Installing Dragora GNU Linux is fairly straight-forward and friendly, but some clarification on certain points can be helpful, so this article will walk a user through the downloading, installing, and initial configuration of Dragora GNU Linux.
This article presumes that Dragora GNU Linux will be the only operating system on the computer upon which it is being installed. While it is entirely possible to “dual boot” operating systems on a single machine (that is, to have part of one's harddrive with one OS and another part of the same harddrive running another OS), this can get complicated and often confuses a new user more than a stand-alone GNU Linux install. Aside from that, since GNU Linux is the only OS one will ever need, there is no need to dual boot ;^)
The first step is, obviously, to obtain a copy of Dragora. This often will come in the form of a cdrom image, or an “iso”, which must then be burned as a bootable cdrom. To burn an .iso image to cdrom:
Once the image has burned successfully, you may reboot your computer. Getting the computer to boot from the cd drive instead of the harddrive may take some BIOS settings, depending on how your machine is set up by default. Unfortunately, there is no standard way of getting into your computer's BIOS, but typically the initial startup screen will give some indication of how it is done. It often involves holding down a specific key whilst booting, such as F2 or F12. On a Mac, it will be the “c” or “option” key (technically, “c” boots from the optical drive, while the “option” key brings up a boot picker that scans all drives for any bootable media).
Once in a PC's BIOS, there will be a menu (again, it will differ from BIOS to BIOS) indicating the “boot order” or “boot priority” or similar terminology. Essentially the idea is to adjust the order of drives that your computer reads from whilst booting up. By default, your computer may first look at its harddrive for something bootable and if it finds something that it can boot into there, it will boot whatever is on the harddrive (such as Windows, which you are now trying to replace) then it will not continue to scan drives. Therefore, you should set your BIOS to first look at the optical drive (that is, your cd or dvd drive) so that your computer will find the bootable Dragora disc and boot into it rather than whatever OS is currently on the harddrive.
Once you have done this, your computer will boot into Dragora Linux and the installation can begin.
If your computer does not boot into Dragora, you may wish to check that you burned the .iso image correctly, and that the .iso file that you downloaded was actually downloaded completely and successfully.
The first screen you will be greeted with after booting into Dragora is the kernel selection screen. Since Dragora ships with only one kernel, all you have to do is press Return.
The next screen is a root command line prompt, from which you will partition your harddrive and prepare it for the Dragora install, and start the installation menu process.
To partition your drive, the most user-friendly option is to type
at the prompt, which launches a fairly graphical, menu-driven disk partitioning tool for the first harddrive on the IDE bus of your computer. If you are not a hardware expert and have no idea what an “IDE bus” is or whether your harddrive is the first drive on that bus or not, some trial-and-error as well as attention to detail can help you determine what to do. The most common scenario is, in fact, that your computer's harddrive is located as the first device on the IDE/ATA bus, and so typing in cfdisk /dev/sda will probably be the correction option for you.
However, if you are unclear about all of this, then you may want to stop and think this through. First, how many drives does your computer have? if it has more than one, and you are attempting to target a specific drive for Dragora, then you should determine the structure of your drive layout; if your target drive is second on the IDE/ATA bus, then the correct option would be cfdisk /dev/sdb (not the incrementation of the last letter from “a” to “b”).
As a final check to ensure you are about to format the correct drive, look at the information cfdisk /dev/sda (or whatever you typed) gives you. For instance, cfdisk will tell you how much space is on the drive, so if you know the size of your harddrive then you should be able to infer from the disk size whether or not you are looking at the drive you think you are looking at; if you see that the drive you have pointed cfdisk to is only 700mb or so, then perhaps you are trying to format the Dragora CD itself (which will not, of course, work). If cfdisk reports a disk size of 50000mb (50gb) and you know that the drive you want to install Dragora onto is actually 120000mb (80gb) then obviously you've chosen the wrong drive and should quit cfdisk before proceeding.
It may also be helpful to issue this command:
which will list all possible drives that Dragora detected during bootup. You may see /dev/hda and /dev/sda, and variations upon those such as /dev/hda1 or /dev/hdc and so on. While this alone does not help you much, it does at least list your choices and it will help you investigate which of these is the drive you really want to format and partition.
Once you have determined the drive you are going to format, launch cfdisk. On my test machine, the command to do this was:
which opens cfdisk, pointed at the only harddrive the machine contains. There currently are two partitions, both of which need to be deleted before new ones can be made. Therefore, I use the up/down arrow keys to select the partitions from cfdisk's list, and the right/left arrows to choose from the menu items below. The Return key makes the selection.
So, to mark the first partition of the drive for deletion, I would navigate my selection once to the right (to “Delete”) and then press Return. cfdisk does not confirm this because until I choose “Write” none of these changes are actually being implemented. To mark the second partition for deletion, I would navigate with the Down arrow to the second partition, then with the right arrow over to Delete, and hit Return.
Once all partitions are “deleted” (that is, marked as “Free Space”) then I can create new partitions by arrowing over to the “New” selection and pressing Return. cfdisk will prompt me as to whether the partition should be Primary or Logical (Primary is the correct choice unless you know what Logical is and wish to use that instead). cfdisk will then ask for a partition size, which can generally safely be set to a very large portion of your harddrive. If the drive is 20000mb (20gb) then setting the partition to 19gb or 18gb is good, as this saves some space for “swap” space.
Once the partition is established, I can mark it bootable by pressing Return on the “Bootable” selection in the menu at the bottom of cfdisk's screen. The Type of partition should be set to “Linux” already, but if it is not then I would arrow over to the “Type” selection, hit Return, read the list of available types, and type in my choice (82, in this case). Now the first partition is ready.
The second partition should be swap space, which is a kind of virtual memory reserved to help process tasks when your RAM is running low. The general rule seems to be to provide as much or twice as much swap space as you have in physical RAM. If my computer has 2gb RAM then I would have set the Primary Linux partition such that I had reserved rioughly 4gb of swap space, which would currently appear as 4gb of “Free Space”. To mark it for swap, I would arrow down so that it is selected in cfdisk, then over to the “New” menu item, and press return. The same process as before ensues, except that when I mark its Type, I would choose 83 instead of 82.
Now that the disk is ready for partitioning, I would arrow over to the “Write” menu selection and press Return. cfdisk confirms that I wish to write a new partition table to my drive, I would type in “yes”, and the new partition table is created.
Fortunately, up to this point has been the most confusing and delicate work. Once you've managed to burn the disc and partition your drive, the rest of the installation is almost done for you.
Dragora GNU Linux has a set of friendly, easy-to-use installation menus that will walk you through the install process. As long as you read the screens, it is difficult to go wrong.
To start this installation menu, enter into the command prompt:
This launches a minimalistic graphical menu, the first option of which is to choose your language. The convention is the same as in cfdisk; the up/down arrows choose an option, the right/left arrow navigates the menu at the bottom, and the Return key commits.
The next screen confirms which keyboard map you wish to use; this is usually self-explanatory; for instance, since I am located in the US with a computer purchased in the US, I use the US keyboard map. The next screen allows you to test your choice, and you may type anything into the text box that appears. Try out any special characters (like $ % ? !) and any keys that are different on foreign keyboards (the w and z are often in different places) to make sure you have the correct keyboard map. Press Return to accept.
The next screen is the Main Menu for the Installer. You may read the Help files or change your keyboard map if you chose the incorrect one. Then, by arrowing down three selections to “Start” and hitting Return, you may start the actual install.
The first step is to format the partitions you created in cfdisk. As long as you marked it with the correct Type, the installer will automagically detect the presence of your swap partition and offer to format it for you. Press Return to accept. If you would prefer to format it whilst checking for bad blocks (you may wish to do this if you are concerned about the health of your drive) then hit the Spacebar before hitting Return, which places an asterisk by the drive and lets Dragora know to check for bad blocks.
The next screen will offer to format the main partition. Again, you may check for bad blocks by using the Spacebar to mark the partition. Hit Return to accept.
Dragora will ask you if you wish to specify the filesystem type of the drive. You may be accustomed to filesystems such as NTFS on Windows or HFS+ on Mac; Linux uses filesystems generally considered to be superiour to both, and it offers different varieties of filesystems for different users' needs. Therefore, you should choose Yes to this question, which will take you to a list of possible filesystems.
There is not really a right or wrong answer to this question, but the most common “average” choice would be:
ext4 for everyday use ext2 for netbooks and solid-state drives
Once you've made your choice, press Return to accept, and then Return again to format the Linux partition to the filesystem you have just chosen. Dragora will ask what mountpoint you wish the drive to become, and while there are elaborate ways to set up a GNU Linux system, the simplest would be to mark this partition as the root drive by entering:
and pressing Return to accept.
Now that the main partition has been formatted and given a mount point, Dragora will return you to the “Partitions Detected” menu. If you are satisfied with your choices (which partition to use, what filesystem to use, and what mount point to assign) then you may arrow over to the “Done” selection and press Return. If you wish to re-do this process, then you may do that instead.
Dragora provides an overview of your options next; choose “Continue” to proceed. The next menu asks where the Dragora OS should be installed from; the appropriate choice is CD/DVD-ROM, so press Return to continue. More than likely, Dragora will be able to Auto detect the device, so on the next screen you may hit Return again to have Dragora scan the optical drive.
Dragora divides its installation process into a series of packages, specially chosen by the Dragora team to provide the user a full and rich computing experience with maximum functionality and freedom, and minimal disc space (which is why the Dragora download was less than a full CD – try finding an installer for another OS in such a small package!). It is not generally recommended, especially for a new user, to leave out different sets of applications unless you know what you are doing, so hit Return to continue.
Dragora will give the user one last opportunity to pick through the installable files, literally file-by-file. Again, this is not recommended for most users. After you have a fully-functioning Dragora install, you can always go back and uninstall applications and libraries that you have found you do not need. The safe choice here is to install “All”.
The next screen simply shows you the progress of the installation as Dragora copies all the relevant files to your harddrive. Congratulations, you've just install Dragora GNU Linux. To keep the downloadable disc image small, all installable files have been compressed; between the decompression and copying of bits from the cd to your harddrive, the installation process might take a while…so go get yourself a cup of coffee, you deserve it!
After Dragora GNU Linux has been installed on your computer, there are a few further options available to you. The first will be choosing a “boot loader”, which essentially is the interface that will appear when you turn on your computer and allowing you to decide what harddrive and partition to boot into. In this walk-through, we have created a Dragora-only system, so a simple boot loader like LiLo would be appropriate. Should you decide you want to explore the possibility of dual-booting, then a more complex boot loader like GRUB might be better.
Regardless of which you choose, you will need to decide where the boot loader is installed. The choices will be:
The MBR is usually the correct choice, as this places the boot loader in a reserved area of your harddrive called the Master Boot Record and therefore stands somewhat independent of your partition scheme. If, however, you are dual-booting and have a different boot loader installed, then you may want to skip the boot loader installation entirely and simply manually add the presence of Dragora to your existing boot loader, or else you may choose to install the boot loader but only at the root of the partition, making it a sort of secondary boot loader accessible via some other boot loader.
The safe choice for a single-booting Dragora installation is the MBR.
Continue through the installation of the boot loader until it is successfully installed.
You will also be asked about the type of mouse you will be using; choose what is appropriate for your system. Dragora will also ask you if you would like to start the “gpm” module – a mouse plugin for text consoles – which you may choose to start if you anticipate using text-based consoles, or leave out if you intend to use the graphical desktop. Note that you will still be able to use the mouse in desktop applications (including a Terminal) either way; the gpm module is useful only for systems that have no desktop (such as servers or some low-spec machines that cannot handle a graphical desktop environment).
You will need to set your Time Zone next, and Dragora will ask if your computer's clock is set to your local time or to UTC (sometimes known as Greenwich Mean Time or GMT). Typically your computer's internal clock will be set to your local time, so that is probably the best choice. If you choose incorrectly, you can always adjust the time later.
The final task, of course, is to create a user or set of users that will use your computer. One of GNU's strengths is that it is a true multi-user system, meaning that you can allow different people to log into it (even over a network) and to each user, it will seem to be their own unique and private computer. One user's data will not intermingle with another user's data, and the system is designed to be secure and to respect the privacy of each user.
One way that this is achieved is to have one “administrator” or “root” user with a special root password. Usually, this person is whomever actually owns the hardware itself. So if you are the person who went out and purchased the computer and intend to make sure that it runs smoothly for the next decade or so, then you probably will want to appoint yourself the “root” user. Choose a strong password that you will not forget, and press Return to continue.
Later in the installation process, you, as the adminitrator of the computer, will be asked to create less-powerful users (including yourself, in fact) for everyday computer use. The only time you will use your powers as the root user is when you “put on the administrator hat”, as it were, and are performing tasks that require special permission to do.
But first, you must use some of your all-powerful privilege as root user and decide upon some background processes that you wish to allow to run. Dragora offers you four:
All are safe to leave active for everyday computing. If you are installing a server or a special-purpose install, you may wish to adjust these, but otherwise leave them active and continue.
Now you are ready to re-boot the machine into your new Dragora GNU Linux OS!
After you re-boot, you will be greeted first by your boot loader. There should only be one selection, so hit Return to continue booting into Dragora.
As Dragora boots, you will be able to see the hardware being auto-detected. This is a powerful feature of the Linux kernel, and reading the messages as they scroll by is a good way to familiarize yourself with your own hardware as well as what computers do when they start up. If nothing else, seeing all the complex messages scroll by truly gives you an appreciation for how amazing modern computers are, and how great a feat the GNU and Linux projects really are.
Dragora boots to a text prompt by default, because you are still considered the root user. You can log into your new GNU console by typing in:
and then your root password.
The first command you will want to issue is to create a new user. Dragora ships with a user-friendly text program that will step you through this. Start this program by typing in:
Give your new user (yourself, to begin with) a short name, all lowercase, with no spaces or special characters. This will be your username and it will also be the name of your home folder on the computer. It will be where all of your personal files are stored.
Dragora will ask you a series of questions which, generally have safe defualts, so if you don't understand one of the questions, hitting Return will give you appropriate settings. The one exception to this rule is the “List of Groups”, which allows you to add the user to groups that give them permission to do common things. If you are creating a user identity for yourself, then you will probably want to add yourself to:
Notice how this kind of granularity actually provides you as the computer owner with a lot of power. If you decide later to create a user for a friend who might be visiting you, then you may wish to not give that user permission to use the cdrom drive in order to prevent them from accidentally installing something over your OS or copying data onto your computer that you do not want on your computer.
Notice, also, that at the end of the user creation process, Dragora will prompt you to create a NEW password. Yes, you will have two passwords for your Dragora system, and, again, this is for your own protection! One password (the first one you created) is your “root” password, and you will only use this from now on when you absolutely need to do something to administer your computer and get it running better. The second password (the one you're typing in right now, whilst creating the new user) is your regular, everyday password that you use just to let the computer know that you want access to your personal data.
After you create a user password for your new identity, practise NOT being root by logging out of the system and re-logging in as a normal user. To do this, type in:
Now you are no longer logged into your computer and cannot access any of its files. But you can log in with the user you've just created. If I have created a user called “klaatu” with the password of “pr0y-c?tUU!?” then the login would look a little something like this:
starlight login: klaatu Password:
Notice that the password is not visible. This is normal, and it is for your privacy.
Now you're logged in as a normal user and can start up the graphical environment for yourself, and finish configuring your system for convenient use. To do this, type in the command:
This will launch the graphical environment of Dragora, and things should start to look fairly familiar. Common conventions such as windows and task managers and trash cans (or “recycle bins”) are present. Exploring your new system this way should be fairly straight-forward.
Note that the Network Manager (to connect to the Internet or your local network) is located in the “X” menu on the lower left corner of the screen, in the Network sub-menu. It is called the “Wicd Network Manager” and is quite user-friendly.
Some minor adjustments can be made to Dragora to make your system boot and load a bit more smoothly. You may or may not want this; for me, I do not want, for instance, a desktop to load automatically, as I prefer to log in via a text console – but for others some of these optional tweaks might make their OS a little more familiar to them.
All of these adjustments will be done in the Terminal, because they are simply faster and easier to do (and document) that way. To launch a terminal, simple click on the “X” menu in the lower left corner of the screen and select “Terminal” (it's the second option from the top).
Now switch over to root:
- Type in “su” and then providing your ROOT password.
We need this because we're about to make system changes that normal users should never be able to do; so put on your administrator hat and get ready!
If Dragora is the only OS on your computer, then having the boot process be interrupted by a boot loader might be an inconvenience. You can force the duration of the LiLo boot loader to zero seconds by doing this: (note that you should be root for this)
Now if you re-boot, you will not be bothered by a boot loader screen. If you ever decide to dual-boot for some reason, you can always reverse this by changing the Timeout to some other number, like 900, again.
Some people like to log into a text console, and then to issue the command “startx” when they want a graphical environment to run. Other people dislike the text console and would rather have a nice login screen that takes them straight to their desktop. This is easily changed: (note, again, you must be root for this)
Now if you re-boot, you will a striking Dragora graphical login screen after the computer has booted, and after you provide your password you will be taken to your desktop.
The easiest way to add new users is the same way you added yourself:
This will run the same program that you saw while adding yourself as a user of your system, and it is a powerful feature of GNU. Use this as often as you want; new user accounts cost you nothing and yet they help keep your data secure and private.
Passwords can be changed with the command:
which would change your own password, or:
which would change the password of some other user (of course, only root can do that).
GNU Linux is a powerful and exciting system to use and usually makes a user a smarter, more practical, more secure, and more intuitive computerist. Learning more is easy. Check out some of these sites: