and XP. You would only use it to repair your system in the extremely rare case that it does not boot at all. I’ll discuss this in a later installment.


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Once you press ENTER to start the installation, some text messages will scroll by on the screen. These represent the Linux operating system looking for essential hardware in your system and preparing to start the installation process. Once your system is fully installed, you won’t normally see these messages. You can safely ignore them, but they are provided in the rare case that Linux is unable to recognize some of your hardware, or detects faulty hardware in your system.

At the point pictured, the system will pause for a few seconds while the first stage of the installation process loads.


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Since you probably downloaded Fedora Core 3 and burned it to CD, Fedora provides a self-test to ensure that your copies of the CDs are good copies. This way you don’t get most of the way through the installation just to find out that the last CD is bad and you need to make another copy.

If you’re really quite certain that the CDs are okay, you can hit TAB then ENTER to skip the tests, but it’s a good idea to test them anyway, just to be sure.


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Once you select OK to test your CDs, the system will prompt you to either test the CD currently in the drive, or eject the CD and insert another one. If you’ve already tested the CD in the drive, you can press TAB then ENTER to eject it and put in another one. Otherwise, just press ENTER, and the CD that is in the drive will be tested.

Since I’ve just started here, I will press ENTER to test CD 1, the disc I booted from.


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The system will then test the CD in the drive. This process takes a few minutes, depending on the speed of your CD/DVD drive. Go refill your coffee mug while you wait.


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Oops! My CD didn’t pass!

I’m in big trouble now. I already deleted the images after I burned them, so if it isn’t something simple like the CD having a smudge on it somewhere, I’m in for another long download. Good thing I found this out now instead of half an hour from now when I’m almost done with the installation.

Fortunately for me, the CD was just smudged, and it passed after I cleaned it.


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At this point the system will eject your CD. If it failed, you should take a moment to clean it, and then retest the CD. If it still fails, it’s a coaster. While you’re here, though, test the other CDs just to be sure, and re-burn any of them that failed testing. Then start over from the top.

Trust me, you’ll see later that double-checking the CDs is a very good idea. Don’t skip this unless you’re willing to take chances.


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Once you’re done testing all your CDs, the next stage of installation will start. You’ll see a few more messages scroll by as the system identifies your video card, monitor and mouse. This process takes a few seconds.

Then the screen will flicker, and…


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The Fedora Core splash screen appears. Isn’t it pretty?

If you’ve gotten this far, you’re in really good shape. Fedora Core has tested your basic hardware and is able to use it successfully. You should have few or no problems with either installing or running Linux, though at this point a few things remain untested (such as dialup modems and printers). I’ll cover these in a later installment.


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Welcome to Fedora Core!

The installer will provide context-sensitive help and information on the left side of each screen during the installation process. Feel free to read through it if you need more information at any time.


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The first thing to do is to choose your default language. Once you choose a language here, the installation will begin using this language, and your Linux system will be configured to use this language by default. You can install additional languages later, or change the default language, if you would like.

At this screen, choose the primary language for the installation. You will choose the default language for the system later.


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At this screen, choose the type of keyboard connected to your computer. If you are not using a U.S. keyboard, it is important to choose the correct keyboard so that non-U.S. characters appear correctly.


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Ah, now the fun starts! And indeed, this is where people start getting confused, so I’ll go slowly and carefully through this process.

At this point, Fedora Core wants to know what to install. There are four basic choices here:

Personal Desktop
This is the installation type which gives you a nice desktop environment from which to do your work, browse the Internet, check email, play games, all the usual stuff you want to do with your home computer.
Workstation
This installation type adds to Personal Desktop by providing additional tools for software development and administration. Unless you plan on developing software or being a Unix administrator, you probably don’t want this type. You would typically use this in a business environment.
Server
This installation type provides a range of Internet services, such as Web service, file sharing, etc. It is intended for business environments, and most home users will want to skip it.
Custom
This installation type lets you choose exactly what to install and provides fine-grained control over the installation process. It is not recommended for first-time users or anyone unfamiliar with Linux. But for those of you who are familiar with Linux or another version of Unix, you might want to try this option.

For this installation, I will choose Personal Desktop. Most people will want to use this option as well. (My slashdot readers will probably want to do Custom, but this is intended for the less IT-inclined, so play along, please.) Regardless of which option you choose, you will be able to install additional packages later.


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Fedora Core now needs to know where to install itself on your hard drive, and whether you are running any other operating systems on the same computer, such as Windows, factors into this process.

Disk partitioning is the process of dividing up the space on a hard drive so that you can install more than one operating system on it. Most computers have been pre-installed with Windows, and partitioned exclusively for Windows. Before you can proceed, you will need to reserve some space for Linux.

Later, you will decide whether to erase any operating system currently on your hard drive, or to install Linux to the free space already on the hard drive.

Most people, especially those not familiar with the technical aspects of disk partitioning, will want to use Automatic partitioning. Here I have chosen Automatic partitioning.


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At this point, Fedora Core provides you three options: You can erase any previous Linux installation on the disk, you can erase everything on the disk, or you can install Linux into the free space on the disk.

If you have no free (unpartitioned) space on the hard drive, you will need to use a tool such as Partition Magic in order to repartition the hard drive so that there is free space available for Linux to take advantage of. Even though Windows may show many GB available on your hard drive, that space is still reserved to Windows, so Linux cannot be installed on it. When you repartition the hard drive using Partition Magic (or another tool), that space no longer “belongs to’ Windows, and Linux can then use it.

When you use these tools, create the free space at the beginning of the hard drive, and do not create any new partitions in the free space. Fedora Core requires about 100 MB of free space at the beginning of the hard drive, so if you are not able to create all of the free space at the beginning of the hard drive, reserve at least 100 MB at the beginning, and the rest of the free space at the end of the hard drive.

If you want to erase everything on the hard drive, choose “Remove all partitions on this system.’ Otherwise, if you used Partition Magic or another tool to repartition your drive, choose “Keep all partitions and use existing free space.’


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Since I want to erase everything on the hard drive, and install only Linux, I chose “Remove all partitions.’ The Fedora Core installer then pops up a warning, stating that ALL DATA will be removed from the drive. And it will be removed. If this isn’t what you wanted, or you selected the wrong option, click No and try again.

Here, I click Yes, since I really did want to erase everything.


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Fedora Core can boot both Linux and other operating systems you may have installed on your hard drive. This lets you switch between Linux and Windows anytime you want, and choose which one to run each time you reboot.

If you have Windows or another operating system installed, it will be listed here in addition to Fedora Core. The system waits four seconds before booting the default operating system, and you can press the Esc key during this time if you want to boot the other operating system.

Most of the options on this page are intended for advanced users, and you can leave them as is. The only option you need to change is whether to boot Fedora Core or your other operating system by default. Since I only have Linux on this disk, I don’t need to make any changes.


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If Fedora Core found an Ethernet card in your computer, you will see the Network Configuration. Most of the time you will not need to make any changes here. The default settings are to obtain an IP address automatically from your Internet service provider. You do not need to change any settings here unless you use a static IP address. If this is the case, click the Edit button and fill in the settings your ISP provides you with your static IP address allocation.


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Fedora Core provides a built-in firewall to protect your computer from outside intrusion. You should normally leave it enabled. However, if you are going to run services such as your own Web server on your computer, you will need to enable them to pass through the firewall here. Advanced users: if you want to run a service not listed, you will be able to enable it later, after the system is installed I will cover this in a later installment of this series.

In addition, Fedora Core provides SELinux, an enhancement to Linux security developed by the U.S. National Security Agency. SELinux provides additional protection against intruders and malicious software.

I want both the firewall and additional SELinux protection, so I leave everything as-is.


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It’s time to install any additional languages you may need with your system. While you are selecting languages, keep in mind that for some languages, not every component included with Fedora Core may be translated to your language, and if no translation is available, U.S. English will be used. Therefore you should always install English (USA), even if you use another language as the default language. You can install as many languages as you like.


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It is time to select the timezone in which your computer is located. The easiest way to do this is to click on the dot nearest to your physical location. You can also scroll through the list, which is sorted by continent and then city, to find the location nearest you in the same time zone.

If Linux will be the only operating system on your computer, place a check mark in the “System clock uses UTC’ box. This improves Linux’s handling of daylight saving time (summer time). If you also run Windows, leave this box unchecked. Windows does not handle daylight saving time in the system clock properly, and so Linux must work around Windows’ behavior.


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The root account, known in the Windows world as Administrator, has complete control over the system. This account should never be used normally. It should only be used when you need to perform an administrative task. You will be prompted to create users later, and I’ll cover that in a later installment. For now, choose a password, and type it into both boxes. When you are using your system and want to perform an administrative task, Fedora Core will ask you for the root password.


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At this point Fedora Core begins reading the list of available software on the CD to determine which packages need to be installed.


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Fedora Core will install the packages shown. The Personal Desktop option provides the GNOME desktop environment, which you’ll see a lot of later, along with OpenOffice.org, a Microsoft-compatible office suite, the Firefox web browser, Evolution email and calendar client, as well as instant messaging, multimedia players, CD burning, and other software. In a later installment I’ll cover the installed software in detail.

If you know of a package you’d like to install that isn’t included, you can click Customize here, and you’ll be prompted to add it. You can also add or remove these packages later, and I’ll show you how in a later installment.

For now, I leave everything as is.


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Fedora Core processes the list of packages to be installed to determine if anything additional needs to be installed. Sometimes a piece of software needs some other component to be installed. Fedora Core automatically finds these components, if any, and adds them in to your installation.


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This is your last chance! Up to now, nothing has actually been written out to your hard drive, so if you’ve changed your mind, the time to quit is now. Once you click Next, the installation will proceed.

When your installation is complete, Fedora Core will create two files, one called install.log which contains a complete list of actions the installer took during this installation, and a file called anaconda-ks.cfg, which advanced users can use to automate an installation with exactly the same options used in this installation. Since these are advanced topics, I won’t be covering them in this series.


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Okay, no, really, this is your last chance. You can choose to reboot here, and nothing will happen. If you click Continue, the installation will begin.

At this point Fedora Core informs you of which CDs you will actually need during the installation process. For a Personal Desktop installation, only the first two CDs are needed. For Workstation and Server installations, the first three CDs are needed, and a Custom installation might require all four CDs.


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Fedora Core formats the / partition. This is where most of your Linux files will reside.

Linux does not have drive letters, and uses forward slashes (/) instead of backslashes () for file/folder paths. Instead, each partition of each hard drive has a name, and resides at some point under /. By default, Fedora Core creates two partitions, known as / and /boot. The / partition, also known as the root partition, is the top of the hierarchy, and everything will be mounted below it.


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Fedora Core formats the /boot partition. This is a second partition which is kept separate on the hard drive from the / partition for increased compatibility with older computers. It is mounted just below / in the filesystem hierarchy.

Later, if you add a hard drive to your system, you can create partitions on the new hard drive, and they will also be mounted under /. For instance, you might make one called /music to store MP3 files. Because Linux does not use drive letters, but rather names, for each partition on each hard drive, you do not have to worry about your programs not working, if you decide to move data from one hard drive to another later.


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Fedora Core is copying the final stage of the installer to the hard drive. It does this for two reasons: First, it will run faster from the hard drive. Second, it will permit the system to change the CD later.


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Fedora Core keeps a database of all the programs you install on the hard drive using RPM. At this time Fedora Core is creating this database and preparing to store information about your installation into it.


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This doesn’t really take several minutes unless you’re on a very old computer. Fedora Core is switching now to the installation image it loaded to the hard drive a short while ago.


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Now the system is building the complete list of everything to be installed and will begin shortly.


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Watch it go! Fedora Core provides details of each individual component being installed, a progress meter so you know how far it has to go, and in a minute or two, it will begin showing an estimate of the time remaining.


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The CD popped out! It’s time to put in Disc 2. We’re halfway there! Take out Disc 1, put in Disc 2, close the CD drive, and click OK. The installation will then finish.

This won’t really take 30 more minutes. It usually runs a lot less than the estimate. Compare to Windows, where the installation usually runs a lot longer than the estimated time.


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The CD popped out again! Take it out and put it in a safe place.

Congratulations! In just a moment, you’ll be a Linux user. Click the Reboot button. The system will restart into your fresh new Fedora Core installation.

In the next installment I will cover the first-boot process, updating your system and keeping it secure, and some nice customizations you might want to try.

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