We all know the advantages of the Linux operating system. It's more stable, it's more secure, and it's free of abusive licensing and product activation schemes. But Linux hasn't taken over as the desktop operating system of choice. That's because of it's reputation as being complicated to install, difficult to use, and lack of practical applications.
With the release of the OpenOffice.org office suite, the lack of practical applications problem is gone. In this article, I'm going to determine if the "complicated to install" problem has been solved. I will install Fedora Linux to an Athlon XP 1800 machine with 256 MB RAM and 40 GB hard drive, blowing away Windows XP in the process.
Installing Fedora is as simple as inserting the first CD-ROM into the drive and rebooting. But first make sure that your system is set to boot from the CD drive. Watch the on-screen messages as the system boots, you should see a message like "searching CD-ROM for boot sector" before the computer boots from the hard drive.
If your computer is not set to boot from CD-ROM, you may be able to configure the boot sequence in your system's BIOS. Enter the BIOS by pressing a key, usually Del or F2, as indicated by a screen message while your computer is starting. After entering the BIOS, navigate to the boot menu.
I will install Fedora Linux as the single operating system on the computer, no half-hearted and complicated dual-boot configurations. Below are the step-by-step instructions for installing Fedora Linux, along with my experience.
1. Insert Fedora CD 1 into the drive and restart your computer.
2. The message appears: "To install or upgrade in graphical mode press [Enter]".
3. The Fedora Welcome screen appears. Click on the [Next] button.
4. The Language Selection screen appears. The default, English, is highlighted. Click on the [Next] button.
5. The Keyboard Configuration screen appears. The default, U.S. English, is highlighted. Click on the [Next] button.
6. The Installation Type screen appears. The default, Personal Desktop, radio button is set. Click on the [Next] button.
7. The Disk Partitioning Setup screen appears. The default, Automatically Partition, radio button is set. Click on the [Next] button.
8. The Automatic Partitioning screen appears. Note the list of selected drives. Set the "Remove all partitions on this system" radio button and click on the [Next] button. A warning message box appears. Click on the [Yes] button in the warning message box.
My hard disk had a NTFS partition containing the Windows XP operating system. A message appeared informing me that Automatic Partitioning could not be done. I clicked the [Back] button and set the "Manually Partition with Disk Druid" radio button. When I clicked on the [Next] button, I was taken back to the Automatic Partitioning screen. I set the "Remove all partitions on this system" radio button again and clicked on the [Next] button. The warning message box appeared, and I clicked on the [Yes] button to dismiss the message box.
On the Automatic Partitioning screen, the "Review (and modify if needed) the partitions created" checkbox was checked by default. Clicking on the [Next] button took me to the Disk Setup screen which displayed how partitioning will be performed. My system listed LVM (Logical Volume Management) Volume Groups. LVM is a file system feature that allows a directory to span more than one partition and allows resizing partitions.
The Disk Setup screen indicated that my 40 GB drive would be partitioned into a 37536 MB ext 3 root partition, a 448 MB swap partition, and a 103 MB ext 3 boot partition. Ext 3 is a file system used by Fedora that makes sure the data on your hard disk remains intact dispite a system crash.
One of the things holding Linux back from replacing Windows on the desktop is fear of the Linux installation process. One of the most worrisome parts is disk partitioning. General users shouldn't need to know about disk partitions, and when a user sets the Automatically Partition radio button, the disk Partitioning process should take control and get the job done.
Linux needs a root partition and a swap partition and the swap partition should be approximately two times the size of the system's installed RAM, so the Disk Setup screen seemed correct. Assuming that the installer knows what it's doing, I clicked on the [Next] button.
9. The Boot Loader Configuration screen appears. This screen lists the default boot device. Do not check the "Use a boot loader password" checkbox. This does not refer to the user password. This is just another complication added to the Linux installation process that confuses the user. Click on the [Next] button.
10. The Network Configuration screen appears. The default, Automatically via DHCP, radio button is set. Click on the [Next] button.
11. The Firewall Configuration Screen appears. The default, Enable firewall, radio button is set. Don't check any checkboxes, as you can configure the firewall after installation if you need to. Click on the [Next] button.
12. The Additional Language Support screen appears. The default, English USA, checkbox is checked. Click on the [Next] button.
13. Time Zone Selection screen appears. This screen displays a time zone map. Click on a dot on the map for a city in your time zone or select your time zone from the drop-down list. Click on the [Next] button.
14. The Set Root Password screen appears. The root password is the administrator password. Enter and confirm a password. Click on the [Next] button.
15. The Package Installation Defaults screen appears. This screen lists the applications that will be installed. The list contains a few non-essentials (in my opinion), like Instant Messaging and Games, but to expedite the installation, click on the [Next] button.
16. The About to Install screen appears. Click on the [Next] button. The "Required Install Media" message box appears. Assuming you have the listed media on hand, click on the [Continue] button.
17. Formatting, File Transferring and Installation begins, as indicated by the progress dialog box. During installation, disk 1 will be ejected and disk 2 will be requested. At the end of the process the last disk will be ejected. Click on the [Reboot] button.
18. The boot process displays hundreds of status lines and their results; [OK] hopefully. Then the Welcome screen appears. Click on the [Next] button.
19. The License Agreement screen appears. Set the radio button next to "Yes, I agree to the licence agreement". Click on the [Next] button.
20. The Date and Time screen appears. Set the current date and time. Click on the [Next] button.
21. The Display screen appears. In the Resolution and Color Depth drop down lists, select settings for your display. Click on the [Next] button.
22. The System User screen appears. It is recommended that you create a user. Click on the [Next] button.
23. The Sound Card screen appears. Click on the [Play test sound] button. After a sound is played, a message box appears asking if you heard the sound. Assuming that you did hear the sound, click on the [Yes] button in the message box.
24. The Additional CDs screen appears. Assuming that you don't have any additional CDs, click on the [Next] button.
25. The Finish Setup screen appears. Click on the [Next] button.
26. Fedora's blue screen appears. (This is good, and not related to the Windows blue screen of death). Installation is complete. You can now enter your username, or root, and password to login.
The Fedora installation process takes about an hour. Only about 30 minutes of that time is actual formatting, file transferring and installing. The rest is dealing with input screens. If the Linux community wants to see Linux on the desktop, they need to make it easy to install. Most users have installed applications, but few ever install an operating system.
The general user doesn't need to know about disk partitioning, and when they select Automatic Partitioning, the Linux installation process should take control and get the job done.
The number of screens should be reduced. Some of the screens are not necessary, for example the Additional CDs screen. Several screens can be combined, for example Language Selection, Additional Language Support, and Keyboard Configuration. The Package Installation and About to Install screens can be combined. Many functions, like display resolution and color depth, can be configured at a more convenient time after installation.
I have installed earlier versions of Red Hat Linux in the past and this was the easiest and most successful Linux install I have ever done. I usually have to play around with the partitioning and the display settings.
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