This chapter has taken a network server from power up to full operation. We have gone from the ROM BIOS to the Linux boot loader to the kernel initialization to the init process and, finally, to the boot scripts. All of these things play an important role in starting the system, and all of them can be configured by you.

Many operating systems hide the boot details, assuming that the administrator will be confused by the messages. Linux hides nothing. It accepts the fact that ultimately you're in control of this process, and you can exercise as much or as little of that control as you want. You can modify kernel behavior with boot prompt input, and control the behavior of the Linux loader through the lilo.conf file or the grub.conf file. You configure the init process through the inittab file and control system services through the startup scripts. All of these configuration files are text files that are completely under your control.

Other than the rc.local file, you will rarely change the files discussed in this chapter. But when you do need to fix or debug something, it is good to know where and when things happen in the boot process. Knowledge is a good thing, even if you only use it to ensure that your support contractors know what they are talking about.

An important piece of knowledge gained from this chapter is the understanding of how startup really works. Underneath all of the different tools provided by all of the different Linux distributions there is a boot process that has many similarities. Knowing where the files are stored that start and configure critical network services is very valuable information for any network administrator, particularly when things go wrong. In the next chapter, "The Network Interface," we look even deeper into the process that configures the server's network interface.

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