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User's Guide (Obsolete Documentation) (Obsolete Documentation)
Chapter 2 - Preparing to Install Debian


Installing Linux is much easier than it was a few years ago. However, if you have never installed an operating system, installing Linux can still be nerve-wracking. You may find that your hardware either does not support Linux or needs to be configured manually to work well.

To avoid trouble during the install, gather the information you need during the install before you start. This chapter explains how to:


2.1 Understanding Your System's Hardware

In most cases, you can let Debian detect your hardware and accept the settings suggested during the install. However, these suggestions may not always work. To minimize problems, before you install, you should:


2.1.1 Finding Sources of Hardware Information

Hardware information can be gathered from:


2.1.2 Gathering Hardware Information

The exact information you need depends on how much control you want over the install:

[Warning]

Do not do an automatic installation without first backing up important information. Otherwise, you may lose the information.

[Note]

If you need to contact Progeny technical support, you will probably need to provide additional information before technical support can help you.

                  Hardware Information Needed for an Install              
     +-------------------------------------------------------------------+
     |Hardware|                Information You Might Need                |
     |--------+----------------------------------------------------------|
     |        |  * How many you have.                                    |
     |        |  * Their order on the system.                            |
     |Hard    |  * Whether ide or scsi (most computers are ide).         |
     |Drives  |  * Available free space.                                 |
     |        |  * Partitions.                                           |
     |        |  * Partitions where other operating systems are          |
     |        |    installed.                                            |
     |--------+----------------------------------------------------------|
     |        |  * Model and manufacturer.                               |
     |        |  * Resolutions supported.                                |
     |Monitor |  * Horizontal refresh rate.                              |
     |        |  * Vertical refresh rate.                                |
     |        |  * Color depth (number of colors) supported.             |
     |        |  * Screen size.                                          |
     |--------+----------------------------------------------------------|
     |        |  * Type: serial, ps, or usb.                             |
     |Mouse   |  * Port.                                                 |
     |        |  * Manufacturer.                                         |
     |        |  * Number of buttons.                                    |
     |--------+----------------------------------------------------------|
     |        |  * Model and manufacturer.                               |
     |        |  * Type of adapter.                                      |
     |        |  * Domain name.                                          |
     |Network |  * dhcp host name.                                       |
     |        |  * ip Address.                                           |
     |        |  * Netmask.                                              |
     |        |  * Gateway.                                              |
     |        |  * Name server.                                          |
     |--------+----------------------------------------------------------|
     |Printer |  * Model and manufacturer.                               |
     |        |  * Printing resolutions supported.                       |
     |--------+----------------------------------------------------------|
     |        |  * Model and manufacturer.                               |
     |Video   |  * Video ram available.                                  |
     |Card    |  * Resolutions and color depths supported (these should  |
     |        |    be checked against your monitor's capabilities).      |
     +-------------------------------------------------------------------+

2.1.3 Checking Hardware Compatibility

Many brand name products work without trouble on Linux. Moreover, hardware for Linux is improving daily. However, Linux still does not run as many different types of hardware as some operating systems.

In particular, Linux usually cannot run hardware that requires a running version of Windows to work.

Although some Windows-specific hardware can be made to run on Linux, doing so usually requires extra effort. In addition, Linux drivers for Windows-specific hardware are usually specific to one Linux kernel. Therefore, they can quickly become obsolete.

So called win-modems are the most common type of this hardware. However, printers and other equipment may also be Windows-specific.

Author suggests that you avoid all such hardware.

You can check hardware compatibility by:


2.1.4 Meeting Minimum Hardware Requirements

Once you have gathered information about your computer's hardware, check that your hardware will let you do the type of installation that you want to do.

Depending on your needs, you might manage with less than some of the recommended hardware listed in the table below. However, most users risk being frustrated if they ignore these suggestions.

              Recommended Minimum System Requirements         
     +-------------------------------------------------------+
     |Install Type|  Processor   |     RAM     | Hard Drive  |
     |------------+--------------+-------------+-------------|
     |No desktop  |Pentium 100   |16 megabytes |450 megabytes|
     |------------+--------------+-------------+-------------|
     |With Desktop|Pentium 100   |64 megabytes |1 gigabyte   |
     |------------+--------------+-------------+-------------|
     |Server      |Pentium II-300|128 megabytes|4 gigabytes  |
     +-------------------------------------------------------+

[Note]

If you are using a desktop, you will find that some window managers run better with more ram.


2.2 Gathering Information About Linux Device Names

Linux uses its own system for naming hardware. If you know this system during installation, you can choose your options more intelligently. You can also avoid over writing partitions that you want to keep.


2.2.1 Understanding Device Names

All operating systems use a system for naming devices such as hard drive partitions and serial and parallel ports.

Partitions are subdivisions of your hard drive. Serial and parallel ports are connectors on the back of your computer where devices such as a mouse or printer can be connected to the system.

No matter what operating system you are using, hard drives are divided into partitions. Partitions can be of three types: primary, extended, and logical.

A hard drive can have up to four primary partitions. However, as hard drives grew in size, a way around this limitation was needed. The answer was extended partitions, which can be partitioned into any number of smaller or logical drives.


2.2.2 Finding Information About Partitions

You can find information about your partitions by using:

[Warning]

Do not use PartitionMagic to create Linux partitions. Debian's install program is not compatible with PartitionMagic-created partitions. The result may be the loss of all partitions and all the data on them.

Instead, use the Install cd to start your machine, and open a virtual terminal by pressing Ctrl-Alt-F2. Then use the parted tool. See Partitioning a Hard Drive, Section 13.3.1. [This section is Progeny specific and does not apply for the standard Debian system. Rewrite desirable.]


2.2.3 Understanding Windows Device Names

Many users are familiar with Window's naming system:

The Windows naming system has several problems. First, few modern computers have a second floppy drive. Therefore, B is rarely used.

More importantly, if you add or delete one partition, the names of many partitions can change. As a result, you can easily lose track of your partitions.


2.2.4 Understanding Linux Device Names

Linux takes a consistent approach to naming. All drives and ports are named in the same way:

[Warning]

Check your bios or the contents of each device to find details about master and slave devices.

For example, the first partition on the first ide hard drive is hda1 Similarly, the first serial port is ttyS0.

This naming convention is simple, and gives you information about your system. The device id gives you information about the type of hardware installed, while the partition id tells you whether it is a primary or logical partition.

In addition, if you add or delete partitions, only the number id changes.

Even then, it can only change so far. A logical partition can never become hda4, because 4 is reserved for primary partitions.

By contrast, D could be either type of partition under Windows.

Similarly, when you re-arrange primary partitions on one hard drive, the numbering of primary partitions on other hard drives is unaffected.

Under Windows, changing primary partitions on any drive affects all primary partitions on the system.


2.2.5 Reading Linux Device Names

Before you install, decide whether you want to keep any existing partitions on your system.

[Warning]

Linux partitions made with PartitionMagic are not compatible with the Debian install program.

If you do, then translate the partition names to the Linux conventions so that you know where they are when you install.

                              Linux Device Names                          
     +-------------------------------------------------------------------+
     |        Device Type         |General|           Specific           |
     |----------------------------+-------+------------------------------|
     |                            |       |A letter, starting with a,    |
     |Partitions on an ide hard   |hd     |then:                         |
     |drive or a cd drive         |       |                              |
     |                            |       |  * 1 to 4 for a primary or   |
     |                            |       |    extended partition.       |
     |                            |       |  * 5 or more for a logical   |
     |                            |       |    partition.                |
     |----------------------------+-------+------------------------------|
     |                            |       |A letter, starting with a,    |
     |                            |       |then:                         |
     |Partitions on a scsi hard   |       |                              |
     |drive or a cd drive         |sd     |  * 1 to 4 for a primary      |
     |                            |       |    partition.                |
     |                            |       |  * 5 or more for a logical   |
     |                            |       |    partition.                |
     |----------------------------+-------+------------------------------|
     |Floppy drives               |fd     |A number, starting with 0.    |
     |----------------------------+-------+------------------------------|
     |Serial or com ports         |ttyS   |A number, starting with 0.    |
     |----------------------------+-------+------------------------------|
     |Parallel ports              |lp     |A number, starting with 0.    |
     +-------------------------------------------------------------------+

2.2.6 Translating Windows Names to Linux Names

If you are installing Linux on an existing computer, translate Windows names to Linux names to avoid confusion.

For example, if all your Windows files are on C, then you need to translate C into the Linux name if you want to be sure that you never delete or reformat the partition.

[Note]

On most computers, your Windows C partition is hda1 in the Linux naming system. However, check before working with any partitions.

Notice, too, that port names on Windows start with 1, while on Linux they start with 0.

       Linux Equivalents for Common Windows Device Names  
     +---------------------------------------------------+
     |           Type of Device            |Windows|Linux|
     |-------------------------------------+-------+-----|
     |1st floppy drive                     |A      |fd0  |
     |-------------------------------------+-------+-----|
     |1st partition, 1st hard drive ( ide )|C      |hda1 |
     |-------------------------------------+-------+-----|
     |1st partition, 1st hard drive (scsi) |C      |sda1 |
     |-------------------------------------+-------+-----|
     |1st serial port                      |com1   |ttyS0|
     |-------------------------------------+-------+-----|
     |1st parallel port                    |lpt1   |lp0  |
     +---------------------------------------------------+

2.3 Backing Up Your System

Before you start to install Debian, back up your system. At the very least, make copies of important files. You may also want to create new rescue disks for existing operating systems.

So long as you are careful, these precautions should be unnecessary. However, even experienced computer users can make mistakes, or face an unexpected power interruption. If anything does happen, backing up your system will save you hours of time and trouble.


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User's Guide (Obsolete Documentation) (Obsolete Documentation)

Version: 1.00p00, 2009.07.21-11:14

Progeny Linux Systems, Inc.