Installing Linux, which is an essential part of getting a Linux network server operational, is relegated to an appendix because most readers of the Craig Hunt Linux Library have installation experience and have a system that is already running Linux. Installation is described in an appendix, not because it is unimportant, but because many readers do not need this information. Most of the books in the library are read by experienced Linux administrators. However, this book, like Linux System Administration, is one that Unix and Windows administrators will pick up first when they want to learn about Linux. Experience with Unix system administration does not give you experience installing Linux. If you have never installed Linux before, the appendix is for you.
In some ways, the initial installation of the Linux software distribution is more challenging than configuring the various network services after the operating system is installed. This appendix examines the basic installation tasks, and looks at the pitfalls that can make this the most frustrating part of building a Linux network server.
This appendix also illustrates one of the subtle reasons why Linux has a very low total cost of ownership. Some operating systems require you to master the installation of the operating system and then to master equally complicated installations to add remote access, routing support, or web service. By the end of this appendix, everything will be installed—no additional complicated installations are required—and you'll be ready to configure any service.
Administrators coming from Unix or Microsoft backgrounds often find Linux installation challenging because they have limited experience with installations that require hardware and software integration. Most organizations buy PCs with Microsoft Windows preinstalled and Unix servers with Unix preinstalled. This means that the hardware has been "prequalified" for the software by the vendor. Therefore, even if the administrator needs to reinstall or upgrade the operating system, they do not need to perform any hardware/software integration.
It is possible to buy computers with Linux preinstalled. This is often very cost-effective because the cost of in-house staff time is frequently higher than the small premium involved in purchasing systems with preinstalled software. Despite the cost-effectiveness of this approach, I don't recommend it for all installations. You should install Linux several times yourself, even if you use some systems with preinstalled software. The reason is simple: In order to properly maintain a Linux network server, you need to feel confident about installing and reinstalling the operating system.
To gain confidence, get an obsolete or underutilized system, and use it as a training tool. Take the system apart. Remove unneeded hardware. Add in the type of Ethernet card you'll use on your real server. Then install Linux repeatedly until you feel at ease about tearing apart hardware and installing Linux software.
In this appendix, Red Hat Linux 7.2 is used as the primary example, but the installation steps described here are taken for every Linux distribution. Regardless of the distribution you are working with, when you install Linux from a CD-ROM, the installation process is basically the same. You begin by planning the installation and creating any necessary boot materials. For some systems, this means creating boot floppies. You then reboot the system so that it is running Linux and then run the Linux installation program. Most Linux distributions automatically start the install program; on a few, you manually start the program. Either way, the system is booted so that a small Linux system is running before the real Linux installation begins. You then partition the disk, and load the
Linux software into the new disk partitions. When the loading is finished, you have a permanent Linux installation. The following sections discuss each of these steps in detail for Red Hat 7.2. The details vary for each distribution, but the overall pattern is the same.
Linux allows you to direct the installation and configuration process, and the installation program asks you to make many decisions. Most of these decisions are easy, but it is always best to be prepared ahead of time. We begin by planning for the installation.
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