LinuxFox, by Alan Mackey Tux the penguin, the Linux mascot

Getting Linux


These instructions are intended for the newcomer to Linux. If you are already familiar with installing Linux, but have never done it on a MicroChannel system, you should probably go directly to The MCA Linux Homepage for MicroChannel specific information. If you've never dealt with Linux before, read on . . . .

What I've tried to do here is take some already good installation instructions and fill in a few of the gaps. I recently installed Linux for the first time, and there were some places where I wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing because it wasn't always clear as to when I should do a given step. My intention here is to try to put the pieces together.

First thing, I have to give credit where credit is due. I've taken information, and sometimes directly quoted, from two primary sources. They are:

Second, a disclaimer: This document is based on my own experiences with installing Linux (the Slackware 3.6 distribution) on a 9595 system. Although the installation went pretty smoothly, it was far from perfect, and I won't even begin to claim to be an expert on the subject (at least not yet). I'm willing to help anyone (if I can), but I don't know all the answers. If you have problems, you'll get the best results if you post to the newsgroups. There are several that are dedicated to Linux (whose names will be included in this document in the not too distant future) and several of the regular contributors to comp.sys.ibm.ps2.hardware are very knowledgable on the subject of MCA Linux.

This document focuses on the Slackware 3.6 distribution, which is what I used. If you're using another distribution, such as Red Hat or Debian, look at the README files in the appropriate subdirectories here.

I'm also assuming that you'll be using DOS/Windows for any files you may download. Note that a few of the files you'll need have been given long filenames. They shouldn't be a problem if you're using Windows 9x/NT, but you'll have to rename them using DOS 8.3 conventions if you aren't.

The very first thing you want to do is get the above mentioned instructions. You'll probably want to just print them, unless you can read them on one system while working on a different system, or you just have a photographic memory :-). Read them and keep them nearby. I may repeat them here at some time in the future, or even create my own set of instructions when I've gotten more experienced at this, but for now I have no intention of reinventing the wheel. Here they are, in no particular order:

You may want to look at the information about partitioning your disk(s) next. There's a pretty good discussion of this, and of filesystems, in sections 4.1 through 4.3 of the Installation HOWTO, which also talks about a non-destructive repartitioner called FIPS. If you're going to repartition a drive containing an existing DOS or Windows installation, you may want to do it now, especially if you plan to copy or download the distribution there. It won't make things any easier if you somehow lose all your data while repartitioning and you then have to download the files a second time. Since I didn't use it, I can't give you any information about using FIPS, other than to say that I've heard good things about it by people who have. If you want it, go here to get it and to look at some of its documentation.

Something else you could consider if repartitioning is not an option is to use the UMSDOS filesystem and installing to an existing DOS partition. This does not seem to be a recommended way to go, but it is discussed (briefly) in section 4.1 of the Installation HOWTO. If you do want it, however, go here for it and its associated files. You can get GZIP and RAWRITE (discussed further below) here too.

As you're considering how to repartition, you'll need to think about the space you're going to give Linux. The Installation HOWTO has a section (section 3.2) on space requirements; you can do the math and determine that the entire Slackware installation will take up approximately 400MB. Then add to that what you think you'll need for any files you create and you get the space requirements for a complete Slackware installation. Especially if you've got a limited amount of disk space, you'll need to determine just what you're going to use and allot space to DOS/Windows and Linux accordingly.

Once you've worked your way through the space issues, back up any data you want to keep and then run DOS FDISK to take care of your DOS/Windows partitions, following the instructions in section 4.1 of the installation HOWTO. You'll delete all of the partitions you want to change, then recreate the ones you want to allot to DOS/Windows. If you have multiple drives and you just want to allot one of them to DOS/Windows, you can simply leave that one alone. Once you've created your DOS/Windows partitions you can leave the remaining space alone, as you'll take care of it later using Linux's fdisk.

As an example, the system I set up had a 400MB disk and two 1.3GB disks, all of them DOS formatted. I decided to leave the 400MB disk to DOS, give one of the 1.3GB disks completely to Linux, and divide the other 1.3GB disk between them. After I started FDISK, I simply removed the partition representing the first of the 1.3GB disks and moved on. I removed the partition representing the second of the 1.3GB disks and then created a smaller primary DOS partition. Then I exited FDISK and reformatted the new DOS partition on that 1.3GB disk. I didn't need to do anything to the partition on the 400MB disk since I wasn't changing anything there, and I handled the remaining space after I booted Linux (yes, we're getting to that . . . . albeit slowly).

After you take care of repartitioning issues (or if you've decided to take care of that later) you'll want to download files if you're not using a CD. These are listed (more or less) at the beginning of the Slackware MCA installation instructions and in section 3.4.1 of the Installation HOWTO. You can go straight here if you're comfortable browsing around an FTP site and/or you want to just look around at the other distributions. Or you can read on and follow the individual links I provide to the Slackware 3.6 distribution from the Slackware Linux Project.

If you are following my links, first you'll need this -- RAWRITE.EXE -- to write out your bootdisk and rootdisk, unless you have access to a Unix workstation. Refer to Section 3.4.2.1 of the Installation HOWTO for instructions on how to use it.

You'll also need this -- GZIP.EXE -- for unzipping various files that need unzipping.

Next we'll get the bootdisk image. You can use the ibmmca.s image from Walnut Creek if you want, but I felt more comfortable using this one from the MCA Linux Homepage. The image from the Slackware Linux Project comes with the Slackware distribution, but it's based on a developmental kernel. The image from the MCA Linux site is based on a release kernel, which is much more stable. I personally prefer a little stability when trying something new, so I chose it. Also, the image from the MCA Linux site has a real long name, so you'll have to rename it if you're downloading to a DOS/Win3.1 system. Renaming it bootdisk worked fine for me.

Now for the rootdisk. This one is the most commonly used. If you have trouble with it, you should be able to use this instead.

If you have ESDI hard drives, you'll need this for the installation as well. It also has one of those really long names, so rename it on DOS/Win3.1. If you have SCSI, you can skip it. Sorry, but I didn't use it (I have SCSI), so the only information I can give is to follow the MCA Linux instructions.

Although it won't be needed until after Linux is installed, you might as well get the MCA kernel patch while you're downloading files. It has a really long name too. In fact, you can go here to get all kinds of MCA Linux "goodies" along with descriptions of what they are and do.

If you've read through the Slackware MCA instructions, you'll have noticed that there can be problems with 2.88MB floppy drives. There is a potential way around this, but as the problem is random and unpredictable, there is no telling whether the fix will work for you. Fortunately, there is yet another way around it -- Loadlin. Unzip it into a DOS directory and follow the directions in the Slackware 3.6 FAQ. You can get the ibmmca kernel and its other associated files here.

Now it's time (finally) to get the actual Slackware files themselves. The Slackware distribution was in the slakware directory (the actual name of the directory under the slackware-3.6 directory is "slakware"). I found it convenient to create a slakware directory of my own, and then duplicate the directory structure underneath it, putting the files that you just got in a separate directory (actually several) parallel to it.

This part can be very time-consuming, especially if you don't have a fast modem. How much you want to download will probably depend on how much you want to install, and your modem speed and how patient you are. This process took several days for me (my modem isn't especially fast by today's standards), but I got the entire distribution and then some. At the very least, you'll have to get the A series of packages. If you think you want more, but aren't sure what, take the time to re-read the descriptions of the package sets in section 3.2 of the Installation HOWTO. Be aware that you'll have to get several other package sets to do much more than play with the basic commands; you won't even have the internal help system.

Before I point you to the actual Slackware distribution packages, a word about how you go about getting them. The best way to do this is an entire directory at a time. It gets very very tedious downloading one file at a time. I know, because I started out that way. Later, I figured out a way to get entire directories at a time. Then I just started a download and went out and did other stuff . . . . like go to sleep at night.

If you are using Windows 9x/NT, you should have FTP. Use it. Once you start it, you can type in a ? and get a list of commands; you can type in "help cmd" and get help on a particular command. Make sure that you type in the command "binary" so that you're downloading your files in binary mode. Most of the files you're downloading are binary files. Also be sure that when you get a directory full of files, using the "mget" command, you type in "mget *" not "mget *.*". The latter command will get all files with an extension, but there are files in the package directories, most importantly the disk??? files, without extensions. Unix treats a single * as meaning "everything" and will get just that. If you don't do either of these things correctly, your install will fail. I know, because I had to deal with this, too. I didn't have any problem using mget because I was already familiar with Unix, but I lost a whole day's download because I had forgotten to give the binary command in an FTP session. Eight hours down the tubes. Learn from my mistakes. :-) Please.

If you're not using Win9x/NT (like me), things can be a little trickier. You can search the web for a DOS or Win3.1 FTP client if you want. You can do the download to floppies on a Win9x/NT system, but you can only put the A series (the base packages) and the N series (the networking packages) on floppy; the rest of the package sets are too big. You can even just download the whole thing one file at a time. I truely admire your patience and perseverance if you do. Anyway, I can tell you what I did, and point you to something that may help if you are able to duplicate it.

I have a DOS system; I use Procomm Plus as my comm software. I dial in to my university -- a Unix system -- for Internet access. Stuff like surfing the web is pretty primitive, since all I am able to use (on the university's system) is a text-based browser. Downloading files singly is a nightmare, for several reasons -- one, it just is; two, the browser uses kermit, which is just a slow protocol; and three, the browser does some weird temporary naming thing that followed each and every file, forcing me to rename them back to their original names after they were downloaded. I was able to get the files in batches to the university's system using FTP, but the only thing I had to get them to my computer was kermit at the command prompt, which turned out to be broken somehow. Finally, a friend of mine told me about a utility that used zmodem to download. It was great! It was way faster than what I had been using, and nothing was wrong with the files when I got them. If you've got a similar setup, you can check your dialup system for the sz utility, or get it as part of this shareware package. Unzip the file, and follow the instructions in the readme.

Now that you have some ideas on how to get the files on your system, here they are, by directory. Remember, you have to get the files in the A series of directories; the remainder are optional, but many are, to say the least, very useful. I would stronly recommend taking the time to get the kernel package (k1)and the development package (d1), and the networking set (n1 - n9) if you need it; and you'll need it if you plan to use stuff like PPP or SLIP for dialup connections, or basic Unix protocols like TCP/IP and FTP. As is noted in Chris Beauregard's installation instructions, there are many things that the MCA kernel doesn't support, and you'll need these packages to build that support into your kernel. Note that the last directory name is the name of the package set; read section 3.2 of the Installation HOWTO for a description of what each contains.

Now you've gotten all the files you want. Take care of repartitioning if you haven't already, then get a couple of DOS formatted floppy disks. You're finally ready to install Linux.

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