Linux On A Laptop

September 9, 2007

Well I did intend this to be more drawn out and informative but it seems the days of long drawn out complicated linux installations such as the ones I used to do using RedHat are long gone as are the problems with most drivers unless you are using a wireless internet connect, in which case the PCLinuxOS support forum is most helpful, so this will be short and sweet….

Ok, I have used a few Linux distributions over the past few years but have settled on one that I like due to it’s simplicity. It’s called PCLinuxOS and I have been using it since and during it’s long period of being a Beta. The final release is out now by the way and that’s the one I have used.

Minimum system requirements are as follows:

  • 8 GB of free disk space
  • 512 MB of memory
  • a CD or DVD drive
  • a network card (NIC)
  • a high speed internet connection (for new software and updates)

At this point I have to do the normal warning that is done with most things you do with your computer these days. Make sure you have any important data backed up. The risk is minimal until we get down to the juicy bits, which I sign post well in advance, but I don’t want hate mail! Onwards then…..

  • First we will need to download and burn an iso file of PCLinuxOS which is basically a CD image, and simply put we burn that image as it is directly to CD or DVD. You can find the image file here. Select the download source nearest to you and save the file to a location that you know.
  • Ok, then we need to burn the image file to cd or dvd, the software, which is freeware, that I use is called DVDDecrypter. Once you have that installed you need to burn the ISO to the media such as a DVD-R or CD-R, you get the picture. DVDDecrypter is pretty self explainitory, however if you do run into problems Google is your friend. And if you are having trouble at this point, maybe the switch to linux isn’t the best thing to do right now. ( I do advise letting DVDDecrypter verify the write after it has burned, there is a tick box in the software which is hard to miss, after all it is a new Operating system you are installing and a faulty disk write can have unforseen consequences as well as the distinct possibilty that the disk simply wont work).
  • Once we have the PCLinuxOS iso burned to your selected media you can reboot your system with the disk in the drive. Don’t worry, before we get anywhere near changing anything on your current system I will let you know in advance. Once we are rebooteding the disk should automatically boot into a screen where you can select running the LiveCD. Running this basically means you will be running the Operating system from memory and DVD / CD and not interfering with your current set up on your hard disk. Once you have selected to run the LiveCD things should start happening on your screen until you get to an options section, this basically just sets up how the LiveCd should run. Everything should be pretty obvious as to how to proceed up until the network/internet setup section. If you are unsure how to proceed just go with the defaults, remember you are running off the cd / dvd and nothing is permanent.
  • So, there should now be a log in screen, log in as ‘root’, all the passwords and usernames are there. Remember that how the Operating System runs now will be significantly slower than when it is installed as we are running linux directly off the optical drive. Now’s your chance to look around and test things out, see if you like what you see, take your time and explore. If you don’t, just reboot and remove the LiveCd and you are back with your normal Operating System, you can always go back to the LiveCd at anytime of course if you have a change of heart. If you do like what you see however and have decided to take the linux plunge then there is an icon on the desktop labelled ‘install PCLinuxOS’ or some such other label. (I did the install a few hours ago and can’t remember the exact title 😀 ).
  • This is where we do start to make changes to the data on your hard disk, so remember the things you do from here can be irreversable and any data you value should be backed up long before reaching this stage. We aren’t, and I didn’t do, a dual booting linux install, one that is running Linux and Windows, maybe next time though, so all data that hasnt been saved from your harddisk now will be gone for good after this install. Still with me? Good. Because this is where it gets a little bit more interesting, nothing we can’t handle though right?
  • So, we have opened the install thingy from the desktop and have been presented with options. Balls, I cant remember what they are off the top of my head, be right back, just going to run the LiveCd again….. Ok. Choose the normal hard disk drive option, we won’t be installing to an external hard drive. The erase and use entire disk, we aren;t dual booting and this is the simplest install method of all. You will now get the customary warning that all data will be lost, which means what it says, so once you are ready click next. It will go ahead and format and you may be asked to reboot after it has done it’s stuff, so do as requested, remembering to keep the disk in the drive. Once you have gone through all the formalities of the reboot back to the LiveCD you will need to click the install icon again and follow the instructions given above up to this point taking into account what you have already done so as not to waste time doing the same thing twice, however this time you will be using the existing partitions when prompted.
  • At this point you should be presented with a selection menu, with labels such as hda1 and hda2 for example. One of these must be selected as / from the drop down menu and one can be selected as ‘home’ If you only have one choice to make instead of two then it must be / This is the part that used to trip me up back in the day. All Linux installs as far as I know need an / partition at least.
  • Go ahead and continue by clicking next. It should then ask you which partitions you wish to format, you can choose both but by changing the partition structure on the hard disk you have already made the disk clean for all intents and purposes, (if you are installing this on a machine already running linux then you will need to format both partitions), and you may have to run through the install procedure up to this point again by opting to format. So my suggestion is just to untick the boxes and continue. If you do choose to format, and you need to reboot and restart the installation from the LiveCd desktop, like I say refer to the previous instructions up until the point where it asks you to format then untick the boxes and click next.
  • Right, we should be at the point where we can click next to install. Go for it and off it goes installing shockingly enough. It isn’t a long install time by any streach of the imagination.
  • Once it’s done most of what it needs to another menu will open up for you to change and edit, this one is basically setting up what you will see everytime you boot your system, similar to the Windows menu you are presented with after a system crash, this one however will be one you see everytime. I suggest leaving the options as they are, the install system is pretty good when it comes to default options. So Grub with graphical menu and boot device /dev/hda (and your disk make) will suffice. Time before auto booting is good at 10 seconds too. Leave the tick box ticked as well. Click next.
  • Leave the entires on your boot menu on the next screen as they are too and click finish. Wait for it to finish doing its stuff and set your root password, this will be used for making changes to your system like installing software and other bits and bobs and is part of Linux’s robust security, wave goodbye to all the nasties attached to Windows usage. Click next and then set up a user account, this will be the one you use for day to day usage. The menu is self explanitory. Click done. Add as many users as will be using your machine clicking accept user each time. When you have them all added just click Done. Click Finish, and guess what? You have a linux machine. Reboot and it’s all yours…..
  • Was that really so hard?

Ok, that install was done on a Compaq Presario R3000, it should work equally well on any machine, laptop or desktop that fits the minimum specs required.

Have i missed something? Got something wrong? Do you have any suggestions?

If so just drop me a line via the comments on this post or via the contact me form available from the tab above.

Look out for more how to’s and also the little piece I will be posting tomorrow on the celebration of 50 years of space flight.

Buh bye for now folks.