Linux Migration for the Home PC User, Part 3

By Ed Hurst | Posted at 3:34 AM

At this point, after Part 1 and Part 2, if you have experienced help on hand, or you are willing to study the issues for yourself, you really don't need any more help from me. What follows are simply my personal suggestions which should allow you to get from here to there the quickest way possible.

That said, there is just one more issue to consider before we start the installation: Do you want to keep Windows? If your hard drive is big enough, chances are the installer software will offer to let you keep your Windows installation and let it live on its own space. That way, you can always run Windows if you really need it. It shouldn't hurt anything to keep it, but if you do, make sure you run Windows Defrag first.

Installation notes: As you follow the steps through the installation process, most of the time you can accept simply what is offered. There are a couple of places where you probably should not do that, or you might be puzzled by something, and this is what we will cover here. I refer you again to the visual walk-through we looked at previously.

Partition: Linux typically needs a place on your hard drive to store all the data, and another space for swapping. When you get to the partition screen, chances are good you can simply reveiw what is offered and accept it. Change it only if you've studied the issues invovled.

Network: On the screen which has “Network Devices” at the top, what you do depends on how you access the Internet. If it's a dialup modem which Linux knows how to use, you'll be offered the standard blocks to fill in; this is probably one of the places where you might face a little trouble, but your particular brand of modem is something you should have researched already. Still, it could fail and the installer won't see it. If so, I recommend you stop here, abort the installation, and contact someone who knows Linux and modems to help you out. Unfortunately, it may require you get a different modem.

For those of you using DSL, cable, or most other types of networking via an ethernet port, there is little you'll need to worry about. If you know you have to set some information here, have it on hand before you start. You might check with your Internet Service Provider (ISP), but many of them won't help you. Most of the time, just accept the default answers and keep going.

Timezone: Linux does this a little differently. Make sure to un-check the box which says “System clock uses UTC” unless you know for sure you do use it. For timezone, at least in the US, you choose the nearest city from the list in your time zone:

  • Eastern = America/New York
  • Central = America/Chicago
  • Mountain = America/Denver
  • Pacific = America/Los Angeles

For those few places in the US which don't follow that pattern, you'll probably recognize which name on the list matches your zone.

Root password: This is the same thing as “superuser,” the master of the computer. By now you should understand there is virtually no reason at all you'll spend much time logged in as root. You'll need the password to make administrative changes to the system, but otherwise always run as a user. You will set up that account later.

Software sets: The next screen will offer you several options as “desktop.” Just accept “Desktop Gnome” and click the box for “Packages from CentOS Extra”. It will pop up a window asking to confirm your network settings, simply because a lot of businesses install stuff on a computer located in one place, them move that machine to another place with different settings. This should not apply to you, so just click “OK”.

Desktop Environment: Just accept the default GNOME and keep going.

After a couple more screens, it will begin the actual installation and you can take a break. It won't need your attention for a while, until it's time to reboot. At that point, everything is on the hard drive, and there's some more set up and configuration to do, but it has to be done while running Linux. Reboot, and watch the pretty colors.

Firewall: Unselect everything, unless you know why you need to keep something on that list.

SELinux: Select “Disabled” — you just don't need this. It will complain by popping up a box to tell you it has to “relabel” the system. That will come later, and you don't need to do anything special.

Date and Time: After you set the first page, click the second tab marked “Network Time Protocol.” Unless you are on dialup, this is handy to have working. Just click the box “Enable Network Time Protocol” and accept the defaults.

Create User: This is your day-to-day user account. For the block marked “Username” this is typically a 2-4 letter nickname or abbreviation. It's no secret mine is my initials, jeh. Type twice the password you created earlier and move on.

Sound Card: If the installer finds one it recognizes, it will allow you to test it here. If not, you may need some help getting things to work. On occasion it will find it, but can't make any sound. Most sound cards or chipsets are discussed on the Net somewhere under Linux.

You probably don't have any additional CDs, so just reboot when you get to that screen. If you kept your Windows system and installed CentOS beside it, early in the boot process you'll get a list indicating you can select Windows or CentOS. Unless there is a compelling reason, make sure it's on CentOS, then hit ENTER. After that, you'll eventually end up at the login screen. What happens next will be our next episode. Feel free to login and look things over. Find the icon for the web browser; surf the Net a little. Welcome to Linux.

Ed Hurst is Associate Editor of Open for Business.