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Installing GNU/Linux from scratch

Obtaining installation media

These instructions assume that you will install Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.1, i386 Server edition from its five distribution CD-ROM discs.  Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a commercial product; there are no free mirrors available on the Internet.  If your server is owned by the Reciprocal Net project and bears an Indiana University inventory control tag (even though it may be loaned indefinitely to your institution), please contact Reciprocal Net technical support to receive a copy of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.  Otherwise, please consult with your own organization’s network administrators or software distribution center to obtain copies of the installation media.

If you do not have access to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, do not need business-class technical support, and are interested in a free alternative, there are a number of “clone” distributions available.  Two examples are CentOS 5.1 and Scientific Linux 5.1, both of which have been tested and are fully compatible with Reciprocal Net site software.  For these distributions, you can create the installation discs yourself by locating a mirror on the Internet, downloading .iso images for the five or six discs, and “burning” the images to CD-R’s using a CD-writing program on your desktop computer.

If you do not have convenient access to a CD-R drive, please contact Reciprocal Net technical support for assistance.

Installing from CD

Insert disc 1 into your computer, power it on, and let the computer boot from the CD-ROM drive.  When you see the splash screen, press the Enter key to begin an installation.  The system will trundle for a minute and then ask you to test your media.  Highlight the OK button and press the Enter key to continue.  In the next window, highlight the Test button and press the Enter key.  The media test takes a few minutes to run.  Repeat this process for the other four installation discs.  Once all five discs have been tested, insert disc 1 again, highlight the Continue button, and press the Enter key.

Next, the installation engine called Anaconda will load.  It should detect your video adapter and attached monitor and then display a graphical installation wizard.  On the welcome screen that appears, read the message displayed in the center, read the Release Notes, and then click the Next button. 

On the language screen that appears, choose English in the left pane and click the Next button. 

On the keyboard screen that appears, choose U.S. English in the left pane and click the Next button.

On Red Hat Enterprise Linux, an Installation number dialog box may appear.  If so, consult with your organization’s network administrator regarding software licensing arrangements.  Either type the number he provides or skip ahead without entering a number.

An upgrade screen may appear if the hard disk drive previously had another GNU/Linux operating system installed.  If this screen should appear, choose the Install Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server option and then click the Next button.  Reciprocal Net recommends against an in-place upgrade of operating systems because fresh installations tend to be more stable and reliable, particularly if you backed up your Reciprocal Net site’s data as described in the preceding section.

On the partitioning screen that appears, choose the Remove all partitions on selected drives and create default layout option and click the Next button.  In the Warning dialog box that appears, click the Yes button.  Experienced system administrators may prefer to manually partition and format their drives instead.  If you choose the latter route, Reciprocal Net recommends that you place the /var subtree on its own large partition.  Molecular structure entries you create within the Reciprocal Net site software will be stored in the directory /var/recipnet/data , and this repository can grow to be many gigabytes in size, particularly at more active crystallography labs that archive their raw data.  At Indiana University’s Molecular Structure Center, /var partitions are never smaller than 50 gigabytes.  You might find a swap partition useful also; at IU swap partitions are generally about 1 gigabyte in size.

In the network window that appears, configure the settings to match those of your local network.  Consult with your organization’s network administrator as needed.  Note that use of DHCP is discouraged because Reciprocal Net site software acts as a web server and thus requires an IP address that does not change frequently.  Reciprocal Net recommends that member servers have their IP address either configured statically or assigned a “sticky” address by a DHCP server.  Note also that IPv6 is not utilized by Reciprocal Net servers and may be disabled to simplify configuration.  Click the Next button when your network configuration is complete.


If you are upgrading an existing Reciprocal Net site, this network configuration takes on special significance.  It is easiest if your new system’s network name and IP address are identical to those of your old system.  If the IP address must change, it is preferable that the DNS network name remains the same.  (Consult with your organization’s network administrators regarding possible ways of configuring a DNS alias for your old system’s name.)  If the DNS network name must change, please contact Reciprocal Net technical support for assistance.  A “site update” message will need to be broadcast to the other servers in the Reciprocal Net Site Network.

On the time zone screen that appears, select a time zone according to your local preferences, then click the Next button.

On the root password screen that appears, invent a root password for yourself.  The root user account is used for administration of your operating system and has full access to the computer.  You should choose a password that includes both letters and numbers, is hard to guess, and preferably is unique to this particular computer.  Type your chosen password twice, once into each box, and click the Next button.

On the package selection screen that appears, you have the opportunity to specify which programs are to be installed on your server.  Experienced system administrators should feel free to select or unselect any packages according to their local customs; any Reciprocal Net site software dependencies will be satisfied later in this chapter.  On Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the default configuration with all options disabled is fine.  On other distributions, clearing the check box for the Office/Productivity package group (if checked) may be desirable.  Click the Next button when your package configuration is complete.

The computer will trundle for a moment and then the ready screen appears.  Verify that you’re ready to proceed and then click the Next button.  When the Required Install Media window appears, read the message, verify that you have all needed CD-ROM’s ready, and click the Continue button.

A progress bar will appear and the computer will trundle for several minutes as the hard disk drive is formatted and packages are installed from the CD-ROM.  Insert each installation CD in turn as prompted.

The next screen that appears will inform you that installation is complete.  Remove your installation CD-ROM from the computer’s drive and click the Reboot button.  Your computer will reboot.

First-boot configuration

As the computer boots, the Welcome wizard will appear.  Click the Forward button. 

On Red Hat Enterprise Linux, a License Agreement screen may appear.  Read the text, select the Yes, I agree to the License Agreement option, and click the Forward button. 

On the Firewall screen that appears, choose the Enabled option.  Scroll down to select the WWW (HTTP) option in the box beneath to allow your computer to act as a web server.  (You may need to scroll down to see all options.)  Many system administrators find it convenient to select also the SSH option because this allows the computer to act as a Secure Shell server.  SSH allows you to access a command line remotely and facilitates remote system administration.  There is no need to select the Secure WWW (HTTPS) option.  Click the Forward button.  In the confirmation window that appears, click the Yes button.

On the SELinux screen that appears, choose the Enforcing option.  SELinux is a security enhancement technology that imposes mandatory access controls on select daemons.  Its use in Enforcing mode is recommended.  Experienced system administrators who employ other security mechanisms may choose Permissive or Disabled as necessary.  Click the Forward button.  If a confirmation dialog box appears, click the Yes button.

On Red Hat Enterprise Linux, a Kdump screen may appear.  By default the Enable checkbox is not selected.  This is acceptable.  Click the Forward button.

On the Date and Time screen that appears, set the clock appropriately.  Then click the Network Time Protocol tab first.  Select the Enable Network Time Protocol option and enter the name of your organization’s NTP servers below.  If your organization does not operate its own network time server, you are welcome to use the one operated by Indiana

University: click the Add button and then type:

.  Click the Forward button when your date configuration is complete.

On Red Hat Enterprise Linux, a Set Up Software Updates screen may appear.  If it does, follow the instructions of your network’s administrator.  Exact choices will depend upon your organization’s network and software license arrangements.  Click the Forward button.  If a Finish Updates Setup screen appears, click the Forward button.

On the Create User screen that appears, you should set up a personal user account that you will use for routine activities other than system administration.  Some organizations utilize network-based authentication rather than local authentication; for these details, consult with your network administrator.  Once user accounts have been configured, click the Forward button. 

A Sound Card screen may appear.  If it does, the default settings frequently are acceptable.  Click the Forward button, the Finish button, or the Reboot button, whichever is present.

On Red Hat Enterprise Linux, an Additional CDs screen may appear.  No action on it is necessary.  Click the Finish button or the Reboot button, whichever is present. 

Some systems may require a reboot at this point.  If a confirmation window appears, click the OK button and allow the computer to reboot.

When a login prompt appears, log in as the root user using the password specified earlier.  You should see a GNOME desktop. 

Depending on the details of your organization’s software license for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, there may be a “bootstrap” script that needs to be run on the computer.  Run the bootstrap script now.  Consult with your organization’s network administrator for the details.

Then continue on to the next section.

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