In this chapter, we want to make sure that your computer (and you) is ready for the Red Hat Linux installation.

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1 CHAPTER 1 Before You Install In this chapter, we want to make sure that your computer (and you) is ready for the Red Hat Linux installation. Systems Requirements Red Hat Linux has a number of systems requirements for installation, like any other program or operating system. Before installing Red Hat, make sure that you have these minimum system requirements: A 386 or better Intel processor Four megabytes (MB) of RAM 200 MB of hard drive space These requirements will not allow you to use the X-Window System (sometimes called X-Windows) or GNOME, the default desktop manager for Red Hat Linux. Since this book is covering the use of GNOME and the X-Window System, it is highly suggested that you run Red Hat Linux on a system of this caliber: 1

2 2 Everyday Linux A Pentium-class processor MB of RAM Five gigabytes (GB) of hard drive space A computer like this will be able to do almost anything you wish using Linux. Keep in mind that graphical applications such as the GIMP will consume more RAM than regular applications. You can also use different processor types, such as those offered by American Micro Devices (AMD), but there are occasional compatibility problems with these processors. Cyrix processors are the least compatible with Red Hat Linux. I personally use an AMD K6-2 processor for my Linux machine, and it has given me no trouble. This is no guarantee that you ll have no problems if you use the same chip, but it s a good indicator that AMD K6-2 processors are compatible with Linux. Use of the System You should also have an idea of what you wish to use the system for, since this may change what you want in the hardware specifications (the systems requirements) of your machine. If, for instance, you are a graphical designer and want to take advantage of the GIMP, you ll want more RAM on your machine than if you were just doing regular data entry or word processing. Graphics manipulation usually takes up a lot of memory, especially in programs that make use of layering, like PhotoShop or the GIMP. Linux is ideal for home and office use, since it supports a wide variety of productivity applications. Corel, makers of WordPerfect Office, have developed and released their complete suite of office tools for Linux. This includes WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, Presentations, Paradox, and CorelCENTRAL. Corel has also developed a version of the Linux operating system. Other such productivity programs are available, such as Star Office, a freely distributed suite of programs similar to Microsoft Office. Star Office is maintained by Sun Microsystems. The productivity tools supplied with Linux are compatible with their Microsoft counterparts, so if you re worried about losing data, don t be. You ll be able to open up documents created in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and

3 1 Before You Install 3 others. Linux also comes packaged with programs such as GNUMeric (a GNU spreadsheet program) that will read data from Microsoft Excel documents. Users on a local-area network (a LAN) will find that Linux has a variety of network applications as well, so you ll be able to interact seamlessly with other computers whether they run UNIX (or one of its clones) or Windows. Users who are interested in sharing files on the Internet and hosting web pages will also find that Linux provides both a web server and a file server in addition to the standard daemons (pronounced demon ) that allow users to connect using programs that make use of the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or a telnet program. Linux is also ideal for persons who need a secure multi-user system. While most operating systems will allow you to have many users with their own profiles (a set of preferences and settings that determine how the computer operates and looks), few are as secure as Linux. Gone are the days when people can simply click the cancel button and gain access to your Windows machine. Using Linux is a good way to make sure that no one but users on the system can gain access to your computer. All in all, Linux provides just as much data power as your Windows machine while providing an incredibly stable environment. If you find that you re interested in any of the above capabilities of Linux, then you should install it and see where it can take you! Backups Of course, installation can be a harrowing procedure for some people, especially if they are less experienced using computers and really aren t all that sure if Linux is a good match for them. One of the best ways to allay your fears is to make a complete system backup of your computer. There are a number of ways to do this, and also a number of alternatives if you don t wish to deal with a full backup. Tape Drives If you already own a tape backup drive, it will be relatively easy to back up your files onto a tape. If not, you may wish to consider buying one. Hard drives nowadays are so large that you really cannot back up all of your files using smaller

4 4 Everyday Linux media such as Zip disks or even their larger cousins, the Jazz disks. Tape drives remain a popular choice for system backups, since the tapes come in sizes up to twenty GB or larger. If you wish to buy a tape drive to back up your system, which is usually a good idea regardless of whether you re going to install a new operating system or not, a number of drive types are popular. Perhaps the most popular is the Colorado tape backup. It is a reliable system to use. Others prefer the Iomega tape backup drives. (Iomega is the company who created the Zip and Jazz drives.) Tape drives usually come with software that will allow you to interface with the drive itself. You will also have to buy a tape (hence the name tape drive ) that will store the data. These are similar to diskettes in that they hold data, but their resemblance more or less ends there. DAT Drives DAT drives are similar to tape drives insofar as they use tapes to store data. However, a DAT drive does not require the use of software to interact with it. It acts as a regular drive that you can access using a program like Windows Explorer. Another attractive feature of DAT drives is that the media (the tapes) are quite inexpensive and hold a huge amount of data. The catch is that DAT drives are quite expensive, so they aren t terribly practical unless you re going to be doing a lot of backing up or using a lot of tapes. This price tag usually makes DAT drives effective only for use in businesses that rely on incremental backups (which require a lot of media) for data storage. Selective Backups If you believe that you only want to back up certain of your files, you might be well-advised to buy a Zip Drive (either 100 MB or 250 MB) or a Jazz Drive (1 GB). These are comparatively small data storage devices, but they are useful if you only have to store a little bit of data. These two drives are made by Iomega. This is not cost effective if you want to back up significant portions of your drive. These two drives run about the same cost as a typical tape backup drive, and though the diskettes are less expensive, you ll require many more of them to get the job done than if you used a tape backup system.

5 1 Before You Install 5 Potential Problems Backing up your system is usually not very complicated. Anything you buy will come with an instruction manual (if all else fails, you might want to read it) and probably an instruction sheet that will guide you through the backup process. Usually it s after the backup that most users have problems. If you install Red Hat Linux and decide, Whoops, I don t think this is going to work out for me after all, as unlikely as that is, you re going to have to restore the data from the backup. To do that, you must reinstall your original operating system first and then the tape backup software. Make sure that you have copies of both your operating system and the backup software. Your computer may also have come with what is known as a Recovery Disk, or CD, which allows you to restore your system to its original, off-the-shelf status. These disks usually contain the operating system and any other software and drivers that the computer used when you first bought it. If need be, you can then use your tape backup to restore software that you purchased later. Alternatives to Backing Up Your Software If backing up your software seems like too much trouble, you might want to take advantage of a couple of alternatives. The two most commonly used are dual booting and removable hard drives. Dual Booting While we don t want to cover this topic in too much detail here, you should know what dual booting is and why you might want to use it. Dual booting is a process whereby you can run more than one operating system such as Windows98 and Red Hat Linux at the same time. Users who either desire or need to run Windows (or another operating system) in tandem with Red Hat Linux should look into using dual booting. Dual booting requires either two physical hard drives or one hard drive partitioned into two different pieces. A program such as the Linux Loader (LILO) or Norton Commander will allow you to choose which hard drive or partition to boot from when you start the computer.

6 6 Everyday Linux Removable Hard Drives Another very viable option is that of removable hard drives. This is achieved by using a device that fits inside a bay in your computer. It comes with a removable component that will hold a hard drive inside. When you want to use Linux, you simply pop out the Windows drive (press a button or unlock the case) and plug in the Linux drive. The disadvantage of using removable hard drives is that you can t easily transfer data between the two drives. Linux can read and write data from (or to) Windows hard drives, so if you use removable drives, you won t be able to grab data from one or the other. The advantage of the drives is that they re easy to swap in and out, and you don t have to worry about whether or not LILO is going to cause you any grief (which it can). Single Booting If you re confident that you re not going to need to run Windows again, you can perform what is known as single booting. Single booting will run just one operating system, but you can use two hard drives. You can read from and write to your Windows disk with Linux, which is very convenient. But backing up is not. So you can simply buy another hard drive and put it in the master position and put your current Windows drive in the slave position. You can then install Linux and use it as your only operating system while still maintaining access to your Windows drive. Compatibility One question that will probably arise when you install Linux is whether or not all of your devices your printer, your mouse, your monitor, your graphics card, your processor, and so on are compatible with the Linux operating system. Because Linux is not as widely used as Windows or MacOS, it sometimes suffers from hardware compatibility problems. For instance, Linux does not support the use of universal serial bus (USB) devices or DVD drives (although you may be able to use your DVD drive as a CD-ROM) at this time. The Red Hat hardware compatibility list states, Just about anything that says USB has a dri-

7 1 Before You Install 7 ver in development for it, but no USB support is active by default with the kernels distributed for 6.2, so your USB devices may work in the future. And you can usually find adapters that will allow you to use USB devices in other ports. A few devices may require some special finagling to get them to work. Most printers made exclusively for Windows will not work. Generally, it s best to have widely used devices on your system provided by a brand name manufacturer. There is a list of compatible devices on Red Hat s web site. The compatibility is divided into three sections, called, tiers. The first tier is highly compatible, while the third tier means that devices will probably need some coaxing before they ll work on your system. If your device is not on the list, you can assume that it is incompatible with Linux. However, devices are sometimes covered under very general names because brand-specific device lists would be incredibly long. For example, listing all of the makers of CD-ROM drives and their models would cover many pages. Instead, you ll see the general term ATAPI or SCSI CD-ROM drive. Innovations and patches are being added nearly daily, so you may be able to find programs on the Internet that will allow you to use a device. Unfortunately, the process of using them isn t always very simple. If you are a competent computer user more familiar with command-line interfaces such as MS-DOS, the shell environment of UNIX will be more familiar, so installing patches or other software will probably be easier. Web sites that have these patches are listed at the back of the book. One of the most popular is called Sourceforge, and we will probably make mention of it throughout the rest of the book. In addition, compatibility is an issue that is addressed throughout this work. When we talk about upgrading the system and installing new peripherals (another name for devices that are on the outside of your computer), I ll devote some time to which devices you should buy and how they should be installed. Time to Take the Plunge Don t worry. Installation is not a difficult process, and we ll go through the steps together. It will consume about half an hour to an hour of your time. Afterward you ll become more familiar with the X-Window System and the GNU Object Modeling Environment (GNOME).

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