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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For ARM
Chapter 3 - Before Installing Debian GNU/Linux

3.1 Overview of the Installation Process

Here's a road map for the steps you will take during the installation process.

  1. Create partition-able space for Debian on your hard disk
  1. Locate and/or download kernel and driver files (except Debian CD users)
  1. Set up boot floppies or place boot files (except most Debian CD users can boot from one of the CDs)
  1. Boot the installation system
  1. Configure the keyboard
  1. Create and mount Debian partitions
  1. Point the installer to the location of the kernel and drivers
  1. Select which peripheral drivers to load
  1. Configure the network interface
  1. Initiate automatic download/install/setup of the base system
  1. Configure Linux or multi-system boot loading
  1. Boot the newly installed system and do some final configuration
  1. Install additional tasks and packages, at your discretion

3.2 Back Up Your Existing Data!

Before you start, make sure to back up every file that is now on your system. If this is the first time a non-native operating system has been installed on your computer, it's quite likely you will need to re-partition your disk to make room for Debian GNU/Linux. Anytime you partition your disk, you should count on losing everything on the disk, no matter what program you use to do it. The programs used in installation are quite reliable and most have seen years of use; but they are also quite powerful and a false move can cost you. Even after backing up be careful and think about your answers and actions. Two minutes of thinking can save hours of unnecessary work.

If you are creating a multi-boot system, make sure that you have the distribution media of any other present operating systems on hand. Especially if you repartition your boot drive, you might find that you have to reinstall your operating system's boot loader, or in many cases the whole operating system itself and all files on the affected partitions.

3.3 Information You Will Need

3.3.1 Documentation

Installation Manual:
This file you are now reading, in plain ASCII, HTML or PDF format.
dselect Tutorial
Tutorial for using the dselect program. This is one means of installing addition packages onto your system after the basic install is complete.
Partitioning Program Manual Pages:
Manual pages for the partitioning software used during the installation process.
List of MD5 checksums for the binary files. If you have the md5sum program, you can ensure that your files are not corrupt by running md5sum -v -c md5sum.txt.

3.3.2 Finding Sources of Hardware Information

Hardware information can be gathered from:

                  Hardware Information Needed for an Install              
     |Hardware|                Information You Might Need                |
     |        |  * How many you have.                                    |
     |        |  * Their order on the system.                            |
     |Hard    |  * Whether IDE or SCSI (most computers are IDE).         |
     |Drives  |  * Available free space.                                 |
     |        |  * Partitions.                                           |
     |        |  * Partitions where other operating systems are          |
     |        |    installed.                                            |
     |        |  * Model and manufacturer.                               |
     |        |  * Resolutions supported.                                |
     |Monitor |  * Horizontal refresh rate.                              |
     |        |  * Vertical refresh rate.                                |
     |        |  * Color depth (number of colors) supported.             |
     |        |  * Screen size.                                          |
     |        |  * Type: serial, PS, or USB.                             |
     |Mouse   |  * Port.                                                 |
     |        |  * Manufacturer.                                         |
     |        |  * Number of buttons.                                    |
     |Network |  * Model and manufacturer.                               |
     |        |  * Type of adapter.                                      |
     |Printer |  * Model and manufacturer.                               |
     |        |  * Printing resolutions supported.                       |
     |        |  * Model and manufacturer.                               |
     |Video   |  * Video RAM available.                                  |
     |Card    |  * Resolutions and color depths supported (these should  |
     |        |    be checked against your monitor's capabilities).      |

3.3.3 Hardware Compatibility

Many brand name products work without trouble on Linux. Moreover, hardware for Linux is improving daily. However, Linux still does not run as many different types of hardware as some operating systems.

You can check hardware compatibility by:

3.3.4 Network Settings

If your computer is connected to a network 24 hours a day (i.e., an Ethernet or equivalent connection — not a PPP connection), you should ask your network's system administrator for this information. On the other hand, if your administrator tells you that a DHCP server is available and is recommended, then you don't need this information because the DHCP server will provide it directly to your computer during the installation process.

If your computer's only network connection is via a serial line, using PPP or an equivalent dialup connection, you will not be able to install the base system over the network. To install the system in this case, you must use a CD, pre-load the base packages on an existing hard disk partition, or prepare floppy disks containing the base packages. See Setting Up PPP, Section 8.9 below for information on setting up PPP under Debian once the system is installed.

3.4 Planning Use of the System

It is important to decide what type of machine you are creating. This will determine the disk space requirements for your Debian system.

3.5 Meeting Minimum Hardware Requirements

Once you have gathered information about your computer's hardware, check that your hardware will let you do the type of installation that you want to do.

Depending on your needs, you might manage with less than some of the recommended hardware listed in the table below. However, most users risk being frustrated if they ignore these suggestions.

              Recommended Minimum System Requirements         
           |Install Type|      RAM     | Hard Drive   |
           |No desktop  | 16 megabytes | 450 megabytes|
           |With Desktop| 64 megabytes | 1 gigabyte   |
           |Server      | 128 megabytes| 4 gigabytes  |

Here is a sampling of some common Debian system configurations. You can also get an idea of the disk space used by related groups of programs by referring to Disk Space Needed for Tasks, Section 11.4.

Standard Server
This is a small server profile, useful for a stripped down server which does not have a lot of niceties for shell users. It includes an FTP server, a web server, DNS, NIS, and POP. For these 50MB of disk space would suffice, and then you would need to add space for any data you serve up.
A standard desktop box, including the X window system, graphics applications, sound, editors, etc. Size of the packages will be around 500MB.
Work Console
A more stripped-down user machine, without the X window system or X applications. Possibly suitable for a laptop or mobile computer. The size is around 140MB.
A desktop setup with all the development packages, such as Perl, C, C++, etc. Size is around 475MB. Assuming you are adding X11 and some additional packages for other uses, you should plan around 800MB for this type of machine.

Remember that these sizes don't include all the other materials which are usually to be found, such as user files, mail, and data. It is always best to be generous when considering the space for your own files and data. Notably, the Debian /var partition contains a lot of state information. The dpkg files (with information on all installed packages) can easily consume 20MB; with logs and the rest, you should usually allocate at least 50MB for /var.

3.6 Pre-Partitioning for Multi-Boot Systems

Partitioning your disk simply refers to the act of breaking up your disk into sections. Each section is then independent of the others. It's roughly equivalent to putting up walls in a house; if you add furniture to one room it doesn't affect any other room.

If you already have an operating system on your system and want to stick Linux on the same disk, you will need to repartition the disk. Debian requires its own hard disk partitions. It cannot be installed on Windows or MacOS partitions. It may be able to share some partitions with other Linux systems, but that's not covered here. At the very least you will need a dedicated partition for the Debian root.

You can find information about your current partition setup by using a partitioning tool for your current operating system . Partitioning tools always provide a way to show existing partitions without making changes.

In general, changing a partition with a file system already on it will destroy any information there. Thus you should always make backups before doing any repartitioning. Using the analogy of the house, you would probably want to move all the furniture out of the way before moving a wall or you risk destroying it.

If your computer has more than one hard disk, you may want to dedicate one of the hard disks completely to Debian. If so, you don't need to partition that disk before booting the installation system; the installer's included partitioning program can handle the job nicely.

If your machine has only one hard disk, and you would like to completely replace the current operating system with Debian GNU/Linux, you also can wait to partition as part of the installation process (Partitioning for Debian, Chapter 6), after you have booted the installation system. However this only works if you plan to boot the installer system from floppies, CD-ROM or files on a connected machine. Consider: if you boot from files placed on the hard disk, and then partition that same hard disk within the installation system, thus erasing the boot files, you'd better hope the installation is successful the first time around. At the least in this case, you should have some alternate means of reviving your machine like the original system's installation floppies or CDs.

If your machine already has multiple partitions, and enough space can be provided by deleting and replacing one or more of them, then you too can wait and use the Debian installer's partitioning program. You should still read through the material below, because there may be special circumstances like the order of the existing partitions within the partition map, that force you to partition before installing anyway.

In all other cases, you'll need to partition your hard disk before starting the installation to create partition-able space for Debian. If some of the partitions will be owned by other operating systems, you should create those partitions using native operating system partitioning programs. We recommend that you do not attempt to create Debian Linux partitions using another operating system's tools. Instead, you should just create the native operating system's partitions you will want to retain.

If you are going to install more than one operating system on the same machine, you should install all other system(s) before proceeding with Linux installation. Windows and other OS installations may destroy your ability to start Linux, or encourage you to reformat non-native partitions.

You can recover from these actions or avoid them, but installing the native system first saves you trouble.

If you currently have one hard disk with one partition (a common setup for desktop computers), and you want to multi-boot the native operating system and Debian, you will need to:

  1. Back up everything on the computer.
  1. Boot from the native operating system installer media such as CD-ROM or floppies.
  1. Use the native partitioning tools to create native system partition(s). Leave either a place holder partition or free space for Debian GNU/Linux.
  1. Install the native operating system on its new partition.
  1. Boot back into the native system to verify everything's OK, and to download the Debian installer boot files.
  1. Boot the Debian installer to continue installing Debian.

3.7 Pre-Installation Hardware and Operating System Setup

This section will walk you through pre-installation hardware setup, if any, that you will need to do prior to installing Debian. Generally, this involves checking and possibly changing firmware settings for your system. The ``firmware'' is the core software used by the hardware; it is most critically invoked during the bootstrap process (after power-up). Known hardware issues affecting the reliability of Debian GNU/Linux on your system are also highlighted.

3.7.1 Hardware Issues to Watch Out For

Many people have tried operating their 90 MHz CPU at 100 MHz, etc. It sometimes works, but is sensitive to temperature and other factors and can actually damage your system. One of the authors of this document over-clocked his own system for a year, and then the system started aborting the gcc program with an unexpected signal while it was compiling the operating system kernel. Turning the CPU speed back down to its rated value solved the problem.

The gcc compiler is often the first thing to die from bad memory modules (or other hardware problems that change data unpredictably) because it builds huge data structures that it traverses repeatedly. An error in these data structures will cause it to execute an illegal instruction or access a non-existent address. The symptom of this will be gcc dying from an unexpected signal.

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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For ARM

version 3.0.23, 16 May, 2002
Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo