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Installing Mandrake 8.0: a Newbie's Guide to Freedom

Author: Rover
Posted on: 4/7/2001
Discuss: In the forums

As the juggernaut, known as Microsoft, continues to roll over the competition, many consumers are left wondering if they will ever be done with the "Blue Screen of Death" woes commonly seen on the Windows platform. What is the little guy supposed to do when 90% of the World's PCs run Windows in one form or another? Could it be that humanity is destined to fall under the power of the almighty Bill Gates and his world dominating OSes? With WindowsXP on the horizon, many people feel our very privacy is in jeopardy! What are we supposed to do? Roll over like some cat and take it in the you know what?

Well, there is a light at the end of that very long and treacherous tunnel. That light used to shine dimly, but as the days and efforts of many individuals continue it is getting brighter. This light we so desperately need to bolster the competition is Linux in it's various forms. Back a few years ago uttering the word Linux induced a panic in the general populace, especially the novice computer user. I'm here today to not only provide you with a step-by-step guide to installing Linux-Mandrake's newest release 8.0, but to demystify Linux installation in general.

Why is Linux better?
I'm sure I'll get flamed for this, but Linux is not always better than Micro$oft. It is, to say the least, an alternative to MS that will cost you significantly less with nearly the same functionality, better stability and usually more power. With the rapid growth of the Linux programming community, there are now thousands of programs available and many are free. With growth comes exposure and with exposure comes support. I couldn't even begin to count the number of websites on the Internet devoted to answering questions about Linux. Some are specialized, others are general and some are user driven with people writing about their own problems and how they fixed them. Needless to say, if you have a problem in Linux there is someone somewhere in the World who can either answer your question or has a website already up with the answer. All of these points along with this article will bring Linux closer to reality for the novice user.

Why Mandrake?
Anyone who is an avid Linux user has his or her own favorite distribution. When I first started using Linux, in 1997, I went through five distributions before settling on Mandrake. At the time, Mandrake was the easiest and friendliest to install for a newbie. It has continued this tradition and is now considered one of the top distributions in the World, beating the big dog, Red Hat, last year in December, with 28% of the market share. The true beauty of Mandrake is immediately apparent during the installation. It has so much flexibility during the install process that a user can take as much or as little control as he or she wants. Plus, the number of packages assembled with Mandrake is nothing short of astounding. You get a choice of over 11 graphical user interfaces, two office suites, games and more apps than you'll know what to do with.

What's bad...for the newbie?
Since its inception back in 1992, Linux has been and probably always will be dependent on the command line. You know like DOS, the "dark place" for Windows users, that black screen where all you see is "c:". This, more than anything else, has turned most novice computer users away from Linux, but I'm here to tell you today's Linux distributions have overcome much of that with the graphical user interfaces available. Two of the more popular GUIs are KDE and Gnome, both of which have their strong points, but personally, I like KDE. Gnome in it's beginnings had more bugs than a house in Florida, but even with these GUIs in place there are still some tasks that are just easier while at the command line. Fortunately, as KDE and the others gain in popularity and functionality, there are fewer and fewer reasons to use the command line, thus giving the novice another reason to try Linux. With the release of Mandrake8.0 the average user will almost never have to see the command line at all.

Another critical problem with Linux is drivers for all the various hardware components on the market. Today's distributions are far superior to previous years, but there is still some hardware that doesn't have "good" driver support. One of them that bugs me the most is NVidia's video card drivers. Sure there is a generic driver that supports everyday operations, but the high-end 3D drivers are still a little young and require the user to enter the command line. Although, the NVidia drivers function very well their installation process needs some refinement. The manufacturers of hardware can complicate the whole driver issue if they don't submit the specs and APIs to the individuals in the Linux community who make drivers. Or, they don't build the drivers themselves, leaving the end user hanging out to dry. Thankfully, most hardware is supported, so long as you don't have some wacky configuration, you and your PC should be OK for Linux.

Preliminary Steps
As a first step towards your eventual freedom from Micro$oft, there are a few preliminary steps I'd recommend before you plunge head over heels into Linux. First get yourself a Windows boot disk just in case you screw up the master boot record (MBR). During the Linux installation there will come a point where you will have to install Linux's boot program and if you install that over your Windows boot sector the disk can be used to recover the MBR. You can use either the boot disk at the link above or create a Windows 98 boot disk. I recommend using the link above as it will give you an intimate understanding of a boot disk and all of it's inner workings. Of course, you can forget the Win98 boot disk if you are installing Mandrake to a PC that doesn't have any other OS installed on it.

Next you should examine your PC for it's hardware components and then go here to verify that your hardware will work in Mandrake 8.0. The list is very comprehensive and there are links to sites that have even bigger lists. If you find that you have a piece of hardware that is not on the list, you might want to consider removing it, if that is possible. In the best case, Linux will just not see it, but worse case Linux will hang either during the install or during the first boot. Personally I would leave it and then if Linux hangs remove it.

So you think all your hardware is supported and you have a boot disk ready to go, now what? Well, most people have one hard drive fully partitioned with no space free to load another operating system. Therefore, I strongly suggest buying and installing a second hard drive to which you can load Linux. Something in the range of 10GB should do nicely for even the most complete installation available using Mandrake 8.0 Power Pack Plus edition (that's 4 CDs worth of Linux lovin').

The third step and obviously the most important is to get your hands on Mandrake itself. There are a number of ways to go about procuring the CDs: buying them, downloading them or stealing a copy from a friend. If you choose to download the CDs there are two ways to do it. You can either download CDs in the form of ISO images, which then can be burned to a CD from within Windows, or you can download all of the files and directories individually. Then you can burn that to a CD. If you have the speed and a CD burner download the ISO images. If you don't have a burner or a fast Internet connection Mandrake's web page has a list of resellers in your part of the World both online and brick & mortar. If you really want to go dog crazy there is also a "Deluxe" pack, which contains four CDs and a manual. The extra CDs give you two more office suites and a doggy bag of more applications, games and demos. This is the way I recommend you get your copy, the extra CDs are very nice and the manual is good to have if you are a novice to Linux.

On with the show
You have your Mandrake CDs, an extra hard drive, a Windows boot disk and confirmation that your hardware is compatible. Now take a deep breath, reach down deep inside yourself and muster up the courage to take your first steps to becoming a Linux junkie. Pop the first CD into your CD-ROM, turn the PC on, get into your BIOS and make sure that your boot sequence is set to boot the CD-ROM after the floppy drive. Your Mandrake CD is bootable and I've found it to be the easiest way to start the installation. If you are not comfortable getting into your PC's BIOS then you are not ready for Linux...OK just kidding. Seriously though, it is the easiest way and it's faster, but if you are still too afraid to modify your BIOS then within Windows you can create a Linux boot disk. Simply place the first CD in the drive and open Explorer working your way to the "DosUtils" directory. There you'll find a program called "rawwritewin.exe", run it. A small window will popup, click on the little browse button and find your way to the Mandrake CD. Along with the "DosUtils" directory, you should see a directory called "Images", open it. Here you can see the various diskette images available for you to make. The "cdrom.img" image is pretty generic so use that one first and if you are unable to boot then try one of the others. The different images are named in such a way that you'll have a good idea for when to use them.

Step 1
As the CD boots it give you the option to hit F1 for other options, but since we have no need for other options just hit "Enter" to continue. Below is a picture of the first major screen you'll see.

As you can see this is where you choose the installation language and main system language once Mandrake is installed. Also take note of the left hand side of the screen. This step indicator allows you to not only see where you are at in the install process, but you can also go back to a previous step if you need to. Unfortunately, you cannot go forward any steps. I'll be showing screen caps through out this article for your convenience, but many of them are only caps of the important parts so don't panic if it doesn't exactly match what you see.

What would an OS installation be without a License Agreement? Well Mandrake is no different so just "Agree" to the license and let's get on with the installation.

Step 2
The next choice is very important, because it gives you the option to take full control of the installation process. I highly recommend choosing the "Expert" installation method and since I'm going to walk you through the "Expert" method it will be easier to follow along. In "Expert" mode Mandrake will ask you what you want to do at every step unlike the other option, which might skip a question and do something unwanted to either the PC or the Linux installation.

Step 3
Isn't Mandrake wonderful? In this screen, it will automagically look for any SCSI interface cards present in your system, configure them and ask you if there are any more it might have missed. If you don't happen to have any SCSI cards present just say "No". If you do have a SCSI card, but Mandrake doesn't seem to find it you can say "Yes" here and you'll be presented with a list of cards to choose from. Once all of the SCSI cards are found Mandrake will bring you back to the screen below where you can finally answer "No" and continue on with the installation.

Step 4
I'm not really sure why there aren't more mouse drivers to choose from in this step, but I use a Logitech Optical Wheel mouse. Therefore I pick the USB wheel mouse option and I've never experienced any problems. If your mouse is not listed choose the most generic driver possible. You may find that your mouse will only work with a generic driver and lose some functionality like the scroll wheel, but once your in Mandrake you can try different options to gain back any lost functionality.

The final part of the mouse setup is to test your choice of driver. Isn't that cute? A little picture of a mouse...spare me, if it works great, if not try a different driver. Sorry, I forgot to cap the picture, so sue me! {:-)

Step 5
Again, we see the internationality of Linux in this next screen. You have the option to choose a different keyboard layout for the various foreign language keyboards available. Obviously, I use an English keyboard and chose the US keyboard layout.

Step 6
Linux has always been a much more secure OS than Win9x, but in this next step you have the option to tone down the security. Unless you have some snoopy kids or a curious spouse you can just go ahead and set the "Security" level to low. Then again you may be the type that thinks the government is after you with multi-billion dollar satellites trained to watch every movement of every hair follicle on your body 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with NO breaks for the holidays.

Step 7
If you take nothing away with you after reading this article, but this step, then I've done a great service to you. Although partitioning your hard drive under Mandrake is infinitely easier than under DOS or even other Linux distributions it is none the less a very important part and must no be taken lightly.

At the very top of the window you'll see a legend describing the color scheme used by Mandrake. Right below that and to the left you see a tab in the picture above with "hda". There could be other tabs representing the other hard drives of your system. Just click on the tab to see the partition information of that drive. Note that in my example, I am using drive "hda", but if you have a different setup you could be using a different drive. Make sure you are looking at the correct drive before doing any partition manipulation or you could end up wiping out MS Windows. If the drive you are installing to is blank then the entire partition bar will be white in color as seen in the picture below.

If it was an old drive that was already partitioned you may see some partitions that were already defined. If that is the case just click on the "Clear all" button at the bottom left. That will do exactly as it says and clear all the partitions on the drive selected giving you something similar to the above picture.

A quick note: any changes you make to the partitions are not written to the disk until you click on the "Done" button, so if you screw something up click on the "Undo" button. Now that you have a blank non-partitioned hard drive it's time to build your drive layout. The easy way out would be to hit the "Auto allocate" button and be done with this whole confusing mess. Of course, I'm not going to let you off that easy, because we are here to learn and by golly you're going to learn something if it kills me. Clicking on the white space in the partition bar will bring up the "Create" button in the "Choose Action" column on the left. Go ahead and click the "Create" button to bring up the partition creation sub routine.

The small window that pops up is your gateway to making perfect partitions. The first value represents the starting sector and the next value is the size in MB of the partition you are creating. You'll most likely not need to worry about the starting sector value, but it is there for convienence. You should have an idea of how you would like your drive partitions laid out by the time you get to this step. There are a number of ways to partition your Linux drive from the very easy to the very detailed. The easy way is to make one big partition were everything is stored, designated as " / ". This is the root partition and is not to be confused with the "/root" directory which is the SuperUser's home directory. You'll also be required to have a "swap" partition. Although this dual partition scheme is acceptable to Linux and is handy for single drive installations it is one of the signs of a newbie Linux user. Since this article is for novices I'm going to throw in one extra partition called "/boot" and is designed to hold the kernel images, boot files and boot sector. You only need to make the "/boot" partition about 25MB, because you'll only be storing a few kernel images and some small boot files.

You'll also notice in the above pictures that there are options for "Filesystem type", "Mount point" and "Preference". The "Filesystem type" is how the partition will be formatted, ie FAT/FAT32, NTFS or in the case of Linux, Linux native. There are a few different file systems Linux can be installed on, but I find "ext2" aka Linux native to be the easiest to deal with from within Linux. Actually, there are better, more robust file systems available like ReiserFS, but we won't go into these since it exceeds the scope of this article. Now the next option is "Mount point" which is pretty self-explanatory. The pull down menu provides some of the more common mount points used by Linux. Lastly is the "Preference" option where you can choose to make the partition "Extended" or "Primary". It's a good idea to make the partition from which you plan to boot a primary partition for the sake of compatibility. All of the other partitions can be extended partitions without any adverse affects.

In previous versions of Linux the maximum size of the swap partition was limited, but today that is no longer true. The size of the swap partition kind of depends on how much main system RAM you have, but it can be as large as you want. I usually designate 512MB on my system and I have 392MB of RAM. With that much RAM my swap space is rarely used, but if you have only 64MB or 128MB you may find your usage much higher. I would not go below 256MB for the swap partition so just set it to that for now. If you find that 256MB is not enough then you can make another swap partition on a different drive or on the same drive if space is left over once you get Linux up and running.

You've created your "/boot" and "swap" partitions, so now create the main " / " root partition. This is where all of the rest of the OS and software will reside other than the boot files so make it big enough to hold all of it plus room for expansion later on. Mandrake8.0 needs over 1GB of disk space to install everything available on all of the CDs. You'll be able to trim that down a little later, but leave yourself enough extra so you can store your files. If you happen to purchase the Power Pack edition of Mandrake8.0 then you could need significantly more drive space so give as much as possible.

Once all the partitions you want are defined click on the "Done" button at the main window. Linux will ask if you are sure and if you are raise your hand, or umm.... click on OK.

You'll also be presented with a format screen where you can pick and choose which partitions you want to format. This can be handy if you have partitions from a previous installation of Linux that contain data you wish to keep. After that you'll see a screen asking which partitions you want to scan for bad sectors. If you suspect your hard drive has bad sectors or just want to make absolutely sure there are no problems then check off the partitions you want scanned and click on OK. If you choose to scan for bad sectors be prepared to wait especially if the partitions are large.

Step 8
Here we start getting into the meat and potatoes of the Mandrake installation. The next screen as seen below allows you to pick which CDs you have at your disposal. As I've said before, the Power Pack edition comes with some extra CDs, so check off the ones you have and hit OK.

Now comes the package selection screen where you can pick and choose what you want to install. MandrakeSoft was kind enough to break the package installation screen into three sections: Workstation, Server and Graphical Environment. The ones you choose will be dependent on what you have in your PC and what you want to do with Linux. Everything is pretty self-explanatory, but there are a few packages you don't want to be without: Configuration and Documentation. The rest is up to you.

If you have the space just go ahead and install as much as possible, that way you can explore every aspect of Mandrake. If you are short on space I would drop off some of the extra GUI interfaces like Gnome, the development libraries, Science package, Server packages and anything else you think you won't need. Not sure what each package does? Just hold your mouse over the text of the package and a small text window will pop up giving a short description of what's contained in the package. And since we chose the "Expert" installation method, there is the option to select each individual package separately, found at the bottom of the screen. Although I find this very cool, it is definitely not for the first time user, so make sure it is unchecked before clicking on OK. Finally, Mandrake asks if you wish to disable two services, which are on by default, Postfix and Webmin. The Postfix service is for turning your PC into an Internet e-mail server (yeah it does more, but that's the skinny of it). Webmin allows administration of a Linux box, remotely or locally, through a web browser. I've played with this and its great for remote use, but for a newbie home user it has little value. Disabling both of these services will have no adverse affect.

Once you start the installation process for the packages go get yourself a pee break, cup of coffee and a snack. If you chose to install most of the packages available, this part of the installation can take well over 30 minutes. Sometime during the package install, you'll be prompted for the "Extra" CD(s), so don't walk too far away.

Step 9
In this set of steps we are going to pick a password for the "Root" account as well as create user accounts. Although Mandrake allows a "no password" option for the root account, I suggest setting it to something for the sake of getting into a good habit. You wouldn't want someone who doesn't know what they are doing inadvertently crashing your Linux PC, because you didn't have a password set for "Root". It's a good habit to also create a user account for yourself with the standard user rights. With a low security setting Mandrake offers the ability to set which user you want to have automagically logged in at boot up. I always set this to my user account and NOT "Root". I'm not paranoid, but again I wouldn't want someone screwing up my PC, because they had "root" access to the system. If you're a bit confused about this whole "root" deal, think of it as the "Administrator" account in MS Windows NT/2K. "Root" has full control and access to everything on the PC including critical system files and certain programs. If something was accidentally moved or deleted, it could have disastrous consequences. When you do set a password for "root" please, please, please make sure you do not forget it, you'll be using it quite often in Linux. When you want to make a change to your PC like installing software, you'll need the "root" password in order to make that change, so don't forget it.

You'll also notice while creating a user that there is an "Advanced" button. If you click on it you notice a small drop down box will appear as in the above picture. Here you can set which "shell" you want to use while you are at the command prompt. Shell? What the hell is that you ask? Well, it's the way the command line functions. Each shell has a set of instructions that can do various things for you, like in DOS when you type "dir" a list of files and folders is displayed. There are many to choose from and each have their strengths and weaknesses, but for the sake of this article just stick to "bash". It's the default and many of the DOS commands you may be familiar with function the same. Make of a note of the others and later on you can look them up on the web to see if maybe one of the others will better suite your needs. You can also choose an avatar or icon to represent each user you create. Just click on the picture to cycle through the ones available until you find one you like. This avatar will appear at the graphical login screen if you choose to boot directly to the GUI, which we'll decide later on in the install.

Step 10
So you have completed the package install, set the "root" password and created at least one user account, which means you are on the home stretch towards your first boot. I wish I could say the last leg is easy but its not. Your next part deals with both networking and the Internet since they are both sort of related. With version 8, Mandrake has included the option to auto-scan for your various networking devices. I've never experienced any problems letting Mandrake auto-scan so go ahead and let it rip. Once it completes the scan, you'll be presented with a list of things to configure. As you can see in the screen cap below, Mandrake's install process comes prepared for nearly any situation: Dial-up, ISDN, DSL, Cable modem and Networking. I'm going to explorer the Dial-up and Networking options because I don't have any experience with the others.

If you want to be able to dial-in via a modem to get on the World Wide Wait, then this is as good as a time as any to setup this up. You could wait until you get into Mandrake proper but why put it off. Unfortunately, I don't have pics of this since the PC I installed Mandrake on doesn't have a modem, but I'll walk you through the steps. Clicking on the "Normal modem connection" brings up a small window where you can plug in your ISP's phone number, domain name, DNS (Domain Name Server) IP addresses, user name and password. Filling in the blanks will be easier, if you gather this information prior to starting the Mandrake install. There is one option, which is defaulted to PAP, this can, more than likely, be left as it is. PAP is a form of authentication used by most of the ISPs in the USA. I've gone through 3 different Internet service providers and all of them used PAP, so it's a good bet yours does too. The DNS IP addresses, many times, do not have to be entered if your ISP automagically tells your PC what they are at the time of connection. As a matter of fact, even if you put the DNS numbers in, Mandrake will default to auto negotiate the DNS from your ISP. If you are not sure what they are, just leave them blank for now; you can always add them later, especially if Mandrake doesn't pick them up automagically. One of the biggest difficulties many Linux novices have is figuring out what device to use. Linux uses a completely different nomenclature to designate COM ports. If your modem is on COM1 then the Linux device name will be ttyS0, COM2 is ttyS1, COM3 is ttyS2, so forth and so on. You might see a device "/dev/modem" listed in the options, but I'd stay away from that since it doesn't always work at this point in the install. Another thing to remember is Linux in general doesn't play well with WinModems. WinModems are completely software driven and most manufacturers did not build Linux drivers, not to mention they suck. Spend the extra cash and go buy yourself a nice external 56K V.90 modem. They're fast, easy to install and work well with both Linux and Windows. I've also noticed in Mandrake8.0 that even after setting up a dial-up connection and specifying that my modem is ttyS0, the Internet settings are using "/dev/modem". Therefore, once you are in Mandrake, you might have to go into the Internet properties and change which device is used for the modem from "/dev/modem" to "/dev/ttyS0" or whatever you are using. Don't panic, this is very easy to do and will only take a few seconds.

Most of you neophytes won't have to bother with setting up the network, but more and more people are networking their house, so I'm covering it briefly. If you have setup a network in Windows then this will be easy. You'll be familiar with IP addresses, domain names, subnet masks and the type of network card in your PC. Since many people use a switch or router at home these days and those devices usually come with a DHCP (Dynamic Host Core Protocol) server built in, choosing DHCP in the Networking window will just about do it for you. Otherwise fill in the Host name, IP address and subnet mask with whatever your setup requires. Personally, I use a static IP in the range between to since this is the standard small network IP address range. Your host name can be pretty much anything you want using the "Name.Name" format i.e. Rover.LittleWhiteDog or Rover.LittleWhiteDog.com or BillyBob.MyLinuxbox, well you get the idea. As for the subnet mask the value will suffice if you use the IP range mentioned a second ago. The DNS IPs can be left blank or you can fill those values in with the IP of your ISP's DNS. Wow that was a lot of acronyms! Obviously, all this depends on if Linux recognizes your NIC (Network Interface Card). Even though there is a gigantic list of NICs that Linux supports, new ones come out everyday and yours might not be supported. If that happens, you might want to forget setting up the network until you can find out if Linux drivers are available. The last option you'll have to worry about is the IP address of your Proxy servers. Unless you are on a serious network, like the kind you find at a business, you can leave these blank. I know this was a quick overview of how to setup the network and may have left you with some questions, but there is only so much I can fit in one article and this one is already a mile and a half long.

Your final thing to do before we leave this section is verify that your hardware is set correctly. Why Mandrake put this here I'll never know since it doesn't seem to fit, but I guess it has to go somewhere. I almost forgot, this is the place to setup a printer. You have two options when installing a printer: CUPS (Common Unix Printing System) and LPR. LPR has been the standard in Linux for many years, but CUPS is an excellent printing system and I'd go for that one. Then just give a name to your printer, pick a driver and identify which LPT port the printer resides on. You can also setup a printer that is shared by another Linux PC or setup printing directly to the IP address of the printer. I won't go into network printing, again this exceeds the scope of this article. There are plenty of websites that have information on setting up a network printer. If everything is correct, hit OK and let's get on with the rest of the install.

Step 11
Here we are presented with a long list of services, which are available at boot time. Some of these are vital for Linux to function properly, but the list is long so I'm going to just tell you which ones to turn off. If you have a question about what a service does many of the services have a small popup which will describe its function though a few do not.

I normally turn off "rawdevices", since it is used for databases. Of course, you should leave it on if you plan to on using a database such as Oracle. You can learn more about the services available by purchasing a Linux guidebook from your local computer store or looking them up on the Internet. Linux, being the powerhouse that it is, has so many more things you can do with it, but that would best be left for another article.

Step 12
Now we've rounded third base and are on our way to home plate. This next step is important so please don't skip it. Slip a blank diskette in the floppy drive and click on YES to create a boot disk. As the text in the window states, this will be the only way to get into Linux if you screw up. This floppy will also come in handy if you decide to dual boot and Linux is on the same drive as your Windows installation.

Step 10
OH no Step 13! We are getting really close now, just a few more loose ends to clean up. Now, you have to decide which boot loader to use: Grub, Lilo w/ graphics or Lilo w/o graphics. I'm most familiar with LILO, as it has been the standard for many years, but Grub is gaining popularity quickly. I decided to try out Grub this time around and it's not bad. Your first option, after choosing which boot loader, is the boot device. This corresponds to the place where the boot loader will be installed to: /dev/hda will be the MBR on the first hard drive residing on the primary IDE controller. Where as "/dev/hda1" would be the boot sector of the first partition of the first hard drive residing on the primary IDE controller. This can get a bit complicated if you have multiple hard drives with multiple partitions on each drive. You should be careful here if you are planning on dual booting WinNT/2K since Mandrake doesn't seem to be able to boot NTFS partitions reliably. On the other hand if you are going to dual boot Linux with Win9x then installing the Linux boot loader to the MBR is the way to go. Both LILO and Grub support booting FAT/FAT32 partitions and since Win9x doesn't have a boot loader of its own, Lilo/Grub is the only way. There are some third party boot loaders, which will work, but you can explorer those on your own time. Clicking on the Advance button will extend the window giving you some more options. So long as your PC is a couple of years old or less you shouldn't have to change any of the default settings. The very last option, as seen in the picture below, is the RAM setting. Mandrake should correctly identify the amount of RAM in your system, but if it does not then type in the correct value.

After clicking on OK, another window will appear. This is where you can add, delete or change the default boot choices. You should see at least three, similar to the screen cap below. If you have Windows installed already on your system or a FAT/FAT32/NTFS partition somewhere you may see options to boot those also. On my system at home I dual boot with Win2K and Mandrake added that as an option, but it didn't work so I just deleted it. You can take the defaults here and if you find you want to remove some of the entries there's a program in Mandrake to change them later.

Step 14
w00t! Now comes the fun part, setting up and installing Xwindows. Mandrake chose to put this step last in their install and for good reason. If anything will crash Linux it will be Xwindows. At this point, everything to boot Linux is installed and setup, so if this step crashes you should be able to boot into Mandrake. There will be no GUI for you yet, but at least you won't have to reinstall everything again.

Your first order of business is to pick a graphics card driver from the list presented to you. The picture above does not do justice to the sheer amount of video cards supported by Linux. Scroll around until you find your video card and then click OK. Now, Mandrake asks which version of XFree86 you want to use. XFree86 is the framework for all GUIs in Linux. To be precise, XFree86 is the freeware port of Xwindows for Unix. I prefer to use the newest version, because I'm going to load the OpenGL drivers for my video card, but if you want total overall stability and are not concerned with OpenGL then pick the older version.

Mandrake will now install the XFree86 software and video card drivers if required. It only takes a few seconds and then we are on to the Monitor choice. Again, my picture below does absolutely no justice to the vast amount of monitors supported. This list is so unbelievably long it's not funny. Go ahead and scroll around until you find your specific monitor. Some of you maybe wondering why this list is so long? Well, for starters, if you choose a monitor driver that far exceeds the ability of your current monitor very bad things could happen. Yes, you can blow up your monitor by choosing the incorrect type. I don't mean to scare you, but its true. If you can't seem to find your specific monitor in the list there is a list of generic monitor types, just remember to pick one on the conservative side. You can always change your monitor type once you are in Mandrake so don't panic if it looks like crap in the upcoming test Mandrake will perform.

Due to the way I was screen capping, the last images I was able to cap are the ones above. When you click the YES button to test your configuration, your monitor will blink in and out then with a bit of luck a funky looking screen with penguins should appear. There will also be a small box asking if you'd like to keep this configuration and if you do, click on OK. Sometimes the configuration is not correct and all you'll get is a blinking monitor or a black screen. Hold on for about 15 seconds and Mandrake will timeout on the test bringing you back to the installation screen or Mandrake will crash and burn. If it doesn't crash, you'll be presented with another window showing your chosen configuration. This is where you can change the various options related to Xwindows, especially if you didn't see the screen with the penguins. Once you are satisfied with your Xwindows setup click on Done. Mandrake will ask if you want to boot directly to a graphical user interface. I would only choose this option if you are confident that your Xwindows is working properly or you may never get Mandrake to boot.

After the Xwindows setup is complete you are basically done with the Mandrake installation. One last window will pop-up stating that your installation is complete and all you have to do is hit the OK button to initiate a reboot. Don't forget to remove the boot floppy you created and any CDs that may still be in your CD-ROM.

The bad
What would an article by LittleWhiteDog be without pointing out the bad parts? I'm so close to completely dumping Micro$haft, but there are still some things I cannot live without. For starters are the games. Yes, there are many games, which have been ported over to Linux: Half-Life*, Unreal Tournament, Quake2/3, and Sin to name a few of the more popular ones. Still, there are others that will never make it and that is a big drawback in my book. Next on the list is software like PhotoShop and Illustrator to name a few Adobe products. Thankfully, Acrobat Reader made the journey 2 years ago. There are plenty of other products, which have not been ported to Linux, that I use often enough to make switching to Mandrake a pain in my doggy butt. Another thing that bothers me is the dependence on the command line. As I've said before, you'll rarely have to visit the "dark place", but while writing this article I had to jump to the command line a couple of times to fix some rights issues with a file for MusicMatch Jukebox. Would the average user have to go to the command line? Yes, most likely and that's what scares people the most. If the Linux community could completely overcome the dependence on the command line, the average home user market share for Linux will soar to new heights.
* - Half-Life dedicated server has been fully ported, but Half-Life the game runs using Wine (a MS Windows emulator).

The good
I've found the newest versions of KDE and Gnome to be stable, exceptionally functional and very easy to use. A MS Windows user will feel at home very quickly, as both KDE and Gnome have a look very similar to Windows. With 11 GUIs to choose from, there is bound to be an interface that will satisfy you. I also tested installation of software using MusicMatch Jukebox from one of the CDs and in a matter of minutes I was listening to music. I did encounter a rights issue later on, but it was minor. The more people who use Linux, the more the software companies will port software. I envision a day, when a company makes a piece of software, they will release three versions, a Windows, Macintosh and Linux version. My overall opinion of Mandrake8.0 is...AWESOME. I cannot think of another word that will do justice this version of Mandrake, it is that good. As I stated in the beginning of this article, every Linux user has their favorite distribution, but for newbies, Mandrake8.0 beats the others hands down. If you have considered trying out Linux, but just weren't sure which distribution to buy, I highly recommend Mandrake8.0. It's power, ease of installation, ease of use and veritable cornucopia of software leaves no questions as to why it has out sold most other distributions. I hope this article will help you achieve the freedom we so desperately need from Micro$haft. Maybe Bill will realize, we are the ones in control of the operating system market and not him. It is up to you, let your freedom begin today!

Copyright © by LWD All Rights Reserved.

Published on: 2004-01-31 (60649 reads)

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