Installling Linux for the First Time

Experiences installing SUSE Linux 10.1 for the first time.

While I’ve been a software engineer for years and have used *nix systems for some of those years, I’ve never installed or used Linux before. I started my foray into this subject by installing SUSE 10.1 on a DELL WS 410:

  • Dual 400MHz PII with 768MB of memory
  • 9 GB SCSI hard drive
  • NVidia GFX4200 Graphics

This system has been running Win XP Pro quite nicely. Performance has actually been quite good and this system is very usable under windows for document prep, C++ programming using Visual Studio 6 and web browsing.

The project started by downloading and burning the 6 CDs from the SUSE site on my windows desktop system. It took about 3 hours to download all the CDs over my cable modem line.

The next step was to install the older HD on the system to keep the Win XP HDs intact. Dual boot systems seem like an unreasonable complexity since this is a secondary system.

There are two CD/DVD drives on the system: DVD-ROM and CD-RW. Both older, but serviceable, and both on the same IDE channel. Starting the installation with the DVD ROM got into trouble after a while with a read error, so with CD-RW and DVD-ROM swapped – master / slave – the install was restarted. And eventually it completed and seemed to work fine.

But then the first disappointment reared it’s ugly head. The installation chose the following partitions:

  • SWAP 1.1 GB
  • / [root] 3.3 GB
  • /home 4.0 GB

After the installation, starting YAST2 to update the system revealed that there was only 25% of the root partition left for updates and installing other software such as MYSQL, APACHE and some sort of IDE for C++ development. Not nearly enough space for all of these. And of course, the partitions in a running system cannot be modified or extended. Investment up to this point was about 4 hours. The good news was that the Gnome desktop actually looks quite familar and very functional with a number of applications built-in.

So back around through the whole thing. Stopping in the paritioning and doing the Expert thing, allowed the following paritioning to be setup:

  • SWAP 1.1 GB
  • / [root] 5.3 GB
  • /home 2.0 GB

At this point the day is pretty much gone. The Gnome desktop is up, the network is alive and reaching the internet through my LAN router and I’m writing this using FireFox from the Linux Desktop.

The bad news is that YAST2 can’t seem to install the system software updates, some of which seem to be security updates. Using the Software Update tool built into Gnome, then configuration can be done manually and pointed to the Open Software Lab at Oregon State. But this tool crashes when installing the simplest update.
Attempting to use YAST2 directly is a nightmare since it apparently cannot be manually configured and when the Configuration step is attempted, it hangs up forever without resolving an update address.

The performance of YAST2 is surprisingly terrible. When the update tool is activated, it takes litteraly several minutes for it to load the packages. It must be doing some sort of n-squared search or compare to account for this time. This behaviour is noticed during the installation as well which is appaerntly driven by YAST2. Perhaps YAST2 is based on some scripting language and the search algorithms are programmed in the script languge rather than in a library of compiled code. Linux installation and configuration suffers and is significantly more complicated and time consuming because of this horrendous performance problem.

More later… The saga continues…

5 thoughts on “Installling Linux for the First Time”

  1. Yast2 finally worked to update the system.
    But Firefox is broken. It gets an XML parsing error trying to download files. Sigh… Have to download using windows and write packages such as MySQL, Apache, etc. to CDs to install them.

  2. After some initial headaches software installation of additional packages is working. But space is running short. There is only 5.3 GB of this 9GB HD to use as a root partition to allow for swap and some user space. After installing Apache, MySQL, php5, and Gnome development [C++ and an IDE] there will be about 500MB left in / partition. I guess a bigger disk is called for pretty soon. And a DVD installation media is called for. Swapping all these CDs in and out to install additional software is a pain.
    The GNOME desktop looks very much like windows – no slight on Linux… It is very approachable and there are several themes to choose from.
    GIMP – Image Program is very cool. Most intersting features of photoshop.

  3. yast2 is a dog. It is amazing that it got released in the state it did.

    Have a google for “smart” package manager.

  4. I installed SMART 0.41 with it’s GUI from SUSE distribution. Interesting, and very fast. It was ready to go in about 10 seconds or less rather than waiting on YAST for a couple of minutes. But SMART has one real problem, at least in 0.41. It doesn’t display the status of the packages with the little icon. You have the option of hiding installed, uninstalled, etc. but you can’t see immediately the status of the packages. This is a real problem. I guess I”ll upgrade SMART to 0.42 or something to see if the later version contains this feature. But without it, it’s a non-starter. I need to know what’s installed at a glance and know what to add. When I search for Python, I need to know what packages are installed and which are to be installed. And hiding everything that’s not installed makes the job harder not easier. How could they have missed that? The info is there, and each package has an icon. So light up the right icon with the status.

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