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What You Need To Know

It's not what you know; it's not even what you don't know; it's what you don't know you don't know! Before starting, I hope to help you figure out how much you don't know you don't know. Remember that in order to help the widest audience, this 'How-To' will include some very basic steps. If you already have sufficient experience and knowledge and want to move ahead, please do so. The choices I will ask my readers to make are not the 'best' in all situations. I am not planning to spend a lot of time explaining and justifying the reasons for the choices. Trust me this first time and next time you will know what to expect and can suit yourself.

The decisions you make as you follow the 'How-To' will depend on what you have to work with. You need to know how much free space is on the 'hard disk drive' for the Linux OS (Operating System). Will you want to keep the �Windoz� OS so you can switch between the two, or just have the Linux OS? Do you have an old, very slow computer or a newer model? Do you have a fast Internet connection or do you use a telephone modem? Is there room to add a 'stick' of memory? If you are unsure or do not know how to get this type of information from your computer, get someone to help you.

Here are my recommended minimum requirements:
Pentium 3, 500 MHz processor
128 MB RAM memory
6 GB of available space on the hard drive
CD Drive

Can you successfully install Linux with less? Yes, you can. But you will have to make compromises and you will have to be patient because everything will be slower. For example, you could make do with only 64 MB of memory. You could install less of the software and get by with maybe 2 GB of free hard drive space. If you have an older, slower computer than a Pentium 3, you could use less colors and pictures, and do without the animated cursors. It won't be as pretty, but it could still be useful.

If you have more that the minimum, that's great. The faster the processor and the more memory on board, the faster Linux will run on your computer.

Linux is based on the Unix Operating System and does things a little differently than �Windoz�. For example, you will be asked to create a password for the 'root' user. Root is like the Administrator in �Windoz�. Then, you will need to create a 'user' name for yourself and a second password. You will log on with your user name and password; and when you need to make changes only root has permission to do, you will be asked for the 'root' password and allowed to proceed. It may seem a little inconvenient, but it is very safe. You could eliminate these safety measures, but why take the risk?

Every file in the Linux OS has a set of 'permissions'. They are very logical and are divided into read, write, and execute. In other words, you can control who has permission to only read the file, who can change the contents of the file, and who can run the program. These permissions can be applied to the 'owner or user', the user's group, and to everyone, meaning anyone can have full access. The 'root' user can change any of the permissions. If you get an error message saying you don't have 'permission' to do something, you can use the 'root' user to change the permissions.

Linux looks at the hard drives, floppy drives, and cd-rom drives differently than �Windoz�. For example: /dev/hd would the hard drive, /dev/hda the first (or perhaps the only) hard drive, and /dev/hda1 the first partition on the first hard drive, /dev/hda2 the second partition on the first hard drive. The newer SATA drives (and the older SCSI hard drives) are identified by /dev/sda1. The floppy drive is fd0 and the CD drive falls in after the hard drives.  If there is only one hard drive, the CD would be hdb. It helps to know this because you are going to divide the hard drive into partitions. Linux wants a "root" partition (not to be confused with the 'root user') to install the operating system, and a swap partition to speed things up. �Windoz� uses a 'swap file' but it runs on automatic so the user is never aware of its existence. There are several more partitions or divisions available. You can learn about their value later. We are only going to use one, the /home directory. All personal settings go in there so if you need to reinstall Linux, you can keep all of the settings you worked so hard to get just the way you wanted.

What is the best way to divide up the hard drive space available? If you have 6 GB available, use 3 GB for /root, 2 GB for /home, and 1 GB for swap. If you only have 2 or 3 GB of space available and 64 MB of memory, then give 100 MB to swap and the rest to /root. Don't worry about the /home partition, at least until you know how much space you will have left after the install. Then you can recover some space like emptying the package cache to make room to add /home later. In the test computer I used, a 30 GB hard drive already had Win 98 installed. To free up 6 GB of space, I resized the Win partition to 24 GB and used the 6 GB of now free space for Linux. One of the last things the Linux installer does is to create a menu so you can choose to start either �Windoz� or Linux.

One last thing is how long will it take to complete the installation and start using the WT Lib?  That will depend on how slow your computer is.  If you can meet the minimum requirements, you should expect to spend a couple of hours installing Linux, and a couple more setting everything up.  You may want to plan to take some breaks in between; get something to drink or walk around the block.  If need be, you can split things up.  For example, when the initial install is finished and is ready to restart (reboot) your computer, you can have it shut off instead.  If you kept your �Windoz� OS, you can select it from the menu screen after rebooting and continue to use your computer.  Then you can restart the project with the first boot to the Linux OS.

I hope very much that you have learned some of what you did not know you did not know, and that I have not scared you away from this project. Remember, I will be with you every step of the way, and I�m only an email away if your computer doesn't do what mine did. In any case, if you are going to keep the OS already installed on your computer, it is always a good idea to backup important data. I have found it very helpful, while repairing or modifying a computer, to have a working computer connected to the Internet. If this project seems just too much for you, perhaps you could request some help from your local community. Our school-age children now learn about computers early and can be very helpful.


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