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SolutionBase: Installing and configuring Fedora Core

If you want to install Linux as a desktop operating system, it's not as easy as putting a CD in and running Setup. Scott Lowe shows you how to use the Anaconda installer for Fedora Core 5.

Unlike some Linux installations of old, the newest version of the Anaconda Fedora installer is extremely straightforward, even for beginners. While you can still accomplish more complex tasks, such as custom disk partitioning and manual selection of optional installable packages, if you just want a simple installation, it's easy.

I'm going to run through a sample Fedora Core 5 installation with one goal: to have a working user desktop system accessible from Windows systems (and able to access other Windows systems). The Windows connectivity requirement is important due to Windows' prevalence. Here's how it works.

Author's Note

My target system is a VMware virtual machine with 512MB of RAM and to which I've allocated 16GB of disk space. I'm using the 3GB DVD ISO image file as the DVD ROM drive on my virtual machine.

Throughout this article, you will see a reference to "Anaconda". For those of you that have worked with Red Hat Linux and Fedora before, you know that Anaconda is the installer that has long been used to install Red Hat's distribution. As such, Anaconda is the part of the distribution that is responsible for handling the installation of the operating system and other software.

Installation

To get started on your own, use a reasonable physical machine, or use VMware or Virtual PC, insert the first installation CD (or the DVD), and power on the machine. Assuming your system boots normally, the first screen you should see contains a couple of installation options. You can install Fedora in either graphical mode, or in text mode. Text mode is useful if the Anaconda installer has trouble working with the graphics adapter in your system. Since VMware emulates a display adapter compatible with Anaconda, I've opted to use the graphical installer.

Figure A

Choose your installation method. If you have trouble later in the installation with the graphics, restart your system and choose the text mode option.

Regardless of which mode you choose for installation, the next screen is a text screen that asks if you want to test your CD media before you install. In general, this is a good idea if you're using physical CDs, but not usually necessary if you're installing using the ISOs directly. This test makes sure the installer will be able to read everything it needs to properly install your system.

Figure B

If you're using physical CDs, a media test is a good idea.

Once the CD test is out of the way, the graphical installation begins, with Anaconda first asking you for the language you'd like to use during installation. Choose your language and click the Next button.

Figure C

Choose your installation language.

I'm not going to show the next screen since it's much related to Figure C. Again, you're asked a language question. This time, Anaconda asks you to choose the keyboard language you want to use for the installation. Click the Next button after you make your selection.

Rather than moving on to the next screen, if you have an unformatted hard drive, Anaconda will throw up a warning indicating that the disk is unreadable and that it must be initialized, resulting in data loss. Of course, if you're using a new disk (or using a newly created virtual hard disk), this isn't a problem. Answer Yes to initialize the disk.

Figure D

Do you want to initialize the hard disk for Linux installation?

With you disk initialized, you're next asked how you want to lay out the new disk. Do you want one large partition, or a number of small partitions, for example? Fedora provides a default layout, too, which I have chosen for this installation. If you choose to remove partitions and create new ones, Anaconda pops up a warning that indicates that all data will be lost on the partitions you remove.

Figure E

Choose your disk layout.

In Figure F below, I've provided a screenshot that shows you the default disk layout for this operating system. In short, on this 16 GB disk, I have a 1 GB swap partition and a single 15 GB volume (named "/").

Figure F

The Fedora default disk layout

It's highly recommended that you use a boot loader for your new installation so that you can easily make changes to the way the system boots and provide a boot menu for booting other operating systems if necessary. The default boot loader in Fedora Core is GRUB. On the screen shown below in Figure G, you can see also that an initial entry named "Fedora Core" will be created as the default operating system.

Figure G

These are the default boot loader options for Fedora.

The next screen of the installer requests information regarding your networking configuration. Do you want to use DHCP, or statically assign an IP address? Do you want to set a host name automatically, or provide one for the system? The system I am installing is on my home network, and I use DHCP for most of my systems and will do so for this one as well, with one exception: The host name. For Linux systems, I prefer to provide the host name during the installation. I've named my sample system "fedora5-t3".

If you want to manually provide TCP/IP addressing information, click the Edit button to bring up the window on which you can provide an address and subnet mask. When you return to this window, the boxes under "Miscellaneous Settings" will be enabled so you can provide a gateway and DNS server information.

Figure H

Provide networking information for your new system.

By default, Fedora chooses the America/New_York time zone, but also provides a map with dozens of little yellow dots, which represent different cities. To change the time size, you can either find the city closest to your location in your time zone, or click the time zone button and select your time zone from the list.

Figure I

Choose your time zone.

On the next screen of the installer, you're asked to provide the password for the "root" user. Keep this handy as you'll need it for other tasks. In the next article in this series, we'll go through configuring your system using regular user accounts so that you don't need to use this user account for everyday tasks.

Figure J

Provide a password for the root user account.

This is probably the meatiest part of the installation as you now get to choose what kind of software you want to make available on your new desktop system. Since I'm making this a desktop system, I've opted to install the Office and Productivity file set, which provides such software as OpenOffice. I've also chosen the "Customize now" button, which allows me to make other manual product selections now. This process can be done at any time, even after the initial installation of the system.

Figure K

Choose the software you would like to install.

If you selected the "Customize now" option on the previous screen, Anaconda provides you with a more granular software selection window on which you can choose more specific groups of software to install (or not install, for that matter). For example, the "Authoring and Publishing" option was not included as a part of the base installation, so I added it. There is one more level of package selection you can use, which is accessed by clicking the "Optional packages" button. This option allows you to specific which options inside each subcategory you want to enable. I have not shown this third level selection window. Figure L shows you the package type selection window.

Figure L

From this window, choose the types of software you want to install.

When you're done with package selection, Fedora is ready to begin installing onto your system and pops up a window indicating such (not shown). Once you click the Next button on this window, Anaconda formats your disk and begins the process of installing the operating system and packages you selected.

Figure M

The install progress screen gives you an idea of how long you need to wait for your installation to finish.

When the process is complete, you'll see the last installation screen, which congratulates you on a successful installation and prompts you to reboot your system. The first thing you see upon a reboot is the GRUB boot loader, with the single option you see below in Figure N. Of course, if you're dual (or triple, or quadruple, or whatever-ple) booting, you'll see other options on the screen, too.

Figure N

The boot loader window with the single option to load Fedora Core.

Initial Configuration

The first time you boot your computer after installing Fedora Core 5, you're asked to walk through the initial system configuration, which is detailed in this section. If you've installed Fedora Core before, you'll notice some changes, such as in the inclusion of firewall configuration options.

First up is the ubiquitous license agreement to which you need to agree before you can continue through the configuration process.

Figure O

Before you can continue, you have to agree to the license.

Second on deck is the configuration of the aforementioned firewall. On this screen, you can choose whether or not the firewall is enabled and, if enabled, which services should be allowed to traverse the firewall. In the next article in this series, I will also show you how to configure the Fedora firewall after you've begun using the system.

Figure P

Configure the firewall to suit your needs.

I mentioned in the previous article in this series that Fedora Core 5 made significant changes to SELinux. Another change is the inclusion of the SELinux configuration as a part of the initial system configuration rather than in the system installation. On this screen, you can choose SELinux's settings, such as Enforcing, Permissive, or Disabled. Under "Enforcing", all of the security policies you put into place in SELinux are enforced. Under "Permissive", the security policies are not enforced, but you are warned about breaches. And, of course, "Disabled" means just what it says.

Figure Q

Configure SELinux policies to meet your security requirements.

The next screen asks you to provide date and time information/

Figure R

Give your system the right date and time.

And, by choosing the Network Time Protocol tab, you can configure your system to use NTP to stay synchronized with a consistent outside time source.

Figure S

Use NTP to keep your system time synchronized to a consistent outside source.

From a visual and usability perspective, the display configuration window is probably the most important one to get right, although, if you make a mistake, it's very easy to correct later on.

On this screen, make sure you select the right monitor or the closest selection to your monitor and then choose your resolution and color depth. If you don't choose a monitor that has the capability of the monitor you're using, you might not get all of the resolution choices. In Fedora Core 4, for example, there was no option for a Dell 2405FPW monitor so I could not use the maximum resolution of the monitor. Fedora Core 5, however, does include support for this unit. Use the Configure button to choose your monitor.

Figure T

Choose your display type for the most complete list of resolution choices.

During the installation of the operating system, you provided a password to be associated with the root user. Older versions of Anaconda also asked you to provide the name and password for one or more user accounts. This functionality has since been moved into the initial system configuration. Your first user account should be the one you use for everyday machine use. As you access components that require root approval, you will be prompted to provide the root password.

Figure U

Use a normal user account for everyday system activity.

Sound card configuration is pretty straightforward. If a sound card is detected in your system, you'll be offered to the opportunity to test sound.

Figure V

Test the sound device in your computer.

When all is said and done, your system provides with you Fedora Core 5's new login screen.

Figure W

The new Fedora Core 5 login screen.

Ready to go!

That's it for the installation and configuration phases for Fedora Core 5. In my next article, I will go over some common Fedora administrative tasks.

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