Red Hat 8.0 comes on 5 CDs, but disks four and five have source code, so you only need the first three if this is your first time out.
As soon as the CD ROM drive starts to read off CD 1, a screen appears that asks if you want to install in graphical or text mode. You're also given a few other less popular choices via a second menu.
I chose the graphical install, and the installation rotuine continued. A series of programs ran and text prompts about their progress flew by on the screen. Then I was informed that anaconda, the Red Hat system installer, was running. Anaconda probed the machine for hardware and found a generic 3 button mouse, my RIVA TNT video card, my ViewSonic VS900 monitor, and a couple of other things that flew by.
A few more seconds and a graphical 'X' appeared in the center of the screen. This is a comforting landmark for those of you new to Linux - it marks the point where Linux has recognized enough of your system to start drawing to the screen. Always a good sign, being able to write to the monitor, I think, although maybe I'm biased from having had to install NT so many times I can do it without the monitor on anymore....
The Red Hat logo displays next, and a few moments later, the Red Hat installation program begins. It consists of a two pane window. The left pane displays help for whatever step is being performed in the right pane. The following steps are performed. I've made remarks about some of them but others are trivial to the point of needing no additional commentary at all:
1. Language selection.
2. Keyboard language (e.g. U.S. English).
3. Type of Mouse. Red Hat guessed at a generic 3 button mouse and I changed it to a Microsoft IntelliMouse (PS/2).
4. Type of installation. Let's face it. There isn't much difference between 'workstation' and 'server' versions of operating systems except for a few services and maybe a few hundred dollars in the price tag. Red Hat provides four types of installations on the same set of CDs: personal, workstation, server, and custom. You choose which type of installation you want and Red Hat installs the appropriate softwre and sets the defaults accordingly.
5. Type of partitioning. This is where you get to determine how Linux will be laid out on the hard disk(s).
This used to be a huge roadblock for Linux installs. I spent a ton of time trying to understand partitions and filesystems and mount points with earlier versions of Linux (starting with 6.0), and never quite 'got it'.
With Red Hat 8.0, you have the best of both worlds. You can choose to have Red Hat create and set up the partitions automatically, or you can do it yourself, using Disk Druid (a Linux partitioning tool) or our old DOS friend, fdisk. In a future edition, I'll discuss some of the possibilities - Linux only, Linux and Windows, multiple Linux distributions, that sort of thing. For the time being, I'm going to assume a pure Linux install.
Then you can choose to remove all partitions, just existing Linux partitoins (if any) or keep all existing partitions and install only in free space. Then you select the drive(s) to use if there is more than one available. You can also choose to review (and edit) the partitions. I find it interesting to see what Linux does 'under the hood'. In this situation, I had two hard drives, and Red Hat produced the name, geometry and model of each drive in the computer.
You can add/edit/delete partiitons and set mount points. At this point, I found it to be intellectually interesting but of no practical use; at a later install, this is where you might want to set up partitions yourself. See the HOW TO paper for more about partitions and mount points.
6. Boot Loader configuration.
GRUB is installed by default but you can choose LILO if you like. What is the difference, and why do you care what a boot loader is anyway? See the HOW TO paper for more about choosing a boot loader.
7. Network configuration.
The next screen shows the network card detected and listed the hostname, gateway and DNS settings below the card identification. You can also click the Edit button next to the network card list box and set your IP address and Netmask settings if you don't use DHCP.
If you forget to edit the network card settings, like I did the first time, you can edit them after installation is done through the System Settings | Network dialog. However, it's better if you set up your card during installation. If you do, your computer will boot faster since it will detect a network connection right away instead of spending 30 seconds retrying.
8. Firewall configuration.
You can choose the type of firewall - high, medium or low protection - and the type of rules - default or custom.
9. Default language.
10. Time zone.
11. Set root password & add users.
Here you set the password for the root user (the same thing as "Administrator" in Windows) and have a chance to add additional users.
After you're done with users and clicking OK, a message that Red Hat is reading packages displays and a thermometer bar displays for perhaps 30 to 45 seconds.
12. Confirm packages.
You will get a chance to confirm the package list or customize it. Customization allows you to add packages that aren't in the list that belongs to the type of installation you selected a few steps ago. For example, I added Authoring and Publishing packages, such as OpenDoc and LaTex.
Then you wait for the actual copying and installation. For a workstation install, you might end up with 700-800 packages that will take 45-60 minutes and require 1 or 2 CD switches.
13. Boot disk.
Then you're asked if you want to create a boot disk. I never bothered to do this with Windows systems, figuring that I was going to have to reinstall completely if I needed the boot floppy. Here, though, I feel more comfortable that if something so terrible happened that I needed the boot floppy, I could actually make good use of it.
14. Graphical interface configuration.
Then you're aksed to confirm the graphical interface (called 'X') configuration. In my case, it was already set properly.
15. Final settings.
You get a 'final settings' screen where you confirm your video, set date and time, and install other stuff, like the documentation.
And that's that. Red Hat finishes the last little tweaking, and you've got yourself a system witha GUI, OpenOffice, Evolution, and a live Internet connection.
Nautilus is the equivalent to Windows Explorer. Once Red Hat booted up, I opened up Nautilus and set up the following preferences: